Last week the East Boston Times obtained a copy of security camera video from outside Channel Fish and other businesses in Eagle Square that shows horrific traffic accidents that include car crashes, pedestrians being run over, cars speeding through stop signs and near miss collisions on a constant basis.
The video was recently shared with At-Large City Councilor, Mayoral Candidate Michelle Wu and City Councilor Lydia Edwards and members of the East Boston Transportation Justice Coalition and the three have joined forces calling for transportation action and improvement in the square.
“We’ve seen dozens and dozens of near-miss accidents, people almost getting run over,” said Policy Subcommittee Lead for the East Boston Transportation Justice Coalition Celeste Ribeiro Hewitt. “We’ve seen vehicle on vehicle accidents, vehicle on pedestrian accidents and just a lot of stuff that is really kind of epitome of what’s wrong with transportation in our neighborhood.”
At a press conference in Eagle Square last Wednesday Wu, Edwards, Hewitt and concerned Eastie residents said they were there to call attention to needed safety improvements and upgrades to alleviate traffic congestion at Eagle Square and across the neighborhood and city. Edwards said Eagle Square is one of the most dangerous intersections in the neighborhood, and residents have called for critical infrastructure upgrades to eliminate traffic-related injuries and deaths and improve walkability and traffic flow.
“This area is the area I get the most complaints about from constituents related to traffic,” said Edwards. “Motorists just treat this area like a highway and I think the one thing that we all find frustrating from what we saw is that it’s completely preventable. This is not something that we can’t do something about–it just takes the vision. It takes movement to get things done. It’s not for lack of efforts from the community and leaders like Celeste. It’s not from lack of requests by my office to get it done. It’s really a lack of prioritization by (current and former) Mayoral administrations. I have repeatedly heard about traffic concerns from pedestrians. We need sidewalks, crosswalks, and intersections that accommodate all of us, especially our family and friends with disabilities,”
Wu said safety should be a baseline guarantee for every neighborhood, and it needs to be part of city planning.
“This is an area that needs major redesign and again is within the power of the city to do something about it,” said Wu. “The design of Eagle Square makes it one of the most dangerous intersections in the city, threatening the safety of pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers alike. We need immediate action on urgent pedestrian safety improvements and changes that calm traffic flow in support of a broader vision for a safer, more connected Boston.”
Wu added that pedestrian safety is an accessibility issue.
“It’s an equity issue and ultimately an issue of justice,” she said. “As Bostonians we pride ourselves on being a multi modal city when it comes to transportation. Unfortunately, just because we do it all – it doesn’t mean we do it well. We need to turn our focus to address these concerns and ensure that we’re keeping pedestrians safe and ensuring that we’re keeping people moving as they live, work, recreate and conduct business in our communities.”
Edwards said Wu understands more than anyone that the city needs to build a people-centered city that is focused on pedestrian safety.
“I’m excited to be here, not only because Michelle (Wu) is my candidate (for Mayor) but because her vision is exactly what East Boston needs,” said Edwards. “Getting down to the nuts and bolts of it, her vision is people-center and makes sure that we can move around safely. People are concerned about how they’re able to walk in our busy squares; they just want to be safer.”
East Boston is full of long, straight sections of roadway with nearly no traffic calming measures, such as speed bumps, flashing pedestrian lights or crosswalks. Despite ongoing advocacy from residents, East Boston has not yet been selected for the Neighborhood Slow Streets Program, a City of Boston initiative to help reduce speeds and improve street safety, after multiple attempts to apply by community groups.
“What I find almost appalling is that East Boston groups have to submit an application to be considered for a Safe Streets or a Slow Street neighborhood,” said Hewitt. “Then the application gets denied or doesn’t get the attention it deserves or it gets overlooked and that’s pretty horrendous.”
City planner and author of Walkable City, Jeff Speck, said in recent years, even as driving has become marginally safer, we have witnessed a growing epidemic in pedestrian injuries and deaths.
“Remarkably, 50% more people are killed walking than a decade ago,” he said. “These victims are disproportionately young, old, poor, and people of color. Smart cities, taking the Vision Zero model seriously, have been making their streets safer through design. There is no reason why Boston can’t become a national leader in pedestrian and bike safety.”