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Road safety efforts shift into high gear in Newton

Posted by Sarah Thomas  June 3, 2010 09:16 AM

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Mayor Setti Warren said he is moving forward on his plan to address Newton's transportation future after the second serious bicycle accident on Commonwealth Avenue in a month reignited a debate about the safety of Newton's roads.

On May 18, 21-year-old barista Andrew Von Guerard was killed in a collision after allegedly running a red light and colliding with a Honda SUV. Read more about this incident here.

Two weeks later, on May 26, another cyclist was struck by and trapped beneath a vehicle. The bicyclist escaped life-threatening injuries after an off-duty cop saw the incident and was able to help free the man. Read more about this incident here.

Though many different solutions have been investigated in the past - including making the carriageway on Commonwealth only accessible to bicyclists and pedestrians - Warren said Wednesday that his strategy is to think bigger.

"It's always been one of the priorities of my administration to set up a Transportation Advisory Committee which would examine all aspects of Newton's transportation infrastructure," Warren said. "We want to be thinking about how the roads can be made to work better for drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians, and also think about parking and encouraging people to use public transportation. This needs to be looked at holistically so we have a clear set of shared goals."

Warren said his office is putting the committee together and hoped to make an official announcement later this month. Warren confirmed his office had already approached Stephanie Pollack, associate director of the Dukakis Center for Urban Policy, and Lois Levin, founder of Bike Newton.

"I can't wait to get started," Levin said. "There are a lot of issues that we need to discuss. We're interested in how people make judgments in these types of situations, how bicyclists and drivers can behave to avoid the possibility of harm." 

Levin said that she was trying to set up meetings with both bicycle advocacy groups and police officers, to spread the word about decision-making when sharing the road in advance of the Transportation Advisory Committee's inception.

"We're trying to do that next week," Levin said. "We'd also like to include people from the city's engineering and planning department. A lot of what the Transportation Advisory Committee is going to talk about is probably going to be big macro stuff, and some of this is pretty subtle and detailed. We're hoping to reach people who educate other bicyclists on how we can all be safer."

Sarah Thomas can be reached at sarah.m.thomas@gmail.com.

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