Task force to evaluate pedestrian safety
By Aliyah Shahid
An increased number of traffic-related accidents - including the
death of Tufts student Boryana Damyanova in November - has prompted
action on pedestrian and bicyclist safety in the Somerville/Medford
Damyanova, 22, was struck by two cars and killed on Nov. 22 near
Powderhouse Square. On Dec. 29, Medford Resident Barbara O'Mahoney,
52, was struck in West Medford. She faces a long rehabilitation from
massive head trauma.
These are just two examples of pedestrian accidents that have
occurred in the area since November, and the city of Somerville has
announced the creation of a task force to evaluate pedestrian safety.
The task force will include 16 community leaders, including Tufts
Community Relations Director Barbara Rubel and Peter Nowak of the
University's Safety and Risk Management Department.
Stephen Winslow, project manager for the City of Somerville's task
force, said that Somerville is particularly dangerous because it "is
an area where there are plenty of people walking, but [not enough]
that motorists are constantly [on the alert] for pedestrians."
According to Winslow, the group is using data from past records to
identify locations that are at high risk for pedestrian and bicycle
The task force plans to measure motor vehicles' speeds at crosswalks
and find out how many pedestrians cross certain streets at certain
times. The task force will also gauge lighting and paint conditions
of the crosswalks and make any necessary improvements.
The group also plans to ensure that crossing signs are well-situated.
Somerville's initiative remains in its planning phase, however.
"It has taken 50 or 60 years for our road system to be more vehicle-
oriented. It's going to take a while...to make a significant
improvement," Winslow said.
After the issue has been examined in more detail, Somerville will
set concrete goals to improve safety and "really figure out what
kind of budget the city has to do things in the short-, mid-, and
long-term," Winslow said.
"We're just starting," he added.
Medford is also concerned about the rise in traffic-related
accidents. Medford Traffic Control Supervisor Sergeant Richard
Carroll said that indifference by drivers is to blame for the
"People are so insulated in their cars that they aren't focused on
driving," Carroll said. He said drivers' education and awareness is
After the winter weather ends, Carroll said the Medford Police
Department plans to place large orange construction barrels, along
with signs, in the middle of hazardous areas to slow down drivers.
"People notice them," Carroll said. "You literally have to get that
much in their face to make the motorists more aware."
"Cars need to start seeing pedestrians and start slowing down,"
senior Rachel Greenspan agreed.
Carroll said that such measures are key to curbing pedestrian-
related accidents, especially because of funding concerns within the
He added that pedestrian carelessness can create dangerous
situations, saying that impatient pedestrians often do not obey
the 'Walk' and 'Don't Walk' signs associated with traffic lights.
Some lights will keep pedestrians waiting anywhere from 90 seconds
to several minutes before signaling a safe crossing.
"We're too much in a hurry in today's society to wait," Carroll
said. "People will try ducking and weaving in between cars before
Nevertheless, responsibility lies with the vehicle operator under
Massachusetts Law: Drivers are legally obligated to yield to
pedestrians in crosswalks.
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