On March 24th 2010, after ten years of expressing pedestrian safety concerns at Fifth and Gore Streets, I finally saw the possibility of change. The City of Cambridge has introduced a plan to install a raised crossing at Fifth and Gore Streets. They introduced this as part of a larger plan to address deficiencies in our urban landscape.
Raised crossing are not something new. One of the first raised crossings in East Cambridge is located on Third Street. The raised crossing is at an intersection with no stop signs along the dominant travel lanes. Due to the steep grading experienced in the Third Street raised crossing design, some have asked if a crossing at Fifth and Gore would create noises experienced from speeders that bottom out their cars. Those concerns are certainly understandable, but do not apply when the appropriate guidelines for raised crossings are followed.
As an abutter (one of the most directly impacted persons), I understand the tradeoffs in a raised crossing. There will always be speeders who refuse to slow down. But the problem is far more complex than speeders. Without a raised crossing, drivers are not seeing stop indicators until they are at the Fifth and Gore intersection. There are too many obstacles at Fifth and Gore which block the line of sight for many drivers. The number of near misses and resulting angry drivers is unbearable. The quality of life at this intersection is severely degraded by the lack of a raised crossing. The quality of life deteriorations I have experienced are far worse than at other intersections I’ve lived at in Cambridge. But we have the raised crossing opportunity at this intersection, and it offers major advantages to raised crossings which carry unfortunate tradeoffs. For one, the intersection at Fifth and Gore is a four way stop, and will stay this way after the crossing is built. People pay attention to intersections when properly designed visual ques are used. In this scenario, one is a properly placed stop sign; the second a striped incline in the middle of the street. This makes a clear wall of force, telling drivers they are coming to a point which requires a stop. Another benefit to the crossing design for this intersection is the incline / decline grading. It will be designed to significantly reduce the types of sounds heard when speeders bottom out on poorly designed crossings. The chance of bottoming out is almost non existent in this scenario.
One example of a well designed incline is on Appian Way in Harvard Square. Due to my job at this site, I am constantly walking over the crossing from 8:00am and 5:00pm each day. I have noticed a significant reduction in speeding on this roadway since the building of the crossing, and have never heard a car bottom out. I would not consider a solution that would have a negative impact on quality of life, and more importantly, safety.
In addition to my desire for safety, I own the home in which I live, and have a vested interest. I would like to continue being a part of neighborhood improvements. The taxpayers are paying to replace signs which are being knocked over by cars driving up the sidewalks. My neighbors suffer the pain and scares from horn honkers, sign blowers, and property loss. While I have not yet witnessed a loss of human life in this intersection, I have lost a tree which I paid the city to install on the sidewalk. The tree was cracked in half, and ended up twenty feet from where it stood. Despite the tree’s impact travel following alongside my home, rather than into it, damage to my windows and fence were incurred. The suv which came crashing into the tree had driven approximately thirty feet down the sidewalk, running parallel to the wall of my house. Had this suv been going the other direction, it would have crashed through my house, likely killing a neighbor that was visiting at the time. Every home at my intersection has been damaged by a car, some of them multiple times.
Raised crossings work, and when designed correctly, do not upset the populace with unreasonable tradeoffs. I welcome public support for the city's motion to correct the intersection at Fifth and Gore. It is important our city moves forward with plans for a raised crossing. The lives of children using Gold Star Mothers Park, the people living at this intersection, we deserve this protection, because the need is so clear.
Below are three studies on the effectiveness of raised crossings.