Category: Statewide Efforts

MassDOT’s Statewide Pedestrian Plan now available for public comment!

MassDOT’s Statewide Pedestrian Plan now available for public comment!

MassDOT’s Statewide Pedestrian Transportation Plan will recommend policies, programs, and projects for MassDOT to guide decision making and capital investments, as well as develop guidance for municipalities to improve walkability in local communities.

Thursday, September 20 from 1 to 3 pm, the scheduled Massachusetts Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board (MABPAB) meeting will be a special open-house style forum highlighting the finalized draft Statewide Pedestrian Transportation Plan. The event will take place in the second floor Transportation Board Room of MassDOT’s Boston headquarters at 10 Park Plaza. Released for a 30 day public review on Monday, September 17, MassDOT is welcoming MABPAB board members as well as the general public to attend, learn more about the Plan and provide comments to the final draft.

The Plan defines a vision for Massachusetts in which all people have a safe and comfortable walking option for short trips. The Plan presents an action-oriented strategy with the goal of increasing the percentage of short trips made by walking and also eliminating pedestrian fatalities and serious injuries. Pedestrian fatalities have been increasing over the last decade in Massachusetts. The plan goes into further detail about the state of walking today.

Take a look at the plan, and let us know what you think; make sure to send your comments to MassDOT!

Dockless scooters have landed. Here’s what that means

Dockless scooters have landed. Here’s what that means

We’ve been thinking about writing about this issue for a while, but a little bird told us that fleets of dockless scooters were dropped unannounced into a few communities in Metro Boston today – which is why we’re publishing this on a Friday afternoon!

WalkBoston makes walking safer and easier in Massachusetts to encourage better health, a cleaner environment and more vibrant communities. New mobility choices are being introduced every day. Transportation options that are safe and get more people out of single occupancy vehicles can be positive additions to the mobility mix.

WalkBoston’s position

Sidewalks should be reserved for people walking or using wheelchairs. If users of micro-mobility devices are on the sidewalk, it is likely that the street is unsafe – and that needs to be fixed. We like how Walk SF framed this discussion: “The greatest threat to pedestrians is, of course, cars and trucks. The potential harm that automobiles can inflict on people is why Walk SF works every single day to make our streets and sidewalks safe – and make Vision Zero a reality.”

Where things stand in MA: July 2018

  • Smart phones have made on-demand mobility options easier to access.
  • More types of shared bikes: docked bikeshare bikes (BlueBikes, formerly Hubway) & dockless bikeshare (Lime, Spin, ofo, Pace/Zagster, AntBicycle, etc).
  • More types of wheeled options: scooters (Lime, Bird, etc), one-wheels, electric longboards/skateboards, etc. Additional mobility assistance devices that serve people with mobility impairments are also coming soon.
  • Longer-lasting, smaller batteries have made electric scooters, electric pedal-assist and fully electric bicycles (e-bikes) possible. These are not just being used for short term rentals in a shared ecosystem; people are also buying them for personal use.
  • Additionally, autonomous vehicle testing is underway in the city of Boston, with citywide testing recently granted; Massachusetts has also opened applications to test in 14 communities around the Commonwealth.

What cities and towns should do

Cities and towns can most effectively respond by rapidly implementing safety improvements that work, while also looking for win/win opportunities to advance mobility goals:

  1. Re-design streets to encourage slower speeds. The likelihood of a serious or fatal injury in a crash is drastically reduced when people are going slower.
  2. Create safe lanes for low speed travel. As more mobility options develop, a bike lane may be seen as the ideal place for their use. It can be, as long as users are going a speed that makes it safe and accessible to everyone else using it; at the same time, that lane needs to be a place where people feel safe and protected from larger vehicles.
  3. Ensure multi-use paths stay that way. Paths should be off limits to fully-motorized vehicles, no matter their fuel source. We recognize that these paths are linear parks that double as transportation corridors, but the parks should remain safe and comfortable places for people to enjoy. If electric pedal-assist bikes are allowed on multi-use paths, the paths should be low speed zones (10 mph). Any shared electric pedal-assist bikes should have a GPS-regulated governor to cap the speed. This technology is now being used as part of the new ValleyBike Share program in the Pioneer Valley.
  4. Create more bike and scooter parking so that people have a place to leave bikes and scooters and keep sidewalks and curb ramps clear for people walking, people using wheelchairs, and people with strollers or grocery carts.
    • Encourage (or require) mobility providers to provide parking or funding so that the municipality can add areas/corrals that fit into ongoing planning efforts.
    • Add more in-street bike parking on corners or near crosswalks to “daylight” the intersection. This can be a way to formalize the ‘no parking’ zone that exists close to intersections, while also improving sight lines. People can more easily see pedestrians who are waiting at a corner to cross if they are not blocked by a vehicle.
  5. Ensure that traffic signals work for everyone, not just people in cars. We have many reservations about “smart” or “adaptive” signals. Any signal timing changes should include a study of impacts on pedestrian safety and delay.
  6.  Rethink curb management. Delivery zones, short term drop-off/pick-up zones, flexible bike/scooter parking, food truck spots, temporary parklets, peak hour bus lanes, and other options are all on the table when the lane next to the curb is thought of as a flexible space rather than just a parking spot.

We look forward to continuing our conversations with municipalities and other stakeholders as they update regulations to respond to a changing mobility landscape. We also look forward to hearing from you about how WalkBoston should be weighing in on this and other issues that impact people walking!

Additional reading

Curbed: Don’t ban scooters. Redesign streets. Cities are regulating mobility startups, but ignoring the real problem—there’s still too much space for cars. (July 13, 2018)

Walk SF: Walk San Francisco Stands Up for sidewalks – our stance on electric scooters (June 27, 2018)

Slate: Give the Curb Your Enthusiasm. Worth billions but given away for free, the curb is arguably the single most misused asset in the American city—and one that, more than any giant investment in apps, sensors, or screens, can determine the future of transportation. (July 19, 2018)

Metro: Self-driving car testing expands in Boston, to 14 other Mass. cities and towns. Officials cleared the way to allow companies to test their autonomous vehicles on more Massachusetts roads. (June 22, 2018)

NACTO: NACTO Releases Guidelines for the Regulation and Management of Shared Active Transportation As shared dockless bikes and scooters proliferate on city streets, guidelines aim to ensure the best outcomes for the public (July 11, 2018)

City of Boston: Autonomous Vehicles: Boston’s Approach (June 22, 2018) How to Test Autonomous Vehicles in Massachusetts (June 2018)

The Urbanist: Adaptive Signal System Kicks Pedestrians to the Curb (June 9, 2017)

WalkBoston/EOPSS Pedestrian Safety Initiative

WalkBoston/EOPSS Pedestrian Safety Initiative

The WalkBoston/EOPSS Pedestrian Safety Planning Initiative builds municipal staff understanding and awareness of the components of a safe walking environment. The initiative addresses walking safety concerns in Massachusetts communities with high pedestrian crash rates, with the goal of reducing pedestrian fatalities and serious injuries in the Commonwealth. Communities selected for participation in the initiative include: Barnstable, Chelsea, Chicopee, Framingham, Leominster, Lowell, Peabody, Randolph, Saugus, Springfield, and Yarmouth.

Cities and towns participating in the Pedestrian Safety Planning Initiative have used the results to prioritize pedestrian improvements, negotiate infrastructure fixes into development approvals, and apply for funding sources, such as from the MassDOT’s Complete Streets Funding Program.

WalkBoston conducts a walk audit focused on high pedestrian crash locations.  A walk audit provides on-street, tangible learning opportunities for diverse groups of municipal staff, including police, as well as residents and other community-based groups. During the audit, we assess pedestrian infrastructure conditions and recommend built environment improvements that promote safety. Walk audits are also an effective means to build local constituencies for pedestrian safety efforts that include increased education and awareness opportunities for all road users, and greater attention to safety in local roadway design and maintenance efforts.

Participation in this EOPSS/WalkBoston Initiative has increased the awareness and readiness of municipal staff to adopt and implement complete streets policies and designs that will reduce fatal and injury crashes for all road users (including pedestrians, motorists and bicyclists) as called for under MassDOT’s Complete Streets Funding Program.

Rain couldn’t stop walk audit in Yarmouth on Cape Cod

Rain couldn’t stop walk audit in Yarmouth on Cape Cod

Rain couldn’t stop our recent EOPSS-funded walk audit in Yarmouth along Rt 28 on Cape Cod. Thanks to members of the Yarmouth Dept. of Public Works, Dept. of Planning, Age-Friendly Community Team, the Library, and the Cape Cod Commission for contributing their time to make the area safer for people walking.

Senate Passes Bill to Improve Traffic Safety & Protect Vulnerable Road Users

Senate Passes Bill to Improve Traffic Safety & Protect Vulnerable Road Users

BOSTON — The Massachusetts State Senate voted Thursday to pass legislation that aims to create safer streets for all road users. Developed in collaboration with a coalition of bicycle, pedestrian and transportation advocates, S.2570, An Act to reduce traffic fatalities, includes several measures to improve road safety, lessen the severity of crashes, and standardize the collection and analysis of crash data.

The bill classifies several groups, including pedestrians, utility workers, first responders and cyclists, as “vulnerable road users,” and requires motor vehicles to apply a “safe passing distance” of at least three feet when traveling 30 miles per hour or less with an additional foot of clearance required for every 10 miles per hour over 30 miles per hour. Current law only requires motor vehicle operators to pass at “a safe distance and at a reasonable and proper speed.” The bill would further require a vehicle that is overtaking a vulnerable road user to use all or part of the adjacent lane, crossing the center line if necessary, when it cannot pass at a safe distance in the same lane and only when it is safe to do so.

“We need to keep working year after year to achieve a future in which traffic fatalities get as close as possible to zero,” said Senator William N. Brownsberger (D-Belmont), lead sponsor of the bill in the Senate. “This bill will help us move in the right direction.”

“This legislation updates basic protections for pedestrians, cyclists and others who may be on the road, and is a common-sense policy to ensure safer roadways for pedestrians and drivers alike” said Senate President Harriette L. Chandler (D-Worcester). “I am very happy the Senate has passed this legislation.”

“This bill takes an important step in encouraging the use of multimodal transportation to relieve the congestion and reduce our state’s carbon footprint,” said Senator Joseph A. Boncore (D-Winthrop), who serves as the Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Transportation, which advanced the legislative measure forward with a favorable recommendation earlier this year. “Ensuring that pedestrians and cyclists have more protections on shared roads is vital to that end.”

The bill would require certain large vehicles newly purchased, leased or operated pursuant to a contract with the Commonwealth to be equipped with lateral protective devices to eliminate a vehicle’s high ground clearance and the extraordinary risk posed to vulnerable road users, who are susceptible to slipping underneath large vehicles during accidents. Such large vehicles would also be required to utilize convex and cross-over mirrors to increase a driver’s ability to see around their vehicle. These provisions would apply to vehicles purchased or leased by the Commonwealth after January 1, 2019 and to vehicles operating pursuant to leases entered into January 1, 2020.

MassBike congratulates the Senate on the passage of An Act to reduce traffic fatalities,” said Galen Mook, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition. “We have seen too many unnecessary and completely preventable fatalities on our roads, and MassBike believes this legislation provides distinct safety elements for cyclists across the Commonwealth, including defining that vehicles must pass cyclists at ‘a safe distance’ of at least three feet, and requiring sideguards on large vehicles to protect vulnerable road users from the dreaded ‘right hook.’ MassBike is grateful for the collaborative work of Senator Brownsberger and all of the advocacy organizations, and we thank everyone for the continued persistence to protect all cyclists and pedestrians across the state. Though we have not yet finished our work, this bill goes a long way toward the goal of zero deaths on our streets.”

The Executive Office of Public Safety and Security would be required to develop a standardized analysis tool to report crashes and incidents involving a vulnerable road user and maintain a publicly accessible database of such reports to help inform further efforts to reduce traffic fatalities.

WalkBoston is thrilled that the Senate has passed An act to reduce traffic fatalities, which includes elements to immediately improve the safety of pedestrians, bicyclists and all vulnerable road users across the Commonwealth,” said Wendy Landman, Executive Director of WalkBoston. “The data collection and analysis requirement will help communities focus their road safety efforts on the places that need it the most.”

The bill would establish a 25 mile per hour speed limit on an unposted area of state highway or parkway inside a thickly settled or business district within a city or town that has accepted the 25 mile per hour local option, as lower vehicle speeds reduce the severity of crashes. While current law requires persons riding bicycles at night to use a front white light, this bill would also require use of both a red rear light and a red rear reflector when riding at night to improve the visibility of bicyclists.

The bill now moves to the House of Representatives for further consideration.


Originally posted by Senator Brownsberger’s Office