My latest letter, published in the JP Gazette:
Bravo to local heroes such as Councilor Ed Flynn and Boston Transportation Department (BTD) Director of Planning Vineet Gupta. They are making our city streets safer for children, cyclists, and all pedestrians. While officials investigate automated enforcement/ camera systems for speeding and running red lights (which are critically important), a few points bear mentioning:
Small Victories are Urgently Needed – On major thoroughfares such as South Street, Speed Feedback Signs, which flash if the driver is exceeding the speed limit, need to be installed now. On side streets, speed humps are needed immediately. These small victories will raise awareness for the crucial issue of pedestrian safety, while slowing down vehicles.
Increasing BTD’s Budget – Such an enormous amount of money is being spent on development in Boston, surely a fraction of that money could be allocated to BTD, for pedestrian safety efforts.
Health and Physical Activity – In the United States, nearly $117 billion in annual health care costs, and 10% of all premature mortality, are due to people not meeting recommended levels of aerobic physical activity. It is difficult to get people moving, in part, because of the danger of our streets. Making our streets safer for pedestrians will improve longevity and quality of life.
Broader Implications and Grassroots Community Organizing – If we are to tackle the immense, interconnected problems we face as a society (climate change, poverty, etc), we must become politically active locally. Making Boston streets safe for pedestrians is one way to start. The danger of Boston’s streets only enters the public’s consciousness after a tragedy (the death of a child, or cyclist, for example), then it quickly fades. Hence, the importance of organizing for pedestrian safety, and linking such efforts to the city task force / working group proposed by Councilor Flynn.
It was the late, great folksinger and activist Pete Seeger who said, “When one person taps out a beat… [or[ three people discover a harmony, or a crowd joins in on a chorus as though to raise the ceiling a few feet higher, then they also know there is hope for the world.”
Philip Lederer MD
Jamaica Plain resident