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Tag: Stacy Thompson

Re: Comments on H3126/S2069 An Act Relative to Mobile Carry Devices

Re: Comments on H3126/S2069 An Act Relative to Mobile Carry Devices

March 28, 2019

Joint Committee on Transportation
Joseph A. Boncore, Senate Chair
State House, Room 112
Boston, MA 02133

Joint Committee on Transportation
William Straus, House Chair
State House, Room 134
Boston, MA 02133

Re: Comments on H3126/S2069 An Act Relative to Mobile Carry Devices

Dear Chairman Boncore and Chairman Straus,

WalkBoston is Massachusetts’ main pedestrian advocacy organization, working to make walking safer and easier in Massachusetts to encourage better health, a cleaner environment and more vibrant communities. LivableStreets Alliance advocates for innovative and equitable transportation solutions that create safe, affordable and convenient options for everyone in Metro Boston.  We write to provide the Committee with our comments on H3126/S2069, “An act relative to mobile carry devices.”

If we are to continue to build more livable cities and towns across Massachusetts, we must ensure the sidewalks are made for people of all ages and abilities. A 90-lb device that can carry up to 45-lbs of goods traveling at 12.5 miles per hour does not belong on the sidewalk, and instead should be in the street.

At a high level, we are also concerned that these regulations could open the door to the privatization of the public way: our sidewalks. The most sought-after space in our cities is at the curb. Cities on the West Coast continue to grapple with transportation technology issues a few months in advance of us, including the testing of autonomous delivery robots. The latest example we’ve heard from Walk San Francisco includes a proposal from a tech food delivery company to use robots to continuously operate on a sidewalk route to pick up multiple orders from a store and deliver them 2-3 blocks away to a waiting delivery driver in a car.

This legislation leaves many questions:

  • The language “primarily for transporting personal property,” and “primarily designed to remain within 25 ft of personal property owner” both indicate that there would be other uses.
  • “Personal property owner is actively monitoring navigation and operation” seems to indicate that a device could operate autonomously or via remote control as long as it was under the auspices of the owner. There are rigorous testing and reporting requirements for autonomous vehicles to use streets in the city of Boston; autonomous vehicles should not be allowed on sidewalks without similar care and attention.
  • The language “a mobile carrying device has the rights and obligations applicable to a pedestrian” will give more legal protection in a crosswalk to a 90-lb device than to a person using a bike or scooter.

We appreciate the opportunity to comment, and would be happy to work with any proponent to offer feedback.

Thank you,

Brendan Kearney
Communications Director, WalkBoston

Stacy Thompson
Executive Director, LivableStreets Alliance

MA Vision Zero Coalition Statement on Commonwealth Ave Fatal Crash

MA Vision Zero Coalition Statement on Commonwealth Ave Fatal Crash

Statement from the Massachusetts Vision Zero Coalition:

The Commonwealth Avenue crash that claimed the life of Theodore J. Schwalb, age 80, an arts teacher at Stoneham High School for more than 40 years, is disturbing on many levels. The driver, Phocian Fitts, acknowledges that he drove the car that struck and killed Mr. Schwalb in the middle of the day and then fled the scene. He stated this in an interview with Boston 25 News after he was released from police custody:

“People hit and run people all the time, it just happened to be an unfortunate situation where I was driving.”

Mr. Fitts’ comments, although brazen, reflect the low bar we’ve set when it comes to holding people accountable for reckless driving behavior.

  • A culture that accepts fatal crashes as a fact of life means law enforcement isn’t holding drivers accountable. We are deeply disturbed that the alleged suspect was initially questioned and released without charges despite fleeing the scene of a fatal crash. An arrest was only made after the Boston 25 News interview, in which he admitted to “driving too quick to the point where I couldn’t really stop” before running over and killing a fellow Boston resident.
  • A culture that accepts fatal crashes as a fact of life means lawmakers don’t realize the urgency of safety legislation. A hands free driving bill, which has passed the Senate and is backed by broad public support and Governor Baker, has languished in the House for years and now is awaiting action in the House Ways and Means Committee.
  • A culture that accepts fatal crashes as a fact of life means that thousands of people are seriously injured on Massachusetts streets every year.  In 2017, there were 4,537 injury crashes on Boston’s streets, which is up ten percent since 2015. Across Massachusetts, at least 133 people have been killed on our roads in the first 5 months of 2018.

While we are brokenhearted that another life has been lost on our streets, we are hopeful that the culture is beginning to shift around designing and building safer streets. In 2015 Mayor Walsh committed Boston to Vision Zero, an effort to eliminate serious and fatal crashes. Cambridge and Somerville soon followed suit.

Each of these cities have worked to make good on their Vision Zero commitments by redesigning dangerous corridors and intersections, and Boston recently announced a major investment in its Transportation Department’s safety efforts.

To ensure our streets are safe and accessible for everyone, design is important. We also need law enforcement and elected leaders to step up and make it clear that reckless driving deserves severe consequences.

Wendy Landman, Executive Director, WalkBoston
Emily Stein, President, Safe Roads Alliance
Stacy Thompson, Executive Director, LivableStreets Alliance
Becca Wolfson, Executive Director, Boston Cyclist Union

Additional Sources

  • A 2018 AAA study found that “Hit-and-run crashes in the United States are trending in the wrong direction,” according to Dr. David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. The report found that most victims of fatal hit-and-run crashes are pedestrians or bicyclists. Over the past 10 years, nearly 20 percent of all pedestrian deaths were caused by hit-and-run crashes, meanwhile just one percent of all driver fatalities in that same time period were hit-and-run crashes.
  • The Massachusetts Vision Zero Coalition maintains a map of fatal crashes involving people biking or walking across Massachusetts.
  • WalkBoston tracks fatal pedestrian crashes across Massachusetts. This pedestrian crash fatality list is compiled manually via news & social media alerts in order to give communities more information to help push for safer streets.