Now that school is back in session, it’s time to pay attention and drive carefully, especially in school zones. Speeding and sometimes even reckless driving are a problem throughout Scarsdale, even on streets within a few feet of schools. The 20 mph speed limit is in effect on school days between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. and the sight of cars pulled over by police is evidence that it is being enforced.
At the middle school, a police officer monitors traffic on Mamaroneck Road during the morning arrival and afternoon dismissal periods, with signage posted to alert motorists to the speed limit and to the locations of the crosswalks.
That stretch of road is a bit saner and safer thanks to the PTA, which lobbied diligently a decade ago for a police monitor, speed limit signage and a crosswalk to provide extra protection for students on their way to the middle school.
At the high school, a traffic light was installed several years ago on Post Road after a pedestrian was hit by a car while trying to cross that busy street, but traffic congestion and speeding vehicles continue to plague the morning rush.
In a letter to the editor this week, an SHS ninth-grader said he wants to ride his bike to the high school, but vehicles traveling at excessive speeds make it a dangerous proposition. He believes designated bike lanes would make the streets safer for cycling.
That idea, which had been floated before, gained traction last year in a report by Municipal Services Committee of The Scarsdale Forum. Based on the results of a traffic survey, the Forum called for measures to improve safety for motorists, pedestrians and cyclists. “When asked about bicycling in Scarsdale, 52% of the respondents stated that they do not bicycle in Scarsdale. Almost 50% of respondents indicate that there is at least one person in their household who uses a bicycle in Scarsdale. More than half of this group would favor bike lanes in Scarsdale. Almost 10% of those who responded that they do not have a Scarsdale cyclist in the household cite a lack of safety for cyclists as the reason,” the report said.
A big problem for cyclists is terrible road conditions; many Scarsdale streets are too narrow, many have no shoulder, or have imperfections such as potholes, storm drains and uneven surfaces. Commuters who ride a bike every day to the train station and back say roads are narrow or in poor shape and, in some cases, overall conditions are terribly dangerous. Others complain of being run off the road by motorists who simply see cyclists as obstacles, even though the rider is properly cycling.
As one respondent said, “It’s a shame how Scarsdale completely neglects bike riders. It’s virtually an unbikeable town.”
The school PTAs are trying to promote walking and/or biking to school through organized “walking school bus” initiatives, but to venture out independently of that supervised program is difficult when cars do not give way to pedestrians or bikes, overgrown bushes obstruct drivers’ visual field, and sidewalks are inadequate or nonexistent.
In fact, many parents have said they won’t allow their children to bicycle to school or elsewhere in Scarsdale. “It’s dangerous due to reckless, speeding drivers, and there are no dedicated bike lanes,” is a typical point of view.
Protected bike lanes are a good idea and might be feasible with some creative engineering. In fact, creating bike lanes or a series of connected trails/lanes close to the village center would probably encourage more people to visit it more often, reduce traffic congestion and emissions and free up parking.
But more critical is the need for motorists to yield to pedestrians and cyclists, drive cautiously, and drive as though their own children were on the road, biking or walking. To enforce good driving behavior, police need to crack down on reckless and distracted motorists.
Set a good example for your family. Ignore your phone or other devices when you’re behind the wheel, and look out for bike riders.
It is a shame to live in the suburbs and not be able to enjoy riding out of fear of being it by a car.
We can and should make Scarsdale more bike and foot traffic friendly.