by Barrett Seaman
The trend is clear: biking and walking are in; driving—especially at high speed—is frowned upon in the rivertowns. Encouraged by state transportation authorities in anticipation of the major changes in traffic patterns that will come with the opening of the new bridge, local municipalities are making plans to encourage the former and crack down on the latter.
Meetings scheduled for June in Hastings and Tarrytown will invite public opinion on the plans to create a seamless bike route down Broadway, from Sleepy Hollow to Hastings. Separately, Sleepy Hollow’s Environmental Advisory Committee is planning an “Inner Village Walkability Workshop” on Saturday, June 10.
In Irvington, the Traffic Calming Committee (pioneer of the Slowdown Rivertowns campaign) has invited 6th to 12th graders to produce short Public Service videos (60 seconds max) on “Crosswalk Safety – Stop, Look, Wave” or “Nighttime Visibility”. The deadline for submissions will be June 5, and the winner (of a cash prize, no less) will be announced on Celebrate Irvington Day, June 18, and aired alongside one produced by the police department on the village’s government access channel.
As for those who continue to rely on combustible engines to get around, all the village police departments have been stepping up speeding enforcement. As of April 3, Irvington assigned one of its own to concentrate on traffic enforcement. Since then, Officer Patrick Crisci has issued 198 citations—about triple the number typically issued in that time frame.
Creating a well-defined, continuous bike lane from the area around Phelps Hospital all the way down Route 9 to the Yonkers border (see map, right) presents both logistical and, at least historically, jurisdictional challenges. The timing may be auspicious, however, given the interest shown by the New York State Department of Transportation and the New York Bridge Authority in keeping the communities near the upgraded Tappan Zee Bridge happy. Under the watchful eye of Governor Cuomo, the DOT has indicated a willingness to streamline the approval processes and cut down on red tape. “The bikeway,” observed Irvington Trustee Mark Gilliland, “is one such nod to address impacts on quality of life.”
In 2015, Sustainable Westchester applied for and won a $150,000 grant from the state to pursue the bikeway idea. That commitment, said Andrew Ratzkin, who chairs the steering committee organizing the June forums, “is an indicator that the state is not out of the box opposed to this.” Altogether, some $1.5 million in grants have been awarded to communities affected by the Tappan Zee replacement project.
The public is invited to attend a June 15 session on the bikeway concept at the Hastings Community Center, 44 Main Street in that village, from 7 to 9 p.m. A second session is scheduled between 1 and 3 p.m. the following Saturday, June 17, at Tarrytown’s Warner Library.
Under the rubric of the “Route 9 Active Transportation Conceptual Design Plan,” these meetings aim to bring together residents, merchants and government officials, along with transportation professionals to look at ways to provide a continuous bike lane that will make it safe and fun to get to shops and schools as well as to the cross-Hudson bike path that will be part of the new Tappan Zee Bridge. Public input is also requested on ways to improve sidewalks, crosswalks and intersections to make things safer for pedestrians. The addition of the bike lane will squeeze an already busy traffic corridor; those old four-lane stretches may well be a thing of the past.
With the similar intent of promoting more and safer foot traffic, the Sleepy Hollow workshop on June 10 from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. will offer a brief orientation session at Village Hall, to be followed by a walking tour, with stops at key intersections along Valley St, Cortlandt Street and Beekman Avenue. Participants will be invited to offer ideas at a granular level on how to encourage walking.
Irvington’s department is the latest along the river to dedicate an officer to traffic enforcement. In his new role, Crisci has widened his hunting ground for speeders and stop sign avoiders. In addition to the four-lane speedways along Broadway on both ends of the village, he has been prowling up and down Harriman Road, Station Road, and, at rush hour, on Main Street, where the new limit is a snail-paced 15 miles per hour. Areas of enforcement will vary according to the results of electronic monitoring. “This will definitely be data-driven,” said Police Chief Michael Cerone.
Because the village employs diagonal parking, Irvington pedestrians are at particularly high risk when attempting to cross Main Street. The Stop, Look and Wave public service campaign aims to encourage pedestrians tempted to dart out from between cars to stick to the crosswalks, make eye contact with approaching drivers and exchange waves so that both parties know their intent to cross. “You have the right of way as a pedestrian,” acknowledged Cerone, “but do you want to be dead right?”