Anyone who walks, bikes, or drives Delaware Avenue with any frequency will agree that last week’s Editorial regarding drivers’ failure to yield the right-of-way hit the nail squarely on the head. How many times have each of us seen a pedestrian attempting to cross at a crosswalk while car after car speeds by without yielding to the pedestrian even though that has been the law in New York for decades?
Pedestrian safety is critically important in our community and unfortunately experience is teaching us that the installation of more crosswalks, especially those located remote from any traffic signal, may not necessarily have the desired effect of increasing pedestrian safety.
As The Spotlight noted, since a crosswalk was installed in front of their office, “it has done little good for pedestrians… most drivers do not yield to people attempting to walk across the street in the crosswalk.” I think we can all agree that in a perfect world, everyone would obey the law and crosswalks would provide pedestrians with a reasonable degree of safety and protection from traffic, however, reality differs greatly from perfection.
Consequently, I am concerned that although intended to increase safety, the proposed Delaware Avenue “Road Diet” may in fact have the opposite effect and result in more pedestrian/vehicle accidents. As background, and although not yet set in stone, the general Road Diet proposal includes plans to reduce the number of vehicle traffic lanes on Delaware between the Normanskill Bridge and Elsmere Avenue and add several crosswalks along that corridor at locations without traffic lights. Unfortunately, I believe the study the Town commissioned to explore the proposal shows why this may be a bad idea.
First, the study notes that along that 1.3 mile corridor, there have been 213 accidents, none fatal, in the most recent five year period for which data is available (2011 through 2015). Of those 213 accidents, only two involved pedestrians. That is, of course, two too many, however, it is a relatively small number. What is most troubling is that 48 percent of accidents (102 of 213) were caused by driver inattention or failure to yield the right-of-way. As we have seen at the Post Office, across from Town Hall, and countless other locations, crosswalks without traffic lights do not magically cure driver inattention or force drivers to yield the right-of-way. I fear that by placing additional crosswalks along Delaware we are inviting increased interactions between pedestrians and the inattentive and unyielding drivers that are already responsible for nearly half of the accidents there. It is safer for pedestrians to cross in a signal-controlled crosswalk, including a Walk/Don’t Walk signal, which is one of the reasons why the crosswalk in front of the Elsmere School was removed and the crossing guard relocated to the intersection of Delaware and Elsmere.
In a perfect world, the Road Diet and more crosswalks would increase pedestrian safety and walkability along Delaware, however, as we have seen, and as last week’s Editorial noted, we do not yet live in a perfect world.
Town Board Member