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Vision Zero

Vigil for Crash Victims Amplifies Need for Safer Streets in Springfield

A memorial to the 39 people killed by drivers in the city of Springfield during 2020 and 2021 at a vigil held on the steps of the Springfield Central Library on Sunday, November 21, the World Day of Remembrance. Photo courtesy of Springfield City Councilor Jesse Lederman, via Twitter.

Sunday was the World Day of Remembrance, an annual memorial for the lives lost to traffic crashes.

In Springfield, residents joined elected officials on the front steps of the Springfield Central Library, just a few feet away from an informal pedestrian crossing where drivers have struck and killed two victims in the past decade – including, most recently, library staffer Gayle Ball, who died earlier this month.

Activists from WalkBike Springfield laid out 39 pairs of yellow-painted shoes on the library's steps to represent each of the victims who have been killed in the city since the beginning of 2020, and invited friends and family members to remember their loved ones.

Among the speakers was City Councilor Jesse Lederman:

Springfield is one of the Commonwealth's most dangerous cities for traffic violence, according to statewide crash statistics.

In 2020 and 2021, there were about 48,225 injury-causing crashes statewide, plus 661 crashes that ended at least one person's life.

But a disproportionate number of those violent crashes happened inside Springfield's city limits. Though Springfield only has about 2.2 percent of the Commonwealth's population, the 2,883 serious crashes that happened in the city during 2020 and 2021 represent about 5.9 percent of the Commonwealth's injury-causing and fatal crashes.

Springfield had three times as many fatal crashes during these two years than Worcester – a city with 31,000 more people – and 1.7 times more injury-causing crashes than the City of Boston, which has more than four times as many residents.

"The vigil caught the mayor’s attention, and the police commissioner's attention, and they've promised to do more enforcement (of traffic laws)," said Betsy Johnson, WalkBike Springfield volunteer, in a phone conversation with StreetsblogMASS on Monday. "The problem is, enforcement and education in Springfield are not enough. We are a city of roadways that were designed in the 1960s and 1970s."

Johnson does see some evidence that Springfield is beginning to take its residents' safety more seriously, though. The city is considering converting downtown streets from one-way to two-way traffic, designing new off-street trails, and undertaking "complete streets" upgrades.

"There are moments when I feel like Sisyphus coming up the hill, but we are making progress," says Johnson.

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