At-Large Council Candidate Apparently Flip-Flops On Crucial Vision Zero Project

At-large candidate Erin Murphy previously supported a road diet proposal for Centre Street in West Roxbury.

On the eve of Election Day, City Council candidate Erin Murphy, who had reportedly expressed “unequivocal” support for a proposed road diet for Centre Street in West Roxbury, is apparently equivocating.

This June, staff from the City of Boston Transportation Department recommended that Centre Street through West Roxbury should have one travel lane in each direction removed to shorten pedestrian crossings, reduce vehicle speeds, and make room for protected bike lanes.

The city’s plan reflects a growing recognition among traffic engineering professionals that multi-lane streets in urban neighborhoods are fundamentally unsafe for pedestrians: one car might stop to let someone cross the street, but passing cars in the other lane are then less likely to see the pedestrian walking in front of the stopped vehicle.

City data show a high volume of crashes that injure pedestrians and cyclists on Centre Street, where earlier this year a driver killed Marilyn Wentworth while she was crossing the street to visit her neighborhood coffee shop.

Still, a handful of local businesses on Centre Street have been vocally opposing the city’s recommendations. An anonymous advertiser recently sent out a mailer to neighborhood residents to claim that “the bicycle lobby is conspiring to ruin the neighborhood,” and on Monday, the Boston Herald ran a cover story featuring two neighborhood business owners who are opposing the safety project.

The Herald story did not include perspectives from any of the dozens of West Roxbury residents and parents who testified in favor of the safety project at June’s public hearing.

When a constituent tweeted a link to the Herald’s story Sunday evening and asked Murphy for her position, Murphy’s Twitter account tweeted that she was “opposed to the road diet,” contradicting the position she had reportedly expressed at a West Roxbury candidates’ forum in September.

That tweet was later deleted after several safe streets advocates amplified it and expressed their disappointment. However, the tweet was saved in several users’ screenshots.

On Monday, StreetsblogMASS reached out twice to Erin Murphy’s campaign to get some clarity on her position, but the candidate did not respond to either request.

Boston voters will head to the polls on Tuesday to elect a slate four at-large City Councilors, plus several contested district races. Murphy is one of eight candidates on the at-large ballot, which includes four incumbents — Annissa Essaibi-George, Michael Flaherty, Althea Garrison, and Michelle Wu — and four challengers Murphy, Alejandra St. Guillen, Julia Mejia, and David Halbert. Only the top four finishers in the at-large race will win seats on the city council.

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