Cambridge Street in Allston— a new BCU focal point

The Boston Cyclists Union has already had some early success in Allston, convincing the city to redesign to include a physically separate cycletrack on Western Avenue instead of a simple bike lane. The Boston Transportation Department’s Vineet Gupta tells us Harvard University is currently drawing up the plans for Western, which will be carried out in conjunction with the school’s redevelopment of the area.

But there is another area in Allston that is a focal point for all Boston bike advocates—Cambridge Street, the connection from Allston Village to Lower Allston over the Massachusetts Turnpike. The advocacy effort here is more complicated due to multiple state and city jurisdictions, and the BCU will need all the help it can get. To volunteer for this effort, contact us.

Red dots indicate the number of Boston EMS ambulance runs for pedestrians or cyclists struck by motor vehicles between 2002 and 2007, a 5-year period. The number of such incidents at the average intersection in Boston is .2.

Just this small stretch of Cambridge Street — barely a mile long between Harvard Avenue to the River Street Bridge — has seen 20 reported bicycle or pedestrian crashes in the five years between 2002 and 2007. Ten were at the intersection of Harvard Avenue and Cambridge Street alone, including the death of cyclist Kelly Wallace.

Sometimes terrible accidents happen and no amount of planning or attention could have prevented them. However, on Cambridge St. the sheer number of ambulance runs picking up on the corridor have given the street a notoriously unsafe reputation with local bicyclists and pedestrians.

What is going on?
The intersection of Harvard Ave. and Cambridge St. is a major junction for bicycle and pedestrian traffic, much of it directed at a footbridge connecting the western side of the Cambridge Street overpass to Lower Allston. Getting to the footbridge however means crossing a wide stretch of Cambridge Street where car speeds can reach highway levels, and sight lines for vehicles coming over the crest of the overpass are poor.

How dangerous is Cambridge Street?
Statistically speaking, there are about 10 times more ambulance runs for pedestrian or cyclists hit by motor vehicles at the crossing of Harvard Avenue and Cambridge Street compared to the average intersection in the city.

The map above illustrates the location of ambulance calls related to pedestrian or bicyclist accidents located on Cambridge Street during 2002-2007. The locations are approximate, and details about the circumstances of the accidents are extremely difficult to find in the Boston Police Department’s database. But Boston EMS ambulance run records show a general concentration of accidents at the intersection of Cambridge and Harvard and at the River Street Bridge intersection with Soldiers Field Road.

Also highlighted on the map is the death of Kelly Wallace, on May 6, 2007, a result of a collision with a car at a crosswalk at the intersection of Cambridge and Harvard. She was 24 years old.

Can anything be done to make the street safer for bicyclists and pedestrians?
Yes! The City of Boston Transportation Department and Boston Police Department could do a lot in the area, including:

  • Install a traffic-segregated two-way cycletrack on the west side of Cambridge Street or two one-way cycletracks on either side of Cambridge Street.
  • Calm traffic on the corridor by narrowing car travel lanes, constructing landscaped medians, mid-block raised pedestrian crossings and refuges, and expanded sidewalks.
  • Improve or prevent the pedestrian crossing between Linden Street and the footbridge.
  • Implement special bicycle signals and improved pedestrian signal timing at Cambridge Street and Harvard Avenue intersection, as well as shortening crossing distance.
  • Install better roadway signage to alert motorists of crossing pedestrians and bicyclists.
  • Install better lighting.
  • Strictly enforce speed limits.

Also, the reconstruction of the River St. Bridge at Soldiers Field Rd. provides an opportunity for the City of Boston to work with MassDOT to create a complimentary project that considers bicyclist and pedestrian mobility along this entire stretch.

Look for more information on this project as the BCU develops its campaign for a safer Cambridge Street!

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