Opinion: New 9W Bike Safety Signs Not Enough

A letter to the editor

To the editor (regarding “”):

Two tragedies occurred on June 10 of this year, both of which may have been avoidable. 

In the first, Janet Martinez, a cyclist who, according to a family member’s statement at the Orangetown Board Meeting in June, had little knowledge of the dangerous conditions along a certain stretch of Route 9W, was struck and killed in that stretch, by a motorist.

In the second, a young woman driving a car along 9W struck and killed Ms. Martinez, forever changing her own life. I cannot imagine the horror she must now have to live with forever, that of having inadvertently killed another human being.

I grieve for both the family and the driver.

Those of us who live along 9W, especially in the stretch between Ash Street in Piermont and North Broadway in Grandview, are far too familiar with the dangers of this road. The 40 mph speed limit may as well not exist for the blur of vehicles rushing by. The shoulder is nearly non-existent in some areas, with no hope for widening; this is all steep-slope area, and cannot be touched under current laws. Repairs for potholes and other dangerous obstacles take forever. 

And most important, the sharp curves hide oncoming traffic from drivers. Those of us who know this road may know when to slow down, know what might come around the next corner—but this is a state highway, filled, especially on weekends, with strangers who have no idea what to expect, and believing that a posted speed limit means that said level of speed is acceptable.

When cyclists—with no shoulder to ride on—are added to this mix, the situation can become lethal. Vehicles have nowhere to go but the center of the road—and if someone is coming from the other direction, with cyclists in their lanes as well, an even bigger tragedy is in the making. 

Much has been said about the right to use the roads, by all sides. But rights and reason are often two different things, and this is especially true in this case. This stretch of road is dangerous. People die on it (including two cases in the last decade where cars went flying off the hill, into yards below). This stretch is no place for cyclists, plain and simple. In fact, the official cycling maps even underscore this fact, calling out the river road as the correct route, accessible northbound before the Sparkill Bridge and at Ash Street.

Finally, even those of us motorists who do believe in sharing the road—who recognizes the benefits of having people explore our towns via bicycle, who see the health benefits, who are cyclists, ourselves—are still in danger of facing a head-on collision.

The posting of the new signs once again demonstrates the tone-deafness of politicians. While much was made about taking action, little has actually been accomplished. The signs that have been posted do nothing to alert either uninformed cyclists or motorists to the the dangers of a particular stretch of road that is neither an approved cycling route nor an easily navigated set of blind curves.

Action, especially when it comes to safety, is more than a bunch of carefully prepared press releases and generic signs. It is the careful consideration of the real issues, followed by actual progress in creating better results, clearly demonstrating the real situation.

Far more needs to be done to prevent any future tragedies, for anyone.

Pat Esgate, Piermont

Issy August 17, 2012 at 10:45 AM
The notion that " Vehicles have nowhere to go but the center of the road" is ridiculous, as though this justifies hitting (or near miss) a cyclist in order to avoid a "an even bigger tragedy". No one should be driving their vehicle faster than their visible stopping distance. No one has a divine right to overtake a cyclists. The simple alternative to avoiding an even bigger tragedy (as though hitting a cyclist is not big enough) is to SLOW DOWN and wait for a SAFE opportunity to overtake.
Maggie24 August 17, 2012 at 12:04 PM
It never, ever ceases to amaze me how so many cyclists immediately respond to ANY comment about where they ride with anger, without trying to see the bigger picture. The author of this letter shows support for cyclists, and simply states that one section of 9W is already dangerous for both cyclists and motorists. He/she states that the official cycling route is the river road, with a 25 mph speed limit and a straight view for blocks. You are right that safe speeds are important. The State has determined that on 9W, 40 is a safe speed. Someone driving 20, around one of the blind curves, is ALSO a potential safety hazard. And unfortunately, this sectionof 9W hosts a LOT of unfamiliar drivers, coming off the Thruway and headed for New Jersey. All they know is what the signs tell them. And where did you manage to read into this letter that the author is supporting the idea of hitting a cyclist versus being in a head on collision? From what I can tell, he/she is showing a simple desire to keep a particularly nasty stretch of road as safe as possible. No one is trying too tell you to not ride your bike. This letter seems to clearly state that doing it on the approved road is a better idea. the river road is the approved cycling route. If you want a cardio workout, take Tweed. But PLEASE, stop acting as if someone is trying to take your stuffed bear away. It isn't all about you--it's about ALL of us.
Grizzy August 17, 2012 at 01:59 PM
Well said Maggie 24. I travel that road twice a day to drop of and pick up my son from work. I can tell you that I know the road and slow down under 40, but cars in back of me get angry and tailgate me so that I can drive faster. They seem to not know the road and the chance of a cyclist around the bend. In addition cyclist need to share the road and respect the biking laws. I recommend new cyclist to learn the road first before biking on 9w.
Issy August 17, 2012 at 02:25 PM
Wow Maggie, that was some straw-man you created there. My post was neither advocated for or against cycling.or for cycling on 9W. I was dispelling the notion that cars have no choice but to overtake a cyclist and risk a oncoming collision, when the motorist could simply, check their ego, slow down and wait to pass safely.. And this does not just apply to cyclists, but other slow moving vehicles, pedestrians and, animals.
Tom Robbins August 17, 2012 at 03:04 PM
No one has a divine right to be there period including cyclists.
Maggie24 August 17, 2012 at 04:40 PM
Issy, I didn't read that letter as referring to normal situations where a driver HAS a choice to "check their ego" and slow down / wait to pass. I read it as referring to those situations when you have a 10-ton-truck on your tail and you're coming around a corner where you suddenly find yourself smack behind a pack of cyclists--some of whom seem to think this is the time to overtake the bike ahead of him / her Problem is, the motorist in the other lane might be in the exact same situation--and now both of you need to either slam on the brakes--with cars behind--or move to your left, to the center of the road. In this section of 9W, there's no other choice. I just didn't understand why you would immediately leap to the negative when the letter writer was simply saying, "this section of the road is nuts. Let's try to keep ALL of our friends and neighbors safe, and not add to the craziness up there." I'm assuming you're a cyclist (as am I, but I also drive 9W several times daily). Can you tell me why one would WANT to be up in that deathtrap, rather than on the river road or Tweed? Some other reason than "it's my right"? I mean, you have the right to ride your bike off the end of the Piermont Pier into the Hudson, but would you do that regularly?
elizabeth October 23, 2012 at 12:27 AM
That stretch of 9W is unsafe for bicyclists, period. It is a very scary road to drive a car on, with people on bikes, riding so close to you. They should not be allowed on it. By the way, there is also a rail trail from Nyack all the way south past Sparkill.
Eco Advocate March 06, 2013 at 03:48 AM
The "Share the Road" signage is very ambiguous and I've had drivers yell at me to "get out of the way, I shouldn't yield to you you're on a bike and I'm faster, in a car." Share the road = get out of my way cyclist (for some drivers) What New York State is switching to is a Diamond road sign with a bike image and "IN LANE" with no other symbols. >>perhaps the community could demand some traffic calming devices, strategies or enforcement to at least keep drivers to the posted limit (speeds which are not likely prudent on all sections of the road, in all conditions) and or a traffic study. If there are accidents there then there is reason for the state DOT to perform a study and consider changes.


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