Chrissie Long has an article in the TAB about our favorite bit of tarmac: the Daniel/Jackson Street intersection. It was with great anticipation that we awaited its publication. (It was ready to run a week earlier.) Our worst fears went unrealized. Especially in light of the demands on Chrissie to cover every last burp in Newton (nearly single handedly), the article covers a lot of ground and gets a lot right. Not a bad job.
That said, the article incorrectly casts the debate as between those who say it is safe and those who say it isn't. Seems even-handed, but it contradicts the plain facts.
There is no question that the redesign is slowing cars through the intersection, which necessarily means that it's making the intersection safer day-in and day-out. As we at NS&S never tire of reminding, speed kills. Each day, 1500 to 2000 cars pass through the intersection, nearly 50,000 a month. When you slow those thousands of cars, you reduce the risk of physical injury and death. That's not debatable.
If you are going to argue, as Barry Bergman does, that the redesigned intersection is, in his words, "dangerous," you not only have to explain what makes it dangerous, but also how the increased danger outweighs the overwhelming safety benefit from slowing traffic. But, the opponents have never made a credible argument that the bumpout creates a danger, much less a danger that outweighs the safety benefit.
Previously, Mr. Bergman has called the redesign "a dangerous obstruction at the bottom of a long hill." Here's a long post addressing the obstacle-as-danger theory. In short, roadway obstacles are oversold as dangers. In fact, obstacle-free roadways encourage motorists to drive faster, which is a real, quantifiable danger.
A good intra-neighborhood squabble makes for good copy. (See also Chrissie's article about the split in Newton Lower Falls over a rail trail through the neighborhood, with blog post and commentary.) But, treating two sides to an argument fairly doesn't necessarily mean giving equal weight to their arguments. The facts on the ground are tilted against the redesign opponents and the article should have made that clear.
We get to this false balance, perhaps, because either Chrissie or I really screwed up. She paraphrases me thusly:
Taken too fast, the intersection could cause an accident, Roche acknowledged, but it’s his hope that people would recognize the threat and slow down. (Emphasis mine.)
It's conceivable that I used the word "hope." If so, I misspoke.
It's not my hope that people will slow down. It's my observation. People recognize the threat and are slowing down. It's seems counterintuitive; but drivers' concern about their welfare is what makes the intersection safer. It's the same concern that slows motorists at every corner: you can slow down or you can go over the curb or into oncoming traffic. It's the calculation that Clint Schuckel nicely alludes to in his comment that "there's a fine line [between] making someone uncomfortable and someone unsafe."
Chrissie writes that the redesign "may" have negative effects and that its my "hope" that the redesign will slow traffic. Let the opponents argue that there "may" be negative effects, but make no mistake that the redesign does slow traffic. Significantly.
And, that's a point I'll make loudly.