Written by Chris Boyle Wednesday, 21 August 2013 00:00
There’s one thing Nassau County has a lot of, and it’s traffic.
Unlike Manhattan, which has a complex public transportation system to service its inhabitants, Nassau residents for the most part rely on their cars to get around, and in light of roadways that weren’t constructed to withstand today’s high traffic demands, vehicle and pedestrian safety is a concern -— especially in congested villages like Westbury.
Faced with rising vehicular fatality rates — according to the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, 84 pedestrians were killed on roads in Nassau between 2009 and 2011— County Executive Edward Mangano recently announced his Complete Streets program in a bid to make Nassau’s streets among the safest in the nation.
Complete Streets is comprised of a series of design and construction principles that will apply to future Nassau road projects. It includes paved shoulders and bicycle lanes, improved sidewalks, increased signage, crosswalks, pedestrian signalization and traffic calming methods designed to allow pedestrian and motor vehicles to safely coexist.
“Not only does this law encourage residents to walk, bicycle and take public transportation, it also helps create a situation that will relieve congestion and pollution caused by motor vehicles,” he said.
According to Nassau County Press Secretary Katie Grilli-Robles, the Complete Streets program is well on its way to becoming a reality not just in Nassau County, but throughout New York State.
“This policy has been passed on the state level, as well as our neighboring counties of Suffolk, Westchester, New York City, and the Towns of Hempstead and North Hempstead,” she said. “Complete Streets is a recognition that there are multiple users of our roadways and to further advance safety and the health advantages of walking and bicycling.”
The Complete Streets program will still take time to implement. And even when it becomes a reality, areas such as Westbury will still have to work actively to maintain traffic safety. One special group in particular has been doing so vigorously since it was first established in 1981.
The Westbury Public Safety Commission is an official village organization that investigates and makes recommendations to the Mayor and Village Board on safety-related issues.
While they mostly concentrate on traffic, their work extends to every aspect of safety.
“I think that steps that the Village Board has taken do make a lot of locations in Westbury safer but there are still some problems, mostly due to an increase in pedestrian and vehicle traffic,” said Gloria Monitto, long-time chairperson of the group. “One area that could use some attention is along Post Avenue.”
Westbury has between 15 and 25 vehicle accidents a month throughout the entire village; a low number, given its high traffic level. However, certain issues still present a hazard and need to be addressed, Monitto said. The Safety Commission is focusing efforts on education.
“We’re trying to get across the message that bicyclists, especially children, need to wear helmets. We have programs to help get kids helmets that don’t have them,” she said.
“We’re also working hard to spread the message about the danger of texting and driving, which is actually more dangerous than drunk driving.”
Monitto also said that a rising problem in the Westbury area and across Long Island is pedestrians crossing busy roadways without proper caution. Some of them are senior citizens, while others are intoxicated.
“It’s gone up all over the island in recent years,” she said. “Many of these people are actually drunk while crossing, and some senior citizens just don’t pay attention. We’re working on getting a program out there to address those problems.”