Resident Raises Traffic Safety Concerns on Hoyt, Main and Cherry Streets

A prominent local resident this month raised traffic safety concerns to members of New Canaan’s local on-street parking authority. Though parking currently is allowed on both sides of Hoyt Street, the vehicles on both sides of the road could make it difficult for a large emergency response vehicle to get to residents in need, according to longtime New Canaanite Christine Hussey. “People are parking on both sides, and if you are having a heart attack or a stroke or if you’re having a baby, and you need the ambulance—God forbid you need a firetruck—there is no way that vehicle is going to be able to pass,” Hussey told the Police Commission at its Nov. 16 meeting, held at New Canaan Police Department headquarters and via videoconference. “And I’m saying I think it would be very wise and prudent of us to allow parking on one side, maybe as you are going up to Main, on the right side, because if they park on the left side, they park right on the curb, and that makes it difficult if you are coming from East Avenue and it’s a big car and you’re not in a big car, you come around there’s someone coming right at you,” she said.

‘It’s Been a Great Initiative’: Police Increase Security at New Canaan Schools

New Canaan Police have assigned an additional officer to bolster security at schools in town, under a new initiative, and have dramatically increased the number of times that officers check on local school campuses. 

The number of school checks from officers increased from four in September 2021 to 132 in September 2022, Police Chief Leon Krolikowski told members of the Police Commission at their most recent meeting. Through the first nine months of the year, school checks were up to 217 compared to 57 at the same time in 2021, Krolikowski said at the Oct. 19 meeting, held at police headquarters and via videoconference. In addition to full-time NCPD school resource officers at both Saxe Middle School and New Canaan High School, Officer Shane Gibson has been designed “school security officer” in a new position that brings him primarily to all public schools in New Canaan but also to private schools, the chief said. “They all work together as a team along with the campus monitors and school administration to keep our schools as safe as can be, and we’re in the process of getting some equipment that we can give to them that will help them in the event of a crisis respond better to an incident,” he told the Commission during its regular meeting.

Plan for Standard Pedestrian Crosswalk Signals Includes Continuous ‘Locator’ Beep for Visually Impaired

A plan to standardize pedestrian crosswalks in New Canaan with an audible signal for the visually impaired includes a continuous low beep to let people know when they’re approaching an intersection, town officials say. The beeping itself must be audible to those who need to hear it, though not so loud that it disturbs people living in houses or apartments nearby, members of the Police Commission said at their most recent meeting. The “locator” beep is different from the percussive sound that a pedestrian signal makes when it’s safe to cross, Public Works Director Tiger Mann told the Commission at its Oct. 19 meeting, held at police headquarters. 

Referring to the intersection of South Avenue and Farm Road, Mann said, “Certainly if we were looking at one around the school system, we might want it to be a little bit louder, but then there is a resident right next to it, so we have to be concerned about that.”

The Police Commission undertook an effort to standardize pedestrian crosswalk signals in September, after New Canaan Police Community Impact Officer Nicole Vartuli brought a lack of consistency to the appointed body’s attention after receiving complaints from a blind resident. 

The locator beep must run 24/7 “because I don’t know when a blind pedestrian will arrive at the crosswalk,” Mann said. “I can’t say, ‘You can only be there from 8 to 5,’ to be honest,” he said.

Town To Seek State’s Permission To Start Richmond Hill Sidewalk Installation

Town officials say they plan to seek permission to build sidewalks along a portion of Richmond Hill Road on either side of the railroad crossing, while the pedestrian crossing over the tracks—a piece of the overall project that requires additional time and approvals—is done in the future. Municipal officials have been meeting with more than one dozen representatives from state and federal agencies, as well as Metro-North Railroad, to determine “what needs to be done to adequately cross the intersection” of Richmond Hill Road at the railroad tracks, according to Public Works Director Tiger Mann. “We’re at the stage now where we’ll submit our plans to Metro-North Railroad and DOT [state Department of Transportation] Rails for their review to come back and say what we need,” Mann told members of the Police Commission during an update at their Oct. 19 meeting, held at police headquarters and via videoconference. “The good thing is that we are at this stage.

Town Officials Call for Improved Pedestrian Crosswalks with Uniform Countdown Timers, Audible Signals

Officials say they’re looking to install new pedestrian signals at crosswalks in New Canaan that will include a “countdown” timer for those seeking to cross the street as well as an audible signal for the visually impaired. There’s little consistency in how the crosswalk signals in town function, according to New Canaan Police Department Community Impact Officer Nicole Vartuli, who focuses on the downtown in her role. 

Vartuli told members of the Police Commission at their Sept. 21 meeting that she received a complaint from a blind resident regarding the crossing signals at Cherry Street and East Avenue, and that prompted her to look at other areas. “I noticed they were not uniform and they looked different—some had audible, some did not,” Vartuli said at the meeting, held at police headquarters and via videoconference. 

Pedestrian fatalities are rising each year and have doubled since 2013, Vartuli said, due to quieter electric vehicles and increased distracted driving. 

Vartuli said she connected with Public Works Director Tiger Mann and then put together a proposal for the Commission regarding the crosswalks. It calls for the town to look at eight downtown locations, Mann said, six of which are state-owned and two of which are owned by the town (at Park and Elm Streets, and at Park and Pine Streets).