Residents and members of the local cycling community spoke out at Tuesday morning's meeting of the Orangetown Traffic Advisory Board regarding what they believe are unsafe conditions on Route 9W.
Janet Martinez, 53, of Pomona was the victim of a fatal accident June 10 when a car hit her while she rode her bicycle on Route 9W.
Martinez's nephew, Ray Alicea, joined a large group of residents who spoke out at last week's Orangetown Town Board meeting. Alicea and members of the Rockland Bicycling Club spoke again Tuesday to the Traffic Advisory Board, calling for action to make Route 9W safer.
"It seemed initially that I might be a voice in the wilderness just crying out and not getting a lot of support," Alicea said. "I was overwhelmed with the support that we got that night (the Orangtown town council meeting). I didn't ask anyone to speak. I specifically said no one would have to speak, that I would be a spokesperson. It has been encouraging on every level, from the town council's response to (State Assemblywoman) Ellen Jaffee's office. Senator (David) Carlucci expressed interest in looking into this.
"I am being educated better on the proces and what needs to take place."
Part of that was finding out that efforts to address safety concerns on Route 9W are not new. According to Orangetown Traffic Advisory Board Chair Guy DiVincenzo, local officials asked for the NYS Department of Transportation to do speed, traffic and safety surveys of the entire section of the road that runs through Orangetown. Requests to lower the speed limit from 45 miles per hour near Oaktree Road after a fatal accident there early in 2010 were denied by the DOT. Some changes were made, including the establishment of a school zone in front of Tappan Zee Elementary School.
"It has been a concern of ours for many year," DiVincenzo said.
Alicea said he was happy to know that the town has made efforts to address the safety issues on Route 9W in the past, but added much more needs to be done.
"This topic, there isn't much opposition to it," Alicea said. "There may be concerns or disagreements on specifics, especially when it gets to the (New York State Department of Transportation). They have traffic engineers and scientists who work on this. I happen to feel they missed a couple oft hings with that study.
"This doesn't need a formula. Ride down that road. Put your son or daughter on that road. You'd pull them right off."
DiVincenzo suggested the creation of a subcommittee that would focus on safety related to bicycle riders all through Orangetown. Dave Zurnow and Lila Moreno, who came to speak for Rockland Bicycling Club, agreed with the idea. Alicea said he would also like to be a part of it.
"We are not all experts on traffic matters, but we have representatives of departments who are experts in the field," DiVincenzo said. "I thought because we have this expertise in your group, it would behoove us to form a subcommittee, maybe headed by your group of cyclists ... We could have a liaison to your group so we can have a flow of information.
"We could meet together or sometimes just the liaison to come up with ways we can make Orangtown a safer bicycling committee, not just on 9W."
Orangetown Councilman Paul Valentine, the town liaison to the traffic advisory board, said it would be important to get bicycle riders on the same page. He said that some have fought hard against any restrictions of bicycle riding, even on dangerous stretches of 9W.
Zornow acknowledged that motorists and cyclists need to learn how to better share the road. He said it was important to publicize state law recently passed requiring motorists to stay at least three feet of clearance when passing a cyclist on the road.
"Bikers do need to share the road. They have a responsibility to follow the laws," Zornow said. "Motorists have to be kind to friends, relatives and neighbors on bicycles.
"I can tell you that cyclists and motorists do not always play as nice as they should in the town of Orangeburg and Rockland County. If there are things that can be done to improve understandings of both groups (motorists and cyclists), we want (to help)."