More than two dozen residents and village, county and law enforcement officials gathered at Sip This on Jan. 10 to discuss ways to make roads and sidewalks safer for pedestrians and cyclists in Valley Stream.
“We need to re-evaluate our streets and humanize them,” event organizer Allison Blanchette said. “And part of that is redesigning them so that we can stop the crashes and stop the injuries and the fatalities.”
Blanchette is part of a traffic safety advocacy contingent called Long Island Streets. The group works to eliminate crashes involving pedestrians and cyclists by conducting traffic studies and working with local officials to see what can be done to make streets, bus stops, sidewalks and trails safer and more accessible.
Long Island Streets partnered with Sip This, Village Trustee Vincent Grasso, the New York Coalition for Transportation Safety, Nassau County police and community partners to host the discussion. Attendees included residents of Valley Stream and nearby communities; village Superintendent of Buildings Tom McAleer; Sgt. Rick Janotha of the NCPD’s 5th Precinct; Dan Flanzig, a lawyer who represents cyclists and pedestrians; representatives of State Sen. Todd Kaminsky and County Legislator Laura Curran; and David Sabatino, of Valley Stream, the owner of Sip This.
“We have a very rich history of walking and cycling in Valley Stream that goes back very, very long,” Sabatino said, noting that the number of pedestrians has increased over the past decade, which has led to more incidents.
Blanchette said that short-term fixes include installing crosswalks with high-visibility markings and addressing the volume of right turns on red that are allowed by law.
In the interest of setting long-term goals, Blanchette implored the village to conduct a traffic study to determine the community’s most hazardous areas. She added that creating a comprehensive planning document to focus on restructuring the streets should be another priority.
One area that the group agreed to focus on first is the intersection of Merrick Road and South Franklin Avenue, where 12-year-old Zachary Ranftle was struck and killed by an SUV in December 2014. “The sad thing is that intersection has not been treated,” Blanchette said. “There has been nothing done to that intersection — despite the crashes, despite the injuries and fatalities.”
Education was also a point of emphasis, Blanchette said, and she cautioned that not enough is being done to teach drivers about pedestrian safety. To combat this, she plans to work with county and village officials to post public service announcements on their websites.
Ian Wraith, of Valley Stream, said he believes many problems stem from drivers being too reckless. “Drivers are getting crazy,” he said. “I see people running lights on a daily basis, and they’re definitely driving faster.” He added that installing more four-way stop signs and syncing stoplights could help combat the problem.
Blanchette said that the next step would be for her group to take a walking tour of Valley Stream within the next two weeks to find the biggest problem areas. She added after the meeting that she was confident that the right people were there to urge the county and village to take action.
“People are ready for this,” Blanchette said. “I thought that we’d have to explain a little more, but people are on board. They’re ready. They’re sick of it.”