Is your town walker-friendly?

Walkability. A very-pregnant pedestrian charts her stress level while navigating intersections in seven towns

| 19 Apr 2022 | 02:51

Pedestrian fatalities have soared nationwide in the past two years, as the surge in pandemic-era reckless and distracted driving continues and our vehicles keep getting huger. In New Jersey, 2022 is shaping up to be the deadliest year for walkers in recent memory, with 173 fatalities statewide as of April 18, a 31% spike from the same period in 2020, according to stats from the New Jersey State Police.

Are we as safe as we think while meandering our neighborhoods? We decided to put that question to the test across our coverage area. Thirty-nine weeks pregnant, I took to the streets with my toddler in a stroller, navigating intersections in seven towns over the course of a week, during the busy windows between 7:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m., or 2:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.

I spent 15 to 20 minutes walking up one side of the street, trying to cross at the crosswalk, then coming down the other side before crossing back over to the original side. I crossed each street a total of five to eight times depending on the distance. Factors like drivers’ road manners, traffic volume and physical infrastructure combined to produce a stress level we categorized as low, medium or high.

1. Monroe, NY
Vicinity of 17M and Lakes Street
Stress rating: Medium

This felt like a safe intersection, but crossing took the most time. There are walk lights on every corner for crossing 17M over by the ponds. The lights are often delayed and so you can safely wait at the intersection, and wait... and wait. If you decide to go before the light indicates, the turning lanes will often wait for you to cross, but not always. Two of six times, cars turning right continued to go when I had already entered the crosswalk.

2. Goshen, NY
Vicinity of Five Corners intersection (West Main Street, Main Street, North Church Street, South Church Street and Greenwich Avenue)
Stress rating: Low

Don’t be fooled by the nickname slow-motion Goshen; the hub of the village is in fact a hotbed of activity, with people strolling through and stopping in at local shops and cafes. The drivers are exceedingly polite: all the cars followed the traffic and pedestrian lights, and when I crossed in places without pedestrian lights, most people stopped and waved me across.

3. Warwick, NY
Vicinity of Main Street and McEwen Street
Stress level: Medium

Warwick’s Main Street epitomizes small-town charm, with shops and eateries making it a destination for locals and out-of-towners alike. The downside: street parking makes it difficult for oncoming traffic to see if there is someone waiting to cross. While everyone stopped to let me cross, many saw me “late” and braked closer to the crosswalk than they likely would have if they could have seen me around the parked vehicles.

4. Florida, NY
Vicinity of North Main Street / Route 94 near Werner’s Ace Hardware
Stress level: Medium

Drivers stopped for me, often without hesitation, flashing their lights or waving to indicate I could go. The only exception were the cars that could not see me due to the vehicles parked on the street – the same problem as in the neighboring town of Warwick.

5. Sparta, NJ
Vicinity of Sparta Town Center (Main Street and Sparta Avenue N.)
Stress level: Medium

The best way to navigate this busy main intersection is to dutifully cross where there is a pedestrian light. If you cross elsewhere, like Woodport Road, cars in the right lane are less likely to stop, particularly if there are vehicles in the left lane blocking their view – a scenario that the walk light prevents.

6. Newton, NJ
Vicinity of Route 94 and Water Street near Hayek’s Market
Stress level: High

This urban-suburbia’s roads are definitely the busiest of all those we navigated, with cars constantly fighting through intersections. Thankfully, each corner had a button-activated light to help cross, and at the busiest times (between 7:20 a.m. and 8:40 a.m., and 2:20 p.m. and 3:40 p.m.) they have crossing guards to direct the pedestrian traffic. I felt safe with the crossing support, but this is a busy and potentially dangerous intersection.

7. Milford, PA
Vicinity of East Harford Street
Stress level: Low

In the heart of downtown, peppered with historical signs and pocket-sized parks, many intersections were clearly marked with crosswalk signs. Most drivers waved me on to cross the main drag. At the primary intersection by the Walgreen’s, which has a pedestrian button-activated light, all but one black SUV that was turning right obeyed the light and stopped for me. The intersections were busy but felt safe.