Arlington Bicycle Advisory Committee - May 20th, 2020
Meeting held via video-conference.
Most of my notes come from one agenda item: a discussion of the recent fatal crash at the intersection of Appleton Street and Mass Ave.
Fatal Crash at the Intersection of Appleton Street and Mass Ave. Family members of the deceased cyclist are in attendance, along with the second cyclist (who survived the crash).
The MPO did a study of the Mass Ave/Appleton Street intersection in 2012, after several crashes had occurred. They proposed a set of remediations which would have cost $2m. There were bigger priorities at the time, and this intersection wasn't addressed. The intersection has numerous challenges, and the Ottoson Middle school adds to the complexity of the area. Police attempted to reconstruct the accident a few days ago.
Galen (from MassBike) would like to talk about how ABAC can be involved, and how to start a broader conversation. Perhaps we could do a memorial, with a white bike at the site.
Phil Goff was aware of four pedestrian fatalities in East Arlington during the last 20 years, and that led him to campaign for street improvements in East Arlington. Improving this intersection will take studies and time. Striping could be added (as a short-term mitigation) for a low cost, and without much impact on parking. The challenging area begins further up the hill, where the east-bound bicycle lane becomes a shared lane. We could add green painted bike lanes through the intersection, and some of the parking could be replaced with bicycle lanes. This striping could be done for $20--30k. Phil shows a diagram of the intersection and surrounding streets, with the suggested green bicycle lanes. More permanent improvements will require an engineering study.
Jack Johnson states that the intersection of Forest St and Mass Ave, and the intersection of Lowell St. and Mass Ave are also dangerous. He wonders if they might be considered for safety improvements too.
Scott Smith thinks the painted lanes would help with visibility. We might consider a "left turn must yield" sign, or a radar/speed sign at the intersection.
Linda Epstein thinks the location of the bus stop could be improved. Beside traffic on Mass Ave, there's a lot of traffic coming down Appleton Street. The intersection has one of the town's older pedestrian crossing signals. Those signals are meant for pedestrians, rather than for traffic control.
Steve Revilak does an east-bound bicycle commute on Mass Ave each evening. He's had two incidents at that intersection, involving drivers making left turns off Mass Ave. In one case, the driver struck the rear wheel of his bicycle; it was a light impact with no damage. The second was a near miss with a motor vehicle. He notes that east-bound auto traffic can make it difficult for west-bound traffic to see cyclists. (note: https://archive.org/details/mass-ave-close-call-on-a-bicycle contains handlebar camera footage of the near miss).
Rod Holland points out that there are four approaches to the intersection, and only one of them is uphill; the other three are downhill. This leads traffic into the intersection rapidly.
Adam MacNeil knows a cyclist who had a close call at this intersection, just two days after the fatal crash. The cyclist was riding east. The close call involved a west-bound vehicle making a left turn.
Doug Greenfield asks if we can see the CTPS study of the intersection. Dan Amstutz says it's on the town website, linked from the calendar entry for this meeting.
Brian Ristuccia points out that east-bound traffic acts as a moving sight screen, preventing oncoming traffic from seeing cyclists. He suggests having a protected left-turn lane. We should pursue both short- and long-term fixes. A protected left turn lane is a longer term fix.
Muris Kobaslija asks if we've every studied the effects of a left-turn prohibition at that intersection. Brian Ristuccia says that the intersection of Park and Appleton has come before TAC in the past. That's another bad intersection.
Ms. Epstein thinks a left-turn prohibition would be a good idea. But that might create a real issue for motorists; they'd have to turn left someplace else.
Mr. Kobaslija asks if there are any center-line dividers in town. Scott Smith says that Summer Street has a center-line divider at the intersection of Oak Hill Road.
Jack Johnson says the CTPS study considered the option of a left turn prohibition. The intersection of Mass Ave and Park street is also busy, and there's no left turn signal there.
Mr. Ristuccia suggests that moving the bus stop to the other side of the intersection might allow a protected bike lane. Scott Smith feels that placing bus stops after an intersection is becoming more common. That arrangement also allows for signal prioritization.
Mr. Goff says this discussion has reinforced his instinct that there's a lot of complexity to this problem. Changes made to this intersection are likely to impact other intersections nearby. He encourages the adoption of a short-term plan for some improvement, and then a longer-term strategy to improve traffic safety in the area.
Mr. Smith agrees with the multi-pronged approach. We should let the Select Board know that we want to do something about the intersection.
Galen thanks Phil Goff for putting together a short-term improvement plan. Having a near-crash two days after a fatal crash highlights the need for improvements. MassBike is willing to lend support to these efforts. He believes the town has done effective work in the past, and asks how MassBike could be more involved.
Mr. Smith suggests starting with a letter from ABAC to the Select Board, with CC to TAC. TAC and ABAC would probably work on this together. Mr. Johnson asks if TAC and ABAC should write a joint letter to the Select Board. Mr. Amstutz thinks it would be helpful for residents to write to the Select Board.
Rod Holland asks if there'd be barriers to having a full traffic signal at the intersection, with separate phases for each street. Mr. Smith thinks that should certainly be on the table. Traffic lights are expensive, though, and we may not be able to do that in the short term.
Mr. Goff notices some parallels with improvements made to Inman Square. Cambridge made short-term improvements to that intersection until they had funds for a longer-term solution.
There's a motion for ABAC to write a letter to the Select Board. Motion passes.
Mr. Goff wonders if we should request bike lanes that go all the way to Brattle Square, so they could join with the existing bike lanes there.
Galen asks about having a memorial at the crash site. It would be a point of grieving, and a way to draw attention to the need for safer streets. He'd like to work with the town on creating a memorial.
Chris Tonkin says the town has a memorial committee, though he's not sure if it's still active.
Several committee members voice support for a memorial. Doug Mayo-Wells moves to draft a statement supporting a memorial. A member of the Proctor family endorses the idea of a memorial (Charlie Proctor is the cyclist who was killed). Motion passes.
Mr. Amstutz checked the town calendar, and can't find any scheduled meetings for the memorial committee. He suggests bringing the idea to the Select Board, or to Town Meeting.
Shared Streets Pilot. With the COVID-19 health emergency, the town's gotten a number of requests to make more space for pedestrians and social distancing. Communities around the world are shutting down streets, or reducing the number of automobile lanes. The town's first slow streets pilot was installed today, on Brooks Avenue. There's more information on the town's web site.
(Had to leave at this point)