Declaration and Call to Action

The SASS declaration and call to action was originally published in early 2021 by organizers and advocates for pedestrians, people with disabilities, cyclists, environmentalists, elders, parents, business owners and elected officials. By January 2022, It had been electronically signed by more than 900 people. In late 2023 we made a number of small editorial changes to keep the document current.

This declaration remains the definitive statement of SASS’s goals and philosophy. None of us will rest until the streets are safe for everybody.

See this document: En Español –  Em Portuguêsan Kreyòl Ayisyenनेपालीमा

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The Somerville Alliance for Safe Streets (SASS) is a coalition of residents, parents, vulnerable road users, transit users, business owners and elected officials. We come from different backgrounds but share a common goal for Somerville’s streets and sidewalks: safety and equitable mobility for all.

We call on:

  • The Mayor, to dedicate resources in the city budget for the rapid construction of physical infrastructure that will slow traffic, protect our most vulnerable residents, bring our city’s streets and sidewalks into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and prevent further traffic fatalities.
  • The Mayor, to direct the Directors of Mobility, Engineering, Public Works, and Traffic and Parking to collaborate with each other and the community to implement effective, legal, and equitable measures that will slow drivers and save lives. We demand safe access for pedestrians on city rights of way, including during construction.
  • The Mayor, to implement the detailed recommendations and specific goals in our policy guidance documents, including the Vision Zero Action Plan, SomerVision2040, the Climate Forward plan, the Open Space Task Force Strategy, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Transition Plan, the Bicycle Network Plan, and Complete Streets and to review and implement the Specific Recommendations prepared by SASS.
  • The City Council, to support safe streets and equitable mobility items in the city budget, insist on the formation and empowerment of the oversight committee called for in the City’s Vision Zero Plan, and to use all the power at its disposal to ensure that proposed streetscape projects align with the City’s stated goals.
  • The Somerville Police Department (SPD), to develop policy, process, and training to consistently and objectively report crashes in the city and ensure transparent disclosure of these reports to the public. Additionally, SASS would like to see SPD institute traffic enforcement policies designed to protect the greatest number of people from harm.
  • The broad community of residents and advocates, to stand on common ground and join us in this mission to create a safer and more livable city.

We believe that none of us are truly safe until all of us are safe. Our street designs should minimize risk to all users, especially vulnerable users such as children, older adults, and people with disabilities. This includes people who walk, use mobility devices (such as wheelchairs and walkers), push a stroller, or ride a bicycle. 

We believe our streets should provide equitable mobility for all residents. Our infrastructure, transit, and mobility investments should be made equitably to provide opportunities for everyone to move around reliably, regardless of their abilities and means of transportation. This includes ensuring that people with disabilities can access all parts of the city, via genuinely accessible routes to all public buildings, transit stations, and civic amenities. Investments should prioritize historically underserved neighborhoods and use data about high crash areas. 

We believe everyone should benefit from our public space. Our streets and sidewalks comprise nearly a quarter of Somerville’s land, a precious civic asset. We should allocate and use this land to provide benefits for all residents. After assuring safety and equitable mobility, this space can also contribute to climate resilience by providing shade trees, permeable surfaces, and capturing carbon. The lack of progress in reducing reliance on cars contributes to our urban heat island effect and has delayed our ability to reduce citywide carbon emissions.

We believe that the City can do more. Despite the City’s past efforts to improve street safety, non-motorist road users are still vulnerable. Speeding and distracted driving endanger our community. Since 2019, 5 pedestrians, 1 bicyclist, and 1 driver have died by car crashes in Somerville, while nearly 600 people have been injured, at least 50 of them seriously (as of September 2023). Residents cannot easily learn about these crashes because the City’s Vision Zero dashboard is not maintained and not all crashes are reported to the MassDoT Crash portal. City investments continue to prioritize movement and parking of cars and trucks at the expense of safety, mobility and accessibility for other users. City decisions, such as during construction, regularly endanger people walking or riding bicycles. Meanwhile, accessible parking spaces are relatively scarce, a large share of the city’s sidewalks are in disrepair and do not comply with the ADA, and many streets have insufficient lighting for nighttime visibility. 

The City has already solicited extensive community recommendations but is not consistently implementing them: Somerville residents have volunteered thousands of hours to help develop our Vision Zero Action Plan, SomerVision, the Climate Forward plan, the Open Space Task Force Strategy, the Bicycle Network Plan, and the Parking Task Force Recommendations. The community continues to express our priorities, yet progress is too slow. We ask the city to honor our stated commitments to safety, accessibility, equitable investment, mitigating the impacts of climate change, reducing Somerville’s dependency on cars, and creating a more livable city.

The City has legal and legislative obligations in its commitments to the ADA Transition Plan and the Complete Streets Ordinance, yet progress is frustratingly slow. 

SASS is prepared to:

  1. Provide open forums to keep all residents informed about developments specific to streetscape safety as they arise in city government and to transparently share both advances and setbacks via local and social media.
  2. Organize direct actions including public gatherings, demonstrations, press releases, and tactical urbanism efforts to raise awareness of the urgent need to create safe and accessible public streets and sidewalks.
  3. Develop and publicly track specific metrics to evaluate both the success and failure of the city’s efforts.
  4. Mobilize Somerville residents to make their voices heard in emails, calls, and letters to their elected officials, and to attend and participate in public meetings.
  5. Engage in elections to educate candidates and voters on the issues, and the public about candidates’ records on advancing safe streets and sidewalks.

The undersigned call on the City to respond to the fatalities and injuries on our streets by following through on plans to implement our shared values to make Somerville’s streets and sidewalks safe and accessible for all.

This is our call to action.

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