OUR GOAL: MAKING GRAND ISLAND PEDESTRIAN FRIENDLY
So many of us are heartbroken because of the tragic car accident that occurred this week on East River Rd. The victim is such a lovely woman. I do not know her well personally, but in all my interaction with her she has been so kind. I felt especially saddened when I learned that it was her that had been hit. Please keep her and her family in your prayers.
WE HAVE A PROBLEM
This tragic event highlights an ongoing issue on Grand Island. The Island infrastructure was designed in a car-centric era, not a pedestrian friendly era. There are so many dangerous roads, and that we can’t fix them all overnight. But we can continue pushing for better pedestrian safety.
The Sidewalk / Bike path / Trail committee (the “committee”) has been working on these issues. In fact, just hours before the accident we had an emotional meeting where we talked about East River Road and other problem areas on Grand Island.
The committee is creating a process, based on common sense and consistency with Town Code, by which to select areas where sidewalks are needed. Alternatives such as bike paths or widened shoulders are also being considered.
There are 3 main areas of immediate concern.
1. Fill missing links—gaps in otherwise complete sidewalk systems in mature subdivisions;
2. Improve dangerous areas with high pedestrian traffic that connect subdivisions (through bike paths and widened shoulders); and
3. Creating a safe town center.
FILL THE MISSING LINKS
We can start almost right away with the low-hanging fruit: missing links. These are small, easily-attainable chunks of sidewalk that will enhance neighborhood conductivity. This will allow children to walk to bus stops, families to stroll around subdivisions, and the elderly to have a hazard-free walking areas.
The idea currently floated is to have the committee identify spaces on a priority basis, and to then require the homeowners, after notice and opportunity to be heard, to install sidewalks. I will ask the Town Board to consider and approve the committee's approval.
FOCUS ON THE DANGER ZONES
At the same time, we must focus on the danger zones on larger roads with hefty foot traffic that connect smaller subdivisions and community hubs (parks and schools) to each other.
One such zone is the Ransom Road and Stoney Point intersection area, including the section of Bedell from Stoney to Baseline. Parts of Whitehaven, as well as the section of Love from East River to Baseline are also target zones (maybe a stencil will suffice).
Maybe the most important zone is the section of East River from Staley to Scenic Woods. It's also the most challenging. But we can do it.
How we do pay for this? We will need grant money. Thankfully, money, such as transportation alternative ("TAP") grants, is available. For example, we are working to put East River on the priority list for roads that need to be urgently addressed, so when TAP money is disbursed, we will receive priority.
CREATE A SAFE TOWN CENTER
We must also continue working towards a safe town center. We already received a million-dollar grant to install sidewalks along Grand Island Blvd. to start making the town center pedestrian friendly. Ideally, the whole town center, including Baseline and Grand Island Blvd, will be safely walk-able one day soon.
This is an urgent issue. Paths and sidewalks are not frivolous expenditures. They matter for our health and well being. The accident this week was not the first on East River. People want to walk by the water without fear of cars. It's a natural attraction. That's why I pushed so hard for the West River Project. All of this is something that has been ignored for far too long.
I can't fix it all tonight, or tomorrow, or even next year. But the good news is that we finally started working on it, and not a day too soon for Grand Island. Also, this is not simply a goal of the committee, but a crucial feature embedded directly into our comprehensive long-range planning process: THE MASTER PLAN.
But please be aware whenever we have these debates about sidewalks or paths, someone says "NO." They say, "not in my front yard, not on my dime, and not there." When those fights happen, please help me to work on solutions and not just throw up obstacles. We can't say "good" is "good enough" any more. We need the collective will to improve.
Thank you reading. Let's make our roads safe--for everyone.