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.”