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.