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Task force to evaluate pedestrian safety - Tufts Daily Article

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    Task force to evaluate pedestrian safety By Aliyah Shahid An increased number of traffic-related accidents - including the death of Tufts student Boryana
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 11, 2006
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      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
      area.

      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
      accidents.

      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
      increase.

      "People are so insulated in their cars that they aren't focused on
      driving," Carroll said. He said drivers' education and awareness is
      the solution.

      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
      police department.

      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
      waiting."

      Nevertheless, responsibility lies with the vehicle operator under
      Massachusetts Law: Drivers are legally obligated to yield to
      pedestrians in crosswalks.


      Link to Article: http://www.tuftsdaily.com/home/index.cfm?
      event=displayArticle&uStory_id=20b2cfd9-bf14-4fc4-aa5a-25603ff3b462
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