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Tag: Brendan Kearney

Boston Herald: “Horror in Charlestown: Pedestrian killed after getting struck, dragged for a mile by vehicle”

Boston Herald: “Horror in Charlestown: Pedestrian killed after getting struck, dragged for a mile by vehicle”

Boston Herald: “Horror in Charlestown: Pedestrian killed after getting struck, dragged for a mile by vehicle

During the first five days of the new year, there have already been multiple fatal pedestrian crashes in Massachusetts, including a hit-and-run in Springfield over the weekend, said Brendan Kearney of the WalkBoston advocacy group.

“The number of large vehicles involved with fatal crashes, especially involving people walking or biking, is a huge concern,” he said. “And that’s not just in Boston, but across the state and across the country.

“There are bad sight lines on these vehicles,” Kearney added. “And it’s putting everyone in a bad situation when we have large vehicles and streets where people can drive fast.”

During the coronavirus pandemic, there have been fewer cars on the roads but drivers are speeding at a higher clip, he said.

“That’s something we’ve seen across the state,” Kearney said.

Posted January 5, 2021

Testimony as prepared for Boston City Council Joint Committee on Planning, Development & Transportation Public Health – Docket #1074, Order for a hearing to discuss speeding cars as a public health emergency

Testimony as prepared for Boston City Council Joint Committee on Planning, Development & Transportation Public Health – Docket #1074, Order for a hearing to discuss speeding cars as a public health emergency

Testimony as prepared for City of Boston City Council Joint Committee on Planning, Development & Transportation Public Health – Docket #1074, Order for a hearing to discuss speeding cars as a public health emergency and address infrastructure improvements; and Docket #1040, Order for a hearing to discuss pedestrian safety, traffic enforcement, and vision zero for the hearing scheduled on Monday, November 23, 2020 at 3:00 p.m. conducted via Zoom.

My name is Brendan Kearney, and I’m the Deputy Director at WalkBoston. WalkBoston is a statewide pedestrian advocacy organization whose mission is to make Massachusetts more walkable. We work with municipal staff, state agencies, community-based organizations and residents to make walking conditions safer, more enjoyable, and more equitable for all.Thank you to all the city councilors for having this conversation and sticking around. Thank you also for having public comments first. Coming to these meetings and participating on panels is part our job as advocates, so thank you for making sure that community members who showed up to speak are a priority.

Speeding is a huge public safety issue: the Governor’s Highway Safety Association Report “Speeding Away from Zero” released in 2019 shared that 28% of fatal crashes in 2017 in MA were speeding-related. Higher speed, regardless of limit, is a factor in every traffic fatality or serious crash: there is less reaction time for a person driving to brake or avoid a crash, and a fast moving vehicle inflicts higher blunt force trauma on crash victims.

Even though traffic volumes have been down (during pandemic), still increased rates of speed on the streets. Councilor Flynn has already identified here today a number of fatal crashes as well as crashes where people drove at high rates of speed into immovable objects. 

Last week, there was a session during MassDOT’s Moving Together conference about MassDOT’s “Speed Management to Prevent Serious Injuries and Fatalities” project. MassDOT announced that they have committed resources to study how speed limits are set for clarity to users / designers and to be able to base it on the context (meaning having slower speeds around places there are many people: main street districts, schools, senior centers, transit stops). Hope Boston can get to the front of the line on this!

Councilor Bok mentioned Systems Fixes, so I’ll try and frame my comments that way.

First, I’ll agree wholeheartedly w/ her suggestion on improving the Signal Policy: Need to improve our signals so they prioritize vulnerable road users – especially people walking – and give consistency from intersection to intersection for everyone with pedestrian-first signals. Councilor Flynn mentioned concurrent signals, which do work well when people driving are doing it at a slower speed so they can appropriately yield to people who have the legal right of way in the crosswalk. There are some exceptions: they are not appropriate at intersections with many turns, or at T intersections where 100% of people driving are turning a vehicle across the path of people walking in a crosswalk. No matter the setup — concurrent or exclusive for people walking — traffic signals should on be a shorter half cycles wherever possible, so that there is less delay for everyone. 

I’d like to also offer a few more Systems Fixes:

1. The City should and can lead when there are multiple jurisdictions. Many of the most dangerous roads for speeding are not Boston owned or have multiple jurisdictions (Boston, MassDCR, MassDOT). Would be great for the City of Boston to take the lead to advocate for changes and lead on some of these mixed jurisdiction places and get the stakeholders to the table to make safety changes. Becca will share more.

2. We need GOOD data. (Thanks for highlighting, Councilor Campbell.)
Boston Police should be fixing their database connections so that they are automatically sharing any crash data reports w/ MassDOT. That still doesn’t happen, though we’ve all been talking about it for years.

Thank you to the City Council for funding a band-aid to the problem w/ a data analyst position so that information is shared more readily with the transportation department, but the systems fix would be to get the BPD crash report system to connect directly to the state’s crash reporting system. The problem is that so much of the content lives within the narrative section. Those police reports have way more info about the crash than what EMS crash dataset includes which is shown on the Vision Zero Crash Map. Having that feeding into the MassDOT Crash Portal will possibly qualify the city for more funding programs to help fix dangerous streets.

Building on the data point, I’m glad that one of the commenters, Matt Lawlor, mentioned concerns around increased officer enforcement. In June 2020, WGBH reported out data showing that black people in Boston accounted for 70% of police stops despite being 25% of the population. 

Another data systems fix: Would also love to see data from those speed feedback signs. Is there a process for it getting collected & shared, or is that looked at when a project is going to happen? Is there an escalation or a next step? Meaning, does a Speed Feedback Sign location get upgraded to a speed hump if people continue to speed down a street?  

3. Figure out snow clearance for pedestrians, too. Important to show safety for pedestrians is key year round – from clearing curb cuts, to prioritizing the clearing of heavily traveled sidewalks and crosswalks. If sidewalks aren’t safely cleared, people walk in the street since those DO get cleared. Raised Crosswalks are a double win: they can slow speeding drivers and also makes it so a curb cut does not flood/freeze. We created a video showing the importance of clearing curb cuts after snow storms, that I’ll share a link to.

4. Councilor Mejia – I agree with your comment that there needs to be more overlap between development and transportation! One example of how we’re helping impact that: Urban Edge, Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation (JPNDC) and The Community Builders are redeveloping the Mildred C. Hailey apartments, I recently met with them through an invite from Carolyn Royce and the Egleston Square Neighborhood Association / Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council during one of their existing meetings, and offered suggestion that a new 4 leg intersection at Centre / Lamartine should include a raised and safe connection for the Southwest Corridor. They already have plans for better connections from the site to the Southwest Corridor, & fixing pedestrian access through the site. 

Thank you for the opportunity to be on this panel, and I welcome your questions.

Boston Herald: Woman struck by stolen vehicle suffers life-threatening injuries at Boston Public Garden, police say

Boston Herald: Woman struck by stolen vehicle suffers life-threatening injuries at Boston Public Garden, police say

Boston Herald: “Woman struck by stolen vehicle suffers life-threatening injuries at Boston Public Garden, police say

Brendan Kearney of the WalkBoston advocacy group said he counts five fatal crashes in Boston this year, including the one earlier this week in Andrew Square. He said the city should use its current Boston Common master planning project to take a hard look at the wide streets surrounding the pedestrian-heavy parks downtown that “really just invite speeding.”

“These streets – they are built for high speed,” Kearney said, noting other fatal crashes around that area over the past few years. “It doesn’t matter who’s driving, if the truck was stolen or not – we need fewer roads that are overbuilt like this.”

He added that the big-picture question people should be asking is, “How do we reduce speed and make it safer?”

One Minute, One Slide: Walking & Communicating in the time of COVID

One Minute, One Slide: Walking & Communicating in the time of COVID

Below is a “One Minute, One Slide” presentation shared by a member of the WalkBoston staff.
Text provided is as prepared for this year’s annual event on September 23, 2020 on Zoom. 

Can’t read the text on these screenshots? Click here or on the image to access the archived Mailchimp message.

Brendan Kearney

I’m Brendan Kearney, WalkBoston’s deputy director. 

March 18th, we launched a weekly storytelling email effort that we called “Keep Walking”

It started as a way to share positive news as we collectively grappled with the unfamiliarity of life in quarantine. It quickly became more than that though, and we now know that a limited run email series is a way that we can delve deeper into a topic area related to walking. 

 It gave us a chance to pause and formulate what has been important to us each week: from exploring new rail trails (Issue 3), to rediscovering neighborhood walking maps (Issue 4); from learning about the animals that coexist on the streets around us (Issue 6), to the blooms of flowers along streets and a resurgence of gardens and CSAs (Issues 8 and 9); from sharing streets for physical distancing (Issue 11), to walking to support main street businesses (Issue 14). 

As Stacey spoke about earlier, Keep Walking also became the space where we committed to being better advocates and working to end the structural racism that perpetuates violence against Black people (in Issue 12). We have always believed that safe walking is a fundamental right, but it is not one that we all share equally: a “safe street” does not mean the same thing for every person (Issue 13). 

We are grateful to everyone that reached out and shared your stories, too: including the way walking has become a critical release valve.

To read any of these issues, head to walkboston.org/keepwalking

Testimony as prepared for City of Boston City Council Committee on Planning, Development & Transportation – Implementing changes for safe streets during and after Covid-19 pandemic

Testimony as prepared for City of Boston City Council Committee on Planning, Development & Transportation – Implementing changes for safe streets during and after Covid-19 pandemic

Testimony as prepared for City of Boston City Council Committee on Planning, Development & Transportation on May 11, 2020 Docket #0662 – Implementing changes for safe streets during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, May 11, 2020 conducted via Zoom.

Thank you Councilor Wu & Councilor Breadon for the chance to speak today, and thank you to all the councilors taking part this evening. My name is Brendan Kearney, and I’m the Deputy Director of WalkBoston. WalkBoston is a statewide pedestrian advocacy organization whose mission is to make Massachusetts more walkable. We work with municipal staff, state agencies, community-based organizations and residents to make walking conditions safer, more enjoyable, and more equitable for all.

Jeff & Stacy gave a great overview to help set the stage, and it was great to see Jacob & Vineet identifying the different types of problems & how BTD hopes to repurpose areas. Also want to say thank you, Representative Elugardo, for your inspirational words of how the state can be a partner. 

I wanted to highlight a few areas of concern for people walking.

First, On Speed reduction / traffic calming: 

  • I shared this info at the Budget hearing but wanted to reiterate since Jeff mentioned it: Earlier this week, MassDOT reported that the rate of fatalities on Massachusetts roadways doubled in April: with 50% less traffic on the road, 28 individuals died in crashes, compared with the month of April 2019 when there were 27 deaths on roadways in the state. Road safety projects are important to combat this problem. 
  • In response to that – Massachusetts State Police launched a Speed Reduction Initiative to address the increase in speeding vehicles now that traffic volumes are low due to stay-at home order. The focus of this mobilization is to identify, stop and take enforcement action on operators of vehicles traveling at very high speeds. We appreciate that appropriate use of police department time. 
  • However – We hope that expanded sidewalks, car-free streets and additional bike lanes can be self-enforcing designs and ways to slow people down that can be added without increased police presence; it does not need to take away from COVID-related response. 

Second, On Signals: 

  • Need for automatic pedestrian recall.  Make it so ‘No need to push a button.’
    Set up signals so they allot time for people to cross without having to push a button to request it. 
  • ‘Mid-day’ cycle phases: shorter delay, lights change more often. Change timing of signals to slow traffic with traffic signals – the opposite of the “green wave”; regulate lights to keep traffic speeds down.
  • Would love to hear about the plan to implement some of these changes — which can it be done remotely from the Traffic Mgmt Center, and which require going out to the intersection to fix? Would need to prioritize changes by ease of implementation. areas that see crowding &/or crash data.

Third, On Small businesses: 

  • Our small businesses make walkable communities/neighborhoods successful
  • Thriving downtown districts and town centers are critical to the success of walkable communities. With many stores now closed to walk-in customers, that life is on hold, and furthermore threatened with the uncertainty of what is to come. For all of you listening to this hearing, think about those local places you walk to in your neighborhood that make it home to you. Figure out a way to continue supporting those businesses. You will not only be helping your local shops, you’ll be preserving the walkability of the places you love. For me, that’s Pavement Coffee on Western Ave in Allston. Re-ordered coffee beans online today.
  • We know that people walking, biking and taking transit are more likely to frequent local, small businesses. Anything that can be done to improve walking, biking and riding transit will in turn help small business community recover once we re-open.
  • Really should consider car free or “car lite’ streets in key business districts to facilitate reopening while maintaining mandated physical distancing requirements.
    • Mayor mentioned this yesterday is his press conference – ideas of widening sidewalks, allowing restaurants to expand onto sidewalks
    • Understand emergency access and lack of organized grid structure of Boston’s streets need to be considered when determining which areas to devote to people walking and biking – not always a parallel path that traffic can be diverted to – but honestly a lot easier to move people out of the way for emergency vehicles than to move cars; i.e. Downtown crossing (Washington St/Summer Street) need fire truck access? people just get out of the way.

Finally for vulnerable populations/limited spaces due to COVID:

Agree wholeheartedly w/ what Galen spoke about w/ older adults, in conversations that we’ve had with the Boston Age Strong Commission who have identified potential locations where expanded sidewalks and outdoor spaces would greatly benefit senior residents.  I know they’ve shared it with Jacob as he’s been compiling locations.

Goal to facilitate essential movement in areas where it is most needed: for older adults near senior housing, for access to parks and schools (throughout the summer & into fall). WalkBoston, MassBike and the Massachusetts Healthy Aging Collaborative have had conversations about the needs of older adults living in senior housing units in urban walkable centers across the state.

As we’ve seen through Boston Globe coverage, older adults are among the most vulnerable to fall victim to COVID-19. Ensuring that our elders have safe access and enough room on our sidewalks to walk to get food and other essential services is a must. We ask that you keep the needs of our seniors on the top of your minds when deciding on a methodology to share Boston’s streets.

2 example areas that I hope are considered that can also build onto ongoing planning efforts:

  • State St (downtown). Extended curb / sidewalks as part of State St Reconstruction Project.
  • Washington Street from Comm Ave to Brookline line (Brighton). Senior safety zone / create safe access to grocery store location as part of Allston Brighton Mobility Study.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak this evening.