New York State Department of Transportation Acting Regional Director Bill Gorton began to address the small crowd at the entrance to Tappan Zee Elementary School in Piermont Monday when a loud noise interrupted him.
"That's a good sound," Gorton said.
It was the sound of the NYSDOT work crew putting up a cycling safety sign, one of many "Share the Road" signs which will be placed along Route 9W this month as part of a . Gorton said most of the signs will be up in the next couple of days, with the rest by the end of the month.
"What we identified is there are 20 locations along the biking lane and 9W corridor that we identified that could use new biking signs," Gorton said.
Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee (D-Suffern) joined Gorton, members of the Rockland Bicycling Club and the family of Janet Martinez at Tappan Zee High School for the raising of the sign. Martinez was killed when she was struck by a car while riding her bicycle on Route 9W June 10, sparking more discussion of safety along the road.
Rockland Bicycling Club member Lila Moreno read a statement from Martinez's family and friends:
"We would like to thank the help we have had and will continue to receive from Assemblyperson Jaffe’s office on this and other concerns along RT 9W in Orangetown. Our tragedy has highlighted a well-known public safety issue for residents, pedestrians and cyclists along this dangerous stretch of road. We are truly grateful for all of the support we have received, and look forward to working to further improve the conditions for all."
Jaffee commended the NYSDOT for taking action quickly.
"The department of transportation has really been listening to the concerns of the community and very responsive," Jaffee said. "We had a meeting a couple of weeks ago and we talked about what was necessary and they responded very, very quickly.
"We feel like we’ve been heard a little bit," said Rita Joachim of the Rockland Bicycling Club. "It’s sad that it took another tragedy. Tragedies aren’t just tragedies. They are people that aren’t coming back and it’s enough already."
Joachim questioned Gorton regarding the state's decision not to lower the speed limit on Route 9W. She argued that even if it did not slow drivers, it would give police the opportunity to act by ticketing speeders.
She also asked that another study be done. The NYSDOT has done two studies in recent years, including one last fall.
"We do a study when we look at speed limit requests," Gorton said. "It includes looking at the roadway, the speed of traffic and the accidents and safety history. We take all that into consideration. You have to look at enforcement opportunities. A road like this is tough because it is tough to pull anybody over on. There is no shoulder.
"Just putting a 30 miles per hour speed limit down doesn’t mean everybody will go 30 miles per hour."
He added that motorists tend to drive at speeds that road conditions allow rather than the speed limit, and speeding is a problem on Route 9W even with the current limit. Gorton said consistency is key to roadside safety.
"That's why signs look the same here, Pennsylvania and California," Gorton said. "Speed limit expectations are part of that, too."
Joachim also asked about including reminders that drivers must give bicycle riders three feet of room when passing them on the road in signs put up by the NYSDOT, but there are no plans to do that at this time. Jaffee offered to help publicize the law to help increase safety for cyclists.