Opinion: The Complex Problem of Walking In Greenwich

Submitted by Katherine LoBalbo

My favorite pastime as a child was walks with my grandfather down to the Cos Cob train station and over to “the hub” where Gramp would pick up the paper and lotto.  It was the 80s, well before cell phones or texting.

Over 30 years later, this past October, as I walked  those same streets in what is now my district, I found consistently that the number one concern of my neighbors was distracted drivers, speeding, and the general danger of walking around Town. This concern transcended any one group or street.

Walking to our small shops, to amenities, to school, and to our train stations it directly tied to the economic and social vibrancy of Greenwich. The tragic pedestrian deaths over the last few years and, the too many to count terrifying ‘near misses’, is why I believe the Town must bring back the Pedestrian Safety Advisory Committee.

Over a decade ago residents came together with a common purpose to increase safe routes to schools and improve the Route One corridor.  The original PSAC was effective in implementing and accomplishing their goals and we can learn from their past efforts.

Improving pathways and lighting is part of the solution, but help is also needed for programs that raise pedestrian awareness. I’m concerned when I overhear the Town may be looking into removing the all-way stop cross walk.

I’m concerned when I see our children wearing dark clothing and jackets, especially now in winter, or people checking cell phones while jaywalking mid-block.

These small decisions can have devastating unintended consequences.

Yes, drivers need to slow down and stay alert, but the solution is more complex than asking the police department to give out more tickets or installing more speed humps and bumps. This complexity is exemplified in the laundry list of improvements requested by authorities and noted in the Greenwich Free Press recent article at the location of yet another devastating loss of life.

I commend our Board of Selectman and our Town Departments for their commitment to the safety of all residents, but they cannot do it alone. A workshop is a good first step, but we need advocates, a cross section of our community, willing to commit their time to bring thoughtful ideas and solutions, bring to light locations of concern which might otherwise go undetected, and assist in the ongoing outreach to both motorists and pedestrians.

Whether you walk for pleasure or walk because you must, there is value in unifying our voice on this matter of public safety for all of Greenwich.

Katherine is a member of the National Council of Architectural Registration Board and a life-long walker, runner, and sometimes cyclist of Greenwich streets. She is a delegate of the RTM for District 2.