By Karen Glover

Once again, The Office of Strategic Planning and Community Development (OSPCD} outdoes itself and achieves THE VERY OPPOSITE RESULT from the goals outlined in its statements regarding its plans to implement changes to advance Somerville’s goal of making transportation, for instance, SAFE.
SAFE: Webster’s Dictionary defines the word SAFE as meaning:
1. Free from harm or risk, unhurt.
2. Secure from threat or danger, harm or loss.
3. Affording safety and security from danger, risk or difficulty.

1. To ensure the risk of harm to people or further damage to property is removed.
The recently new bench installation on Holland Avenue near the Senior Center fulfills NONE of the above requirements for safety. The former bench, installed securely, within a see-through shelter enclosure certainly fulfilled all the above requirements for safety. The former bench was set back very securely from street traffic and, in front of the enclosure, the sidewalk space was ample, again, a feature which also provided distance and protection from all means of transportation. The former bench, it’s location away from the street, didn’t just provide a sense of safety…it was obviously designed with tangible safety in mind, as well as a large, ample, well-defined sidewalk and sidewalk curb to give the shelter definition.
So, what happened? The former ideal and perfect shelter that all the Senior Citizens who frequent the Senior Center just loved…the bench and shelter being cozy, providing protection from the elements and traffic was dug up and removed! Poof! Gone! And Why? Believe it or not, and, I’m not a trained street design expert, but I DO HAVE A PAIR OF EYES…it appears that this wonderful, perfect, ideal bench and shelter situation was dug up simply to reconfigure the sidewalk, make it much more narrow and create a strip of bike lane that quickly stops, so the bike rider ends up biking on the main street anyway…maybe the bike strip is intended to be lengthened at some future time? But for a few moments, the bike rider is, indeed, not riding on the main street. He, she, they have a private lane for a few seconds and can whizz by behind the new bench, working the nerves of the Senior or any bus rider unfortunate enough to be sitting on this new, exposed bench. This must have been extremely important…but only Brad Rawson can possibly know why, and it is probably only important to him and his bike riders, because it certainly is not advantageous to any Senior Citizen or unlucky person who decides to sit on the new bench and hope for a bus to stop, and hope not to be run over, robbed and hurt in so many ways that could happen when a new bench is installed in the middle of the street, essentially in the middle of traffic on a slab…not a sidewalk. This is not a sidewalk…because the definition of sidewalk…means on the side. This is a slab in the middle of the street with a lone bench, with no shelter, exposed to the elements and exposed and vulnerable to every conceivable mishap, accident or mischief a driver of any vehicle, bus, car may unintentionally or sometimes intentionally create to the detriment of the “sitting duck” bench sitter.
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How on earth could any professional transit planner conceive of this ludicrous example of complete stupidity? It seems actually impossible…but Brad Rawson and his team accomplish this impossibility, i.e. The Powder House Obstacle Course. That’s another story, but basically the same result: the bus drivers, the automobile drivers, the fire engines and pedestrians basically enter the Twilight Zone of the complete opposite of the reality of safety, but it just seems that this mobility department so caught up in some dream, some agenda, maybe some future-bike-rider only, euphoric eutopia, to the complete exclusion of the rest of us… who knows… because it’s really, really hard to make sense out this UNSAFE, EXTREMELY UNSAFE and, no doubt about it, AN- ACCIDENT- WAITING-TO- HAPPEN DESIGN! The very idea that a Senior would be sitting alone on this bench, experiencing the physical heaviness of vehicles because he or she is literally sitting in the traffic…experiencing the sharp turn of the cars coming from Cameron Avenue and with not enough street so the vehicles are way, way too close to the slab…sitting on this bench, being this vulnerable to any unexpected accident or purposeful mayhem by bad people, i.e. the road may be less traveled at a certain time, but a lone car stops in front of this explosed bench and grabs the purse of the vulnerable, exposed Senior who is frightened out of his/her wits. This design is a colossal blunder. What about the nerves of the drivers? A driver is driving along and in the near distance he/she sees a bench in the middle of traffic with a person on it? The slab also doesn’t have the heavier sidewalk curve to it. This mobility department is doing everything with the roads that is the antithesis of safety! Anyone with a modicum of common sense and half a brain can see the this Somerville Admistration is really screwing with our minds, and running Somerville into the ground. They are on a quest to wear down the emotions of the population and hand Somerville over on a silver bike lane platter to the bike riders and developers – plain and simple.
Let’s not forget that this is the same mobility department that is the liason to the MBTA Bus first Redesign Proposal that resulted in the recommendation to basically cancell three vital bus routes. It wasn’t until this department and the MBTA received massive pushback from Somerville Citizens that they squashed that first proposal. If accidents occur or anything out of the ordinary occurs due to this really insulting new bench design, not even a bus stop sign to go with it…this mobility department and its employees should be held accountable in every legal avenue possible…making Somerville Seniors and bus riders “sitting ducks! …Callous, Shameful and Irresponsible.
When confronted about this design at the Ward 7 Meeting, Brad Rawson indicated this might be a temporary situation and when construction is completed? …what construction?…an enclosure, etc. might follow? Well, the former enclosure and bench situated behind a wide sidewalk was perfect before it was dug up for a bike lane? How do they think they can actually fix this blunder? They’ll think of something…or most likely, think of nothing…because they like this bench situated in the middle of traffic just fine.

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