That is what the mother of the 13 year-old who was struck in a crosswalk on Main St in the Village of Pittsford in February said when she heard the news about a pedestrian being struck and killed at a crosswalk just outside the Village on Wednesday night.
Shortly after we moved to the village, a friend said “What is it going to take for them to make it safe to cross the streets around here? Someone dying in a crosswalk?”
Sadly, that’s exactly what happened this week. On Wednesday night, a 77 year-old man died after being hit by a car in the crosswalk at Sunset and S. Main St. around 9PM.
Back in February when a 13 year-old was the victim of a hit & run while crossing Main St, we said “If a Hit & Run on Main St Doesn’t Make You Mad As Hell, It Should.” The death of this 77 year-old man should send you yelling and screaming to Town Hall and the offices/mailboxes/inboxes of your elected officials. Every. Damn. Day. Until something — anything: paint, signs, lights — is done to start moving the needle toward safer streets for EVERYONE who uses the streets in Pittsford, regardless of their mode of transportation. Our community streets should be designed for people, not the cars some of them drive.
People who use that crosswalk at Sunset & S Main know the perils of crossing there. There is only a sidewalk on the east side of S. Main. If you are walking to the village or neighborhoods on the other side of S. Main, you have to cross there (unless you want to walk in the shoulder and face oncoming speeding traffic.) That crossing is the connection between the east and west sides of S. Main. The next marked crossings are at the intersections at Jefferson and at Stone Rd (each about a half a mile in either direction).
Likewise, people who drive past that crosswalk regularly know that it is rare for a motorist to notice, let alone stop for a pedestrian waiting to cross there. They say it’s impossible to see people waiting to cross or in the crosswalk until it’s too late. And when they do stop, many other motorists honk, nearly rear-end or try to pass around them.VISUAL CUES
There is a faint crosswalk at Sunset and S. Main.
The road is wide with a big comfortable shoulder (with no bike lanes, although there is plenty of room; but that’s another blog post).
There is a huge wide sweeping curb (with no real curb to stop a driver from venturing out of the road) with an even wider shoulder on the corner of Sunset and S. Main. HUGE.
There is a sidewalk only on one side of S. Main.
There are no prominent street lights on either side of the street at the crossing. Even drivers who are looking for a pedestrian can’t see them waiting patiently.
Everything about that intersection and crossing says “This is a place for driving only. And, we made it nice and comfy for you to drive through at a fast pace.“
THE PROBLEM: people live there. They, in fact, live right ON those streets that are made for driving only. It’s a neighborhood with kids and dogs and trash cans and scooters. It’s not a highway or some arterial road whose only purpose is to connect drivers from one place to the next.
Speeding was not a factor in the crash that occurred Wednesday night. The driver of the vehicle was driving 30 mph, well within the 35 mph speed limit on that stretch of road.
But vehicle speed is always a factor in the lives of pedestrians. And our policies, enforcement and street design impact speed. It is true that the driver in this case was not exceeding the speed limit and did not break the law. But a 35 mph speed limit on a neighborhood street is well over the threshold of what the human body can handle if hit by a vehicle.
A pedestrian hit by a car going 30 mph has a 50% chance of survival. At 40 mph? A 10% chance. That chance decreases if the pedestrian is young or old, such as the 77 year-old in Wednesday’s crash or the many kids we have using our streets.
A driver who is traveling at a slower speed also has more time to react. If you are driving only 25 mph, you can stop completely in 100 feet. If you are going 40 mph, you need 235 feet to stop. So if you spot a pedestrian 100 feet ahead, you will hit him/her at a speed of 36 mph.
There is currently a bill in the NYS Senate that authorizes the Village to lower the speed limit to 25 mph. This alone won’t make our streets safer, but it is an important part of the solution that also involves better design, enforcement and education.
Read more about Why How Fast You Drive on Our Village Streets Matters.
We do not have a culture of road sharing in and around the Village. We have a culture that prioritizes driving. The road design encourages high speeds. The heart of the Village was sacrificed as a pass-through as the town sprawled outward. And we have lots of people who drive through our community that don’t ever use anything but the car as transportation.
We have a choice to make. We can continue to let our roads be highways and give in to the car-first design mentality that overtook our streets in the 80s and 90s. Or we can inconvenience drivers a little bit (not even a lot a bit; just a few minutes extra as they commute through our streets).
We can’t have it both ways. If we want safer streets for everyone who uses our streets (including drivers), it does mean that we as drivers will be inconvenienced more than we are right now. We will lose 30 seconds when we stop for a pedestrian. We will lose 35 seconds when we have to drive 25 instead of 40 on Monroe Ave through the Village. We might have to leave a few minutes earlier for work. But the trade-off is safer streets.
We have not yet made that choice.
WHAT TO DO NOW
It starts with those of us who drive, walk and cycle. Be alert, courteous, and mindful road sharers and users.
- Make Your Voice Heard
Pittsford Town Supervisor, Bill Smith, (585) 248-6220
Village of Pittsford Mayor, Robert Corby, (585) 586-4332
Monroe County Sheriff, Patrick O’Flynn, 585-753-4178
New York State Senator Rich Funke, (585) 223-1800
New York State Assemblymember Joseph Errigo, (585) 218-0038
New York State DOT Regional Director Kevin Bush*, (585) 272-3310
(Rt 64 is a state road; any changes to it need to be approved by DOT)
*see note from Bill Smith below
UPDATE FROM TOWN SUPERVISOR, BILL SMITH as of 7/25:
Supervisor Smith directed the Pittsford Highway Commissioner and Highway Department to install signs on either side of the crossing at Sunset. In preparation to install the “Pedestrian Crossing” signs this morning, the State DOT intervened, ordering them to stop. Following discussion, State DOT permitted them to place a rubber cone in the middle of the road, such as we have on pedestrian crosswalks in the Village. It lasted an hour before being run over and destroyed. The Town will replace it.
Supervisor Smith encourages those who care about this issue to contact the regional office of the State DOT. The Regional Director is Kevin Bush at (585) 272-3310. When contacting DOT, please remember not to demonize or accuse anyone, as it would be counter-productive. A better approach is to ask for their help with a pressing issue, expressing willingness to work with them to produce the desired outcome for public safety. We need to all work together in order to improve this intersection and for other infrastructure changes that will make our community safer for pedestrians and cyclists.