By Michael Sellitti
When the Sidney Center Improvement Group (SCIG) was formed over thirteen years ago, the founding members began with identifying the issues in the hamlet that were most important to them. One problem immediately identified and unanimously agreed upon was speeding.
Speeding through Sidney Center has become commonplace, despite the big 30 MPH sign or the number of “speed zone ahead” warnings. Nothing has made a noticeable difference. SCIG members, especially those who live within the hamlet’s limits, made it a personal priority to address this issue. For years, discussions went on with town and county officials, presentations were made at meetings, petitions circulated and calls made to the Sheriff’s Department and State Police, pleading for help with this problem. Those concerns were heard and dealt with as best they could be. Many thanks for the support of the NY State Police and the Delaware County Sheriff’s Department over the years. Their increased presence in Sidney Center helps to slow traffic, but only while they are there.
Sidney Center is not unique in this problem. A decline in the size of our upstate towns and a decrease in daily activities has resulted in lowered consideration for those who still live and work in these small concentrations of homes, businesses and public spaces. In an effort to be proactive on the issue, the group took it head-on by researching potential solutions and what other communities have done to address the same issue. The breakthrough came when SCIG discovered a NYS Department of Health grant program called Creating Healthy Schools and Communities, which works with local communities to improve walkability for residents. Upon learning of the program, SCIG invited the program’s director and community coordinator, Maureen Blanchard, to a board meeting to discuss some of the issues in Sidney Center, beyond just speeding.
In the summer of 2018, Blanchard and community members met to commence a “Walk-Audit” of the hamlet to observe and document the issues that threatened the safety and walkability of residents and students. These concerns were prioritized and discussed at length for solutions. It was decided that the most immediate and concerning issue was speeding as it relates to students getting on and off the school bus in Sidney Center. The most immediate and cost-effective way of addressing this issue was to take advantage of relatively new technology: solar powered digital radar speed signs.
“The radar speed signs will hopefully reduce the speed of traffic through Sidney Center to the posted 30 MPH limit, which significantly increases the chances of survivability of a pedestrian hit by a car,” said Blanchard. “While we hope crashes don’t happen, we know that students need to walk to bus stops and community members walk to the store, the library and the park. We want them to get there safely and not have to rely on their car for local trips. Residents care about their community and want to see community members healthy and safe,” she added.
Through the grant program, Blanchard assisted SCIG in purchasing two radar speed signs, one for each end of the hamlet. SCIG then worked with Delaware County DPW and the Town of Sidney to determine the best use and location of the signs. The long-term benefit of these signs is the data collection feature. This tracks the speed, frequency and time of vehicles passing the sign. The data can then be shared with local law enforcement to focus their efforts of slowing speeding motorists during certain times or days of the week. The implementation of these signs, combined with local enforcement, has proven to significantly curb speeding in small communities like Sidney Center.
Sidney Town Supervisor Gene Pigford commented on the Sidney Center Improvement Group’s involvement in this community concern: “…their ongoing efforts to enhance this lovely community in upstate New York are much appreciated. Most recently they have acquired two electronic speed signs to remind motorists to drive responsibly and obey local speed laws. Through a cooperative agreement with the Sidney Center Improvement Group, the Town of Sidney will assume the ownership and maintenance of the signs, and following the example of the SCIG, “encourages all residents to be responsible stewards of their communities.”
The residents of Sidney Center and the volunteer members of SCIG would like to thank the Creating Healthy Schools and Communities, the Town of Sidney, Delaware County DPW and Delaware County Sheriff’s Department for their continued support and for taking the community’s concerns seriously. Through years of time and effort by volunteers, by building relationships and partnerships, progress can actually be made. SCIG hopes that concerned residents continue to reach out and offer their insight, and help on matters that affect us all.
To stay updated on the progress and installation of the signs, please follow SCIG’s Facebook page at: facebook.com/SCIGNY.