Ray Alicea stood before the Orangetown Council and a large crowd of observers to tell them of the events that led to the death of his aunt, Janet Martinez, 53, of Pomona.
He spoke of a casual bike ride after church on a Sunday. He spoke of a missed detour sign that put her on a section of Route 9W that is dangerous to drivers and cyclists. He spoke of the car that hit her from behind, a fatal accident.
"Local residents who live along 9W in Upper Grandview, Piermont and Sparkill have been trying to get the speed (limit) modified by the (Department of Transportation) for years," Alicea said. "They have never been given significant relief. They were denied in their request to lower the speed limit, which is currently 40 miles per hour on what is clearly a residential area.
"Their concern over safety on this narrow downhill road with no shoulder...has been tragically verified by yet another accident. This time it was fatal. It was not the first, but hopefully it will be the last. I would not wish what happened to this resident, what happened to her daughters, what happened to her one-year-old grandson and the rest of her family to happen to anyone else in this room."
That sentiment brought a large crowd out for Tuesday's Orangetown Town Board meeting, many of them to speak out regarding the need for improved safety on Route 9W, specifically the portion of the state road that runs through Orangetown.
The speakers called for a reduction of the speed limit to 30 miles per hour, a request that has been rejected by the State Department of Transportation in the past. They also asked for more signs to warn cyclists of potential danger and encourage motorists to be more careful of sharing the road.
"There needs to be signage on both ends of 9W in Orangetown, which is the most treacherous section of 9W in Rockland County," Alicea said. "I wish to petition the town council to stand with your fellow Orangetown Residents. Together we can work to ease these concerns.
"Most cyclists are drivers. Most motorists were cyclists at one time or another. There are no sides to this issue. We are all on the same side, the side of safety."
Orangetown Supervisor Andy Stewart promised that there would be more discussion and that the town would look into what it can do to deal with the situation, but many of the speakers called for more immediate action. One suggestion was an increased police presence, which might encourage drivers to slow down.
"Action must be taken this weekend," said Peter Fruchtman of Palisades. "It's a death stretch, pure and simple. Cops with their lights on at either end of that stretch will slow people down. It has to happen. I know you don't want to be in the position four or five days after this meeting, which will be reported in all of the papers, to have another fatality."
Diane Goodwin, a real estate agent from Englewood, NJ and a member of multiple cycling clubs, said that the dangers of the road would make it unattractive to her to buy a home there.
"I would never want to buy a house on that small stretch. It's too scary," Goodwin said. "I've ridden that stretch on my bicycle and driven it. It's too narrow. Bicyclists are entitled to that road. It's a U.S. official bike path."
Valley Cottage resident Timothy Englert called for the construction of a shared use pathway from the George Washington Bridge to Bear Mountain, which is based on studies that have already been done. He estimated the cost of the project to be between $40 million and $50 million.
"Action should be taken now to reduce speeds of vehicles (on 9W), widen the margins and shift our transportation culture to better reflect our changing demographics," Englert said.
Orangetown Police Chief Kevin Nulty said he could not comment on the accident that led to Martinez's death because the investigation is ongoing, but he said that he and Highway Superintendent James Dean have been looking into ways to improve safety on Route 9W and other roads in Orangetown.