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Cyclists Death Leads to Call for Action at Orangtown Board Meeting

Family members of cyclist Janet Martinez call for improved safety along 9W

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.

jim kelly June 27, 2012 at 08:02 PM
As a general safety issue, yes, bicyclist must assume some of the responsibility. However the recent tragic accident on 9W apparently occurred because a driver, probably driving considerably faster than the speed limit, did not see the cyclist... did not brake... did not swerve. I don't think it is too much for us cyclist to ask motorists to slow down to the speed limit and to pay attention to what is on the road in front of us. The impression I get from comments in these articles is the motorists are saying "NO, get off the road so that we don't have to bother to pay attention to what is in front of us."
RonnienDanielle James June 27, 2012 at 08:13 PM
Its sad to hear that there has been multiple debates about this, but yet New York has done nothing to resolve it. Wake up New York!!! A great mother passed due to your negligence, how many others does this have to happen to, before you actually do something about it...
Peter Schmidt June 27, 2012 at 10:02 PM
Please post signs immediately to direct cyclist to river road. I cycled the area, but avoided that stretch of 9w as it was incredibly dangerous. And the town should demand the state lower the speed limit. 40 means 50 or 60 to too many drivers. They should slow down (and yes I know how frustrating it is to go down that road at 30. But until its made safer everyone has to change their behavior a bit. Until roadway designers start to make a commitment to all modes of transportation, not just the motor vehicle, tragedies will happen -peter, former South Nyack resident
James Bond June 28, 2012 at 10:50 AM
It is a terrible tragedy that Mrs Martinez was killed and for the young woman who has to live with hitting her. But it is truly amazing to me how the answer is to blame the motorists all the time. You hit the nail on the head Charles. Advice to all the Chiefs in the County....have your officers ticket bikers as aggressively as the motorists and this tragedy may never happen again.
Nick August 11, 2012 at 12:59 PM
I am a cyclist and a commuter and a "car guy". One thing is for certain; most motorists drive faster than the posted speed limit. Try driving down Townline rd, or Sickletown or any other 30mph road in the county doing 30mph. What you will get is horn honking, tailgating, lights flashing, and a finger when the motorist behind you has the opportunity to pass you. Riding my bike; I ride alone, along the extreme right edge of the road. I can't tell you how many close calls I have had. So many drivers come dangerously close to me, ever so afraid to come close to the double yellow line in the center of the road, but don't have any problem crossing the double yellow when the UPS truck, or landscape truck is blocking the entire lane on Sickletown/Strawtown road. Similarily, there are cyclists who ride 2 and 3 abreast without any consideration to the cars behind them that are approaching. Two wrongs don't make a right.

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