Improved signage won’t prevent every accident involving a motor vehicle and a pedestrian, but it would reduce the number of such tragedies. That’s what Dinah Neals told the Saugerties village board this past Monday, November 19 at its regular meeting. Neals said the village needed more signs – and more effective signs – to prevent accidents involving pedestrians.
Neals’ brother, Robert Carlson, died after being hit by a truck on Partition Street in January, 2014.
Since Neals approached the village board in 2017, she has been in correspondence with New York State about the issue of signage. In a response, Lance C. MacMillan, the acting regional director of the New York Department of Transportation, noted that many intersections have a system of traffic lights with special provision for pedestrians. “Pedestrian warning signs are used to warn vehicles of the possibility of pedestrians entering crosswalks that are not controlled by traffic signals, stop or yield signs,” MacMillan responded.
Neals noted the frequency of pedestrian- versus-vehicle accidents, with two fatalities in the region over the past several weeks. One of two pedestrians killed in a parking lot in a Schoharie limousine accident last month was from Kerhonkson. Another pedestrian, a woman from Walton, was killed October 13 in Oneonta.
“I’m here to revisit pedestrian safety signage in the village,” Neals said. “As you know, the request, and the whole issue is personal to me, but I still think it’s a good thing.”
Neals told the board that the time for condolences for her brother has passed, Now was the time for action to prevent future accidents. “I want you to know that I am an equal opportunity advocate,” she said. “I’m not only addressing the village board. I’m addressing the town board. I’ve written to the Town of Ulster about Route 9W, the Town of Ulster police. I wrote recently to the county] commissioner of social services about county property. In our huge parking lot at the DSS [Department of Social Services], we’re having more pedestrian problems because the family court’s there now.”
Neals said she was doing her part. As she approaches the Twin Maples housing complex, she slows down. The speed limit along that portion of Route 9W is too fast, she said. “I want the state to slow us all down to 35,” she said, Traffic moves too fast in the vicinity of the Quick Check market.
“I want to tell everybody in this room that if you slow your car down to ten miles an hour, especially in the ‘lemon squeeze’ coming up to Partition, you will see how slow that is, and you will see how much control you have.”
“The problem is not just motorists,” mayor William Murphy told the meeting. “Saturday night, when it was overcast and raining, I’m going up Main Street, and I’m doing my 15 miles an hour, and five people came out from between parked cars. You know how hard it is to see when it’s rainy and wet, and they were all wearing black. I had to swerve to get out of the way, and they gave me the finger.”
People still cross against the light at the crosswalk. They don’t wait for the light to change. Neals agreed that there was carelessness on both sides. She displayed signs she suggested would help, even on intersections where there are lights – but especially on the ones without them.
“I know it’s on both sides,” Neals said. “Something happens to us when we leave our cars, we become … we’re in a different reality. It doesn’t matter how aware; a retired police officer can jaywalk and get hit …. My single focus tonight is to slow traffic down.”
Neals showed the board an example of the kind of sign she was proposing, noting that it would be better if the sign were larger and made of metal.
While the village has come a long way, with traffic lights and pedestrian crossings, “We’re never going to be perfect,” Murphy said. He offered to continue the dialogue with Neals, and to look into the requirements for the kind of traffic control signs she suggests.