By Kelly Nicholaides
for Montclair Local
Vehicles that pass around cars stopping at crosswalks for pedestrians, speeders and other roadway hazards contribute to Montclair’s pedestrian and bicycle crashes. Last year, more than 50 people packed a town meeting for a proposal to lower the speed limit on Grove Street from 35 to 30 miles per hour. In May, two children in crosswalks were grazed by motorists.
These and other areas of Montclair will be targeted in a police enforcement effort to reduce accidents. The mayor and council passed resolutions asking the Director of Local Government Services to approve a $12,000 Bicycle Safety Grant and $25,000 Pedestrian Safety Grant to be inserted into the 2018 budget. The funding will be used for police enforcement.
Montclair Police Department Traffic Bureau Commander Lt. Stephanie Egnezzo said the township is fortunate to have received both grants each year for some time through the Division of Highway Traffic Safety.
“They are grants to conduct individual officer enforcement details in addition to decoy operations [‘Cops in Crosswalks’] to improve pedestrian safety,” Egnezzo said. “The Bicycle Safety grant funds are to enforce primarily motorist violations against bicyclists in an effort to promote an environment in which all road users share the road. We also stop bicyclists to educate on the importance of helmets The Bicycle Safety funds are also used to provide officers for traffic safety when conducting the ‘Pop Up Bike Lanes’ on Walk/Bike to School days.”
Some of the monies from each grant are also earmarked to purchase commodities such as printed educational materials to be distributed and posted, she noted.
“The MPD works in conjunction with the NJ Street Smart campaign and we just purchased banners and posters that will be going up around town and the schools to promote pedestrian and bicycle safety,” Egnezzo said.
The Montclair Pedestrian Safety Committee, which formed in 2013 “to call attention to the increasing number of pedestrian and bicyclist accidents involving motor vehicles” develops strategies to reduce those numbers. The group teams with Montclair Safe Routes to School, Health and Wellness Partnership, Montclair Township Police and Engineering departments, Partners for Health Foundation, Bike&Walk Montclair, Essex County Community Traffic Safety Program and community members.
According to the Committee’s 2015 report, between 2003 and 2014, there were 479 crashes resulting in pedestrian injury and 8 fatalities. The peak times of occurrences are from 3 p.m. to 5:59 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 8:59 p.m., the report shows. Additionally, 79 percent occurred during “clear” weather and 55 percent occurred at intersections, and 23 percent occurred on Bloomfield Avenue.
In 2016, there were seven pedestrian accidents involving individuals ages 18 and under in Montclair.
Solutions suggested included lowering speed limits, reevaluating areas where motorists can turn right on red and police enforcement.