Safety around our entire town is a major issue and is talked about quite often at Council meetings and in daily conversations.
Bloomfield Avenue: Safety along Bloomfield Avenue if enhanced, would make for a more pedestrian friendly roadway throughout town. I have been suggesting additional crosswalks at many areas in Verona, including the roadway entrance to Verona Park (directly across from Cumberland Ave.) as well as further east and west regardless of the fact that some of these crosswalks need to be placed mid-block. I have also suggested painting zigzag patterns at many crosswalks as a visual means to caution drivers to slow down. We’ve been told that the County doesn’t approve of mid-block crosswalks. It’s time for the County to let go of obsolete policy that hasn’t evolved with current safety needs. Considering the density of our overall development and more traffic each day, our pedestrians are in need of mid-block crosswalks and strategic street painting to caution drivers to slow down around them. I would also support installing flashing pedestrian crosswalks at mid-block locations such as Lakeside Ave. These have been installed in Montclair and Cedar Grove and have received very good response from a safety perspective.
Ancillary Streets: Many of our ancillary streets along Bloomfield Avenue are “cut throughs”. Oakridge Road residents have stood at meetings this year as well as prior years expressing concern for the safety of their street. Sunset Avenue, South Prospect, Montrose, Pease, Morningside, Hillside, Woodland, Durrell and so many others are all known cut-through roadways where residents have spoken out about speeding drivers and dangerous pedestrian conditions. Several of these ancillary streets may have a need for “safety humps” or street painting to slow traffic.
Children: When we talk about safety we immediately think of the children of Verona. Over the last few years I have seen an increase in children biking and skateboarding to school. And l love that. However, we really need to see further collaboration between the township, the schools, the police department and most likely with the County engineers to first, designate safe routes for these means of travel, and second, to educate the kids that walk, bike or skateboard to do so on these designated streets. This would pertain to the Middle and High School children however should be reviewed around all of the other schools. The potential for Verona to implement bike lanes on Grove and Fairview Avenue is being discussed, however it may solve one problem while creating others. The creation of new bike lanes would necessarily take away parking on an entire side of each of these two streets. Would this add further to our township’s pre-existing parking issue? Would it create more safety issues in front of FN Brown during pick up and drop off times? The jury is still out and I believe further investigation is necessary.
The Elementary Schools: We are all aware that the grammar school drop-off areas are very congested during the morning and afternoons. The wider street at FN Brown, one-way street at Laning and the turnaround at Brookdale lend to a safer atmosphere. However the narrow Forest Avenue roadway limits sight distance and therefore safety. Perhaps a “one way” section of Forest in front of school during the drop-off and afternoon pickups would create a safer flow of traffic.
Verona High School: Another safety topic front and center over the last year at Town Council meetings involves the intersection at Fairview Avenue and Sampson Drive. The township has asked the County for a traffic light. Surprisingly however, the results of a traffic count study revealed that the congested corner did not warrant a light. Our residents, our Council and I disagree. A large planned development in Cedar Grove at the old Overbrook Hospital will introduce more traffic and make for even more caustic pedestrian and driving conditions. A viable solution at the High School, at least for the short term, would be to work with the Police Department and have an officer at that roadway for 45 minutes to one hour, directing traffic during the morning rush-hour drop off. This would require 1 hour of overtime ensuring that the early shift is not overburdened or understaffed. I believe this would be money well spent on student and driver safety alike. These conditions will only worsen as the planned Cedar Grove housing becomes populated. At that time, I would recommend a second traffic study.
Hilltop Athletic Fields: Safety is also an issue around our athletic fields. With the development of Liberty and Freedom Fields there is a notable increase in traffic and a much higher demand for parking at our Community Center. In meetings throughout the field development process, the matter of parking deficiencies was brought forward. We were repeatedly told “our experts” reviewed the project and there was “an ample amount of parking”. Now that the project is in use, it is evident that there is a parking deficiency and therefore safety problems. A parking deficiency in any area of town creates a safety hazard. Frustrated people begin to park illegally putting pedestrians at risk and blocking line of sight for other
New Developments: Our safety around new projects or developments should start at the drawing board. I believe that there have been some planning missteps on this matter. A more thorough review of ALL planned projects and the parking around them needs to be focused upon so that these issues are addressed and prevented before development occurs.
Safety throughout town is going to require help from our Police Department however we all know the Police cannot be monitoring every corner, every minute of every day. We all need to be alert and aware of our driving habits and make a concerted effort, as a community, to respect our fellow pedestrians, bicyclists and skateboarders.
Remember: pedestrians have the right of way.