How Boston Is Trying To Make Its Intersections Safer

Try to cross most Boston intersections and you know the drill: Press the button — and wait. The standard in Boston has been for the walk signal to come up only after cars get their green. For Brendan Kearney of the advocacy group WalkBoston, that’s a problem. “I shouldn’t walk up to an intersection, wait my turn, then realize once the traffic starts going the other direction that I was supposed to push a button, then have to wait another whole cycle,” he said. To Kearney, the system is potentially dangerous because if people have to wait too long, they’ll decide the buttons don’t work and cross against the light. In Cambridge, there’s a different approach. Like in many cities, the walk signals there come on automatically with the green light, and there’s no need to push a button. “We try to have as few push buttons as possible in the city of Cambridge,” said Cara Seiderman, the city’s transportation program manager. The city also has something called the leading pedestrian interval, or LPI, a safety measure that allows “people to get a head start as they are crossing the street,” Seiderman said. It works by having the walk signal come on three to seven seconds before the green, giving pedestrians control of the intersection ahead of turning cars. A New York study cited by WalkBoston shows that the technique leads to 60 percent fewer accidents. While Cambridge has been using LPI for more than 20 years, Boston has hesitated — until now.
Publication Date: 
Tuesday, October 10, 2017