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Category: WalkMass Network

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. 

Brooks Elementary’s Safe Routes to School Project in Medford

Brooks Elementary’s Safe Routes to School Project in Medford

Our partners at WalkMedford recently reported that the Medford City Council unanimously supported the ​Brooks Elementary School Safe Routes to School Safety Project. The project will bring enhanced safety for children walking and bicycling to the Brooks School from nearby neighborhoods, as well as improve the accessibility and safety for the thousands of other people who use High Street every day. Speeding cars pose a real threat to children as well as other pedestrians on High Street.

On May 12, the City Council approved 12 easements that will allow the project to move forward and that will entail removing several on-street parking spaces.  Studies by the state and city have shown that there is plenty of parking in the area at all times of day, and that all of the affected houses have ample driveways to accommodate resident cars.

The project includes: rectangular rapid flashing beacons (RRFBs) at several pedestrian crossings; bump outs that will shorten crossing distances; accessible curb ramps and narrowed travel lanes; several new crosswalks; construction of a splitter island to reduce crossing distances; and, the installation of an uphill bike lane and downhill “sharrows” on High Street.

Congratulations Medford!

Second WalkMassachusetts Network Forum Convenes in Framingham

Second WalkMassachusetts Network Forum Convenes in Framingham

On February 12, WalkBoston staff and members of the WalkMassachusetts Network convened for a second Network-wide forum in Framingham. The WalkMassachusetts Network is a statewide network of advocacy organizations, municipal committees, and community groups working on improving walkability. WalkBoston created the Network in 2018 with the aim of supporting and connecting local advocates to build capacity for advancing walkability across the Commonwealth. WalkMassachusetts Network members are experts on their communities and help WalkBoston stay up to date on the diversity of assets, opportunities and challenges to walking in cities and towns across the state. 

The second Network forum held last month was an opportunity for current and new members to connect, share knowledge, and learn best practices. Attendees represented 13 communities across the state, including Fall River, Worcester and Springfield. During the half-day forum, members shared wins for walkability in their communities over the past year, which most notably included more funding for Complete Streets and sign projects in multiple communities, new resident snow removal ordinances in Medford and Watertown, a rural walking map and more community engagement in the Hilltowns, and a successful 25th annual Big Walk in Fall River. The Network also participated in “advocacy clinics,” which were discussions about a series of topics related to walkability: Age-Friendly, Safety, Legislation and Policy, Stakeholder Engagement. In these discussions, attendees and WalkBoston staff shared their first-hand knowledge and best practices, which we can all apply to our work moving forward. WalkBoston also shared information and resources about the new Hands-Free policy, which went into effect in February. The many diverse voices and experiences from members, whether they represented rural or urban communities and worked at the grassroots or municipal level, generated engaging and informative discussions that we hope to continue in our work together. 

The WalkMassachusetts Network will continue to strategize and plan future Network activities this year, including efforts to continue growing membership. If your community, advocacy or municipal group is working on walkability, please consider joining the Network. See our WalkMassachusetts Network page for more information and fill out this form to join.

Network members share community walking wins.
Network members and staff discuss solutions to walkability challenges.