By Jaimie Julia Winters
The number of pedestrians struck by vehicles on the streets of Montclair is not on the decline, according to a report issued by the town’s Pedestrian Safety Committee.
In 2018, 41 pedestrians were hit, including two which resulted in death, nearly identical to the 42 pedestrian hits in 2017. This is down slightly from 49 in 2016.
According to police reports obtained by Montclair Local involving pedestrian and bicyclist motor vehicle accidents for 2018, 16 bicyclists were also involved in accidents.
Twenty-four summonses were issued to drivers involved in pedestrian or bicyclist hits last year, according to those reports.
Nine of the accidents involving pedestrians were found to be the fault of pedestrian, according to the safety committee’s report.
The two deaths occurred in February and October of last year:
Last Feb. 24, a 26-year-old au pair from Israel living with a Montclair family was killed after the bus she had just stepped off of struck her around 6 p.m. on Grove Street.
On Oct. 31, a man was crossing Bloomfield Avenue near Montclair Kimberley Academy and Lloyd Road shortly after 6:30 a.m. when he was hit by two motor vehicles.
According to police reports, accident times varied throughout the day, clustered mainly in the timeframes of 7 to 10 a.m., mid-afternoon and 3 to 10 p.m. September saw the highest number of pedestrian-cyclists accidents at eight, with two involving bicyclists. March was close behind with a total of six incidents, three involving bicyclists. April, October and December saw five each.
Fifty-seven percent of the pedestrian crashes occurred while pedestrians were in the crosswalks, and about 37 percent of the motorists were making left-hand turns. Seven motorists left the scene of the accidents.
Three pedestrian accidents occurred while crossing guards were deployed, and two guards were sideswiped by motorists. In another incident, a child was clipped while crossing as a crossing guard stopped traffic, according to police reports.
In 2018, Grove Street’s speed limit was reduced from from 35 to 30 miles per hour by the county after township officials lobbied for the speed-limit change on the county-owned street. According to police reports, seven bike-and-pedestrian-involved crashes occurred on Grove Street last year, with four involving bicyclists and one resulting in a death.
Future measures for Grove Street could include widening of the painted median, encouraging a lower speed limit. The town is awaiting word from the county on that measure.
The township also received a $12,000 bicycle safety grant and $25,000 pedestrian safety grant in 2018, allowing police to conduct enforcement details, including decoy operations such as ‘Cops in Crosswalks’ — in which police dress as civilians and use the crosswalks to educate motorists on pedestrian safety.
The Bicycle Safety funds are used to enforce motorist violations against bicyclists in a “share the road’ effort. The grant is also used to enforce the importance of bike helmets.
Montclair’s Safe Streets Implementation Plan was completed and presented to the council and planning board in February 2018, but was never implemented.
That plan includes a menu of infrastructure upgrade options, depending on the type of street and traffic volumes.
Some of the options suggested include bike lanes or “sharrows” (share the ride areas); pedestrian islands; more visible crosswalks; and improved countdown signals at crosswalks. Other suggestions were transit upgrades and shuttle services to ease traffic.
A public survey conducted by a SAFE Streets steering committee, which included members of Bike Walk Montclair, Senior Advisory, Pedestrian Safety, the town planner, engineer and police departments, identified 12 areas in need of mobility improvements:
- South Segment: Claremont Avenue, Valley Road, Walnut Street/Park Drive, Forest Street, Label Street, Depot Square; Elm Street; and Park Street, The Crescent, South Fullerton Avenue, Union Street.
- Central Montclair: Grove Street, North Mountain Avenue, Park Street and Watchung Avenue.
- North Segment: Grove Street, Upper Mountain Avenue, Valley Road, Park Street and Bellevue Avenue.
According to police reports, in 2018 26 of the bike/pedestrian-involved incidents occurred in one of the 12 areas identified by the committee.
At the February 2018 planning board meeting where the Safe Streets plan was presented, members focused mainly on the bike paths with placement on streets they deemed unsafe — particularly Grove Street — and liability issues.
Upcoming issues for 2019 the Pedestrian Safety Committee include the recently approved Lackawanna Plaza redevelopment and pedestrian access, as well as cars making left turns off of Grove Street crossing two lanes of traffic, according to Alex Kent, chair of the Pedestrian Safety Committee.
With the loss of a full-time township engineer who was replaced with a consultant, Kent said the process for requesting speed humps, rapid flashing crosswalk beacons and four-way stops is unclear.
After the newly appointed engineer firm, Neglia, recently investigated the Van Vleck Street and North Mountain Avenue intersection, a four-way stop is expected to go up this week.
“The PSAC is encouraging the township to hire another full time engineer so that Montclair residents have a point person they can reach out to with traffic and safety concerns,” said Kent.
Montclair’s Pedestrian Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC) is an official township government advisory group which meets monthly to improve the safety of pedestrians and bikers in Montclair.
“As a suburb, Montclair is well suited for pedestrians with its many sidewalks and shopping areas, Kent said.