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Fatal Accident on 9W Sparks Safety Concerns

The death of cyclist Janet Martinez last month has residents calling for improved safety

Residents and members of the local cycling community spoke out at Tuesday morning's meeting of the Orangetown Traffic Advisory Board regarding what they believe are unsafe conditions on Route 9W.

Janet Martinez, 53, of Pomona was the victim of a fatal accident June 10 when a car hit her while she rode her bicycle on Route 9W.

Martinez's nephew, Ray Alicea, joined a large group of residents who spoke out at last week's Orangetown Town Board meeting. Alicea and members of the Rockland Bicycling Club spoke again Tuesday to the Traffic Advisory Board, calling for action to make Route 9W safer.

"It seemed initially that I might be a voice in the wilderness just crying out and not getting a lot of support," Alicea said. "I was overwhelmed with the support that we got that night (the Orangtown town council meeting). I didn't ask anyone to speak. I specifically said no one would have to speak, that I would be a spokesperson. It has been encouraging on every level, from the town council's response to (State Assemblywoman) Ellen Jaffee's office. Senator (David) Carlucci expressed interest in looking into this.

"I am being educated better on the proces and what needs to take place."

Part of that was finding out that efforts to address safety concerns on Route 9W are not new. According to Orangetown Traffic Advisory Board Chair Guy DiVincenzo, local officials asked for the NYS Department of Transportation to do speed, traffic and safety surveys of the entire section of the road that runs through Orangetown. Requests to lower the speed limit from 45 miles per hour near Oaktree Road after a fatal accident there early in 2010 were denied by the DOT. Some changes were made, including the establishment of a school zone in front of Tappan Zee Elementary School.

"It has been a concern of ours for many year," DiVincenzo said. 

Alicea said he was happy to know that the town has made efforts to address the safety issues on Route 9W in the past, but added much more needs to be done. 

"This topic, there isn't much opposition to it," Alicea said. "There may be concerns or disagreements on specifics, especially when it gets to the (New York State Department of Transportation). They have traffic engineers and scientists who work on this. I happen to feel they missed a couple oft hings with that study. 

"This doesn't need a formula. Ride down that road. Put your son or daughter on that road. You'd pull them right off."

DiVincenzo suggested the creation of a subcommittee that would focus on safety related to bicycle riders all through Orangetown. Dave Zurnow and Lila Moreno, who came to speak for Rockland Bicycling Club, agreed with the idea. Alicea said he would also like to be a part of it. 

"We are not all experts on traffic matters, but we have representatives of departments who are experts in the field," DiVincenzo said. "I thought because we have this expertise in your group, it would behoove us to form a subcommittee, maybe headed by your group of cyclists ... We could have a liaison to your group so we can have a flow of information.

"We could meet together or sometimes just the liaison to come up with ways we can make Orangtown a safer bicycling committee, not just on 9W."

Orangetown Councilman Paul Valentine, the town liaison to the traffic advisory board, said it would be important to get bicycle riders on the same page. He said that some have fought hard against any restrictions of bicycle riding, even on dangerous stretches of 9W.

Zornow acknowledged that motorists and cyclists need to learn how to better share the road. He said it was important to publicize state law recently passed requiring motorists to stay at least three feet of clearance when passing a cyclist on the road. 

"Bikers do need to share the road. They have a responsibility to follow the laws," Zornow said. "Motorists have to be kind to friends, relatives and neighbors on bicycles.

"I can tell you that cyclists and motorists do not always play as nice as they should in the town of Orangeburg and Rockland County. If there are things that can be done to improve understandings of both groups (motorists and cyclists), we want (to help)."

R A July 04, 2012 at 12:13 PM
We moved here from the Midwest. Experiencing 9W once was enough to realize that there is not physical room for two cars (each going in opposite directions), a cyclist(s), AND the curve(s)! The yellow lines down the middle of the road are a joke. If the opposing lane happens to be clear and you come upon a cyclist, one must swerve into the oncoming lane. If the lane is not clear one must stop their car and slowly travel at the cyclists speed. If cyclists are riding their bikes to be in good physical shape, the advice would be stay off of treacherous 9W and ride on safer roads. Surely there are others from which to choose. Not against cyclists. Just want them safe.
stephany July 04, 2012 at 03:57 PM
bikes don't belong on 9W period. Having said that this seem like just 1 more issue to keep David Carlucci in the headlines. He can start by saying why he would want his wife ruing a bike on 9W then he can introduce whatever legislation he thinks will help him get elected to Rockland or Clarkstown supervisor. I just hope he is not another politician that runs for re election only to leave in 1-2 years. While I don't agree with him or his tactics it appears he at least shows up and works what used to be and still should be a part time job
Bern July 04, 2012 at 04:35 PM
Let's stop the finger-pointing and do the wisest thing, require cyclists to turn off 9w northbound at Tallman State Park where they would ride thru Piermont safely. Southbound cyclists should be directed off 9W at Cristian Herald Rd. Rational? Same reason cyclists are not permitted on the NY Thruway. In bad weather, I even avoid 9w with my car. I never take my bike on 9w.
Andromachos July 05, 2012 at 11:25 AM
The writer makes a comparison to a rash of head on accidents which was taking place on Rte 303. Here we have a single (albeit tragic) accident. Are we certain there was something about the nature of the roadway that contributed to the accident? I have been following the story, and unless I have missed something (entirely possible) it is merely assumed that the narrowness or curviness of the road was a contributing factor. Many accidents are caused by a moment of inattention (by either party) rather than any external factor.
Maggie24 July 06, 2012 at 11:36 AM
Andromachos, I live on 9W, on the stretch in question (between Old Mountain Road and Ash Street). I can tell you that is is INDEED the narrowness, curves, and complete disregard of the speed limit that makes this stretch deadly. You simply cannot see cyclists around the curves. In order to avoid them, you must move to the other lane, or slam on your brakes. As a resident, I take this into consideration on 9W, but there are plenty of people who don't, ignoring both the speed limits and conditions, and plenty of cyclists who don't seem to understand the danger they are putting themselves in (from what the family said at the Orangetown meeting, Ms. Martinez was unfamiliar with this stretch of 9W). This issue often turns into an us-against-them debate. I am not against cyclists. They bring business to the area and have a right to enjoy themselves. But it isn't just about cyclists. I'm positive that the life of the young woman who struck and killed Ms. Martinez has also changed forever. This is a tragedy, all around. Finally, to the original article: form a committee?? How many other people will die this summer while that happens? We need leaflets at the cycling destinations (Bunbury, Runcible, the Market), cops at either end, and signage that at least lets cyclists know they are entering a dangerous stretch. Bike clubs need to get the word out to their membership. Let's stop pointing fingers, and save lives.

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