Natick has installed flexible white poles around the Rte. 27/Rte. 135 intersection in Natick Center as part of an experiment in traffic calming supported by a $25K state Shared Streets & Spaces grant that also enabled Natick to put in place temporary outdoor dining lanes in town.
At first blush, the poles seem to just make things harder for cyclists and drivers, as they present an obstacle course within the de facto bike lanes and add to the clutter of signs and such making distracted drivers even more distracted.
I had my first experience with the traffic calming additions while driving on Tuesday morning. Naturally, an ambulance with its lights on came whizzing through the intersection. I pulled over as far as I could, but the poles prevented me from getting over as much as I would have liked.
But the poles and some freshly painted white lines along the crosswalks have been placed with good intentions by the town. It’s looking for feedback on the set-up to help determine what might make sense in terms of any sort of reconfiguration of the intersection, such bumping out the curbs to make crossing the intersection less of a trek for pedestrians and to boost sight lines for any who pass through.
An earlier set of cones and straw sausages were used in phase 1 of the test back in September. These are all part of a “test before you invest” approach, as outlined by James Freas, Natick’s director of community & economic development, in a letter to the Select Board previewing the project in late August.
The new flex poles are supposed to be removed before snow season, not that that’s very easy to gauge anymore in light of our recent late October snowstorm. There’s also a possibility of filling the space along the edge of the road with painted art, which seems like a particularly bad idea in terms of driver distraction (no offense to the artists).
Similar flex poles have been installed along Rte. 30 where Natick and Wayland meet.