Dear Stony Brook & Setauket
Recently I went to Swarthmore, Pennsylvania (population was 6,194 as of the 2010 census) to visit my good friend who just moved there from Setauket. Like Stony Brook and Setauket (population was 19,378 at the 2010 census) it's a college town with lots of lovely trees. Unlike Stony Brook and Setauket, Swarthmore has sidewalks and a lovely green center square with a great food co-op, local coffee shops, a bookstore and restaurants with outdoor tables (I wish we had all these), all next to the train station where they have fast commuter trains to Philadelphia (wishing again here!).
Kids in Swarthmore have freedom: they can walk to school and walk to friends homes. There's a farmers market in the square every Saturday, as well as music and performances. Senors can walk around and parents are not taxi drivers. Everywhere you walk you're greeted by friendly neighbors who are also out walking, jogging or cycling. It was the most enjoyable few days because we hardly used the car. We shopped and ate locally and took many wonderful walks on sidewalks and through the beautiful college grounds. My friend tells me this is the most joyous thing and although she really misses Setauket (especially North Shore Montessori & Emma Clark) she feels that having sidewalks has really changed her family's life for the better.
I just couldn't stop myself from thinking all we need to do is connect a few of our main streets. If only we extended the sidewalk from Christain Ave to Main St, Quaker Path from 25A to Lubber St, extended Mud Rd to Ridgeway Ave, Ridgeway Ave to Main St, extended Main St from the Neighborhood House to 25A, extend existing on Gnarled Hollow Road to Sheep Pasture, complete Old Town Road to 347, Mount Grey to West Meadow Beach. It's not that many streets and then our children could walk safely to Gelinas and Ward Melville. We could walk to the train station, we would cut down on congestion and the need to drive everywhere and children could walk to school and friends' houses; Stony Brook University students and staff would be safe; senors could walk to the Neighborhood House; many residents could walk safely to the beach. Sidewalks are all about safety and a better quality of life, something that will ultimately enhance the value of our neighborhoods and communities. We could all enjoy our beautiful green community more if we could walk safely around it!
Driverless Cars and You
Get ready! The next revolution in transportation has begun - the driverless car. Already, autonomous vehicles are being introduced in different towns and cities across the country to serve as taxis or deliver goods.
As with all technologies, autonomous vehicles carry an element of risk. Although connectivity with other vehicles and roadside infrastructure will reduce that risk, signals sometimes fail.
Designing a vehicle that can navigate any condition using only what it can sense on its own may be the most difficult task of all. Proponents of these vehicles also stress the safety of leaving the complex task of driving to software that cannot be impeded by emotion, drinking, distractions and other human weaknesses.
But, as we look forward to the time when we can rely on our ‘automatic’ vehicles to whisk us to work, store, or meetings, maybe, just maybe, we need to ask ourselves how we keep engineering ourselves into a lifestyle of poor health and well being.
More than two-thirds of our country’s population is now obese or overweight. Cardiovascular disease and diabetes have skyrocketed over the past three decades. A sedentary lifestyle is increasingly typical to all age segments of the population. And, while our health care system remains first class, it is increasingly burdened by costs linked to poor diet and lack of exercise.
Perhaps today, more than ever, we need to engineer ways to increase the opportunities to exercise. Communities with sidewalks and footpaths tend to be healthier due to the ease and access of recreational opportunities. Children have the opportunity to engage with their friends and neighbors without being ‘in the street.’ Sidewalks build closer, more connected and friendlier communities.
So, while we may marvel at the latest innovations in autonomous vehicles, we might just want to tap the brakes and think where we are going. Maybe, the engineering feat we need is simpler and basic – more practical ways to get us out and about using our own two feet. Sidewalks do just that!
Life with Sidewalks
A few weeks ago, a survey was sent out via Facebook and email to area residents to ask those who lived on streets with sidewalks to share their experiences about their sidewalks. The survey is shown below, along with the results from the survey. As of this writing, 28 people have responded to the survey. The survey is still open. To take the survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/LG2CX9J
This survey asks residents who live on streets with sidewalks to tell us about their experiences.
1. What street do you reside on?
The respondents were from all over Three Village and Port Jefferson areas.
2. In a typical day/week, for what purposes do you use the sidewalk?
Walking for exercise – 67%
Walk the dog- 30%
Walking to do errands, visit town 41%
Visit neighbors- 33%
Other (please specify)- Children walk to neighbors’ houses, ride bicycles, and walk to school. Children also walk to their school bus.
3. How often do you utilize your sidewalks?
A few times per week 32%
4. Do you think the sidewalk adds or reduces value to your property?
Adds value 68%
Reduces value 14%
No change 21%
5. Who utilizes your sidewalk?
Other (please specify)
For the most part, the sidewalks are used by all of these people, neighbors, students, commuters. In addition, children serve as a large population who utilize the sidewalks. As many of our current sidewalks are in neighborhoods surrounding Stony Brook University and are utilized by students of the university, it is important that the university be part of the conversation about maintaining and building sidewalks in our area.
6. Does your sidewalk make you feel safe or unsafe in your neighborhood?
No difference 11%
7. Would you prefer to have sidewalks or not to have sidewalks?
Yes, I prefer the sidewalk 86%
No, I would prefer no sidewalk 14%
8. Do your sidewalks need improvement?
9. Do you have any other comments, questions, or concerns?
The following are comments left by some of the respondents. The issues addressed range from a need for more sidewalks to ensure the safety of residents to the concerns about the cost of building and maintaining sidewalks. The maintenance of sidewalks is an important issue as many of our existing sidewalks are in poor condition and are currently not maintained by the Town of Brookhaven. Comment number 4 represents the argument against building more sidewalks in the area.
My street doesn't have sidewalks but the nearby town of Port Jefferson has many streets with sidewalks. I prefer those streets when I run and go for a walk with my children. I would love to have sidewalks on my street as I would feel safer when letting my kids visit their neighborhood friends on their own. Also, I think it would definitely liven up the neighborhood and make it safer for everybody with more people outside.
We need more safe routes on Quaker Path, Christian Ave.
In our neighborhood, most people prefer to walk in the street. I think that this is because portions of our sidewalk are in disrepair or are not significantly wide enough to comfortably accommodate two people (or one person and a dog) across. Also, people rarely clean the sidewalk when we have snow.
I would rather the town spend their resources fixing our roads than putting resources in sidewalks that will need more money for maintenance.
Would love to have crosswalks painted near the duck pond. Especially for those people who live on the side of Main Street that does not have sidewalks. Due to the excessive and unmonitored speeding down Main St., it's pretty dangerous to cross the street at Hawkins, Mills Pond, etc.
We have called about the mess the sidewalk is in. The town does not maintain at all, someone will get hurt. This area has a lot of student use due to location. The town & university should be concerned about safety and make a point of clearing them in the winter for the high amount of walkers.
The sidewalks on Pond Path need to be extended. We have one block to walk toward school before the sidewalk begins and that segment is frightening. The other concern is that some homeowners do not trim their bushes or shovel their walks as they are required to do.
8. Sidewalks on Thompson Hay!!! Please give us more of a chance to walk safely in our community.