Somerville with Townie Tim: Powderhouse Square

Powderhouse Square was probably one of the first landmarks you saw when arriving at Tufts. Sitting at the southernmost point of campus, the convergence of six streets makes for an intimidating spot. The story around Powderhouse Square is pretty interesting, but you can find that information anywhere. What you cannot find is a helpful and humorous guide for navigating through it. Your friend the townie is here to fix that.

Let’s start with how to get through the square in a car. More than likely, if you are driving in college, that means you provide the primary mode of transportation for your entire friend group. Lots of folks in the car can be a problem, especially if you haven’t set out a specific list of draconian rules surrounding the aux cord or the A/C. This brings me to my first point: The Powderhouse demands your full attention. Pulling out into traffic is one of the most finessed moves you will make in a car. You have to come to a complete stop, check not only the oncoming cars in the circle, but the cars in the street to your immediate left, look for bikes and pedestrians and do this all while making sure the lights have not changed.

If you miss even one of these things, or think that no one is watching you, just remember: The British didn’t think anyone was watching when they stole all the powder out of the powder house in the adjacent park. But people did notice and those people started the Revolutionary War. So, you better make sure everything is shipshape in the car before entering the circle. Other than that, take it slow, be patient and give the right of way to cars already in the circle.

Now, let’s talk about how to cross as a pedestrian. I will start by extending the warning against distraction to this section as well. Far too often I have seen a clueless person wander into the crosswalk without looking at oncoming traffic. It is true that pedestrians have the right of way on the crosswalk, but take a moment and be an advocate for your personal safety. On a rainy Somerville day, that grey coat can blend in pretty well with the sidewalk.

As far as crossing the square, there are handy buttons you should use to get the crossing sign activated. As a special note for those crossing from College Ave up to the right side of Broadway, use the smaller of the pedestrian signal buttons (the bigger one does not work) and cross only after the light changes and you see all the cars stop. When you do cross, make sure you hustle up — you only have 20 seconds. That’s a big span of pavement, and you don’t want to get caught in it.

Lastly, for those entering the circle on a bike, good luck. Even at the best of times, the odds are not in your favor. I suggest finding an alternate route or becoming a pedestrian.