Preschool teacher petitions for safer crosswalks in Ridgefield: ‘It’s time to see some changes’

Photo of Alyssa Seidman

RIDGEFIELD — Nearly 400 residents want pedestrians downtown to feel safer while crossing Main Street, but any measures to do so would require state approval.

A change.org petition, organized by resident Lisa DelGiudice, suggests replacing the existing crosswalk signs by the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum and the Ridgefield Conservatory of Dance with solar-powered, battery-operated LED signs that flash at the push of a button. These signs could also be erected elsewhere in town if deemed necessary.

The petition has garnered 390 signatures in less than a week.

DelGiudice is a preschool teacher at RCK Preschool. She has lived in Ridgefield for 26 years, raising four children with her husband.

The No. 1 rule her children must follow when spending time downtown is to cross Main Street at the traffic lights, she said.

“We have always been concerned about our kids spending time in town since it’s a busy place,” she added. “(A) recent crosswalk incident that happened to a friend of mine … got me motivated to finally take action as this is not the first time there has been a near miss with a car and a pedestrian.”

The incident occurred earlier this month when a woman was walking her dogs in the crosswalk near the Aldrich. In a Facebook post, the woman alleged that a driver blew through the crosswalk while she was halfway across.

While the town has replaced some of its golden-yellow crossing signs with more vibrant tennis-ball yellow ones, DelGiudice believes it is not enough.

“Adding new LED … signs could help pedestrians cross Main Street with less fear and more confidence that drivers will adhere to the rules of the road,” the petition reads. It also argues that the blinking lights “will alert drivers to stop and allow pedestrians to cross safely.”

First Selectman Rudy Marconi said town officials have “extensively” discussed modifying downtown’s street crossings over the past couple of years, but because Main Street is part of Route 35 — a state highway — any changes to it would require state approval.

The petition comes as the second phase of the Main Street realignment project prepares to break ground this spring. The $4 million project is aimed at improving traffic flow on the road between Governor and Prospect streets.

While reviewing the project, officials looked at a multitude of crossings downtown relative to pedestrian safety. The town requested the state mechanically connect Main Street’s traffic lights with flashing crosswalk signs so they could activate in sync with each red light and allow enough time for people to cross, Marconi said.

In order for the plan to work, however, Marconi said the state would have to add a traffic light at the ingress/egress between The Cake Box and The Toy Chest that leads into the Ridgefield Shopping Center parking lot.

There is a crosswalk between The Cake Box and the Ridgefield Conservatory of Dance. The petition argues that eliminating this passage altogether would be the safest option.

In the 13 years she has taught at the conservatory, artistic director Amy Piantaggini said she’s never seen an accident nor a near miss at that intersection.

“I honestly can’t say that I do see a problem … however … there are children on the street every day coming to and from the businesses, including ours,” she said. “I don’t see a downside to reinforcing the safety features there.”

Marconi said the crosswalk in front of the Aldrich also needs to be addressed, perhaps with a heavy-weighted sign in the center of the road to make it more visible to motorists.

Emily Devoe, the museum’s director of marketing and communications, said she has not heard from visitors about pedestrian safety being an issue, noting that most of them come into the building from the adjacent parking lot.

The town has also asked the state to install more crosswalks along Main Street, including near the northeast entrance of Ballard Park.

“Crosswalks are a very important part of our downtown, (but) … because … Connecticut has crosswalks all over the state, they have a tendency to look at everything as, ‘what’s the impact across the state?’,” Marconi explained. “It’s difficult to have a one-size-fits-all approach.”

A communications manager from the DOT said the department supports communities installing rectangular rapid flash beacons to help enhance both pedestrian and vehicular safety.

DelGiudice has created a list of crosswalks she believes should be addressed and compiled a list of related concerns that residents have posted online. She plans to present these and the petition to the first selectman’s office, and will be sending them to other concerned parties, as well.

“Ridgefield … (is) a great town with many families, therefore lots of traffic,” she said, “and it’s time to see some changes made to make the town safer for pedestrians.”

To sign DelGiudice’s petition, click here.

alyssa.seidman@hearstmediact.com