ERICKSON: Public Safety is Priority #1

Submitted by Laura Erickson, Democratic candidate for First Selectperson

I am often asked what my first priority is if elected First Selectperson, and my answer is unequivocally public safety. I have a voting record fully in support of our first responders.

Another area of public safety I will fight for is improving conditions for pedestrians and bicyclists.

To the best of my knowledge, we have had four pedestrian fatalities in Greenwich since 2020 and in my opinion, not enough is being done to protect human life.

A resident recently shared their experience of being hit in a crosswalk, resulting in serious injury, and there are probably many more of those stories or near misses.

It’s time to act.

For the FY21-22 budget, the Conservation Commission proposed a modest study to examine the feasibility of connecting the east and wide side of town with a bike lane. That proposal was excluded in the First Selectman’s budget. BET Democrats made a motion to add back the funding, but the Republicans voted against it and the motion failed.

The incumbent First Selectman removed the police officers from the Greenwich Ave./Arch St./Havemeyer intersection without a plan in place to address traffic flow and pedestrian safety. I am on the record expressing concerns when it was being discussed. The proposed bump out for that same intersection was approved with conditions by the BET, but was ultimately rejected by the RTM so the town forfeited the grant money for the project. That was almost a year ago and there’s been no action plan proposed by the incumbent. We need an alternative plan on how to address this dangerous situation because right now, no one (drivers and pedestrians alike) knows what to do there.

Neighborhood associations in Byram and Pemberwick/Glenville have successfully advocated for pedestrian improvements which are complete or underway.

Likewise, residents on Shore Road in Old Greenwich banded together, created a web site, collected data and visual evidence and came out in force at the BET public hearing in March 2022 to lobby for a stretch of sidewalk from Tomac Avenue to Sound Beach Avenue. That sidewalk is nearly finished, but it shouldn’t take Herculean efforts by citizen advocates to make our neighborhoods safe.

Residents should be aware that the state legislature passed a law this July to enable towns and municipalities to get to “Vision Zero”– meaning no fatalities on our streets. This legislation provides a pathway for speed cameras for enforcement.

The most recent traffic study done for the Central Middle School Building Committee presents data on excessive speeds on both Stanwich and Orchard streets which merit consideration for an automated speed camera program. Let’s pilot and evaluate such a program.

As First Selectperson, I will actively engage community stakeholders, our first responders and neighborhood advocates to use all the tools at our disposal to provide safe passage, to enforce speed limits and to protect the lives of our townspeople. I will make this my top priority not just in words, but in action.