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Wu announces new street safety program to improve pedestrian safety and reduce traffic crashes

Two year-old Kojai Ashley and his mom were greeted by Mayor Michelle Wu of Boston as he played on a playscape during Wu's press conference at Thetford Evans Playground to discuss street safety.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Mayor Michelle Wu announced a new citywide street safety program Monday meant to reduce traffic crashes and improve pedestrian safety by introducing speed hump zones to neighborhood streets, redesigning intersections, and implementing new traffic signal guidelines to slow down traffic on residential streets.

The city’s Safety Surge program is an effort to discourage speeding and make residential streets safer to walk. It follows a study released in March finding that Massachusetts had a 35 percent increase in pedestrian deaths in 2022, with Boston surpassing all other cities.

“In the past, when there have been speed humps kind of sparingly installed … what we find is that drivers will often just go to the next street over or a parallel one, and that just pushes a speeding car somewhere else,” Wu said at a press conference at Thetford Evans Playground in Dorchester. “So we really want to have a comprehensive approach where we’re looking zone by zone within our neighborhoods.

Jascha Franklin-Hodge, the city’s chief of streets, said at the press conference that the mayor has put more than $12 million in the 2024 fiscal year city budget to support the Safety Surge program and other related projects.

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“More than 3,000 times per year, Boston EMS and the Boston Police Department respond to injury crashes on our streets, and while many of these injuries are minor, hundreds of people find that their lives are altered profoundly in some cases,” Franklin-Hodge said. “The streets we build must reflect our belief that everyone, regardless of their age or ability, should have the freedom to travel safely and without fear.”

Speed hump zones under the new program will be made up of small, connected areas of streets, Wu said.

The city has already decided where zones will be installed for the next three years, including Harlow Street in Roxbury, Burmah Street in Mattapan, Mather Street in Dorchester, and Monastery Road in Brighton, among others, according to a map on the city’s website.

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Wu said the city has scheduled the construction of 10 speed hump zones per year. Installing the zones will prioritize targeting areas with a history of crashes and the number of people at risk of death or injury.

She said residents can determine whether a street is eligible for a speed hump through the city’s website.

Of the nearly 800 miles of city streets, 394 miles are potentially eligible for this program, according to a press release.

“In the past, as the mayor noted, the city has built speed humps kind of very selectively as a part of a very targeted safety intervention,” said Franklin-Hodge. “We’re releasing a new speed hump policy and design directive that designates speed humps as part of our standard street design.”

Brendan Kearney, deputy director of advocacy for WalkMassachusetts, said implementing speed humps as the city’s standard street design is a “huge” step forward in pedestrian safety, as opposed to residents “having to go through multiple public meetings for just a few humps.”

The program will also include redesigning intersections and major roadways with safety features, Wu said. The city will redesign at least 25 intersections each year to improve visibility, address unsafe speeding, and create safer crossings.

Franklin-Hodge said the city will prioritize designing non-signalized intersections based on safety history; neighborhood demographics, including high numbers of children, older adults, and people with disabilities; proximity to parks, schools, and community centers; and community concerns.

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“Intersections are where the majority of crashes occur in Boston,” Franklin-Hodge said. “You want intersections that not only help people on foot feel safe, but also reduce stress and risk for drivers by improving visibility, better separating different road users, and simplifying confusing intersections.”

Wu also announced that the city would implement a new set of guidelines for the city’s traffic signals to reduce the risk of collisions and give pedestrians a headstart to cross the street.

Franklin-Hodge said the new guidelines will also include increased use of “No Turn on Red” regulations, as right-turn crashes often occur when drivers look left to turn instead of looking right at the crosswalk, and increased use of “auto recall,” where pedestrians get a walk sign automatically without having to request it. He added that the city plans to update 50 intersections per year using these guidelines.

The Safety Surge program complements other city projects to improve driving safety at major corridors across Boston, including projects on Blue Hill Avenue, Centre Street in West Roxbury, Cummins Highway in Mattapan, and Tremont Street in the South End.

“Our streets should be a source of connection, not a threat to our safety, and we want to make sure that we’re not rationing that safety in limited areas across the city,” Wu said. “We want to be proactive, preventative, and really work with communities at a much broader scale and much more accelerated pace to make this happen.”

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Ashley Soebroto can be reached at ashley.soebroto@globe.com. Follow her @ashsoebroto.