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Jul 24, 2012 5:33 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

In East Hampton And Southampton, Trying To Share The Roads Safely

Jul 26, 2012 1:10 PM

Education, engineering, enforcement—experts call them the “three E’s” of traffic safety, Thomas Neely, Southampton Town’s public transportation and traffic safety director, said late last week. It was a topic on his mind: It was only 10:25 a.m., and Mr. Neely had already fielded four phone calls from people concerned about the safety of their streets.

The concern is prompted by several incidents this summer involving pedestrians killed by vehicles. On July 9, Sister Jacqueline Walsh was killed by a hit-and-run driver while walking in Water Mill on Rose Hill Road. On June 23, Jeffrey Ahn, 17, was killed by a taxi that struck him as he walked with his friends along Old Stone Highway in Amagansett.

The two accidents were very different: Police are searching nationwide for the driver who hit the woman known as Sister Jackie and then fled the scene; meanwhile, the layout of the road itself has been postulated as a contributing factor in the death of Jeffrey Ahn, for which no charges were filed.

Nevertheless, those deaths have left some people asking whether roads on the South Fork could be made safer for bicyclists and pedestrians, particularly in summer when there are so many more people to share them.

On July 16, the East Hampton Town Police Department and the East Hampton Town Fire Chiefs Association took the unusual step of issuing “a midsummer reminder for the citizens and visitors to eastern Long Island.” The release focused on the “education” part of the Three E’s: Walk against traffic, and use a sidewalk if there is one. Ride a bike single file with traffic, stay on the road shoulder, and abide by stop signs and other traffic control devices. Be patient and careful when driving. Pull over for emergency vehicles.

In Southampton Town, Mr. Neely spoke to the “engineering” component of the equation: Sidewalks reduce pedestrian accidents by 88 percent, shoulders reduce pedestrian accidents by 70 percent, and shoulders reduce overall accident rates by 25 to 29 percent, he’d said in a PowerPoint presentation he gave to the Southampton Town Board in 2010. “Shoulders and/or sidewalks make roads safer for everyone,” he concluded.

Mr. Neely subscribes to a “complete streets” philosophy, which at essence, he says, is: “When you build a road, you have to have everybody in mind, not just cars and trucks.” Southampton Town, which adopted a complete streets policy about a year ago, has completed an inventory of features like sidewalks and bike lanes and will look next to see where more may be needed.

Mr. Neely said he was preparing his presentation when he found approximately 30 fatalities involving motor vehicles over a period of 36 months. “If these were murders, I think you’d be hearing a lot more about it,” he said, adding that “any fatality is one too many.”

Suffolk County has one of the highest road fatalities rates in the state, Mr. Neely noted. Countywide, 32 pedestrians were killed in motor vehicle accidents in 2008, 29 in 2009, and 34 in 2010, the most recent year for which information was available, according to Southampton Town Police Captain Robert Pearce, who is a member of the Suffolk County Traffic Safety Board. Countywide, 10 bicyclists were killed in 2008, five in 2009, and four in 2010.

Capt. Pearce said there has been an increase in the number of people using bicycles as a mode of transportation in the last decade or so, particularly among the immigrant community, and including those who ride at night—a trend traffic safety professionals have been observing with a degree of concern.

In 2008, there were 502 crashes involving personal injury or death in Southampton Town, according to the State Motor Vehicle Department; 678 people were killed or injured in those incidents. In 2009, there were 460 such crashes, injuring or killing 639 people. The numbers in 2010 were 408 and 589, respectively. The data do not distinguish pedestrians or bicyclists from drivers and passengers.

In East Hampton Town in 2008, there were 166 crashes involving injury or death, and 230 people injured or killed. There were 159 crashes and 210 casualties in the year 2009, and 162 crashes and 216 deaths or injuries in 2010.

According to Mr. Neely, pedestrians and bicyclists account for approximately a quarter to a third of the fatalities in motor vehicle accidents. A pedestrian hit by a car traveling at 10 mph has about a 15 percent chance of dying, he said, while at 30 mph the likelihood leaps to 85 percent.

“I’m a big proponent of sidewalks where appropriate,” he said, but he added that, with 450 miles of road, deciding where to put them can be “a real challenge.” Rose Hill Road in Water Mill, for example, where Sister Jackie was killed, was “not what I would have called a high priority for a sidewalk,” Mr. Neely said—a sentiment echoed by Alex Gregor, the Southampton Town highway superintendent, who said that her death on that street “makes no sense at all.”

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just yesterday I began to pull away from a stop sign. next thing I knew, a bicyclist blew a stop sign and ran right across the nose of my truck.

not the first time I have seen a cyclist faill to yield, and I'm sure it won't be the last...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jul 26, 12 9:15 AM
So now you know to make a full stop- stay off your phone and texting. Check both ways before proceeding and slow down
By realistic (472), westhampton on Jul 26, 12 9:28 AM
What part of "began to pull away" did you not understand?

I was at a full stop. By the way today's counts before lunch are as follows: drivers observed on cell phones: 27
moronic moves: 6
idiotic moves: 0

Remember, it's a weekday. Those counts are always far higher.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jul 26, 12 12:12 PM
1 member liked this comment
Could you differentiate between a moronic and an idiotic move? I'd like to keep a similar tally.
By bchgrl83 (52), Westhampton Beach on Jul 26, 12 1:38 PM
Well, rolling with the Binet scale moronic moves mean it was stupid but chances are you'll get away with it and I will react in time.

Idiot usually means you're lucky I didn't shred your vehicle like tinfoil, because most likely I in my vehicle would walk away without a scratch.

Seeing someone with a cellphone glued to their ear, that's pretty concrete. Also, I meant the weekend counts are usually higher. Ocassionally Sunday is worse than Saturday. The numbers often catch up ...more
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jul 26, 12 8:10 PM
Well I appreciate the time you took. Obviously- the Binet scale is applied here. You're a pissa Mr. Z, a real pissa. I like that. I couldn't agree more, the weekend counts are so much higher, Sundays are tricky - even for the early morning stroll for a cup of coffee. It's treacherous out there. Safe travels.
By bchgrl83 (52), Westhampton Beach on Jul 26, 12 10:49 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jul 28, 12 5:46 AM
Hey- not sure if you read my comment the wrong way - I really found your response amusing and I agree 100%. I saw your reply below got censored, so hopefully I didn't offend you!
By bchgrl83 (52), Westhampton Beach on Jul 28, 12 12:05 PM
All I said was thanks.

The deletion was uncalled for.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jul 28, 12 1:37 PM
San Diego, Boulder, Scottsdale and just about every recreation city/town have ample bike lanes or are in the process of making them part of every road. It is truly embarrassing that we as a community cannot create a safe environment for both recreational and serious cyclists.

By ad (1), Roses Grove on Jul 26, 12 10:25 AM
1 member liked this comment
It would help if the bikers knew what they were doing. This weekend I was driving past Renerts place in Sag and a bicyclist was in the middle of the land with no desire to move over. I honked the horn a few times and was greeted with an unfriendly gesture. Does the biker not realize that me going around him (and thus into oncoming traffic) isn't a safe option when he could simply move to the shoulder?

The number of people riding bikes along the road has swelled in recent years and ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Jul 26, 12 12:35 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By ad (1), Roses Grove on Jul 26, 12 3:38 PM
Completely agree with ad - Cyclists and Motorist are both to blame. We need bike lanes like every other weekend/vacation destination.
By RQ (2), Water Mill on Jul 26, 12 8:45 PM
We also need cyclists to obey the rules of the road.

99.9% of the time, they don't...
Jul 26, 12 8:50 PM appended by Mr. Z
If you want to chit chat, get Bluetooth and go on conference if you need to "shoot the "srati". Then, a group can still ride single file...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jul 26, 12 8:50 PM
I have been seeing a lot of bicyclists talking on cell phones. Head scratcher.
By dnice (2346), Hampton Bays on Jul 26, 12 9:49 PM
1 member liked this comment
Good point - rarely see motorist on their cell phones - lol

The simple point is - all of our property values would be better off if a beach community had bike lanes. Not complex. To ad's point - travel to any forward thinking community and you will see ample bike lanes.

I've been coming out here for over 30 years - car traffic up significantly as well as bike traffic. Yet no improvements for either.
By RQ (2), Water Mill on Jul 27, 12 3:53 PM
All bikers NEED mirrors so they can see what's coming behind them have witnessed bikers just pulling to cross over without looking accident waiting to happen :((((((
By Foofoo (1), East hampton on Aug 1, 12 8:02 AM