The Slowdown Everyone Wants

Beacon hopes to reduce speed limit

There appears to be plenty of local support for the Beacon City Council’s push to decrease the citywide speed limit from 30 mph to 25 mph. 

But the city will need help from Albany before it can make changes. 

The council passed a resolution on Tuesday (Jan. 18) urging state lawmakers to adopt legislation that would allow cities, towns and villages to lower speed limits to 25 mph from the state-mandated minimum of 30 mph. 

Municipalities can make changes to individual roads — New York City last year reduced the speed limits on 45 miles of high-crash corridors in four boroughs — but the state prohibits municipalities from setting default limits below 30 mph. Several bills have been introduced in the state Senate and Assembly that would lift the restriction. 

Dan Aymar-Blair, the Ward 4 council member who last year suggested lowering the limit, says it’s time for the change. “For three years I’ve heard from many people that they’re worried about safety,” he said. “We need to take action.”

Dropping speed limits further, to 15 mph, near schools and city parks at all times, not just during school hours, “would be all the better,” he said. 

A lower limit would be good news for Nancy Koeber, a city resident who said she plans to mail copies of a recent Facebook post she made to Mayor Lee Kyriacou and Police Chief Sands Frost. It prompted more than 100 comments, most agreeing with her assessment that Beacon has become increasingly dangerous for pedestrians.

“It feels like there’s been an increase in aggressive behavior” by drivers, she said on Wednesday (Jan. 19). Koeber recalled one car that came so close to hitting her in a crosswalk that its fender brushed against her clothing. 

Pedestrians take “an incredible risk crossing a street with drivers not paying any attention to the fact that there’s a person in the road,” she said. “I am so wary now at street corners to make sure that nobody’s barreling along.” 

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, a pedestrian struck by a vehicle going 25 mph has a 25 percent risk of sustaining a serious or fatal injury. But the risk rises to 50 percent at 33 mph and 75 percent risk at 41 mph. 

Last year, while installing “bump-outs” at six Main Street intersections, Beacon added signs warning drivers to watch for pedestrians. In addition, all Main Street crosswalks will be repainted in the spring.

Beacon’s Main Street Access Committee, a volunteer group that Kyriacou created in 2020, last year recommended that the city drop the limit on Main Street, where there are no speed limit signs. 

“Our position was 20 mph on Main, because it is the densest and most-used road in Beacon, particularly in the summer months, when it’s packed with pedestrians,” said Stowe Boyd, the committee chair. “We were concerned that it is inherently dangerous to have cars tooling along at whatever the speed limit is in people’s heads, which is somewhat more than the city speed limits are, and occasionally it is ridiculously fast.”

Bystanders came to the aid of a 6-year-old boy whose foot was pinned beneath a vehicle’s tire after he and his grandmother were hit on Mother’s Day last year. Two vehicles crashed at the intersection of Main and North Cedar Street, with one careening into two unoccupied parked cars and the other jumping the sidewalk and hitting the pedestrians.  

A pedestrian died after being struck Dec. 1 in a crosswalk by a driver turning from Main Street onto Teller Avenue, although police reports indicated the accident was not speed-related.

Boyd said the committee heard “endless complaints from residents about people breezing through the crosswalks and paying no attention to pedestrians who are already in the street.” In addition, drivers use residential streets such as Dutchess Terrace as cut-throughs to thoroughfares like Route 9D, where their speeds can easily reach 50 mph or more. 

On the city’s east side, Washington Avenue’s long straightaway invites drivers to race through neighborhoods, as well. 

The Beacon Police Department on Wednesday said it didn’t immediately know how many speeding tickets officers had written in 2020 or 2021, but Frost said those two years would have been anomalies, with fewer cars on the road because of the pandemic. He said the department has increased speed enforcement recently and that he favors a 25 mph limit.

“On a lot of the side streets in Beacon, if you’re doing 30, it looks fast,” he said. 

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16 thoughts on “The Slowdown Everyone Wants

  1. I drive for a living mainly in the Dutchess area. Beacon Main Street is a 10- to 15-mph maximum that I always do. What needs to happen besides the speed change is the need to have parking on only one side of Main Street. The City of Beacon needs to address saving lives with parking created off Main Street over more apartments and co-ops being built in those needed spaces. A bike lane would also still have room, making it a safe place for all then.

  2. The cars are not the problem. It’s the idiots walking around, not paying attention. [via Facebook]

    • I am not an idiot and, yes, I pay attention. The drivers are the problem. [via Facebook]

  3. Beacon’s Main Street gets tons of pedestrian traffic these days, and that’s a beautiful thing. I applaud efforts to slow traffic on our tiny streets. [via Facebook]

  4. We need this in Fishkill, too. My quarter-mile road has a 30 mph speed limit so everyone guns it as they cut through. [via Instagram]

  5. Main Street in Beacon needs to be 15 mph and maybe people will drive 20. Anything above that is dangerous. [via Instagram]

  6. Even 25 mph is too fast. More important, how about enforcing the current limit? People regularly drive 30 mph to 40 mph through the school zone near Sargent Elementary, where the limit is 15 mph. I recently saw a police officer there in his squad car, texting.

    This line from the story is a joke: “Last year, while installing ‘bump outs’ at six Main Street intersections, Beacon added signs warning drivers to watch for pedestrians.” The signage is often obscured by trucks and cars, or drivers see it at the last second before they turn near the Howland Cultural Center or Hudson Beach Glass, and people ignore it anyway.

    The Beacon City Council may need approval from Albany, but that’s a smokescreen for things they could do. How about flashing lights at every crosswalk? They did it in front of the new waterfront condos on Route 9D. How about an all-way pedestrian light at Teller and Main? Or why even allow left turns at that intersection? [via Instagram]

  7. The police should enforce all the other traffic laws on Main Street first. It’s like the Wild West with poor parking, illegal parking, double-parking and U-turns. You can’t drive 25 mph there most of the time anyway. [via Instagram]

  8. In my interview with Jeff, he asked me about recommendations from the Beacon Main Street Advisory Committee to the city. I noted that the committee, which I chair, pushed for a speed limit of 20 mph on Main Street in Beacon (and we included the Main Street Access Area, which extends two blocks on either side of Main Street, as well).

    The worldwide “20’s Plenty” campaign — spearheaded by the United Nations — has been making great strides. For example, Wales is on course to implement a 20 mph national baseline for residential roads, and Portland, Oregon, has moved to 20 mph in residential areas. In that case, getting drivers to follow the new speed limits hasn’t been easy: on average, drivers only reduced their speed by 1.4 mph, and police found it hard to enforce the new laws. But the number of cars driving more than 30 mph went down by about a third.

    It may take years to make a dent in drivers’ behavior by lowering speed limits. And it may require traffic cameras at every intersection.

    Experts reviewing those results point out that the design of the streets — which were created with the efficient flow of cars in mind rather than the safe flow of pedestrians — has to be upgraded. The sidewalk bump-outs on Main Street are part of that redesign, but we need even more traffic calming, like speed tables at intersections, and extended signal timing, to allow pedestrians to cross at busy intersections with all cars in all directions stopped.

    It’s important to remember the difference between 20 mph and 25 mph: “The average 30-year-old pedestrian struck by a driver traveling 20 miles per hour has about a 93 percent chance of survival; at 25 miles per hour, those odds plummet to 75 percent, and they only get worse from there.”

    One last factor in street safety, one that can’t be handled by local speed regulations or street redesign: The shift from sedans and compact cars to huge SUVs and trucks has been directly linked by the Governors Highway Safety Association to increased fatalities. In 2019, 8,800 pedestrians in the U.S. were killed, up 45 percent from a decade earlier. Working to get those tank-sized behemoths off residential streets will be the job of states and the federal government, and will take a long, long time.

    Lowering speed limits is just the first step in a multi-step process to make the streets safer, but a necessary first step.

  9. How many years has the speed limit been 30 mph? I never really an issue unless the roads were newly paved. Now, we have people who walk around, faces to their phones, walking across streets without even looking to see if it’s safe.

    Every individual needs to accept personal responsibility for their own safety. People don’t even look to see if it’s safe to open the car door. That’s just stupid and irresponsible.

    30 mph is safe. Assuming that you have no reason to look after yourself and others around you is what’s dangerous here. Pay attention, it will save a life and unnecessary government coddling. Try having the parking rules enforced. Try giving pedestrian traffic only crossing times instead of crossing with traffic. We don’t need any more government.

  10. Why stop at 20 mph? Why not 10 or 5, or require that every vehicle be preceded by a pedestrian wildly waving a red flag? Perhaps we can require all cars to come to a stop within two blocks of Main Street and be left there by their owners, who can go through the rest of their lives on foot? I mean, is there anything that’s too much for safety? [via Facebook]

  11. It would be super-great if people used the crosswalk instead of just walking out into traffic. I drove down Main Street on a Friday and nearly hit three people who darted into traffic. One person had her face buried in her phone; I made her drop it when I tapped the air horn. [via Facebook]

    • Cars don’t respect crosswalks, so why should walkers? It sounds like you have a problem, not the pedestrian. I have never come close to hitting anyone on Main Street. [via Facebook]

  12. There is no need for this — you can’t even go 30 mph during busy hours on Main Street. [via Facebook]

  13. It’s be nice if cars could stay below 55 mph on Verplanck Avenue occasionally, as well. It’s like the Indy 500. What’s the rush? [via Facebook]