Thursday, October 30, 2008

Call to art

The Newton Bicycle Pedestrian Task Force needs a logo. Help make Newton a better place to ride and walk, or at least make the NBPTF a more graphically pleasing presence.

E-mail newtonbikeped (at) gmail (dot) com if you've got something to offer.


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Paragon Place, not as bad as I led you to believe

While I have serious issues with the proposed Paragon Place on Needham Street, it would be incorrect to say — as I do in Chrissie Long's article on the Board of Alderman's approval of the Paragon Place special permit petition — that the design reviewed by the Board of Aldermen on Monday night has "no meaningful pedestrian connection." In fact, the developer has made some recent changes that should materially improve pedestrian circulation with the new Filene's Basement building and its neighbors.

So, what gives? Did Chrissie misquote me? Or did I misspeak? Neither. Here are the gruesome details ...

In the article, Chrissie quotes — accurately — language from a letter I wrote to the board last week:

What should we desire for 151,618 sq. ft. in one of our prime commercial districts? Certainly not a total of four curb cuts and no meaningful pedestrian connection. But, that's what we'll be left with according to the Paragon Place proposal, and the proposal leaves little opportunity for improvement if either Paragon Towers or Baza Supermarket is developed in the future. Not only does the Paragon Place proposal isolate the three properties, it consigns these properties to isolation for the foreseeable future. (Emphasis added.)

That language is actually an excerpt from a letter I wrote to the Land Use committee on 10/7 that I included in the letter to the board. In the letter to the full board, I added the following note to the paragraph:

[Please note that the developer has made improvements to the pedestrian connectivity since this letter.]

"[T]his letter" refers to the 10/7 letter to Land Use. Confused yet?

Between my writing to the Land Use committee and then to the Board of Alderman, the pedestrian connectivity of the Paragon Place design improved in at least three areas. Based on the current design, Paragon Place will not be completely isolated. It promises to have some pretty good pedestrian connectivity.

I can't really blame Chrissie for the omission. I included the paragraph in my letter to the board because I felt it was necessary to provide context for another excerpt from the 10/7 letter, my recommendation that the board require Paragon Place to grant an easement to its neighbor Paragon Towers, which easement might convince and allow Paragon Towers to close two curb cuts (driveway entrances) on Needham Street. But, I probably could have been more clear about the improved pedestrian accommodations.

Now, about that easement ...


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Hit in the crosswalk

There is simply no reasonable explanation for a middle-school child to have been hit by a car in a crosswalk on Needham Street. This isn't something that we should accept as one of the inevitable and, therefore, acceptable costs of the benefits of living in a motorized society.

The goal should be zero pedestrian injuries or fatalities in the city.

It gives me no pleasure to point out the irony that

  • Needham Street is dangerous and pedestrian unfriendly in large part because of the chaos and confusion created by the multitude of driveway entrances along the street
  • The Board of Alderman unanimously approved a special permit for a large development on Needham Street — Paragon Place — and did not require the developer to allow for a future easement that might have closed two of the driveways
  • The injured young man was hit in the crosswalk directly in front of the site in question

The TAB article describing the new development is on the front page of the paper, but is not yet online. (It's only fair to note that the developer is contributing to putting a signal at the intersection.)

I have requested from the police statistics on the number of citations issued in the city for failure to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk. Enforcement is rarely the long-term answer to traffic safety issues, but I think that a little constabulatory attention to crosswalk violations might make drivers a little more careful.


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Walk & Roll!

Sean will soon post a few pictures of the convivial crowd scene outside Bowen School this morning, enjoying International Walk to School day. Kids were walking, biking, scootering, running, and their parents were chatting and drinking coffee: altogether far more fun than sitting behind the wheel of a car.

And better for everyone! New federal guidelines recommend adults get 2 1/2 hours of moderate activity weekly (or 1 1/4 hours vigorous activity) to get and stay fit. The key change: try to incorporate exercise into your daily routine. In other words, don't punish yourself with guilt that you haven't gone to the gym. (Who wants to spend hours in the gym every week, anyway... and these days, who can afford it?) Walk your child to school, bike to the post office, walk to the cafe, bike to the library.

But as I saw this morning, it's not just about physical health. It was like a mobile morning block party. Let's get out of our cars and party!


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Contested Streets showing Monday, October 6, 7:00 PM

NS&S is a livable streets blog, that is we promote the values and policy implications of the livable streets movement. From Streetswiki, livable streets are streets that are designed and maintained to meet the needs of all constituents -- pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists.

[Livable streets] strike a balance between the vehicles that travel through them and the community that lives there, works there, and plays there. They are functional corridors of public realm where people live, shop, interact, travel, and resolve their daily needs. Livable streets establish great neighborhoods and the possibility for true community building. Goods and services are readily accessible while adequate open space is provided for the local community. Unlike other streets that primarily serve the needs of traffic, they cater to the needs of everyone using them.

On Monday night, Bike Newton, Green Decade, and the Newton Conservators are hosting a screening of Contested Streets, an hour-long documentary that vividly illustrates what happens when things get out-of-balance and the automobile dominates our streets and communities. And, it explores what is possible if we strive to restore balance.

It is, in short, a livable streets manifesto. A call to arms (and legs).

If you read this blog, it's likely that you are a proponent of pedestrian and bicycle accommodations in Newton (and elsewhere). I urge you to see this film. It will put your pro-pedestrian/pro-bicycle inclinations into a larger context and give you a framework for understanding and describing why pedestrian and bicycle accommodations are so important. And, you'll spend an hour or so in the company of like-minded advocates.

Jeff Rosenblum, Executive Director of Cambridge-based LivableStreets Alliance, will introduce the movie. He is a major figure in the Boston area and an energizing speaker.
Do not miss this event.