Generations of children have grown up skating on Winter Pond in the winter and fishing and boating in the summer. Winchester is a family-friendly town and many people move here to raise their kids. With waterways like the Mystic Lakes, Wedge Pond, Winter Pond and more, as well as recreational preserves like the 2,000+ acre Middlesex Fells and the 500+ acre Horn Pond, the area is teaming with children and adults on foot and on bikes.
Yet, drive to Cambridge or Belmont and you'll notice a difference in how pedestrians and vehicular traffic come together. These towns have taken a comprehensive approach to pedestrian safety and it shows. This contributes to the desirability of these communities and therefore the property values.
Winchester needs to take a hard look at its current practices and policies (is there a Winchester Pedestrian Safety Guide/Handbook/Committee?) We need to study Cambridge, Belmont, and other "best practice" communities, develop a town-wide plan for pedestrian safety, and implement it here -- before it is too late.
Selected excerpts from City of Cambridge Pedestrian Plan
Of the over 37,000 U.S. fatalities caused by motor vehicles each year, about 14% are pedestrians, and in major urban areas the share approaches 50%*. Pedestrian injuries are correspondingly high. Small errors by either pedestrians or motorists can have large adverse consequences. The causes of these crashes** are many, but the crashes could greatly reduced without impairing the mobility of either motorists or pedestrians.
The heavier the traffic and the higher the speed, the less favorable the environment for pedestrians. Road design has much to do with determining vehicle speed and the feasibility of pedestrian crossings. Lane width, over-all street width, street curvature, turning radii, sight lines, sight distances, adjacent land use activities, and traffic volumes, especially entering and intersecting traffic, all contribute to establishing the “design” speed for a given street or highway. Speed limits have little effect if they are inconsistent with the design speed of the street, and strenuous enforcement is required if speed limits are to have any effect under such conditions.*** It is more effective to control speed through roadway design.
Up to about 25 miles per hour, vehicles can stop relatively easily for pedestrians, and explicit or formal control measures are less necessary; from 25 to 35 MPH, however, the danger to pedestrians increases rapidly with speed. The probability of fatality increases from 3.5% at 15 MPH to 85% at 40 MPH.**** Stopping distances also increase geometrically with speed.
* National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 1998.
** Because they believe that in the context of motor vehicles the word “accident” to some people implies a chance event that can’t be prevented rather than an unfortunate event that was unintentional and due to carelessness, unawareness, breaking the law, or other causes, federal authorities now use the word “crash.”
*** “Drivers consistently drive at speeds which they perceive as reasonable,
comfortable, convenient, and safe under the existing conditions, regardless
of posted speed limits.” Homburger et al., Residential Street
Design and Traffic Control, Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall (1989),
**** This information is from R. Limpert, “Motor Vehicle Accident Reconstruction and Cause Analysis,” 4th ed., Charlottesville, VA: Michie Company (1994), as reported in Burrington and Thiebach, Take Back Your Streets, 2nd ed., Boston, MA: Conservation Law Foundation (1995).
The Sept 23, 2009 memo from Fay, Spofford & Thorndike, the organization retained by the City of Winchester to review traffic conditions on Pond Street, noted that there is 260 feet of sight distance westbound of the new crosswalk at the Woburn Parkway/Horn Pond access. They note that a car traveling 30MPH needs 200 feet to stop and one traveling 35MPH needs 250 feet. They also note that the average car is traveling 34MPH (range was 27-39MPH) on Pond Street. Logic would dictate that the majority of cars are traveling at rates that are at or beyond their ability to stop for a pedestrian in the crosswalk (assuming no distractions from kids, texting, etc). Traffic calming measures, therefore, become critical to ensure safety of pedestrians.
If you are interested in helping or have any information relating to this, please contact me. I will keep you in the loop and try to aggregate information on this site. (That said, this is not my day job so please be patient.)