By Gordon Davis
The City of Boston has recently lowered the speed limit for streets in its “urban areas” – which include business districts and residential dwellings with less than 100 feet between dwellings for a distance of at least one-eighth of a mile. The reason for this law is to reduce accidents and pedestrian deaths.
The Boston City Council and Boston representatives in the State House were concerned about drivers using local Boston roads as short cuts around State and Federal highways.
In Massachusetts during the last three years of record keeping there have been 75 pedestrian deaths by automobiles. The issue also affects Worcester. The last pedestrian death in Worcester was Patricia LeMay who was killed on July 14, 2016.
Governor Charlie Baker signed into law an amendment to Bill H 4331 which allows cities and town to lower the default speed limit from 30 miles per hours to 25 miles per hours in urban areas.
This means that the Worcester City Council can bypass the entire Home Rule bureaucracy and by majority vote lower the speed limit for most streets in Worcester to 25 miles per hour.
Worcester too should strive to have zero pedestrian deaths or death of bicyclists or children at play. Lowering the speed limit not only reduces the number of accidents, but it also increases the likelihood of pedestrian survival.
Most pedestrians are relatively poorer people or disabled in some way – or both.
Getting the Worcester City Council to do something against drivers might be like trying to get Congress to pass gun control. No driver wants to give up the right to make pedestrians get out of his way. I am reminded of the complaint against a city of Worcester high ranking employee who was accused of using profanity and a racial slur as he was exiting the Worcesyer City Hall garage.
To some extent it is also a racial issue as even Trump acknowledges there are racial economic disparities. Besides not having cars and walking, many poorer people live within the definition of urban areas as found in the Bill H. 4331.
Given these facts on the ground, it is unlikely that the Worcester City Council will enact an emergency ordinance like they did with the dirt bikes.
I am pretty sure cars kill more people than dirt bikes. The dirt bike riders were mostly Hispanic young men.
Dirt bikes are certainly a nuisance, but the way the ordinance was enforced raises civil liberties issues.
It is also unlikely that a champion will come forward on this speed limit issue like councillor Rosen has done for the doggies’ owners.
The first step for safer reduced speed streets in Worcester is to have public hearings by the City Council. The councilor this task would naturally fall to is Councilor Kate Toomey, chair of the Public Safety Committee. However, given the social economic class of motorists as a group, no one on our City Council will most likely do anything. Many in City Council will repeat the mantra, “The City police dept. is doing a good job. We should not question what they do. Chief Sargent meets with Crime Watch groups. We are not racist.”
This is the time to lower the speed limit in urban areas and make the effort to attain the goal of zero pedestrian deaths!