INNOVATIVE APPROACHES TO IMPROVING PEDESTRIAN SAFETY
by Wendy Landman
In 2018, 72 pedestrians were hit and killed in Massachusetts. In Boston alone, almost 700 pedestrians were injured as a result of traffic crashes. In addition to these alarming statistics, a robust body of research documents walking’s benefits for personal, economic, environmental, and civic health, further building the case for enhancing the walkability of the Commonwealth’s communities. For instance, a 2013 study in the academic journal, Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, and Prevention, found that walking at least 7 hours per week is associated with a 14% lower risk of developing breast cancer after menopause.
In light of the many benefits that come from improving walking conditions, municipal staff who have spent years trying to solve transportation problems by adding roads and parking, now need help reclaiming their streets as multi-modal places that serve pedestrians alongside bicycles, buses, and cars. Local organizations and residents also seek technical assistance to enhance the walkability of their communities. WalkBoston’s technical assistance, advocacy, and education initiatives increase pedestrian safety and advance the work of achieving walkable communities across Massachusetts. WalkBoston was founded in 1990 as the first pedestrian advocacy group in the country. During the last decade, WalkBoston has developed the capacity to provide technical assistance to grassroots organizations and municipal and state staff.
A key goal for WalkBoston is to reduce pedestrian injuries and fatalities across the state by:
- Developing strategies for Massachusetts’ communities beyond Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville to adopt data-driven approaches to improving safety modeled on Vision Zero1 .
- Addressing signal timing in Boston and other Massachusetts municipalities.
- Conducting walk audits in high-crash locations to identify built-environment improvements to reduce crashes and enhance pedestrian safety.
Another focus of WalkBoston’s work is influencing design and policy on the state and local levels by:
- Strengthening advocacy in communities outside metro Boston.
- Promoting legislation, regulation, and funding to improve walking.
- Reviewing and influencing transportation and development proposals.
WalkBoston is also focused on fostering policies and practices that increase pedestrian safety for children and older adults by:
- Implementing policy and built-environment changes to support Age-Friendly Communities in Massachusetts’ cities and towns.
- Continuing built environment improvements near schools to enhance “walk to school” efforts.
- Broadening the reach of walkable school-campus design principles.
Lastly, WalkBoston works to ensure safe access to transit across the state and promotes walkability in rural communities. While almost everyone is a pedestrian, walkers do not have a natural way to organize and voice concerns about safety, accessibility, and the quality of their community’s built-environment. WalkBoston strengthens local voices, convenes municipal staff and concerned community residents, and advocates for the rights of pedestrians across Massachusetts.
- Vision Zero is a multi-national road traffic safety project that aims to achieve a highway system with no fatalities or serious injuries involving road traffic. See https://www.boston.gov/transportation/ vision-zero and https:// visionzeronetwork.org/