Thursday, September 30, 2010

CHS -- Trees on Boyston Street

As planned, the sidewalk between Boylston Street (Route 9) and the proposed Chestnut Hill Square is inadequate. There is not enough separation between pedestrians and cars. The sidewalk is too narrow and there isn't a buffer of street trees. And, there's an opportunity to provide a cycle-track*.

This one should be easy to solve. It's a simple question of math. The sidewalk needs to be 6-10 feet wider. There are fourteen columns (north/south) of parking between the front building along Boylston Street and the other buildings on the interior of the lot. Move the front building 6 feet closer to the interior buildings and you eliminate 14 parking spaces. A more than fair trade: street trees for parking spaces. (There is almost certainly too much parking already.)

Another trade: take one lane out of the proposed roadway widening. Again, another fair trade: space for people on foot or on bikes for lanes for people in cars.

As the various issues with Chestnut Hill square go, this one ought to be easy.

* A grade-separated path dedicated for bicycles.


Newton/Brookline comity Land Use style

Notwithstanding the rude treatment the owner of a Newton business got from Brookline selectfolks, Aldercritter Ted Hess-Mahan and his Land Use colleagues were very gracious to and solicitous of the concerns of Brookline neighbors of the proposed Chestnut Hill Square development, particularly on the point of access to Florence Street.

The big surprise was the lack of neighborhood unanimity on the point.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What safety means

One way to reduce pedestrian-related incidents is to discourage pedestrians from, well, pedestrian-ing.

From this article, it appears that the conditions on a stretch of Perkins St. near Jamaica Pond are so pedestrian-unfriendly that people are no longer crossing. While this reluctance to cross undoubtedly reduces the potential for car/pedestrian conflicts, it's hardly a good safety outcome.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Brookline/Newton comity

From the Brookline TAB, this nugget regarding a recent Brookline selectmen meeting and a proposal to move a liquor store from 1327 Beacon St. to 1198 Boylston St.:

There was some shouting at the meeting, as Selectwoman Jesse Mermell tried to allow a Newton business owner to speak, and was cut off by Selectwoman Nancy Daly.

“I have to object. Hearing from a Newton business, that they don’t want competition from Brookline, is offensive to me,” said Daly.

Is this really the precedent you want to set when Newton aldermen are about to take up a the Chestnut Hill Square proposal? And, Boston's going to consider a proposal to develop the former Circle Cinemas site?


Monday, September 13, 2010

Parking at Newton North

Converting the demolished old Newton North High School to a parking lot is a bad idea. The current parking constraint (240 spaces shared by faculty and students, and restricted street parking), will drive better student commute choices, which would stick, except for the undermining effect of a big new parking lot. A community garden, park, or outdoor classroom would be a far better use of space than more pavement.

And the policy for issuing student parking permits should not be 'first come, first served' as it is currently. Students should have to justify the need to drive a car by demonstrating that walking, biking or taking a bus is not practical. Incentives for student carpooling should be created. Exceptions should be made for disability, but those who drive for sheer convenience should pay for the luxury and cost to the neighborhood.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Legacy Place: not pedestrian friendly

Hiking in the Blue Hills and looking over Dedham, a new friend volunteered (totally unprompted): "Legacy Place isn't very pedestrian friendly."

Interesting to us in Newton because Legacy Place is the closest example of what is planned for Chestnut Hill Square: come off a main route into a big parking lot surrounded by retail. To the developer's credit, New England Development has planned some tree-lined pedestrian paths through the parking lot, but those are a weak compromise compared to more urban, more village center-like model where there is curb-side parking and more parking behind and to the side of retail. (Obviously, Newton Centre is the exception.)

It's not clear who the party truly responsible for the proposed layout of Chestnut Hill Square is, there are a number of candidates, but the combination of a very long blank wall on Boylston Street/Route 9 and retail surrounding a big parking lot is going to be a design we are all going to regret.


Child hit by car on Parker Street

The TAB/Wicked Local Newton reports that, on Friday, a twelve-year-old boy was hit by a car on Parker St., between Ridge Rd. and Glenwood Ave. We'll have to wait for the police report to know what happened, but some thoughts and observations ...

Inevitably, someone's going to say that Parker St. is too dangerous to be crossed by a twelve-year-old. As made clear by this incident, that's a fair observation. But, the question is whether it should be. A twelve-year-old ought to be able to cross Parker or Beacon or Washington or Walnut or ...

We should not be forfeiting streets to cars only. Streets can connect or divide neighborhoods. Kids on both sides of Parker go to the same schools. It shouldn't require an adult -- and particularly not a ride from an adult -- to visit a middle-school friend.

Another likely response is to request a crosswalk at Parker and Browning. The address noted in the article as the site of the incident is about 1,000 feet from a crosswalk at Cypress and about 600 feet from a crosswalk at Daniel St. (rough estimates using Google maps to measure). It's simply not reasonable to expect that pedestrians are going to walk 1200 to 2000 ft out of their way to avail themselves of the protection of a crosswalk. Especially not tweens and teens.

But adding a crosswalk is not necessarily the right answer. We already have a cross-walk compliance problem in the city. The crosswalk at Parker and Daniel is heavily used, but you can stand there and wait for up to ten cars to pass before one stops. Adding another crosswalk, which would be lightly used, will just lead to more non-compliance.

The real problem is design. From end-to-end, Parker St. is a ram-rod straight invitation to speed. There is routine police presence nabbing speeders at Parker and Daniel St., but the speeds are high nonetheless. Only traffic calming interventions are going to make a meaningful difference.


Just for fun -- the horse bike

Riding a bike with these horse accessories wearing full spandex kit will probably make heads explode.

I may wait for the unicorn version.

From Gizmodo.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

New bike lanes -- thank you and more please

This is the north-bound version of new bike lanes on Walnut Street between Homer Street and Commonwealth Avenue, right in front of City Hall.

They are terrific. Any bike lanes, especially on already well-traveled bike routes, are terrific. So, we bike advocates ought to be thankful. We also need to continue the campaign for more bike lanes.

This is a very short stretch on an important north/south corridor. Walnut between Homer and Beacon already has nice wide shoulders, which could be converted to official bike lanes. South of Beacon is a long-contested stretch. The stretch north of Comm. Ave. leads to Newton North, and should be made as bike-friendly as possible to encourage students to ride to school. Homer between Walnut and Centre is being repaved, and should be a candidate for bike lanes. &c.

So, thanks. And more, please.