B. R. A. K. E. S.
Group of Westfield NJ
Bikers Runners And Kids Expect Safety
Memo from: Sara Strohecker
Re: Year-End Report---Safety Committee/BRAKES
Date: June 7, 1999
When we started the school year, The BRAKES Group aimed to win an N.J.D.O.T. award, recruit members to represent every school in the Westfield school system, raise awareness and improve safety. We achieved our goals and more, and in doing so expanded our parameters for success. The accomplishments have been bittersweet. Two horrible tragedies defused those agents that had been resisting our efforts for change. As a result, we realized more cooperation from govemment entities and a tremendous amount of publicity that helped us raise awareness. We will continue to fight complacency and be vigilant about traffic enforcement.
I have divided this report into major headings, however the nature of our goals and actions results in them being synergistic.
Crossing Guard Gloria M. died this past Fall. She was a 30-year veteran and one of the crossing guards who received the first of the personal plaques given to commemorate service. Also, her name is engraved on the piaque that is posted in the police station. I am glad that we did not wait until September to hold the first ever Crossing Guard Recognition Ceremony as was the request of the police dept. Reading her obituary we saw what our simple act of recognition meant to one person at what had become the end of her life.
ENFORCEMENT: Wilson School adults continue to operate in a safe manner thanks to the ticketing and sign placement completed by Dierdre and Lauren last Spring. Since Wilson School has become exemplary in its use of signs and tickets we agreed that we should duplicate its success at all our schools. We designed a check list for traffic flow, signs and striping that each school representative (from BRAKES) completed. Signs that are missing or in need of updating will be ordered. As each school has all appropriate markings indicating where one can legally park, drop off, etc., then we can issue warnings and ask the police to ticket those offenders who ignore the traffic laws. By May all the schools had been compieted and the data was compiled. Next step is to identify where we need the town council to pass ordinances to change the signs around the school zones.
POSTER CONTEST: It was agreed that we would run a no-frills contest with a focus on CROSSWALK SAFETY. BRAKES was founded because kids weren't safe in the crosswalks and that condition is still too prevalent two years later.
BIKES: Despite a week of rain, Sgt. Geis stated he felt there were more bikes this year than in a very long time. Wilson had 50 bikes versus an average of 30 to underscore his observation. Maybe parents are feeling more confident in traffic improvements and are letting their kids ride more. Whatever the reason, it's a great trend (if it is a trend). Again we initiated the 30% off coupons for helmets from local cycle stores.
PR/COMMUNICATION: We received tremendous coverage in Newark Star Ledger, The Record Press, The Courier-News, the WHS student newspaper (Hi's Eye) and the The Leader. We are disappointed that we have not received more cooperation from The Leader in helping us raise awareness about safety conditions but The Record Press and other newspapers make up for the Leader's weakness in reporting "hard news."
CONSULTANTS: The first meeting with the D.O.T. consultants was held the week before the school vacation. it was a great meeting. The attendees included: Dr. Foley, Martin Robbins (the town planner) Sgt. Carl Geis, Tom Jardim, Ken Marsh (dept. of public works), a woman from the Union County Traffic Office, 3 people from the N.J.D.O.T. and two people from the private consulting firm whose services we have been awarded. The DOT project is to cover the Central Business District (CBD) and two other locations: school zones. The DOT study is expected to take six months. At the end of it, the study will be published, recommendations for improvements made and (according to the administrative manager of the project) information about where said improvements can be funded through Trenton.
STUDY: The RBA Traffic Calming Study started in January. Part of their study is to implement two test sites. With the help of Dr. Foley, the group determined that the two most dangerous places for pedestrians in the town are at Edison Middle School/Field house on Rahway avenue AND the armory/high school zone. Rachel, Deirdre, Lauren and Sara are on the advisory committees for the DOT study and the RBA study. Rachel and Deirdre have attended the first set of meetings.
COUNCIL: Met with newly elected council person Carl Salisbury. He reviewed some of his goals as head of Parking and Transportation Committee. He acknowledged some of our concerns (leaves in the streets, speeding, lack of enforcement, parking/congestion, etc.) though had no immediate answers except to bring them before the town council.
COUNCIL MEETINGS: BRAKES members attended and spoke at many Town Council Meeting held during Jan., Feb., and March. Lauren spoke to council about enforcement issues and serious pedestrian hazard at the Temple. Madeline spoke about the continuing hazard of leaf piles in the streets. Sara addressed the enforcement (or lack thereof) issue and asked the council to make a commitment to adopt a plan of enforcement that is measurable and has accountability. The police and town council iater published their enforcement plan and distributed it through the Westfield School system.
After the second pedestrian fatality, the tenor of the town meetings changed dramatically. Suddenly the police and other nay sayers were willing to act on our suggestions and respect the BRAKES members and citizens who were requesting change. Among others, two victims of pedestrian accidents spoke as did a representative from the Temple. All asked for action in the form of heightened awareness. Common request was for traffic lights with pedestrian-activated crossing signs. More stop signs and other traffic calming techniques were suggested as well as better lighting on dark crosswalks. Ken Marsh gave a great synopsis of what has been done and is planned from the public works dept. THANKS to all the BRAKES members and concerned citizens who took the time to attend.
MASTER PEDESTRIAN SAFETY DANGER MITIGATION PLAN: This was a monumental task. Lauren and Deirdre did a great job of organizing, delegating, collecting and inputting the data. This has enabled us to minimize the data gathering time/effort the consultants will need and maximize the analysis and planning time. It is comprehensive but not complete since we are working with a fluid subject. It does, however, address everything from speed enforcement to overgrown shrubbery that create visual hazards. We are confident that many of our suggestions will be acted upon by the persons or institutions responsible.
SECOND CROSSING GUARD RECOGNITION PROGRAM was a success. Representatives from every school were present. Unfortunately the guard who was to be singled out and recognized (the one in front of Edison school) did not attend. Tom and Carl presented it to him on his post that afternoon. Thank you to the PTA's who funded the breakfast and to Dr. Foley's secretary, Joanne who executed the food delivery.
EDUCATION CAMPAIGN: May 1, directly after the poster contest ceremony, Mayor Jardim and other BRAKES members distributed yellow flyers of Driver's Rights, Pedestrian Rights. We handed out well over 100 flyers throughout the CBD. Most people were using the crosswalks and about 50% of the time, drivers stopped for them.
CONSULTANTS: NJDOT: Jim Hess met with us as a group and with individual focus groups organized by Rachel and Debbie at Tamaques and Franklin, respectively. Compared to the RBA/Rahway Ave. project, this one is moving more slowly. However it is moving and Jim believes we are only 1-2 months behind schedule. He is studying the sites and preparing his initial assessment report that he hopes to finish by the end of May.
It has been a very busy year. We will continue to work through the schools and with state and local government to improve the infrastructure and increase awareness for the safety of our children and all the residents of Westfield.
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