legislation

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The legislative process is a powerful tool for change: WalkBoston testifies on legislation affecting pedestrians and meets with public officials to explain the importance of safe walkable communities. Our advocacy is most effective when individuals add their voices to the call for change.

Speak out for walking safety improvements in your own communities. Contact your elected officials and let them know that you want them to consider the needs of pedestrians. Offer specific suggestions. WalkBoston can give you guidance as well as ideas for effective advocacy. We can help you make your voice heard.  How To Advocate contains additional helpful advice.

bills we support

We have focused considerable efforts on the following bills in the state legislature:

Senior Safety Zones, House 550 –
Allows municipalities to establish senior safety zones (similar to school zones). This bill provides a layer of protection for a population that relies disproportionately on walking as a means of transportation. The health impact to pedestrians struck by cars is exponentially higher as vehicle speed increases, so slowing traffic in areas where vulnerable populations are in greater concentration can have significant health and safety benefits and senior citizens are at higher risk for being struck by vehicles than other citizens. Enactment of this Bill will:Reduce the risk of vehicle-associated accidents by allowing municipalities to establish Senior Citizen Safety Zones with reduced speed limits of no less than 20 mph and accompanying warning signs in areas frequented by senior citizens. Gives municipalities the power to create Senior Citizen Safety Zones where they deem appropriate (with the exception of state highways, numbered routes or functionally- classified arterial highways) Fact Sheet. Letter of support from five local organizations.
Sponsors: Denise Provost

An Act Related to Active Streets and Healthy Communities, Senate Docket 68 / House 3091
This act certifies municipalities as “Active Streets Communities” if they have met certain criteria. With the current focus on transportation finance reform, there are opportunities to advance both transportation and public health policy objectives by incentivizing investments in active transportation infrastructure. The purpose of this bill is to create a program that encourages cities and towns across Massachusetts to routinely include contextually appropriate complete streets design elements in locally funded road projects. By providing accommodations for all transportation modes including walking and cycling, the Active Streets Certification Program will help the state reach its mode shift goals set by MassDOT in addition to public health outcomes around increased activity. Communities that are certified by this program by adopting certain policies and procedures would be eligible to receive a modest amount of additional local transportation funding, thereby incentivizing these actions.
Fact Sheet
Sponsors: Harriette Chandler and Jason Lewis

Transportation Investment, Regional Fairness and Accountability to State Policies Senate 1646/ House 3284 –
This legislation guides transportation investment to build a financially stable, safer and more modern transportation system by ensuring that transportation revenue is distributed equitably across the commonwealth, makes specific investments in Gateway Cities and environmental justice neighborhoods, and allows regions to prioritize the projects they care most about. It would require that transportation investments comply with the commonwealth’s policy goals and objectives, and are examined for their impact on our economy, environment, public health, low-income communities, pedestrian and bike access, and cost of operations. Fact Sheet
Sponsors: Katherine Clark, Carl Sciortino, Tricia Farley-Bouvier

Vulnerable Road Users, Senate 1639 –
Broadens the definition of "vulnerable user" from what we proposed last time to now include wheelchair users, all non-motorized users, and horseback riders. The bill still enhances the fines applicable to motorists who kill or seriously injure vulnerable users, and still includes traffic safety education and community service components. New this session, we have added a harassment component that makes it illegal to physically harass a vulnerable user with a motor vehicle, and provides civil recourse for a wide range of harassing behavior. With the tragic string of bicyclist fatalities in 2012, the need for strong laws to encourage motorists to be more careful around vulnerable users is clear.
Sponsors: Will Brownsberger

An Act Establishing a Vehicle Miles Traveled Pilot Study, House 3142 –
This legislation would create a 1000-person voluntary statewide vehicle miles traveled pilot program to identify and evaluate alternatives and supplements to the gas tax. Fact Sheet
Sponsors: Carl Sciortino, Tricia Farley-Bouvier

An Act Establishing Contract Assistance for Central Artery Debt at the MBTA, House 3141 –
This legislation proposes a way to address the crippling debt load at the MBTA by paying down debt related to the Central Artery project with funds that are not already dedicated to the MBTA or RTAs. Fact Sheet
Sponsors: Carl Sciortino

Speed Limits Bill, House 3129 –
Would decrease the prevailing speed limit inside thickly settled areas or business district on a way which is 35 feet wide or less, from curb to curb, and on which parking is not prohibited on one or both sides, or on which there is a dedicated bicycle lane, at a rate of speed exceeding 25 miles per hour. Massachusetts' prevailing speed limit of 30 mph is too fast for local roads in densely developed areas. Fatalities from pedestrian-automobile crashes are directly related to speed: 90% of pedestrians hit by cars die when struck at 40 mph compared to 5% at 20 mph.
Sponsors: Denise Provost

Act to Promote Pedestrian Safety, House 1570 –
states that a person shall not be liable for an injury or damage sustained upon a public way by reason of snow or ice thereon, if the person removed snow or ice from the public way in accordance with municipal ordinance or by-law.
Sponsors: Denise Provost

bills we have supported

Healthy Transportation Compact
The Healthy Transportation Compact is a key requirement of the landmark transportation legislation signed into law in June 2009. Its inter-agency initiative will help ensure that the transportation decisions made will balance the needs of all transportation users, expand mobility, improve public health, support cleaner environments, and create stronger communities. In particular, the new law states that the Secretary of Transportation and the Secretary of Health and Human Services will "work cooperatively to adopt best practices to increase efficiency to achieve positive health outcomes through the coordination of land use, transportation, and public health policy. Read our support letter.

Speed Limits
H3643 will make roads safer by uniformly reducing the prima facie speed limit on local roads in urban districts (as defined in the legislation) from 30 mph to 25 mph. The proposed text of the bill reflects a joint effort of legislators, the Massachusetts Highway Department, local transportation officials and WalkBoston to craft an easily implemented means to enhance pedestrian safety, and bring Massachusetts speed limits in urban areas into alignment with many other states. Assigned to the Joint Committee on Transportation. 
Fact sheet

Snow Shoveling
H3588 would allow cities and towns to develop a snow and ice removal policy for their sidewalks and to set fines at a level that would encourage compliance. Read our support letter.
H1987 will encourage sidewalk snow and ice removal by eliminating liability for property owners who shovel their sidewalks in those communities where such shoveling is required. The proposed revised text of the bill is attached. The bill is modeled after similar Illinois legislation. Assigned to the Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government. Read our support letter   and fact sheet. H1959 increases fines for failure to clear sidewalks of snow and ice (in those communities that require removal) to $100/day. Current fines are set not to exceed $50 in cities, $10 in towns. Assigned to the Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government. Read our support letter  and fact sheet.

Safe Routes to School (SRTS)
H483 requires the development of school district wellness policies that address school nutrition, nutrition education and physical activity. One component of the policy is to be implementation of a Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program that encourages students who live within walking (1 mile) or bicycling (3 miles) distance to take these active modes of transport. This bill is aligned with the federal and state SRTS programs and requirements. Assigned to the Joint Committee on Education. Read the fact sheet  and testimony  on H483.
H3539 requires the Executive Office of Transportation to establish a SRTS program to distribute federal funds received under the SAFETEA-LU Strategic Highway Safety Plan for projects to improve safety in and around school areas. This legislation is modeled after California legislation that has provided robust funding for SRTS since 1999. Assigned to the Joint Committee on Transportation. Read the fact sheet  and testimony  on H3539.

Red Light Violation Monitoring
H3512 (all Massachusetts communities) and H3513 (Boston and Cambridge) allow communities to employ a “traffic signal violation monitoring system” to monitor failure to comply with traffic signals. Assigned to the Joint Committee on Transportation. Read the fact sheet  on H3512.
H1112 modifies existing insurance regulations to ensure that convictions of moving violations based on traffic signal violation monitoring systems do not result in increased insurance premiums. Assigned to the Joint Committee on Financial Services. Read the fact sheet  on H1112.

Regulation of Segway Devices
S2028 would regulate the operation of Segways (two-wheeled, self-balancing electric personal assistive mobility devices) and specifically prohibit them from using sidewalks unless a community specifically allows such operations. Assigned to the Joint Committee on Transportation. Read the fact sheet  on S2028.

Other bills that we are tracking and supporting include the following:

Environmental Liability for Rail Trails
S1947 is built on a law passed last year to limit the MBTA's liability for environmental hazards in rail trails. Senator Pam Resor has introduced legislation to ease the creation of new rail trails by improving the way in which the MBTA and local communities must deal with environmental liability.

Adding Goal of Improving Public Health to Transportation Office
H2087 is an act to add public health goals to the mission of transportation projects in the Commonwealth. Recent studies on public health issues such as obesity, clean air and traffic show the need to address public health concerns in transportation planning. Transportation systems fundamentally shape the built environment that, in turn, has a profound impact on the health of its inhabitants; therefore transportation planning needs to include a concern for public health as part of its core mission.

Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Boards in Cities and Towns
H2088 is an act linking Community Transportation Funds to the creation of bicycle and pedestrian advisory boards. In order for local communities to receive Chapter 90 Transportation Funds, each must have a bicycle and pedestrian advisory board.

For more information, read about our past legislative achievements