Council: Step up enforcement of speeding laws

Motorists speeding along city streets — and striking pedestrians and bicyclists— have become a hazard across Boston, city councillors said during a hearing held virtually on Monday.

“Unfortunately, we have witnessed a spike in serious and fatal crashes, recently in South Boston and elsewhere,” said Councillor Ed Flynn, who called for the hearing. “I believe it’s time to call speeding cars on unsafe roads what they actually are — a public health emergency.”

Flynn and District 3 Councillor Frank Baker have called for the city to reduce the speed limit on its streets to 20 mph from its current 25 mph. It was reduced to the latter figure in 2017.

The need for stepped-up police enforcement of speeding laws was raised by Councillor Michael Flaherty, who renewed “my call that the Boston Police Department establish a bona fide traffic division in each district and have it staffed every shift.” 

Chris Osgood, chief of streets for the city, said that Mayor Walsh’s Vision Zero plan includes enhanced safety measures on Columbus Avenue and American Legion and Cummins highways.

“Targeted interventions aimed at increasing safety,” he said, “include additional funding for BTD; adding radar feedback signs; faster implementation of speed humps on streets; and looking at signalized intersections and re-timing them to make sure we are optimizing safety” said Osgood. 

Adam Pieniazek, a Dorchester resident, urged all elected officials to walk, bike and take the train to work. “There’s no replacement for first-hand experience,” he said. “People in Dorchester have no safe way to bike into the city. If we’re going to prioritize safety, we really need to look at the biggest neighborhood in Boston.”  He asked: “Why has the Dot Greenway taken so long if we’re prioritizing safety?” 

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Virginia “Jinny” Chalmers, 70, of Dorchester, a longtime BPS teacher and retired principal of the Young Achievers K-8 Pilot School, died on Nov. 17 after she was struck by an Eversource truck as she bicycled near Mattapan Square in Milton. The crash occurred at around 3 p.m. on Blue Hills Parkway near its intersection with Eliot Street. That area has been identified by MassDOT as a “high-crash cluster.”

Chalmers was nearing the bridge that leads over the Neponset River to Mattapan Square, just two blocks ahead, when she was struck by a large utility truck traveling northbound on Blue Hills Parkway and taking a right onto Eliot St. The unidentified operator of the truck, a 62-year-old man, was transported to an area hospital and Chalmers was determined to be deceased at the scene.

She leaves her wife, Ilene Carver, an organizer with the Boston Teachers Union.

The crash remains under investigation by the State Police.