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Risky business at intersection

Cambridge-Franklin a hazardous crossing

From his office at the corner of Cambridge and Franklin streets, Brian Gutierrez can tune in to the sights and sounds of his Allston neighborhood.

The problem is that the scene consists mainly of the roar of traffic, punctuated by screeching brakes and honking horns.

"That intersection is pretty bad," said Gutierrez, who has worked at AAW Insurance for six months. "It's not that nobody knows what the rules are; it's that nobody cares what the rules are."

In addition to the streets just outside Gutierrez's window, hazardous traffic extends westward along Cambridge Street, past Interstate 90, and toward the intersection with Harvard Avenue. Residents have had longstanding complaints about dangerous conditions, which have been brought to attention by accidents in recent months.

Gutierrez said his concerns were underscored in May when 23-year-old bicyclist Kelly Wallace was struck and killed by a driver who made a right-hand turn from Harvard Avenue onto Cambridge Street, according to police reports.

It was a similar scene on Sept. 13, when a car knocked 25-year-old Gabriel Newman from his skateboard only yards away from the site of the accident in May. When police arrived, Newman was found lying semiconscious on the street, with his head against the edge of the concrete median, according to police reports. He was treated at an area hospital and was released five days later.

Charlie Denison, a board member for the Livable Streets Alliance, a nonprofit group that has pushed for an urban transportation system to balance biking, walking, and driving in the Boston area, said the accidents occurred "in one of the more dangerous intersections in the neighborhood."

Denison, who lived along Harvard and Commonwealth avenues in Allston for three years, said the Cambridge-Franklin intersection's design and downward slant limits visibility around its corners. Parked cars on Cambridge also limit visibility.

"Traffic goes pretty fast down that hill, and it's also pretty heavy any time of the day because it's such a major route," Denison said. "And you've got a lot of movement going on, so it's pretty complicated."

A major problem is that cars on Franklin turn west onto Cambridge and head toward Interstate 90. They meet cars from Harvard turning east on Cambridge as they head toward the Pike.

Paul Berkeley, president of the Allston Civic Association, said he could recall accidents on both sides of the turnpike offramp, adding that "the level of aggression at that intersection [of Franklin and Cambridge], I think, is pretty high.

"It's one of those intersections where people just drive at each other, and either the fastest or the weakest determines who goes first," he said.

"When you have two cars heading into it, both wanting to turn in the same direction, one is going to go and the other is going to give."

Berkeley expressed concern about a pedestrian footbridge near the intersection because he said it could cause an unsuspecting bicyclist or pedestrian who gains speed on the descent to enter into several lanes of traffic.

"There's no margin for error," he said. "You take one step off and you're nailed."

At the other side of Franklin and Cambridge streets, a pair of chained bicycles adorned with pink, white, and yellow flowers serve as a graphic reminder of the bicyclist who was killed at the intersection this year.

Along a chain-link fence behind the bicycles, the phrase, "You Are Beautiful," recently was spelled out with plastic cups lodged in between the metal links.

"It's a busy spot," said Abbie Mullet, who works at nearby Stingray Body Art. "People fly up toward the highway, and it doesn't help, with the parking everywhere."

Gutierrez agreed.

"After that young girl was killed, I assumed they would take things more seriously. I thought they'd be a little more responsible."

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