‘It’s a Scary Proposition’: Pedestrian Safety Issue Emerges Near Saxe Middle School


The crosswalk at Farm Road near Saxe Middle School.

Farm Road motorists are blowing through a crosswalk with a pedestrian-activated flashing beacon near Saxe Middle School, raising serious safety concerns for the town, officials say.

The crosswalk at Farm Road between Field Crest Road and Village Drive already has a “Rapid Rectangular Flashing Beacon” or “RRFB,” according to Public Works Director Tiger Mann. 

Though the overall motorist “adherence rate” to the devices (there are six in New Canaan) is about 92 percent—a high figure—“we are having a little bit of a problem with the one at Saxe,” Mann told the Board of Selectmen at its most recent meeting.

“People were running through it,” Mann said at the meeting, held Sept. 5 in Town Hall and via videoconference. “Kids will press the button and people are still running through it because they want to get through South Avenue and then through South and Farm and then get onward towards the Merritt or wherever else they need to go. So we’ve been having a little bit of a non-adherence problem there and it’s very scary.”

To address the problem, the town for about $200 installed a bucket on either side of Farm Road at the crosswalk with six flags in them that people carry across the intersection to become “a little bit more conspicuous” to drivers, Mann said.

The problem was brought to the attention of Public Works by the New Canaan Police Department, Mann said.

“We suggested this alternative or this augmentation to it, whereby a student carries a flag, which then at that point in time, makes them even more conspicuous and hopefully the car will stop at that point in time,” Mann said. “If they don’t, PD might have to increase some of their enforcement in that area. I don’t know what the ticket would be, but it should be hefty if you blew through a sign that was flashing while a student was in a crosswalk. It’s a scary proposition.”

The buckets were installed this summer.

“Hopefully they’re being utilized and this problem might go away, but elsewhere in town, we’ve had very, very good luck with them,” Mann said.

The discussion emerged as the selectmen took up an $11,775 contract with Bethel-based East Coast Sign & Supply to install RRFBs at another area in New Canaan that needs it. First Selectman Kevin Moynihan and Selectmen Kathleen Corbet and Nick Williams voted 3-0 in favor of the contract to install RRFBs between the new Board of Education offices at 220 Elm St. and the northern side of Elm at Walter Stewart’s Market.

That new crosswalk had been requested by the Board of Ed and approved by the Police Commission, Mann said.

“We had also requests from Walter Stewart’s and others, as far as we have a lot of people that cross that midblock area, so we put in a disabled ramp on one side, a handicapped ramp on the 220 side,” he said. “We looked to redo the sidewalk on the Stewart side. And at that point in time, place the RRFBs there for the safety of any residents that are passing through.”

Asked for his thoughts on the approval of the crosswalk and RRFBs, Walter Stewart’s Vice President Doug Stewart said the store is “happy they are building a crosswalk as upper elm is a busy street with a lot of people crossing back and forth, especially now with the Board of Ed across the street from us.”

“It should make the street safer,” he said.

Meanwhile, regarding the problem on Farm Road, Moynihan said the fine for running that crosswalk when in use should be considerable.

“The fine for passing a school bus is substantial,” he said. “So I think if we’re gonna go to the trouble of having these things [RRFBs] and they’re not complied with—especially we now have four of these, five of these—it’s justifiable to have a special fine for going through these flashing lights.”

Asked how the town plans to ensure that the flags are not “misplaced,” Mann said, “Unfortunately, you hope that they don’t get carried away. I’ve seen them in use at a church in Unionville, quite nicely for a number of years, and I haven’t seen a problem with them and I crossed through there quite often and I see people walking across for sure. It’s basically for church services and seems to work quite well. So we hope that the students will keep them there and not take them home. But there’s no guarantee. I think it was money well spent at the time to see if it would work. So we’ll see how it goes.”

4 thoughts on “‘It’s a Scary Proposition’: Pedestrian Safety Issue Emerges Near Saxe Middle School

  1. What about installing a signal, like the one at Gower and South? “So we’ll see how it goes” is not a plan, if not going well equates to a child’s injury or death from an identified and addressable dangerous situation. A signal here seems much better value for the money than the pedestrian crossing gates on Richmond Hill.

  2. I have almost been run over in multiple locations around town by cars that ignore pedestrian walkways, signs, and flashing lights. This has happened at Weed and Elm, on Cherry and Burtis, and at the beginning of Forest Street (I don’t think the current pedestrian sign is enough, and there should be crosswalk markings on the pavement).

    The fact that drivers aren’t stopping on Farm isn’t surprising. Something really needs to be done about this throughout town.

  3. We have more than enough police on duty in this town, over 50 officers on staff. There could be a lot more interdictions and tickets written for all the traffic offenses that have become more common especially after the pandemic. As others I’ve seen drivers travelling at unreasonably fast speeds, passing on double lines, ignoring signs that do not permit right hand turns on red and so forth. The only way to stop rampant scofflaws is to have a significant enough penalty as a deterrence.

  4. I saw those bouquets of little bright orange flags on the posts of the Farm Road crossing signs but thought they were decorations. I have yet to see a pedestrian utilize one to wave at oncoming vehicles. Has anyone else?

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