WalkBoston has achieved much since its founding in 1990. We were the first organization in America dedicated to making communities safer and more walkable for pedestrians and we served as the model for other pedestrian advocacy organizations across the nation. In 1996, we co-founded the umbrella group America Walks. Though our early projects were in the Boston metro area, we now work statewide. We collaborate closely with other advocacy, neighborhood and community groups, and educational and civic institutions.
Over the years, we have created walks, maps, and publications, passed legislation, helped write pedestrian design manuals; led the nation’s first Safe Routes to School program, promoted healthy living campaigns, and, most recently, publicized the economic value of good streetscapes for businesses. Reactions to WalkBoston from governments and the public have evolved from “who are you?” to “we want your advice”!
- Local policies and programs
- Statewide policies and programs
- Legislative achievements
- Safe Routes to Schools
WalkBoston reviews development and transportation projects of particular importance to existing or future walkers and submits our comments to public agencies. Rather than just criticizing project designs, WalkBoston uses the technical knowledge of our members to present well-designed alternatives; often our recommendations are adopted. Designing a favorable pedestrian environment can take many forms—preventing road widenings; taking out travel lanes and adding that space into sidewalks; insisting on smooth walking surfaces; protecting the walking right-of-way from encroachment by street furniture, news boxes, misplaced bollards, too-wide cafés; lowering speed limits; adding walkways; timing walk signals, and more.
Success is measured by getting wider sidewalks; safer street crossings; better intersection design, including tighter turning radii at corners to slow traffic; longer WALK signals; amenities such as shade trees and benches, and convenient pedestrian routes. Long-term success is achieved by incorporating into design manuals the project specifications that provide good conditions for pedestrians. A sampling of our achievements follows.
Central Artery/Rose Kennedy Greenway: Spearheaded the effort to create a pedestrian-friendly design above the underground Central Artery—wide sidewalks, more green space, bicycle accommodation, narrow lanes to slow vehicles, and roadway reduced from ten lanes to six. We continue to make sure these commitments are kept up. 1994-ongoing.
Greenway Sidewalks: Used the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) to successfully challenge a developer’s plan to use the public sidewalk for vehicles. The State and City reaffirmed the Greenway streetscape standards adopted in 1995 and 1997. MEPA’s decision preserved a sidewalk and led to an ongoing public review of all sidewalk impacts here. 2005-2006
WALK Signal Policy: Convinced the City of Boston to adopt a new traffic signal timing policy (2004) that provides for automatic WALK signals and generous walk time for pedestrians. Retiming of Boston’s signals underway, with Artery surface signals a special focus. Supported by Boston Globe editorials. 22 years-ongoing
Charles River Pedestrian Bridges: Insisted that two Big Dig pedestrian bridges jeopardized by lack of funding be built as promised. Over 100 people joined in our walk highlighting their potential loss. Editorials in the Boston Globe and Boston Herald supported our position. The Big Dig re-committed to building them. The first one—the North Bank pedestrian bridge-opened in 2012. 2005-ongoing
MassDOT Accelerated Bridge Program: For this $3 billion statewide bridge-repair program, WalkBoston drew attention to the need to include pedestrian and bicycle facilities across the 200+ bridges in the program, focusing especially on five major bridges crossing the Charles River. 2009-ongoing.
Old Northern Avenue Bridge, Boston: Saved historic swing bridge across Fort Point Channel for pedestrian use. 1997-ongoing
Congress and State Streets, Boston: Defeated proposal to build a pedestrian bridge behind City Hall across Congress Street to Faneuil Hall plaza. We offered instead a member-designed traffic-calming plan, which was adopted by the City of Boston. The plan added parking, created safer sidewalks and crossings, plus a much larger plaza at the Old State House, finally built in 2012. 1997-2012
Boston: Prevented widening of Ruggles Street 1997-2000. Opposed allowing Segways on sidewalks.
Brookline: Helped redesign Beacon Street to improve pedestrian safety. Led community effort to implement traffic-calming near the Driscoll School.
Cambridge: Slowed through traffic on Holworthy Street with the installation of a raised intersection. Achieved automatic, longer WALK cycle in Harvard Square. Added crosswalks at transit station. Improved snow clearance by city.
Quincy: Advised on pedestrian redesign of Quincy Center and Quincy Shore Drive.
Watertown: Convinced Metropolitan District Commission to convert underused four-lane road along the Charles River to two travel lanes, a bike lane, and parking.
Because of WalkBoston's persistence, the sidewalk on Devonshire St. was widened and a raised crosswalk is on the way.
Program: Created the first program in New England to promote walking and bicycling to school and worked with schools in Arlington, Milton, Newton, and other Boston-area communities.
Toolkit: Created the Massachusetts SRTS “toolkit” being used statewide by parents and school staff to develop local SRTS programs.
Curriculum: Created curricula, in collaboration with ERG Inc., for Massachusetts Elementary schools to teach students—in ways that are fun, stimulating and relevant to their lives—how walking is good for their bodies and good for the environment. Every lesson plan satisfies at least two requirements of the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks Standards for Science, Math, Social Science or Comprehensive Health. Supported by an EPA Healthy Communities Grant.
Legislation: Added $5M into 2004 State Transportation Bond Bill for grants to cities and towns for safety projects in school areas. Co-drafted 2005/06 bill to set aside $5M annually from Federal safety funds for SRTS pedestrian and bicycle programs and infrastructure.
National Efforts: Steering Committee member for SRTS National Partnership consisting of 150+ organizations; member of National SRTS Clearinghouse consulting team.
Program: Run resident programs with the Boston Public Health Commission in Dorchester, Roxbury, Mattapan, Hyde Park, South Boston, Jamaica Plain, Chinatown/South End. Assist in conducting walking audits and working with City departments for needed improvements. Teach safe walking habits and encourage walking to school and as a daily activity in schools.
Policies & Guidelines
WalkBoston has had signficiant roles in creating basic project guidelines.
Boston Complete Streets 2013
Streetscape Guidelines for Boston’s Major Roads: Partnered with Conservation Law Foundation and the City of Boston to create publication guiding street design. 1999
STEPS to Good Health: Run resident programs with the Boston Public Health Commission in Dorchester, Roxbury, Mattapan, Hyde Park, South Boston, Jamaica Plain, Chinatown/South End. Assist in conducting walking audits and working with city departments for needed improvements. In elementary schools we teach safe walking habits and encourage walking to school and as a daily activity.
WALK Signal Policy: Convinced the City to adopt a new traffic signal timing policy which provides for automatic WALK signals and generous walk time for pedestrians. [10 year effort] Retiming of Boston’s 700 signals underway.
Central Area Surface Street Consensus Plans (STAF): Collaborated with City and other groups to create block-by-block specifics to govern the Central Artery Surface design. 1995, 1997
A Pedestrian Perspective on the Central Artery Project in Downtown Boston: Created document specifying details that led to final STAF design. 1994
20-year State Transportation Plan: Gave detailed suggestions for including pedestrian programs and funding in final Plan. Underway.
MassHighway Project & Development Design Guide: Key participant in rewriting State design manual that includes the most progressive walking and bicycling requirements in the United States. Receiving many awards. 2006
Mass Trails and Greenways Network: Founded environmental/transportation collaborative of 10 statewide organizations to create more trails and connect them to town centers, transit and schools.
Massachusetts Pedestrian Transportation Plan: Member of committee drawing up plan. 1998
Improving Pedestrian Access to Transit: Wrote Federal Transit Administration-funded report as a teaching tool for citizens and planners who advocate for public transit and walkable neighborhoods. 40,000 copies distributed nationwide.
America Walks: Co-founded national coalition of 50 pedestrian groups in 1996. Members are autonomous grassroots organizations working to improve walking conditions in their area. WalkBoston provides ongoing leadership.
Transportation Research Board: Chaired Pedestrian Committee of the American Academy of Sciences. Top pedestrian professionals in the country. 1998-2006.
WalkBoston educates lawmakers on the need for laws to make walking safer and easier. See our ongoing legislative activities here.
Pedestrian/Bicycle Advisory Board: Wrote language adding pedestrians to the Board. Led successful effort to get the Board appointed and underway. 2005
Statewide Pedestrian/Bicycle Law: Requires MassHighway to build pedestrian and bicycle accommodation into every state-funded construction and reconstruction project. 1996
Roadway Safety: Argued for and served on commission recommending changes to Registry of Motor Vehicles policies, programs and manuals to increase safety of pedestrians, bicycles and all roadway users. 2005
Crosswalk Safety: Passed after four years; requires motorists to stop ten feet from a pedestrian in a marked crosswalk (changed from five). Fine for failing to yield to pedestrians was doubled to $200. Further, motorists who cause bodily injury in a crosswalk accident can be given a criminal or civil citation.
Trail Funding: Funding approved for the North Point, Belmont to Alewife, Bike to the Sea, and other trails; the legislature also acted to limit liability for property owners, giving land for use as trails.
Federal funding: advocate for increased national transportation funding for pedestrians. Also comment on federal, state and local regulations and policies.
Guided Walks: We lead year-round weekend and weekday walks in greater Boston.
WalkTalks: Program talks addressing design, health and advocacy topics.
Commissioned Walking Maps: Design map/brochures that highlight attractions, neighborhoods, and advocacy issues in Boston, the metro region and statewide.
Rose Kennedy Greenway: Two Annual Meeting walks demonstrated cumulative results of 16 years of helping plan the Greenway. Over 200 attended. 2005 & 2006
Democratic National Convention: Former Governor Michael Dukakis led Convention delegates on foot to the Fleet Center. National media coverage. 2005
Zakim Bridge: Requested that walkers be the first to cross over this dramatic new bridge. Two walks drew nearly a million people, and were followed by walks in the Central Artery Tunnel. Co-sponsored with CAT Project. 2002
WalkBoston Book: Wrote WalkBoston, 30 walking tours in and around Boston. Published by the Appalachian Mountain Club; sold through local bookstores. 2003
South Boston Waterfront: Co-sponsored all-day conference, Streets Fit for People, to encourage design of a pedestrian streetscape in 500-acre developing area. 2001
Mass Trails and Greenways Network: hosted statewide conferences.
Boston: Pre-election transportation issues forum with City Council and Mayoral candidates. 1993
Conferences: Speak frequently at area and national conferences and meetings, including: AltWheels, COHES [Coalition Organized for Health Education in Schools], Moving Together [State’s annual pedestrian/ bicycle conferences], SustainableDevelopment Forum, and Burlington VT Pedestrian Summit.
Transportation Innovator Champion of Change Award: to Bob Sloane from the White House for achievements in transportation innovation  National Alliance for Biking and Walking Advocacy Organization of the Year 
Environmental League of Massachusetts Green Star Award 
Environmental Business Council of New England Environmental-Energy Merit Award Leadership by a Non-Profit Organization 
Society of Behavioral Medicine Excellence in Promoting Physical Activity 
Women in Transportation Boston Innovative Transportation Award 
BU Medical Campus and TranScomm Outstanding Service Award 
America Walks Best Foot Forward Award: for outstanding achievements in SRTS. 
Society of Behavioral Medicine’s Excellence in Promoting Physical Activity. 
America Walks Best Foot Forward Award: for contributions to the cause of pedestrian advocacy. 
National Park Service’s Conservation Hero Awards: to Dorothea Hass and Don Eunson of the Safe Routes to Schools Program. 
Boston By Foot’s Distinguished Friend Award. 
Design Achievement Award: Move Massachusetts. 
US Environmental Protection Agency’s Transportation Partners Award: for making smart moves for healthier transportation choices in Boston.  Walking Magazine Walker of the Year Award: to Dorothea Hass 
Boston Society of Landscape Architects Award of Excellence. 
WalkBoston’s Golden Shoe Awards: Awarded annually to individuals, businesses, developers, agencies, and organizations for pedestrian environment contributions. See full list of recipients.