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Category: COVID-19

WalkMassachusetts Network Adjusts to ‘New Normal’ with a Virtual Gathering

WalkMassachusetts Network Adjusts to ‘New Normal’ with a Virtual Gathering

On June 26, a dozen WalkBoston staff and WalkMassachusetts Network members met virtually for the first time. Our conversation, held on Zoom, offered an important opportunity for advocates from across the state to check-in and provide mutual support in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

The meeting followed WalkBoston’s Walkability and Main Street Resilience virtual panel on June 24, in which Stacey Beuttell (WalkBoston), Che Anderson (City of Worcester) and Alia Hamada Forrest (Roslindale Village Main Street) discussed strategies for expanding street spaces for walkers, rollers, and local businesses with an emphasis on safety, accessibility, and economic recovery. The WalkMassachusetts members discussed major takeaways and inspiration gleaned from the panel, including the variety of creative solutions that they hope to implement in their own communities. 

We also discussed how communities across the Commonwealth are approaching shared and open streets projects, which alter streets for increased active transportation and outdoor dining, and we learned that implementation varies. Network members shared examples of what is working well in their towns and cities and noted the challenges, such as securing funding for these projects and ensuring that there is still enough accessible sidewalk space for all pedestrians. Members noted how the narrative around “open/shared streets” has changed from one focused on public health to one focused on economic development. That change in focus appears to have sparked new interest in these strategies from state and local government. Advocates expressed concerns around accessibility and prioritizing alternative recreation spaces for children as playgrounds remain closed. Members also shared strategies for identifying streets that make good candidates for closure, and how to approach local officials with project ideas. We wrapped up the call with a closer look at the many funding opportunities currently available to towns, municipalities, and community groups for open/shared streets projects.

It was fantastic to hear from WalkMassachusetts Network members about how their communities are coping and see members supporting each other by sharing ideas for safer walking. WalkBoston works with Network members from across the state, so we are excited to continue using video calls as a platform for meeting and connecting more often with the larger group. Many of the Network members are working remotely, though some are working on the front lines. We look forward to creating accessible ways for all members to come together and share experience and expertise. 

Walkability & Main Street Resilience Recording

Walkability & Main Street Resilience Recording

Thank you to our panelists, Alia and Che, and all of you who joined us for Walkability and Main Street Resilience! 

In case you missed it, the panel discussion was recorded and is available here. We hope you will watch and share it to learn ways you can help the main street businesses that make your community walkable.

If you want to learn more about Roslindale Village Main Street and some of the efforts happening in Roslindale that Alia shared, head to the RVMS website.

Remember to keep supporting your main street businesses, and advocating for enough open space for walking and shopping local:

  • Let your city/town officials know if you like how your neighborhood main streets are adapting to outdoor dining and providing more space for walking
  • If you see a conflict point between walking and dining, reach out to your city hall and advocate for more space
  • Support local businesses using the tips mentioned by the panelists, such as purchasing goods/services, or sharing and liking their social media content 
  • Highlight what is working well. Share with @WalkBoston on Twitter or email: info@walkboston.org

If you work for a town, municipality, or small business in Massachusetts and would like to implement the ideas discussed during this panel in your community, check out some of these resources to get started: 

Funding

City of Boston Reopen Fund (for small businesses)

MassDOT’s Shared Streets and Spaces Grant Program

Mass Development’s COVID-19 Response Round: Resurgent Places Funding

Solomon Foundation’s Streets for Recovery Grant Program

Additional Resources

MAPC Webinar on Navigating MassDOT’s New Grant Program 

City of Boston Guidance for Temporary Extensions on Public Property

MAPC: Webinar on local permitting pre and post-COVID-19 

NACTO: “Streateries” webinar on restaurants and physical distancing 

More about current funding opportunities: 

Road Race: the Alarming Increase in Speeding on Massachusetts Roadways

Road Race: the Alarming Increase in Speeding on Massachusetts Roadways

 

Join WalkBoston tomorrow, June 4th, for a virtual AAA Northeast Town Hall to discuss the increase in speeding during the COVID-19 pandemic, making the roads more dangerous for all users at a time when walking outside is especially important for health.

Take part in the conversation tomorrow, June 4th from 11am-noon ET.

Register for the webinar here.

Learn more about the event and the panelists:

Excessive speeds have grave implications for motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians. We’ll discuss this alarming trend and consider approaches for getting people to slow down and prioritize safety.

Moderators: Mary Maguire and Mark Schieldrop

Panelists:

Colonel Christopher Mason, MA State Police

Jonathan Gulliver, MassDOT Highway Administrator

Jeff Larason, MA Director of Highway Safety

Galen Mook, Executive Director, MA Bicycle Coalition

Stacey Beuttell, Executive Director, WalkBoston

 

“Walkability and Main Street Resilience” Virtual Event

“Walkability and Main Street Resilience” Virtual Event

This panel already happened, but you can view the recording of it here!

One of the hallmarks of a successful walkable community is a thriving town center or downtown district. These districts are where people can shop, eat, get a haircut, mail a letter, or just sit with a friend on a bench. When these nearby destinations and people-focused places suffer economically, the walkability of the community can also decline. Without a destination to walk to, fewer people will venture out. WalkBoston recognizes how important local businesses are to its core mission – making Massachusetts more walkable – and is concerned about the devastating effects of COVID-19 on local business’ resilience. 

Join WalkBoston, main streets and municipal representatives on June 24th at 1pm EST to discuss how small, local businesses influence walkability. Through the panel, you will also learn how you can support local businesses to secure long-term neighborhood walkability during and after COVID-19. 

This virtual panel discussion will: 

  1. Illustrate the importance of vital business districts for walkable communities
  2. Elevate creative strategies in which individual businesses, their host municipalities, and customer communities can collaborate to help mitigate the impacts of COVID.

Meet our speakers: 

Che Anderson, Deputy Cultural Development Officer, City of Worcester

Che Anderson is the Deputy Cultural Development Officer for the City of Worcester, and has worked in city government for over 6 years. He founded POW! WOW! Worcester, part of a global mural festival. He is passionate about supporting local businesses and special events programming in the Greater Worcester region. In recognition of his work, Anderson was named a member of the Power 50 by the Worcester Business Journal in 2019.

Alia Hamada Forrest, Executive Director, Roslindale Village Main Street 

Alia Hamada Forrest is the Executive Director of Roslindale Village Main Street and has lived in Boston since 2003. She grew up in a family that values hospitality, food, and the restaurant industry — her dad was an executive chef at several restaurants in Phoenix, Arizona and her mom manages banquets and events at a resort in Scottsdale. A first-generation American, Alia brings compassion to the immigrant experience and small business. 

MassDOT Blog – MassDOT on April Roadway Fatal Crashes: Drivers Urged to Slow Down

MassDOT Blog – MassDOT on April Roadway Fatal Crashes: Drivers Urged to Slow Down

MassDOT Blog: “MassDOT on April Roadway Fatal Crashes: Drivers Urged to Slow Down

Stacey Beuttell, Executive Director of WalkBoston, added, “With the stay-at-home advisory still in place, everyone should expect to see more neighbors walking, rolling, or running in the street as they try to maintain six feet of physical distance on narrow sidewalks. If you are driving, be prepared to yield to people walking and drive slowly. Empty streets are not a license to drive faster. Please consider every street a shared street and stay safe.”

MassDOT’s public education program, “Scan the Street for Wheels and Feet,” underscores the need for greater awareness on the road…MassDOT has been pleased to work collaboratively on this public safety initiative with the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Boston Vision Zero, WalkBoston, MassBike, and the Safe Roads Alliance.

This important story has been covered in a number of news outlets: