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Quincy City Council focuses on pedestrian safety

With pedestrian accidents surging over the levels of previous years, Quincy city councilors are stepping up their calls to improve the safety of walking in the city.

This year, the number of pedestrian accidents had reached 92, outnumbering the totals for 2011 (71) and 2010 (49).

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Accidents have occurred “on every main road,” said Councilor Doug Gutro, and were severe and frequent enough to require immediate attention.

“People are talking about it, because it’s in all different neighborhoods, and at some point you will know somebody who was impacted,” Gutro said. “You want to make sure you’re doing all we can to have the safest city for pedestrians.”

As a result, Gutro and Councilor Brian Palmucci created a resolution to host a discussion on pedestrian safety within 45 days; review all accident reports involving pedestrians and bicycles in 2010, 2011, and 2012; and come up with education, engineering, and enforcement ideas to ensure those numbers are reduced next year. The resolution was passed unanimously by the council at its meeting last Monday.

For months, Quincy officials have been trying to cut down on the number of accidents. In May, after the city received a $5,000 grant for pedestrian and moped safety, Quincy police added patrols, targeting high-traffic areas and conducting enforcement stings.

In those stings, police officers walked on crosswalks at a half-dozen intersections around town to see if cars stopped; many did not. According to Jim Fatseas, chief of staff for the mayor’s office, out of 242 motorists stopped, 182 citations were given out in May.

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Since then, an additional 150 citations were handed out to motorists not stopping for pedestrians in crosswalks.

“We do have teams out doing this type of enforcement. It’s important to note we will continue to do these stings though the grant is up,” Fatseas said.

Some councilors, however, questioned if motorists were truly at fault. The numbers lend support to the skepticism. Of the three fatal accidents in Quincy this year, charges are being sought in only one.

“We probably have an educational component that’s larger than we might like to acknowledge that would help us combat some of this,” said Councilor Brian McNamee, adding that he repeatedly saw pedestrians wearing black while walking about town.

Each councilor seemed to have a story of dangerous driving or pedestrian behavior, and with a jaywalking fine of $1, pedestrian behavior doesn’t appear likely to change soon, said Councilor Margaret Laforest.

“This is an issue we all think is very serious. And in my opinion this is probably the top public safety issue facing this city right now,” Palmucci said. “There are others that require long-term strategies, but this is a serious public safety issue. Literally people are dying. . . . Until we do everything in this body and this government to explore every possible cause, solution, educational measure we can take, we’re not doing enough.”

Palmucci suggested more school education. Gutro recommended looking at dangerous intersections to find engineering solutions, though some of that is already occurring.

Reaching out to non-English speaking Quincy residents was also a priority. “This is a problem that impacts all in the city of Quincy. It’s an important time for us to take stock, look at the data together, and [see] what’s happened, what’s planned, and what we can do better,” Gutro said.

The body will discuss the issues and determine possible solutions at future meetings.

Jessica Bartlett can be reached at jessica.may.bartlett@gmail.com

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