Public Safety

Here's this week's question:

39-year-old Sachi Thanawala Patel died on Aug. 30 after being run over by a truck while crossing in the crosswalk at the intersection of Lexington Street and Sycamore Road on Aug. 28. If you become a selectman, what will you do to improve pedestrian safety to prevent future fatalities?

Roy Epstein’s Answer

Fatal accidents are thankfully rare in Belmont, but even one fatality is one too many. Belmont was justifiably saddened that Ms. Patel lost her life and outraged that she was run over, while in a crosswalk, only yards from her home. Pedestrian safety must be a priority: children walking to schools and parks, and residents of all ages walking or bike riding, must be safe.

To resolve complex safety issues, we need to understand all the factors that contribute to the danger, and take steps that make a meaningful difference. Questions such as speeding, visibility at intersections, distracted or aggressive driving, types of signals, and a role for more crossing guards need to be evaluated. We mustn't rush to judgment but we should be decisive to minimize risks.

The police, residents, and town departments are partners in this. We need to track actual or potential incidents, analyze the relevant data, and then act.

We should also seek all relevant federal and state funding. Safe Routes To School is a program to enhance pedestrian safety via road and sidewalk improvements near schools. SRTS has already authorized nearly $1 million of work near Wellington School. We should pursue additional grants for the other school neighborhoods. Similarly, the MassDOT Complete Streets program is available for communities that have a "Complete Streets policy" and a "Prioritization Plan."

More generally, we need to address our overall traffic patterns and reconsider, town-wide, the balance between cars, alternative forms of transportation, and pedestrians. These are not easy issues, but we have options.

As selectman, I will work with town officials, state representatives, and of course our residents to ensure Belmont protects its pedestrians and cyclists.

Article - Wicked Local