Selfies inspire crosswalk safety campaign

by Town Reminder

Highlight pedestrian issues on Main Street

By Kristin Will

SOUTH HADLEY –The South Hadley Falls Neighborhood Association [SHFNA] is putting its best face forward to combat pedestrian problems on Main Street.
Members are launching a safety “selfie” campaign during FallsFest called “#ICrossHere” to raise awareness about crosswalk safety, especially near the Beachgrounds.
Pedestrians are asked to snap a selfie (self portrait) near one of the crosswalks at the Beachgrounds and upload it to social media along with the hash tag “ICrossHere.”
“Almost all of Main Street has reduced visibility,” said SHFNA Chair Gillian M. Woldorf.
Most concerning for her are the crosswalks near the Beachgrounds, where Main Street meets Spring, Pleasant and Lamb.
Additionally, the crosswalk at Carew Street and limited visibility further north on Lamb Street between Route 202 and Bridge Street are problematic.
“I think that the entire stretch of road is quite dangerous for pedestrians, and we are lucky that we haven’t seen any pedestrian accidents,” said Woldorf.
Crosswalk and pedestrian safety “is a priority for us,” said South Hadley Police Chief David LaBrie. “The crosswalks adjacent to the Beachgrounds are particularly concerning, and the line of sight with that first crosswalk near the Chicopee border is not the best.”
The police department recently applied for and received a $2,705.04 grant to enforce crosswalk and pedestrian laws by the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (EOPSS) Highway Safety Division.
This week, the department had a patrol out on Main Street specifically tasked with monitoring crosswalk safety.
The Beachgrounds draws a wide range of ages to the park. On the opposite end of Main Street, the South Hadley Public Library draws the same.
“Lots of families come from neighboring towns to visit our park, with strollers and bikes and children of various ages who might need to cross the street,” said Woldorf. “I’m just shy of five feet, four inches, and if motorists don’t notice me when I’m already in the crosswalk, how can they notice a child?”
Closer to the library, Woldorf is concerned about the proposed development at 1 Canal Street, “as the combinations of the hill, the height and angle of the Tech Fab building, and the curve in the road already reduces visibility,” she said.
Previously, Woldorf commuted to Northampton by bus, and would often walk home from the Holyoke bus terminal in the afternoon if she missed a connection.
“I remember being very nervous about crossing Main Street at Pleasant Street because cars come careening down Main,” she said. “With parking spots on either side of the crosswalk, you have to be almost standing in traffic in order for motorists to see you waiting to cross.”
Twice now, Woldorf has been nearly struck while crossing on Lamb Street by motorists who did not observe her while they made a turn.
“I was never sure whether motorists coming south on Main were going to turn left to go up Lamb, and if they would see me as they came around the curve,” she said.
Pedestrian safety is a personal issue for Woldorf. When she and her cousin were 12, her cousin were struck by a motorist and seriously injured.
“This was in the early 90s, before we had cell phones and other distractions,” she said.
Her cousin was in a crosswalk, and crossing with the light.
“Overall, the main problem to me seems to be that there are two big bends in the road, at the top of Main Street by the library and then again at Lamb Street,” she said. “The town was wise to put staggered fencing at the entrances to the Beachgrounds so that children could not dash out directly into the street.”
But what this fencing does, she said, is it forces pedestrians “to cross on either side of a fairly big curve in the road, as Main Street takes almost a 90-degree turn at Lamb.”
Signs alerting motorists to pedestrians in crosswalks are installed near the Beachgrounds crosswalks.
“But inexplicably, these signs are about two feet tall,” said Woldorf. “So if you’re driving along Main Street and you don’t see a pedestrian waiting in the crosswalk, you are probably not going to notice a two-foot-tall sign on the curb, even if the post is painted yellow. And you are definitely not going to notice the signs on the curb at the intersection of Pleasant Street if there are cars parked along Main Street,” she said.
Ultimately, motorists need to yield to pedestrians using a crosswalk.
Town Administrator Michael J. Sullivan said the town is aware of the sight-line issue and crosswalk concerns.
“That second crosswalk is really unsafe,” he said. “The first one on the north side of Lamb Street is marginally safer.”
This issue, he said, needs to become a part of the “walkable streets” conversation.
“We try when we have the ability,” he said, of making changes to improve traffic issues.
For instance, the town recently added three seconds to the crossing light at Hillside and Granby Road.
It “doesn’t seem like a lot, but the person who was concerned about it has said it’s made a tremendous difference,” said Sullivan.
On Main Street, the problem “is really a tough one,” he said. “This one is not an easy solution, because of the way the street has evolved over time and its present configuration.”
Woldorf suggested the town hire an engineering firm to map out sight lines at these intersections with Main Street.
She cited an idea from a Redevelopment Authority advisory board meeting to turn the intersections of Main and Bridge streets and Main and Lamb streets into small rotaries.
Less costly suggestions include installing along Main Street speed bumps, flashing signs, flashing bollards, embedding lights into the road, or raising the height of signs already installed.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” said Woldorf.
All are encouraged to participate in Saturday’s selfie campaign. Woldorf said SHFNA will have signs with which participants can pose in their photos.
Those who wish to participate, but without posting selfies, can wear bright yellow awareness stickers distributed by SHFNA.
Send your “ICrossHere” selfies to The Town Reminder to potentially appear in next week’s edition of the paper.