Crosswalk Roulette: Pedestrian Safety in Rye

Many Rye residents have had the following experience: You are standing at a crosswalk in downtown Rye preparing to cross the street. You inch your feet slowly forward, lurch your head past the parked cars, and start to pray as you begin your treacherous journey. You are hoping, often against the odds, that the driver coming toward you will (1) not be texting, (2) notice the crosswalk sign and notice you in it, and, most importantly, (3) obey the laws of traffic and stop to let you cross the street. Still others have had an opposite but equally frightening experience: you are driving through town, or near one of the schools at drop off or pick up, and pedestrians suddenly pop out from behind parked cars, not bothering to look left or right before darting out in front of your car. Whether it is distracted drivers, distracted pedestrians, or drivers and pedestrians simply refusing to obey basic traffic laws, Rye residents are definitely concerned about pedestrian safety.

In late 2015, a pedestrian was hit by a car while crossing the street in the vicinity of Theodore Fremd Avenue and Purchase Street; another was hit by two cars while crossing the street near the intersection of Highland Road and Purchase Street. While both accidents are still under investigation, there are several locations around Rye where pedestrian safety has become an issue. Brian Dempsey, Chairman of the Traffic and Pedestrian Safety Committee, says that the biggest concerns are the areas around our schools. Because many children in Rye walk or bike to school, the focus has been on making the routes to each school safer and more user friendly for pedestrian traffic. City Manager Marcus Serrano notes that “the City has worked very hard with the schools” to ensure safe crossings, and that city officials recently met with school district personnel to recommend additional education regarding pedestrian safety.  

Pursuant to a 2013 grant from the Federal Safe Routes to School Program, several pedestrian improvements have been approved by the City and will be implemented during the summer of 2016. Specifically, the intersections at Forest and Apawamis avenues, Forest and Hewlett avenues, and Boston Post and Old Post roads will all have new flashing lights (also referred to as safety beacons), new crosswalk signs, and new handicapped ramps.  In addition, there will be several improvements to the sidewalks and crosswalks along Hewlett Avenue in front of Milton School. Finally, the sidewalks at the intersection of Theall Road and Osborn Road will be expanded to reduce the length of the pedestrian crosswalk near Osborn School.

Other improvements around town have already been completed:  new signs and blinking lights were added to the crosswalks on Boston Post Road at Thistle Lane and near the CVS parking lot.  New, brighter crosswalk signs have also replaced old worn signs along Milton Road near Resurrection School as well as at the crossing at Apawamis Avenue and Milton Road by Rye High School.


Other intersections such as Theodore Fremd Avenue and Purchase Street, and Boston Post Road and Sonn Drive, are currently being evaluated for potential pedestrian improvements. As for the downtown area, the long awaited Elm/Smith/Purchase Street project, funded in 2012 and originally scheduled for the fall of 2015, is now slated for summer 2016.  Those improvements will include repaving, new sidewalks, new crosswalks and other curb and aesthetic improvements.

Dempsey stresses, “Our biggest problem is getting drivers and pedestrians to obey the rules and regulations of the road.” All drivers need to be vigilant about stopping and yielding to pedestrians at crosswalks, as well as obeying the stop signs and no left turn signs throughout town.  Pedestrians also need to be vigilant about crossing only at designated crosswalks and not darting out from between parked cars. Both Serrano and Assistant City Manager Eleanor Militana agree that pedestrians should not assume they can immediately cross at a crosswalk, and should make eye contact with the oncoming driver before crossing the street. Dempsey adds that pedestrians often have their headphones on and are looking at their phones while assuming that drivers will stop. Serrano and Militana both believe that there must be a group effort between the City, the School District, and parents in order to ensure the safety of our children.


— Gretchen Althoff Snyder



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