Column: This is not a good sign

Mayor-MarvinAt the June Board of Trustees meeting, residents residing near the proposed Kensington Road development were in attendance to add their thoughts to a parking discussion.

In addition to dealing with the needs of the overnight parkers who will be temporarily displaced, which is a paramount issue for the village, we had a very informative give-and-take about speed, safety and traffic concerns.

The conversation prompted me to meet with our chief of police to review traffic standards and regulations in response to residents’ ideas.

As example, residents often suggest increasing the number of stop signs in the village as a way to slow traffic.

The village is guided by the Manual on Uniformed Traffic Control Devices. Decisions made contrary to their advice can impact liability.

The Manual on Uniformed Traffic Control Devices explicitly states that, “a stop or yield sign should not be used for speed control.” They are also not intended for a thru-street, only those with
intersections.

Historically, placement of stop signs that run contrary to the above guidelines have actually proven to increase speed as a result of drivers accelerating after coming to the stop. In addition, there is an increase in the incidence of rear-end collisions at locations of improperly placed stop signs.

Residents throughout the village also frequently ask for speed bumps, rumble strips or “rough road” in an effort to reduce speed.

Again, the village follows The Manual on Uniformed Traffic Control Devices and state and federal standards concerning the use of traffic calming devices.

Before any speed bump can be constructed, a traffic engineering study must be undertaken to determine both its necessity and proper location with accompanying data on traffic volume, speed and accident rates.

Even if proved helpful, a series of signs must be placed at intervals leading up to the bump in both directions and the bump and road markings required must be brightly painted. “No Parking” zones need to be created before and after the installed speed bumps. Speed bumps you see without this extensive signage and reflective paint are incorrectly installed, thus exposing a municipality to liability.

As for rumble strips or “road roughing,” there is no study that supports their use as an effective traffic calming device. Also, the noise made by vehicles crossing these rough spots is extremely loud and incessant to neighboring dwellings.

As an alternative, residents have suggested the village lower the 30 m.p.h. speed limit. Speed limits in New York are regulated by the state and 30 m.p.h. is the lowest permitted village-wide, save for 20 m.p.h. in school zones.

Only under very special circumstances can the village’s general speed limit be lowered to 25 m.p.h. Sagamore Road met this criteria and the limit was changed to 25 m.p.h. in 1998. So far, no other streets have met the data threshold.

The factual support required is a threshold level of traffic volume, speed and accident frequency. In the recent past, on request of residents, sections of Middle Road, Willow, Summit Avenue and Hobart Street have been reviewed. The resulting collected data did not meet minimum criteria for the exception.

But, since traffic conditions constantly change, the village will review and revisit areas of concern at the request of residents and collect required data.

Also, in the interest of safety, residents have proposed the use of “Children At Play” or “Slow Children” signs in child-rich neighborhoods. Again, The Manual on Uniformed Traffic Control Devices and state and federal traffic standards reject the use of these signs because they openly suggest that playing in the street is an acceptable safety practice. The signs also give parents, and especially children, a false sense of security as the sign is assumed to provide protection, when in reality, it does not. Studies demonstrate no evidence that these signs result in reduced pedestrian accidents or lower vehicular speed.

If the village placed these signs, it would imply the village condones children playing in the street and expose us to greater liability.

On the other hand, signs that alert drivers to nearby playgrounds are extremely beneficial because these parks, such as our own Sagamore Park, are often located in areas in which a reasonable driver would not expect a large group of children to be congregated.

The right of way in crosswalks is a frequently asked question, especially near our school zones.

When a pedestrian enters a designated crosswalk at an intersection that is not controlled by a stop sign or traffic light, the law gives pedestrians the exclusive right of way. The law not only requires the car in the immediate lane to stop, but also the cars traveling in the opposite directions. A good example of this would be the intersection near the former Botticelli Bridal Shop.

If the intersection at a crosswalk has a stop sign or traffic light as in the configuration near Rosie’s Restaurant, the pedestrian must obey the traffic control device and yield to cars as directed. Pedestrians crossing a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk must yield the right of way to all vehicles.

As in any case, if you think there is an issue of safety in your neighborhood, contact our police department and they will follow up.