Three bicycle deaths in a year spur Kingston legislation

The City of Kingston will spend $45,000 from its fund balance on a traffic safety campaign after the Common Council last week voted 8-1 to approve the funding. Despite the overwhelming approval, some council members felt the initiative should have been folded into recent citywide infrastructure projects, while others felt the plan doesn’t go far enough. 

Patrick O’Reilly, a non-enrolled voter who represents Ward 7, said he didn’t believe the city should have to pay for the campaign. “I think the cost of this should be put on the state Department of Transportation, not the citizens of the City of Kingston,” O’Reilly said in supporting his vote against it. 

The approval comes four months after the council voted against a $35,000 traffic safety campaign, though the matter was reintroduced following a letter from mayor Steve Noble after a bicyclist was killed on September 18 near a Broadway roundabout created by the Department of Transportation. It was the third death of a bicyclist in Kingston in under a year. 

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Councilwoman Rita Worthington (Ward 4) voted against the campaign in June but voted for it  this time around. She was among those who said last week the issue should have been attached to recent infrastructure work. 

“We seem to be backtracking all the time,” Worthington said. “I hope this works. I know we can’t put a price on anyone’s life, nor would I try to do that.”

Councilman Jeffrey Ventura Morell (Ward 1) also changed his vote in June to support it last week. “I think it’s better to do something than point the finger and say who should have done what,” Ventura Morell said. “I do hope this is successful.”

Council majority leader Reynolds Scott-Childress also voted for it, but added that he felt the campaign doesn’t go far enough. “I’m in favor of a far more robust campaign,” said Scott-Childress, noting that the city has been significantly improved by a variety of recent infrastructure projects. “And I think all of these things push us toward really thinking about how to work with folks in the community to develop a robust program of traffic safety so that we all take responsibility for keeping our streets safe when we’re driving, biking and walking.”

Childress cited a recent “Vision Zero” initiative in Fremont, California that seeks to reduce the number of traffic deaths to zero. “They followed a whole series of different practices that I think we would be well-suited to look at,” he said. “All sorts of things, from narrowing streets with paint to adding bollards to reduce the distance people cross at significant crosswalks.”

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