Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

Peekskill’s Pedestrian Problem: Steps to Safer Streets

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Walkable.

I’ve often heard that word used to describe Peekskill.

Sure, a lot of the city is accessible by foot. But it is by no means safe to walk in our Friendly Town.

The author speaking at a Common Council meeting on the subject of pedestrian safety.

This spring, a pedestrian was hit at the intersection of Pemart and North Division — steps away from Uriah Hill Elementary School. Just a couple weeks later, two pedestrians were hit at the intersection of Main Street and North Division. These are two examples — taking place within days of each other — of what happens when a city doesn’t do enough to ensure pedestrian safety and when drivers behave recklessly.

Walk along any road in Peekskill and you’re likely to see drivers speed with impunity. They treat red lights as if they’re stop signs and stop signs as optional. In fact, earlier this year, a car was going so fast down a residential street that it flipped on its side when it crashed.

Crosswalks are often faded and are nonexistent at many residential intersections. Pedestrian signals at busy intersections are malfunctioning or broken altogether for months or years on end — including at the intersection where City Hall sits.

Dangerous driving behavior is not an issue specific to Peekskill; drivers speed everywhere, and distracted driving is ubiquitous. But as a city with many pedestrians, it is incumbent on the government to take action — and for residents to remind city officials this is a priority.

The city knows pedestrian safety is a problem: Mayor McKenzie addressed it in her State of the City, noting that Peekskill has applied for state and federal funding for capital improvements at intersections with high numbers of accidents. It is also working with the Town of Cortlandt and the Department of Transportation to find ways to redirect large trucks off of Main Street.

In 2023, the Common Council approved the creation of a Traffic Safety Task Force and, according to city officials, plans to offer an open invitation for residents to join. The head of the Department of Public Works is being trained to reprogram pedestrian signals so they don’t have to outsource this work to a third-party contractor.

The Police Department has and continues to hire more officers, including a parking enforcement officer. The city recently installed speed bumps on Nelson Avenue in front of the library, and fixed some broken pedestrian signals downtown, though others remain broken or malfunctioning.

And in May, the Common Council spent time discussing several important topics that would impact pedestrian safety: installing speed limit signs that display the driver’s speed, the city’s law regarding turning right on red, lowering the city’s speed limit, and adding crosswalks to intersections near schools. I hope those discussions will proceed.

(This list is by no means inclusive, these are just the initiatives I’m aware of.)

These actions demonstrate the city’s willingness to acknowledge and address pedestrian safety issues. It’s heartening.

But we need more done, and we need it done faster.

We need infrastructure issues downtown — faded crosswalks and broken pedestrian lights chief among them — fixed today.

We need officials to focus on the infrastructure and traffic law enforcement on residential roads, where there may not be a high number of collisions, but where pedestrians are also unsafe when walking to and from their homes, workplaces, and public transportation hubs.

We need more stop signs, speed bumps, crosswalks, and rumble strips.

We need existing crosswalks repainted and new ones added.

We need many more speed limit signs, which are few and far between throughout the city. (While we’re at it, how about the ones that display the car’s speed and flash red when the car is going over the speed limit?).

We also need speed cameras, especially in school zones. This one is key — and the most challenging; current legislation only allows speed cameras in New York City and specific areas in New York (thruways and construction/work zones). That needs to change, and that will require lobbying from city officials and residents.

All of this will disincentivize people from speeding and behaving in a way that is dangerous for everyone on the road.

I realize that’s a lot to ask. But it could save lives.

Finally, if this issue is important to you:

Consider attending a Common Council meeting and make a public comment to the mayor, deputy mayor and council members about your concerns. Hearing from residents underscores the everyday issues that impact us and where city leadership should focus their time and energy. If you are unable to attend a meeting, email them.

Join the Traffic Safety Task Force when the city invites residents to join.

Download the SeeClickFix app, which allows residents to submit non-emergency and quality of life issues directly to the city. The more people who note problems such as broken pedestrian signals and faded crosswalks, the more likely it is that the city will prioritize fixing them.

And if you have social media, follow Peekskill Walks, a group dedicated to making Peekskill streets safer.

See you on the sidewalk!

Jen Zawacki can often be found walking along Nelson Avenue with her husband, two toddlers and dog. She’s been a resident of Peekskill since 2018, and is a big fan of the city.