By Kathryn G. Menu
Jonas Hagen grew up in Sag Harbor Village, attended local schools and like most children in the 1980s and ‘90s, walked and biked his way around the village — a right of passage for most elementary and middle school students during that era.
But times change, and so has traffic.
“Today, hardly anyone does that,” noted Hagen during a presentation to the Sag Harbor Village Planning Board Tuesday night.
Hagen’s presentation was based on the Active Transport Workshop he helped host in February through the not-for-profit Save Sag Harbor and Despacio, a not-for-profit organization based in Bogotá, Colombia. That organization’s mission is to improve quality of life by developing and implementing urban projects based on the “Slow Movement” philosophy.
The report has been released just as New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. and New York State Senator Ken LaValle have also released a report on critical improvements to enforcement, engineering and education the region should be actively involved in to reduce accidents on South Fork highways.
That report was drafted after a committee was created made of stakeholders to look at traffic safety on the South Fork in the wake of a spate of serious, and fatal, accidents in 2012.
Save Sag Harbor and Despacio hosted their forum to specifically address Sag Harbor’s traffic calming needs and hear from residents about their own experiences.
Residents attending the forum identified speeding on Main Street, Route 114/Hampton Street, Long Island Avenue and Jermain Avenue as areas of concern. Several intersections — Main Street, Bay Street and West Water Street; Main Street and Glover Street; Jermain Avenue, Madison Street and Main Street; Brick Kiln Road, Division Street and Bay Street; Union Street and Hampton Street; and Hempstead Street and Hampton Street — were deemed dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists. Sag Harbor’s Long Wharf was also deemed a public space in need of improvement.
Residents at the forum suggested lower speed limits, possibly as low as 20 miles per hour for the whole village, could be implemented as well as traffic calming measures like neck downs, rumble strips, textured pavement and planters. Better infrastructure for pedestrians including sidewalks and better crosswalks as well as more bike lanes and sharrows (shared vehicle and bike lanes) for cyclists was also recommended as was the creation of a park on Long Wharf.
In the near turn, the group recommends having the village apply for Safe Routes to School grant funding, investigate the possibility of a 20 mile per hour zone and organize a campaign and events to encourage walking and biking in Sag Harbor.
Hagen made a presentation of these findings to the Sag Harbor Planning Board Tuesday night. Although that board has no legislative power, it offered Hagen encouragement in advance of a Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees meeting he is expected to attend on September 10.
“We have noticed that there is an issue with fast moving, motorized vehicles in the village and for some people this is an obstruction, an impediment to walking and cycling to get around the village,” said Hagen Tuesday.
The lack of children walking and cycling to school, he noted “has implications not only for walking and biking, but also for public health” with the growing incidence of obesity in the United States.
Hagen suggested adopting signage and traffic calming measures like special traffic districts where speeds are reduced, as well as infrastructure like raised crosswalks and streets, narrowing of streets through planters and other means to reduce traffic speeds and improvements to encourage cycling like bicycle lanes.
“I think this is great,” said board member Gregory Ferraris. “I don’t see how anyone could be opposed to anything here.”
“Just wait,” joked planning board chairman Neil Slevin.
“The issue I see is the cost factor,” said Ferraris.
Hagen said he believed federal funding — not just for traffic calming projects, but also for air quality initiatives — should be available, although he added often the state or the local municipality, in this case Sag Harbor Village, is often responsible for some portion of funding, but that it could be as low as 20 percent of one project.
“We have noticed a good amount of traction from private individuals,” added Hagen. “If it is a matter of getting things going, we could imagine Save Sag Harbor doing some of the footwork before we look at big funding from the federal or state government, as the case may be.”
“I am vested in the whole idea of traffic calming,” said Slevin. “On Main Street it is unbelievable. People do the strangest things at the highest speeds.”