MONTCLAIR, NJ - The first public meeting of the Pedestrian Safety Committee (PSC) took place on Wednesday at the Pine Street Fire Station. Guests packed the room to hear a presentation on pedestrian safety and to come up with resolutions. 

Montclair's PSC was formed to develop strategies to reduce pedestrian and cyclist crashes. It is comprised of many partners working on various facets of traffic safety. During the working meeting, guests learned the facts about pedestrian safety in Montclair and worked toward creating resolutions by the close of the meeting.

Formed in 2013 to call attention to the increasing number of pedestrian and bicyclist accidents involving motor vehicles, the committee's goal was to develop strategies to reduce those numbers. Between 2003 and 2013, there were 247 New Jersey municipalities that did not have a fatal crash. In Montclair, between 2003 and 2013, approximately 446 pedestrians were involved in accidents in Montclair, seven of which were fatalities.

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The PSC is the brainchild of Second Ward Councilor Robin Schlager, who opened by explaining how she became involved with the traffic safety campaign in Montclair. "I thought something’s got to be done," she said. "I don’t think I could make a huge difference, but I could certainly educate people and help as best as I can.”

While running for council, Schlager added, "I came up with this campaign, ‘Drive with Care in Montclair.' Also simultaneously ‘Walk with Care in Montclair’ because it’s not only drivers, its pedestrians. I hope it does make a difference.”

Some past accomplishments of the PSC include:

  • Successful launch of ‘Drive with Care in Montclair’ campaign, which is designed to encourage safe driving behaviors through a variety of media.
  • Banners and flyers were produced, there was a televised forum, and publicized campaign.
  • Partnership were built with various stakeholders including Bike and Walk Montclair, Montclair Engineers, Partners for Health Foundation, and Senior Citizens Advisory Council.

Charles Brown, Senior Research Specialist with the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center of Rutgers University facilitated the meeting.

Also present, were Fourth Ward Councilor Baskerville; Kim Craft, Township Engineer; Sgt. Stephanie Egnezzo of the Montclair Police Department; Arnold Anderson, Coordinator of the Community Traffic Safety Program of Essex County and Pamela Scott, Executive Director of Partners for Health.

After a brief introduction and statistics regarding pedestrian safety, guests were asked to gather in groups around the room and to come up with ideas on ways that Montclair can implement pedestrian safety around the town.

In Montclair, guests learned that between 2003 and 2013, there was an average of 41 pedestrian crashes per year, with most of the crashes that occurred in Montclair many more happened in November and on a Wednesday. Many of the crashes occurred during ‘clear’ weather conditions and Brown said, “…that is because people drive more carefully when the weather conditions are poor and there are less pedestrians out on the streets.”

While 63% of the Montclair crashes happened during daylight hours, ¼ happened in the dark when street lights were present. 90% of the crashes occurred when the posted speed limit was 25MPH. while 55% of the crashes happened at intersections, 45% did not. Also, in 96% of the crashes, alcohol was not a factor.

The largest amount of pedestrian-involved crashes between 2003 and 2013 occurred on Bloomfield Avenue (23.62%) and the second largest was Valley Road (9.27%).

Brown told guests that Montclair is ahead of most towns in the state of New Jersey regarding proactivity around pedestrian safety.

During the 2 hour session, two special guests shared their stories about how they were injured while crossing the street.

Rebecca Harris Lee was in the audience. She was hit as a pedestrian on Grove Street and Lorraine in December 2011, four blocks from her home. She said, “I had a broken pelvis, broken arm and a concussion. …There was a commuter bus that stopped and as I went into the crosswalk, a car passed the commuter bus and then hit me in the crosswalk.” Lee said that the driver of the bus and car were both issued summons. They are going to trial at this time. “Something that I learned is that before my accident, I had such a false sense of security regarding crosswalks and pedestrian safety in Montclair. Since I was recovering from my injuries, one of my lifelong goals was to run a marathon no matter what. I did, I ran a marathon.”

Another guest, Hunter Finan, a 16 year old Montclair High School Student was hit by a car four months ago. “To this day, I am always scared to cross the street and when I get into the car, I’m always holding onto the handle.” Finan endured a dislocated shoulder and his tooth that protruded through his lip had to be surgically removed. Although Doctors told his mother that he has recovered so quickly because of his age, he continues to recover from the psychological damage that the accident has caused him. Finan added, “I’m noticing a lot more people doing the wrong thing in the car and every time I see a car coming toward a car that I’m in, I kind of lose it a little.”

Finan wanted to send a special message to people to, “Drive safely and do your best to know the law.”

The meeting closed with guests reporting out what next steps each group decided to implement.

The gathering was perfect timing and coincided with the International Bike and walk to School Initiative that Montclair Public Schools and Bike & Walk Montclair participated in on Wednesday.

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