10 Percent Reduction in Speed Promotes Pedestrian Safety; Additional Parking Supports Businesses and Customers; New Bike Lanes a Hit with Cycling Community
Somerville – Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone and Acting Traffic and Parking Director Matthew Dias announced today that initial data suggests that the pilot program to calm traffic, promote pedestrian and bicycle safety, and increase the parking supply in Union Square is working as intended. Traffic radar data indicates that traffic along Bow Street has slowed by an average of ten percent and bicyclists report that the new bike lane makes the area safer. By nearly doubling the supply of parking, the new configuration also helps support additional customer visits, which results in added revenue for local businesses.
“We were fairly confident that, once people got used to the idea, it would make Bow Street safer, more walkable and more bike-able,” said Curtatone. “But I am particularly pleased by the increase in parking supply, as it allows for additional customers throughout the day, which can result in additional revenues for our local businesses.”
“We’re going to continue to monitor the experiment, but so far, so good,” said Dias. “Radar data shows a modest drop in average speeds, which is something we were hoping for: area residents and residents from Properzi Manor on Warren Ave had repeatedly expressed concerns about high-speeds and cut-through traffic. We’ve slowed things down slightly by reducing travel to a single lane, but the reality is that the pace of traffic is more consistent with what you’d experience in a mixed-use neighborhood with heavy foot traffic.”
“There’s also a big, big, plus for merchants and drivers alike: more parking equals more customer convenience and the potential for more revenue for local businesses,” said Dias, citing a Union Square Main Streets survey that shows the average Union Square customer spends about $50 dollars per visit. “The new spaces create the ability to accommodate about 100 additional business trips per day – and we know the spaces are getting used. That could mean, for example, an extra $5,000 per day in added business opportunities, or over $100,000 per month from drivers alone. We don’t yet know the extent to which the added bicycle and foot traffic is also helping local businesses.”
“A safe and pleasant pedestrian environment is key for the success of nearly every small business in Union Square and the changes on Bow Street are helping to create that, said Mimi Graney, Executive Director of Union Square Main Streets. “It's easier to cross the street and safer to travel on bike as the vehicles move through smoothly and at a less frantic pace. The new twist on parking is still awkward for some drivers, but as it’s becoming more familiar, I'm seeing more parking in the area, especially on busy Saturdays."
One aspect of the changed configuration – the new bicycle lane – has already been well received by intended users. Judging by comments on the City’s Facebook page, most cyclists are pleased with the change. A June 3rd post to the City’s Facebook page, by self-identified cyclist Ian Kennedy, was dismissive: “I drive and bike regularly through Union. This makes doing both more of a pain. Nice in theory but a mess in practice.” Most other bike riders, however, expressed satisfaction with the change. The same day, Cynthia Conrod Finney posted: “Slower traffic and a bike lane and more parking. What’s not to like?” Also on June 3rd, Somerville Bicycle Committee member Ron Newman noted “This should make it easier to bike through Union Square,” while area resident Laurinda Bedingfield posted, “Yup, it makes it easier to bike and walk down there. If you live there it is a big improvement.”
“Although we still have a ways to go, the results so far have been very encouraging,” said Dias.”We continue to work on several issues, such as loading zones and congestion, but if Bow Street continues to work as well as it has to date, I think it could be worth exploring in other business areas that suffer from cut-through traffic but would prefer to cultivate a more relaxed, calmer, and business-friendly streetscape with additional parking spaces for local businesses and customers.”
Jaclyn Rossetti 617-625-6600, ext. 2614 Cell: 857-636-2396
Tom Champion 617-625-6600, ext. 2620 Cell: 857-523-9571