At a recent Town Board meeting, an audience member asked why we need sidewalks. There are two key reasons: safety and economic development.
Without sidewalks or crosswalks in our hamlet, and with a blind and dangerous S-curve, crossing the road is scary—especially for older pedestrians. New York State has the 3rd highest rate of pedestrian deaths in the country for people over 65. Older pedestrians take longer to cross the road and are often not as nimble at getting out of harm’s way. Part of the reason the state ranks so poorly for pedestrian safety is that New York spends fewer federal dollars on pedestrian and cyclist safety projects per capita than most other states. Ranking #44, NY spends 1% of federal funds ($0.73 per capita) on pedestrian safety, while 22.5% of New York traffic fatalities are pedestrians (over 21,000). Sidewalks and streetscape improvements can help slow down traffic, which is crucial for pedestrian safety. A pedestrian struck by a car traveling at 20mph has a 95% chance of survival, but if the car is travelling 40mph the pedestrian’s chance of survival drops to 15%. So, as a recent AARP editorial stated: “How do older pedestrians cross the road in NYS? Very carefully!”
Sidewalks also help to assure that all of those traveling through our hamlet will be encouraged to stop, park the car, and walk to our various shops—and hopefully spend money! A strong central hamlet provides local employment and local sales tax dollars. Many studies have shown that buying locally helps to assure that money is invested back into our community—instead of being shipped off to the owners of Walmart in Bentonville, Arkansas.
We’ve been talking about sidewalks for a long, long time, and they are coming….I promise! As Carleton Maybee’s article in the last Gazette stated, there are two separate projects—Phase One goes from the Town Hall to the rail trail. It looks as if Phase Two, which goes from the Reformed Church to the library will actually be constructed first—it is fully designed and approved by DOT and should go into construction this year. Phase One is still in the questionable pile. The segment from Town Hall to the rail trail has a very limited right of way and each of the adjacent property owners has given a small sliver of their land to the town so that the project could go forward (the Town can only work on Town-owned property). This right of way acquisition is a very lengthy process—and I’m incredibly grateful to the 13 property owners who have been cooperative….these sidewalks wouldn’t have happened without them.