Letter to the Editor: The Streets of Montclair Can Often Be Treacherous, Help Us Change

drive with care in montclairThe following was submitted by Alex Kent, Coordinator of the “Drive With Care in Montclair” campaign.

My condolences go out to the family of Joe Lombardi, who died as the result of an automobile hitting him while he was crossing the street at the intersection of Grove and Walnut Streets on December 18th.

His tragic death is a reminder that the streets of Montclair can often be treacherous for pedestrians. The Montclair Pedestrian Safety Committee is working to change that. But we need you help

The Committee is an official Township group and includes the Township Engineer, Montclair Police Traffic Department officers, Town Council member Robin Schlager, BikeWalkMontclair, public health foundation Partners for Health, and a number of other citizens concerned about pedestrian safety.

Over the past year we have launched a pedestrian safety campaign “Drive with Care in Montclair”. We have car magnets, posters, safety cards, and a railroad trestle banner, all of which are free and available for distribution. This fall we ran a series of 4 ads in the Montclair Times, including a full page ad at the start of the school year, with our message, funded by Partners for Health.

We have just completed a strategic planning initiative with the help of a Rutgers transportation consultant. We held a public meeting in October to get feedback from the community, and we have an email address: drivewithcare@montclairnjusa.org where we welcome your comments.

We are holding another public meeting on Tuesday, January 13th at 7 pm at the Bay Street Fire House to continue our outreach.

In the last 10 years, on average, 41 pedestrians a year have been hit by a vehicle in Montclair, and 8 now have died as a result. Let us make Montclair an example of how a New Jersey town can be pedestrian friendly. We want drivers in Montclair to obey some simple traffic laws: drive the speed limit, stop for pedestrians in crosswalks, and do not use your phone while driving.

We are hoping to make a culture change in Montclair, for drivers to be aware that Montclair is a town that does not tolerate drivers who speed, disregard pedestrians, and don’t safely share the road with those on foot and on bike.

 

 

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60 COMMENTS

  1. Has anyone ever driven thru Tuxedo Park NY on Route 17? No one dares to go 1 mph over the speed limit because traffic laws are enforced to the max in that town. Granted that is a very small town compared to Montclair, but I wish we could somehow emulate what they do there. If we cracked down on people talking on cell phones while driving (I once saw a motorcycle rider with his helmet askew on his head talking on a cell as he drove down Grove St.) and enforced speed limits, maybe the town would develop the reputation that Tuxedo Park has and we wouldn’t have such horrible stats.

  2. We can form all the “official” and “unofficial” committees we want, but unless the Town is prepared to DO SOMETHING nothing will change. Randel’s comments are right on the mark.

    I was recently stopped at the crosswalk on Valley by the Starbucks, headed north. A woman with a carriage was crossing in front of me. Headed south, AT the crosswalk, was an MPD car with an officer talking on a cell phone. He was located towards the center of the road.

    A car PASSED him, on the RIGHT and blew through the crosswalk narrowly missing the pedestrian. The MPD officer continued talking on the cell phone.

    Now it is certainly possible, perhaps likely, that he was paying rapt attention to the phone call regarding an urgent police matter.

    But I’d like to know that there are clear directives to MPD officers that if they observe “illegal” activity involving pedestrian crossing that are to follow up, as long as it doesn’t endanger higher priority matters that are already involved in.

    Cell phone use is RAMPANT in Montclair. We CANNOT WAIT for the few “sting” programs that we are given money for once or twice a year.

    We need a cultural change!

  3. If I remember correctly most of these deaths were the result of pedestrians crossing outside the crosswalks which also seems to be an importnat point left out of the article.

  4. The article is not complete. The long term trend for absolute # of ped deaths as well as rate per 100MM vehicle miles should be included not just the delta to the all time record low of 2009.

    This isn’t too surprising to me as cars are now safer and we now have more elderly drivers on the road (2nd highest risk group only to teenagers/low 20s) with absolutely zero re certification checks / tests on their ability to react faster than a dead snail.

    Lastly and perhaps most importantly, the vast majority of traffic offenses are from repeat offenders. We need more than enforcement, the actual fines need to be bumped up substantially. Many of you scoffed at the notion of $10,000 for breaking the speed limit so lets be more reasonable. $2,000 first the first offence, $5k for the second and $10k thereafter. Recerts every 2 years for 65+.

    Lets talk real solutions.

  5. I was visiting my sister in Rutherford last night, and was absolutely floored by the amount of pedestrian warning signage they had all over town. All across Park Ave and Ridge Road, two main streets – every single (or at least close to) crosswalk was clearly marked with a yellow/green stop for pedestrians sign. You saw them repeated, over and over again as you drove down the roads. They were also electronic sign set on the sides of the road, reminding you of your speed and to watch out for pedestrians. You saw this EVERYWHERE, and you really got the sense that Rutherford is a pedestrian oriented town, and every singe car should be on the absolute lookout for them, and the Rutherford Police took this very seriously.

    Compare this to where I live by the Mountain Ave Train Station. The 25/30MPH speed limit on Valley Road is ignored by everyone, and never enforced (and people get MAD if you drive anywhere close to it). The Mountain Ave Train station, DeCamp bus stops, and over the summer, the pool – all require Valley Road to be crossed. None of the crosswalks are clearly marked, and are almost always ignored by speeding drivers. It’s not safe. We already had one death at the corner of my block a few years ago, and I’ve seen a number of close calls in the two and a half years I’ve been living here. It’d be nice to be proactive before another death or injury.

    Or in the Upper Montclair downtown, where rights on reds are stupidly allowed (I see close calls with this all the time too), and the crosswalks across Bellvue from the parking lots, are again, largely ignored.

    Police just don’t seem to care about enforcing traffic laws.

    Enforcing speed limits and crosswalk laws, lots of signage, and a pedestrian first attitude are needed desperately in town or more people are going to continue to get hurt.

  6. Simple fact is that many drivers simply don’t drive with care. Period.

    Don’t know how more meetings, laws, rants, signage, etc we need if that one piece isn’t solved.

    Drivers are all aware of what they should & shouldn’t do, but many simply choose to ignore it all.

    Does every law need to be ENFORCED? Can’t drivers simply do what’s right?

  7. One time I had stopped on Valley near Quick Check/Nauna’s to let a man cross at the crosswalk. A woman in an SUV behind me started honking, and then drove around me. I was SURE she was about to hit the man, and I felt so helpless. Luckily, he noticed her, and after she drove off we both looked at each other in p disbelief. It’s only one lane in one direction, and traffic is pretty heavy. Not a smart move.

  8. Dear ts,

    Agree with the need for signage! In Montclair the administration fought AGAINST signage and just really didn’t want to do it! We are STILL hearing that signs just get in the way of emergency vehicles, etc.

  9. Cary, makes sense. Then the emergency vehicles can respond more quickly to the pedestrians that get hit in the unmarked crosswalks. Brilliant!

  10. I think “drive the speed limit, stop for pedestrians in crosswalks, and do not use your phone while driving” sums up the key goals well. That’s about the extent of what I agree with….not that my opinion matters because these are actually laws.

    To have a Council advisory committee leading a culture change strategy is, at best, overreaching. Culture changes require a change in value systems across a wide demographic. They committee should just focus on behavior and physical streetscape modification strategies.

    Education/awareness, more crosswalks, signage are all nice to do’s, but are insufficient to sustain anything more than minor change. When non-compliance to any combination of the key goals (laws) far surpasses fifty percent of the users of our roadways, it is not an awareness problem. It is not a signage problem. Actually, it’s not an enforcement problem…at least capability-wise. It certainly is not a problem specific to Montclair or New Jersey.

  11. Solution: AGGRESSIVE enforcement by MPD will create a “reputation” for the Town of “you better yield to pedestrians or you WILL get caught.” This, coupled with aggressive fines and penalties from the Courts. And not just for a day or two when we get special funding. Always. I don’t know police procedure so I don’t know if such a directive is possible

  12. Extremely dangerous streets for pedestrianns is the price that the public is paying for the township’s refusal to do traffic studies and address the current overage of traffic. (they have even commented that all of those extra cars are from the surrounding towns so we cant do anything about them….how obsurdly irresponsible, dangerous and ridiculous!). If the township were to perform the proper traffic studies, it would send their proposed master plan right to the garbage can….where it belongs.

  13. More than 50% of the MPD’s annual motor vehicle crash reports over the last 3 years are written up by the evening and midnight tours and which reflect a 12% increase, compared to only a 3% increase for the day tour. It would be interesting to understand how pedestrian-involved accidents correlate to these time of day numbers.

  14. I’m a bit dismayed that it took 14 posts on this topic before frankieg wormed it back around to the nexus of all evil on planet earth…you’re slipping, frankie…

  15. Will drivers never take responsibility for their own actions? Do we have to live under police threats in order to do what’s right?

    Clearly the answer is “yup. Make me!”

  16. Have to agree. At this point, there have been so many conversations about the issue & accidents & an outrageous amount of shared stories of “almost disasters” that it only needs to be thought of as an enforcement issue. Hope that MPD is represented at the meeting on 1/13 to discuss/hear/collaborate towards a solution.
    Happy new Year Everyone!

  17. agree with all of this but what about the other side – like the jackasses that can’t walk to a crosswalk on Valley Rd uptown – and jaywalk with an INFANT or TODDLER in tow?

  18. mike40: I believe that the answer to both sides is more ubiquitous enforcement. Unfortunately, I don’t see how this is humanly possible; we’ve more intersections than police officers.

    This is why I believe that automation – cameras at intersections – is necessary, along with a policy of using the images we capture for enforcement.

    Some people see this surveillance of intersections and crosswalks as a higher cost than the lives we’d protect. I am sympathetic to privacy concerns, but mitigating this in my opinion is that these intersections are all “in public”. There is therefore no reasonable expectation of privacy.

    A final point: I don’t know where you see these so-called “jackasses” crossing, mike40, but keep in mind that NJ has the concept of “unmarked crosswalks”. See https://www.state.nj.us/transportation/commuter/pedsafety/crosswalks.shtm for information. Drivers are required to yield to pedestrians in both marked and unmarked crosswalks.

    This means that pedestrians may cross using the unmarked crosswalk extending across Valley from southern sidewalk of Cooper with the same right of way as those in the marked crosswalk a very short distance to the north.

    I’m hoping that it is in unmarked crosswalks you’ve seen people crossing with children. It’s chilling to think otherwise, not just because of the immediate safety issue but the longer term issue of the unsafe example being set.

    …Andrew

  19. As long as we continue to educate people to what the law requires instead of what the reality is, people are going to die in record numbers. It really is that simple.

  20. mike40,
    It is actually safer in many locations to cross mid-block instead of at the intersections. I could give you examples, but just count up the number of fatalities in Montclair that occurred where 2 ton metal was suppose to yield to 150lbs of flesh.

  21. And mike40, it is very, very sad that the number of fatalities exceed the number of driving infraction points issued. Just perverted.

  22. “It is actually safer in many locations to cross mid-block”

    That’s interesting, and very possibly true. As a pedestrian, we’ve fewer directions in which to watch for threats when away from an intersection. Especially since we seem so liberal in our permitting right turns on red lights, perhaps we should build more mid-block crosswalks.

    …Andrew

  23. Here we go again. How many of these “our streets are so dangerous” post can we comment on before we see some change?

    My suggestion, which I’ve shared here for years has been the $200+ ticket and serious enforcement. Cary says it: “AGGRESSIVE enforcement by MPD will create a “reputation” for the Town of “you better yield to pedestrians or you WILL get caught.”

    Until then, we’ll continue to see folks speeding, being hit (I still see that woman FLYING over a car hood every time I look out my window).

    And killed.

    And folks crying about how we need to do something.

    (But in a town filled with self-important, VERY busy people, nothing will be done. So WATCH YOUR BACK!)

  24. Narrower roadways.

    They slow down traffic by the most effective means available: namely, using human psychology to ‘nudge’ drivers to slow down as a natural response to their driving environment.

    Here on B’net people generally claim that traffic crawls (or what suburban folks quaintly refer to as traffic “jams”) are the bane of Montclairions’ existence, and that we should be doing more to *widen* streets, *increase* parking, etc., etc. Research suggests that those things actually *increase* accident rates and pedestrian deaths.

    If Montclair got the reputation as a frustratingly difficult town to traverse in order to get from town A (i.e., some town other than Montclair) and town B (another non-Montclair locale)—–i.e., if our main arterials were converted to slower-moving roads that seem more “local” than regional——there’d be slower vehicle speeds overall, fewer accidents, and fewer pedestrian deaths.

    But yes, of course there’d be the frustration of more “traffic jams” if we followed this path.

    My opinion is that that would be a good trade-off, and that the quality of life in town would actually increase if our streetscape overall was designed to be less car-centric and more bike- and pedestrian-friendly. But then again, I’m not one of those Montclairions who races around town on a tight schedule while on their cell phones.

    https://vault.sierraclub.org/sprawl/articles/narrow.asp

  25. “…if our main arterials were converted to slower-moving roads that seem more “local” than regional…”

    Perhaps. I find myself skeptical of this, though. Gordonhurst is hardly a route between towns, yet people do seem to occasionally “miss” the stop sign at Fullerton. I have to assume that the majority of these people are local.

    Still, I’ve no trouble believing this for at least some streets. Making Grove safer to cross would be no small achievement, for example. On the other hand, wouldn’t making it more narrow make biking tougher? Or are you suggesting consuming some of the street with bike lane(s)? Do those offer the same benefits of narrowing?

    …Andrew

  26. “Lipstick on a pig” is a silly hand-sweeping cliche when you think about it.

    Let’s back up.

    The premise is this: lower traffic speeds = lower pedestrian, bicycle & motor-vehicle fatalities. I assume that no one is questioning this premise? It’s pretty well ironclad.

    As far as how you accomplish the goal of slowing traffic down, there’s no magic bullet. But traffic-calming design (of which road narrowing is one, though not the only, tool) is surely a useful component. There’s plenty of research to suggest that this is so.

    Here’s a list of some of the common tools used to calm traffic and reduce vehicular speeds:

    https://www.pps.org/reference/livememtraffic/

    For those who don’t buy that design is a key to slowing traffic and reducing fatalities, there’s this source—-The Center for Problem-Oriented Policing—-that has a more extensive set of possible solutions, including various enhancements to enforcement of existing speed limits:

    https://www.popcenter.org/problems/speeding/3

    Note especially the point made about increased fines. (Short version: they don’t work.)

  27. It’s fascinating to me how people cling to the notion that speed is the problem, as opposed to distracted driving. The number of texters/yakkers/ tv watchers is what’s frightening here.

    Special shout out to willjames for his continued supremely logical take on urban policy.! Thanks!

  28. Maybe you’re right about distracted driving, jcunningham.

    Speaking only from personal experience, the close calls I’ve had as a pedestrian are almost exclusively from two situations: a left-hand-turning driver not seeing me crossing from the far corner until s/he has already committed to the turn, and a right-hand-turning driver not seeing me on his/her right because s/he is attempting to make a right turn from a rolling stop, and is thus looking ONLY to his/her left.

  29. The Police would nab drivers every minute if they enforced the speed restrictions in this town. I agree, enforce the law and the word will get out that Montclair has a zero tolerance policy. Also, people need to actually get off their phones and watch where they are going. I almost was killed walking to the train the other day when a car went AROUND the car that stopped for me in the cross walk. It’s scary. Folks need to be careful!

  30. It’s fascinating to me how people cling to the notion that speed and distracted driving is the problem, as opposed to people just not caring about anyone but themselves.

    Almost got hit again tonight. It is really a weekly non-event now. A lot want to make believe the bad drivers are from out of town. But, if I see one more middle age dude/dudet in a SUV with a local school or a Mtc United magnet on his/her bumper acting like a self-absorbed dolt, I’ll just chalk it up to what makes Montclair so very special.

  31. @friedchix that’s why when you stop for a pedestrian you have to take up the whole road if you can- I see this more and more..

  32. “It’s fascinating to me how people cling to the notion that speed and distracted driving is the problem, as opposed to people just not caring about anyone but themselves.”

    —whoa. well, going existential really cuts down on the debate, doesn’t it? “It’s all a big nothing…”

    “Almost got hit again tonight. It is really a weekly non-event now..”

    —hmmm…that kind of regularity suggests alternative possibilities, or perhaps you are too self-absorbed to understand that you just might be the problem…

  33. The high-speed and drive-around pedestrian incidents are clearly a case of entitlement and self-absorption. No two ways about it. I’m not sure there’s a cure for such selfish driving behavior. But we know that pedestrian collisions result in fatalities at a much lower rate when the collision has occurred at 25 mph or lower. That’s my rationale for suggesting that we should incorporate design features on our roads that psychologically restrain people’s natural impulse to speed (and to pass on the inside).

    Regarding the left-turning vehicle situation—–the situation that has most often spelled a close call for me when I’m walking around town—–it should be acknowledged that the relative *lack* of pedestrians around town coupled with the “blind side” obstruction created by the car frame conspire to make *all* of us less aware of pedestrians crossing on the left when we’re turning left at an intersection. It may not be entitlement or me-first-ism at all. It may simply be that this isn’t much of a walkable town yet, and so it’s understandable that drivers aren’t always looking for pedestrians when they putt around town.

    (I say this as someone who nonetheless can’t help feeling angry when I’ve nearly been mowed down by someone making a left hand turn—–even people who make hand gestures or facial expressions that signal that they sincerely didn’t see me and regret causing me to jump out of the way.)

  34. jcunningham,

    Yes, I definitely am the problem. I walk a lot. Day and evening walks. Yesterday evening, I tried to be legal and cross at the 4-way stop intersection by Anderson Park. Normally, I avoid this location to cross. I always try to make eye contact with the drivers I’m crossing in front of, but it was dark and there was glare from headlights from the 3 cars at the intersection. Well, my mistake. I was stupid. I knew better, so, yes…I’m also the problem.

    It’s not a distracted driver problem as you insist. Montclair is actively encouraging the growth of pedestrians and bicyclists accessing roadways – roadways with objects traveling at a mix of speeds from 2mph to 40mph and various directions of travel. Aside from whatever enforcement will accomplish, the best option for non-vehicular users is separation. As much separation as you can.

  35. Sorry, am simply too busy to stop for anything and I have to get to where I’m going quickly.
    The laws apply to everyone but me.
    Catch me if you can coppers!
    (Gotta go, getting an important text. . .)

  36. I’m still trying to figure out how we are pulling in all these Walkable Community Awards when we are hitting pedestrians at a rate 40% higher than the State average.

  37. Why?…..Too many peeps per sq. ft.
    Too many J-walkers per sq. ft.
    Too many cars per sq. ft. doing 0 to 60.
    Too many distractions per….
    Maybe we should all move down to Bucktussle anywhere USA….Where everything is awesome and miles separate us all from killing each other.

  38. Frank, could it be that the percentage of us walking around town is proportionally higher than the state average?

  39. Likely. But, why give us an award for average…adjusted or not?

    Per MPD, majority of victims are between the ages of 8-25 and the majority of the drivers are between the ages of 25-50. So much for the youngest and oldest drivers being the problem.

  40. Crossing in between cars midway between the lights at Lorraine and Bellevue (say in front of Montclair Diner) and there is a green light for traffic on Valley. Is this an unmarked crosswalk?

  41. Yes, that is 1 of 5 unmarked crosswalks in U Mtc. There is one infant of CVS and 3 on Upper Mountain Ave by the each of the speed humps adjacent to Mountainside Park.

  42. What Montclair could use are curb bump-outs. Look it up! Here’s a picture: https://emersongarfield.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/curbbump.jpg

    They extend the curb at crosswalks to that the pedestrian is more visible to the driver, and the pedestrian has a shorter distance to cross the street.

    It also solves the problem where the vehicle behind the stopping car tries to pass on the right.

    I’m no expert but it also seems relatively cheap to construct compared to narrowing the entire street or putting up an signal.

    We already have this on the new South Park. Maybe in a few years this will spread to Grove, Elm, Claremont, or Valley?

  43. I think Montclair has the same level of people driving crappily as anywhere in NY… maybe the issue is that there’s an expectation that this will be a suburb where cars stop for every, single ped like we’re in a town of 5,000 that has 4 stop lights.

  44. Sorry Frank R, I must disagree with you, in that ANY intersection of streets where there is a corner, is considered an unmarked crosswalk… and crossing mid-block (*not* at a corner), unless within a marked crosswalk, is jaywalking. Or in other words, all corners are unmarked crosswalks. If you are at Cafe Clair and cross Watchung in the middle of the block to get to Boiling Springs Bank, you’d be jaywalking and should cross at either corner instead.
    See https://www.nj.gov/oag/hts/pedestrian.html

  45. Kay,

    My comment was tongue in cheek…and an opportunity to poke fun at my 1st Ward Councilor, the Essex County Director of Constituent Services, and the boss she works for .

    For the longest time, I have requested cross walks in Mountainside Park, but both the County and the Township have adamantly refused to do so for years. I only now understand that putting in x-walks would give our children a seriously misplaced sense of security. So, you see, our government officials are actually encouraging both adults and children to jaywalk because, in the most basic terms, it is safer. So, you are technically correct, but the reality is our government disagrees with you.

  46. Kay,
    I forgot to note that while Boiling Springs is in U Mtc, Cafe Clair is in Mtc. It is illegal to have a cross walk span two zip codes.

  47. Nothing like stopping for a pedestrian and having some a-hole blow by you, which typically happens on Valley by Starbucks/CVS. Watching the entitled SUV mommies and “hey look at me” mustachioed middle aged dudes in their mid range Mercedes purposefully talking on their mobiles…sport for the hands-free if you’re such a player… However nothing really beats the utterly clueless woman that literally stepped in front of my car on Valley near Northeast while carrying a baby and pushing a stroller. No kidding. Only god and the knowledge that we have lots of morons in town that don’t appreciate the laws of physics, and that stepping into traffic shouldn’t be a game of chicken prevented tragedy. Had I been Susie Soccer Mom chatting on my cell, this would have been headline news.

  48. Anyone that thinks this is a truly walkable, or especially bike-able community should have their head examined, ask any of the athletes walking their bikes up Bellevue, exhausted. The town is built into the side of a major hill, DUH… So stop kidding yourselves.

  49. deadeye, I’d recommend Watchung Plaza to you, if you are truly interested in finding a fine walkable area- a nice contrast to your other hobby on Baristanet — proffering theories that the overwhelming majority of Montclair residents are gullible fools in matters political and cultural, and now, apparently, fitness too. if you live near Watchung Plaza, you can walk to the bus, the train, Edgemont Park, Watchung School and playground, local stores and small businesses of all kinds — and all this within a few minutes, and on your preferred choice of topography — flat ground and bunny slopes. You can walk to the voting booth too, over in the Watchung School gymnasium where local moms with smiles sell coffee and bagels or cake on your way out after you’ve performed your patriotic duty.

  50. When my daughter was younger, I used to take her on what I called the “Tour de Parcs. First towing a bike trailer then on a tagalong. Starting at GR’s Forest Ave. playground then off to Brookdale Park then scooting up to Edgemont maybe stopping at Watchung Plaza for a bagel. Next stop Edgemont playground with maybe a final stop at GR Carteret playground. Needless to say I would sleep well that night but my daughter still reminds me of those days…..Priceless.

    You have to plan your routes and time of day, don’t ride at night unless you have a helmet and reflective vest (aimed at bike commuters).

    And most of all stay off of Ave. B unless you’re tired of living.

  51. PAZ,
    Yes, 1/3rd of pedestrian accidents happen along Bloomfield Ave.

    If the Pedestrian Safety Committee wants to look at something to change, follow the money from fines. I thought local enforcement would more than pay for itself , but half of fines go to the State…of which NJ annually dispenses via the PSEEF fund , in total, $350K to NJ’s 560 municipalities and other eligible organizations. There is actually a bill in committee to increase the fines $50, but the increase would go entirely to the state.

    It’s worse financially (less revenue) for the township when the municipal court allows pleading down to Unsafe Driving (and no points) for a higher fine.

  52. When the Montclair Police Dept and the County ran their sting operation at Bloomfield & Midland, drivers stopped for pedestrians in that cross walk. The sting project stopped, and so did compliance.

    Parsippany runs stings on a regular basis along US 46, Beverwyck Road, Smith Road, etc. Often enough that people know there’s a good chance the old guy walking across the street toward the bus stop is a cop. It’s amazing what consistent enforcement of rules does for compliance.

    Of course, ticketing people for crossing mid-block, out of crosswalk, walking against the light, etc would help compliance.

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