The Central Square Crucible

1205775036Like a lot of people who commute from Central Square, I had a hard time getting to work yesterday. It didn’t take long to figure out that a terrible accident had taken place in the vicinity of Massachusetts Ave. and Prospect St, and everyone’s inconvenienced commute mattered a whole lot less.

Isaac Meyers, a 28-year-old Harvard teaching fellow, was hit by a truck and killed yesterday morning. According to a report on WHDH, Meyers was in the crosswalk as the driver turned right onto Mass Ave. There’s a vigorous discussion going on over at Wicked Local about pedestrians, drivers, and the intersection. The general consensus seems to be that it’s amazing that an accident like this doesn’t happen more often.

Every morning in Central, commuters pick up the 1, the CT1, the 47, 64, 70, 70A, 83, and 91 buses in addition to the underground Red Line. In the small zone between Prospect and Brookline, there are two lights, several crosswalks, and a left-hand only turn lane than usually serves as a way for cars to zip around traffic and then plow back into the right lane. At various intersections without lights, cars push their way through traffic as if they’re bumper cars.

Despite the numerous crosswalks, pedestrians feel free to cross anywhere they see fit, and they don’t always wait for the light to turn even if they do manage to make it to a crosswalk. And then there are the bicyclists.

It’s a veritable combat zone each and every morning (and every return trip) as cars, buses, bikes, and people all compete for the same small bit of real estate.

Yesterday evening as I returned home, Mass. Ave. was reopened, and the usual free-for-all was taking place as if nothing had happened earlier in the day. Pedestrians crossed the road with impunity, drivers weaved in and out of traffic lanes, and buses plowed through on their excruciatingly slow march.

You can place the blame on any of the aforementioned groups if you like, and certainly all are culpable. A few suggestions: Divert bus routes like the CT1 onto Green Street over by the Asgard to alleviate some of the congestion and take out the crosswalks that aren’t connected to traffic lights.

It’s tough to legislate public safety in an area like that. But maybe, just maybe, if everyone who uses Central Square as a wayfare also employed more caution, making drastic changes might not be necessary.