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Vision Zero

Andover Select Board Formally Adopts Vision Zero

The vote makes Andover the fifth municipality in Massachusetts to adopt a Vision Zero initiative, after Boston, Cambridge, Somerville and Brookline.

1:32 PM EDT on August 28, 2023

A wide intersection with a small island planted with flowers in the foreground. The street is lined with multi-story buildings with small businesses on the ground floor. A group of three teens crosses the crosswalk in the middle distance.

Elm Square in downtown Andover, Mass., at the intersection of Elm Street (left) and Main Street (center).

The Town of Andover has become the latest – and smallest – municipality in Massachusetts to formally adopt a Vision Zero policy.

In a unanimous vote during its August 15 meeting, the Andover Select Board endorsed a resolution that called on its town employees to embrace "a paradigm shift by designing streets and transportation systems to move all people safely" and work towards a goal of eliminating deaths and serious injuries from roadway crashes.

"Whereas the life and health of all persons living and traveling in the Town of Andover is our utmost priority, and no one should be killed or seriously injured while traveling on our roads; and whereas Vision Zero is the concept that traffic deaths and serious injuries on our roadways are unacceptable... now therefore, be it resolved that the Andover Select Board adopts the goal of zero traffic deaths and serious injuries on the belief that no loss of life or serious injury is acceptable on our streets, and Andover endorses Vision Zero as a comprehensive and holistic approach towards achieving this goal."

Excerpt from the Andover Select Board's August 15 resolution adopting Vision Zero

The vote makes Andover the fifth municipality in Massachusetts to adopt a Vision Zero initiative.

The cities of Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville have adopted Vision Zero policies. In 2022, the Town of Brookline's Select Board created a Vision Zero committee that is working on developing a Vision Zero policy for the town.

Board endorses additional changes to speed limits and Elm Square intersection

During the same meeting, the Select Board also voted to endorse several other policy and infrastructure changes to advance its new Vision Zero policy.

The town will introduce a new "exclusive pedestrian phase" to traffic signals in Elm Square, where a truck driver struck and killed Sidney Olson, aged 5, in front of her family earlier this summer.

That means that motor vehicle traffic on all four legs of the intersection will get red lights when its walk signs are on.

The town will also install new "no turn on red" signage and adjust lane striping to simplify traffic patterns in the intersection.

These changes reflect the most immediate recommendations of a newly-published road safety audit, which also recommended additional, longer-term infrastructure changes that are being considered for the future.

In a third resolution, the Select Board also voted to establish a 25 mph speed limit on roughly a dozen town streets.

Andover adopted a town-wide 25 mph speed limit in 2022, but older "special speed regulation" speed limits are still in place on a number of local roadways.

Girl's death galvanizes changes

Before Olson's death, town officials had received a steady stream of correspondence from concerned citizens citing traffic hazards in Elm Square, which is in the middle of downtown Andover and sits in front of the town library.

But as recently as June, Andover police were on the record dismissing ideas like "no turn on red" signage and an exclusive pedestrian phase out of fears that changes might create minor inconveniences for motor vehicle drivers.

In the wake of Olson's death, though, traffic safety became a much higher priority. The town hosted a safety forum on June 8 that filled the auditorium of the local middle school with hundreds of participants, and dozens of parents spoke up to demand safer streets.

"It’s an extreme situation, and the town manager really has been, from day one, supportive and collaborative," says Eric Olson, Sidney's dad, who established an organization called Sidney's Rainbows in the wake of his daughter's death. “Seeing some progress on this front has been helpful to process what’s happened."

This story was updated at 10 a.m. on August 29 to clarify the status of the Vision Zero initiative in the Town of Brookline.

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