Op-ed: West Roxbury parents call for changes to make Centre Street in West Roxbury safer

As fall begins its arrival and families return to the Parkway for back to school, it is time to refocus our attention on efforts to make our streets safer for our neighbors and our children. In the wake of far too many pedestrian accidents on the main thoroughfare in downtown West Roxbury, the City of Boston has recently proposed an evidence-based plan to redesign traffic patterns on Centre Street.

We are long-term Parkway-area parents that support the efforts of the Boston Transportation Department to make our streets safer for all. One of us suffered a traumatic brain injury in 2015 when struck by a car while crossing Centre Street in a crosswalk. Each of us walks to shops and restaurants along Centre Street. Many of us take a morning run or ride our bikes to work or for exercise. We visit the YMCA or the Roche Community Center with our families. We walk our kids to school at one of the many schools in our neighborhood.

In fact, there are four schools that border Centre Street — the Lyndon K-8, St. Theresa’s, Holy Name and Roxbury Latin — and many more students walk or bike to nearby schools like Catholic Memorial and the Kilmer K-8, or to the many preschools along the corridor. Older students cross Centre Street to take the bus or commuter rail for high school every day. As one example, a 2017 survey of Lyndon students found that one-quarter of the 600 students enrolled walked or biked to school each day. If you’ve ever found yourself at the corner of Mt. Vernon and Centre Streets around 9:15 a.m. on a school day, you know the scores of families with children — as young as age 4 — crossing a four-lane road. Scenes such as this one repeat themselves throughout the day along the one-mile stretch between Spring Street and the Holy Name Rotary.

Parents have also spoken out at recent community meetings in fear of allowing tweens to bike alone along Centre Street to a friend’s house or cross the road for an after-school activity without an adult present. We want our kids to travel to these places by bike or on their own two feet, because the research is clear: active transportation (on foot, by bike or by scooter) gives kids the physical activity they need to be healthy, helps them learn better in school, and enhances their sense of independence and social and emotional well-being. Additionally, each time our kids go someplace themselves, it saves time and represents one less parents’ car on the road.

The City’s plan to reduce four travel lanes along Centre Street to three is a sound proposal targeted to promote safety for drivers, pedestrians and bikers alike. Combined with traffic calming effects, enhanced safety features at crosswalks and protected bike lanes, the net effects will reduce speeds, decrease accidents, and provide a safer environment for our children and all residents.

Some residents fear that reduced travel lanes along Centre Street will divert traffic to side streets, where children play. We live on these streets, too, and want our children to be safe to walk, play, and ride anywhere. A 2017 Northeastern University report is reassuring. This research, along with the data BTD has gathered, indicates that the current traffic volume does not justify a four lane roadway. The data shows that a one-lane reduction would have minimal impact on the travel time between Spring Street and the Holy Name Rotary, with results ranging from a possible 28 second reduction in travel time to a maximum 2:00 minute increase at peak hours. In the absence of a substantial negative impact to drivers, additional side street traffic is not expected. The City’s implementation plan includes an initial and temporary lane reduction, which will allow any negative impacts to be discovered and addressed.

West Roxbury has always been a community forged in strong civic participation and a sense of connection and belonging among its residents. We all agree — a safer Centre Street is needed not just for our kids, but for everyone. You can help. No matter where you stand on this proposal, we ask that you give it careful consideration. Visit the BTD Project Page to share your feedback and find out about upcoming community meetings. These meetings are an opportunity for every resident to share our questions and concerns about this project while plans are still being made. Join West Roxbury Walks to help advocate for safe streets throughout West Roxbury, including Centre Street. If you favor the City’s “road diet” proposal like we do, you can sign the West Roxbury Walks Petition. Thank you for supporting this effort to make Centre Street safer for our children and neighbors.

  • Jay Berry, St. Theresa’s and Boston Latin School parent and physician.
  • Debra Brendemuehl and Brian Nolan, Lyndon School and BLS parents. Debbie has been involved in the Safe Routes to School program for 5 years.
  • Michael Burke, Holy Name parent and bicycle commuter.
  • Michael and Christina Colanti, Lyndon School parents. Mike was struck by a vehicle while in a crosswalk in 2015.
  • Emily and Jeremy Cusimano, Lyndon School parents who commute to school by bicycle. Emily coordinates the semi-annual Lyndon Walk to School Day.
  • Colleen and Jim Evans, Parents at St. Theresa’s and the Lyndon.
  • Mathew Gruber, St. Theresa’s School parent and former Board President, West Roxbury Main Streets.
  • Kate and Chris Heaton, Roxbury Latin and Bates school parents.
  • Sarah M. Henderson, LICSW, Lyndon School Parent and Centre Street business owner.
  • Elizabeth Hoenscheid, Parent at Holy Name and Catholic Memorial and a Centre Street business owner.
  • Danny Karnes, Holy Name parent.
  • Sharon Koh and Jonathan Murray, Lyndon School parents.
  • Michael and Suzanne Loconto, Beethoven-Ohrenberger parents. Mike is the Boston School Committee Chairperson and a former Board President, West Roxbury Main Streets.
  • Fran and Julie Ma, Lyndon School parents. Julie is immediate Past President of the Lyndon PTA.
  • Bridget and Joel Marquis, Holy Name Parish School parents who walk and bike their kids to school.
  • Patrick McVay, Kilmer School parent who commutes to work by bicycle.
  • Caitlin and Jeremy Unger, Lyndon School parents. Caitlin is former Vice President of the Lyndon PTA.
  • Adrienne Vaughan and Brian Trabish, West Roxbury parents. Adrienne is a Centre Street business owner.
  • Cathy and Dave Ware, Beethoven-Ohrenberger parents. Cathy is a Centre Street business owner.
  • Howard and Analiza Traub, West Roxbury parents.

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Michael Loconto

Michael Loconto

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Arbitrator and mediator for the modern workplace. Attorney with limited practice in commercial contracts, data privacy and select compliance issues.