Norwalk Beach Road safety an issue for candidates

Norwalk Beach Road Sharrows 011
A Norwalk Calf Pasture Beach Road cyclist passes damage caused by an accident recently. Police say a speeding teenager crashed into the wall in front of Marvin Elementary School.

Updated May 21 with additional charge for the driver. 

NORWALK, Conn. – When speaking about the alleged danger of the design of Calf Pasture Beach Road last summer, Norwalk Traffic Commissioner Pete Torrano said records showed no accidents due to speeding there in more than a decade.

That is no longer true.

The smashed stone wall and bent street sign pole in front of Marvin Elementary School were caused by a speeding teenage driver last month, Norwalk Police Sgt. Lisa Cotto said. The accident damage was pointed out to NancyOnNorwalk by an activist who had campaigned for cheap but intense alterations of the road, which he and others said would make the road safer and life more pleasant for cyclists and pedestrians, including children who walk to school.

City officials greeted their claims of dangerous speeders on Beach Road with skepticism, and said the proposed changes would put pedestrians in more danger. Torrano said the problems on the road were overstated, and attacked the comments about the lack of safety as “inflammatory, inaccurate and a disgrace.”

Clearly, they were wrong, said the activist, who wished to remain anonymous.

We decided to ask Mayor Richard Moccia and his Democratic challengers what they think about the issue. Only two people responded. Their answers are below.

But first, a recap of the issue, and the details of the accident:

On April 21, at about 5:30 p.m., a 17-year-old boy was driving north at about 40 to 45 miles per hour on the on the inside lane of the road, which is marked as a 25 mph zone. He hit the traffic island, Cotto said, then veered across the road, to the right, over the sidewalk and into the stone wall in front of Marvin Elementary School.

The boy, who was uninjured, said his steering wheel had locked up, Cotto said. His car suffered heavy front end damage. He was charged with reckless driving and operating a motor vehicle without a license. There was a man jogging, but he was on the other side of the road.

Last summer, activists campaigned for a “road diet,” reducing the road to one lane in each direction. They said this would slow drivers and keep them farther from the sidewalk. The freed-up space would become a bike lane, which could also be used by pedestrians.

Common Councilman Nick Kydes (R-District C) said he thought it irresponsible to encourage pedestrians to be in the road, on the same level as traffic. Mayor Richard Moccia said he had never heard complaints before a special-interest group decided to try to get a combined bicycle and pedestrian lane.

Torrano said he had compiled statistics that showed no fatalities since 1979, when a driver was impaled on a fence after he struck the locked gate at the beach. There were only four accidents with injury on the road between 1999 and July 2012, he said. There were 28 accidents in total, and none of those involved speeding. (beach_road_statistics)

The Traffic Commission voted to install sharrows, a lane marked for both cyclists and automobiles. Activists said sharrows were not recommended for roads where drivers traveled at more than 25 mph.

Moccia did not respond to an email asking him to revisit the issue.

Former Norwalk Police Chief Harry Rilling and Democratic District D Chairman Vinny Mangiacopra, who would both like to face Moccia this fall as the Democratic Party challenger, did.

Their answers:

Harry Rilling

It is true there are relatively few accidents on Beach Road, but we can never lose sight of the fact there is an elementary school, many houses, lots of pedestrians, and many bicyclists.  It is therefore important to make the road as safe as possible.  That comes from following the “Three E’s” of education, engineering, and enforcement.

Beach Road has always received significant levels of enforcement for speeding and motorcycles without proper mufflers. The sharrows could possibly be confusing to some who do not use the road on a regular basis.  For example, a bicyclist might think that particular lane is limited to bicycle traffic only, thereby giving him or her a false sense of security.

I believe the road needs to be made as safe as possible and that comes from the second “E”, proper engineering.  I do not recall if speed humps were ever considered there but it might be something of which the residents might be in favor.  It is worth exploring.  There are several other traffic calming measures available that could be explored. Unfortunately, the design of Beach Road does not lend itself to effective implementation of many traffic calming measures.  One that could have the greatest impact would be Vertical Deflection, which includes speed humps, raised intersections and raised crosswalks.  Signage can also be an effective speed calming method but requires additional enforcement until the “Education E” kicks in.  Multiple stop signs can be used where appropriate.

Vinny Mangiacopra

Once again, this is a clear demonstration that the Moccia Administration is out of touch with the direction our city needs to go. When the Beach Road/Bike Lane debate intensified this past year, over 500 residents signed onto a petition demanding a safer alternative. We also have transportation studies, paid for with taxpayer dollars, that urge our future planning in the direction of more accessibility for bikers.

A great opportunity was squandered and the solution of adding sharrows was a poor one at best. Everyone knows that Beach Road is notorious for speeding. Back in 2011, Mayor Moccia clearly stated that speeding was his top priority within that campaign and, when he had a chance to do something about it, he failed again. A dedicated bike lane along with narrowing the existing two lanes would have been a better way to go and a better compromise.

I would have listened to the outcry of the people and advocated for a solution that would have improved the quality of life for our Beach Road residents, those walking or biking to Calf Pasture Beach and those picking up children at Marvin School. Although Mr. Torrano touts the statistics of accidents, he neglects to share the statistics of motor vehicle infractions on the road, which we all know are a problem. A serious incident can happen at any time.

When I become Mayor I will sit down with the activists and re-evaluate the situation on Beach Road, with long-term goals in mind.

Traffic Authority mins 7-30-12



11 responses to “Norwalk Beach Road safety an issue for candidates”

  1. Tim T

    Earth to Vinny
    Earth to Vinny
    Come in Vinny
    500 Residents(loud mouths) signed a petition out of a city of 86,460
    Not exactly a grand referendum. I got to say as much as Moccia is lost and out of touch, little Vinny seems to have him beat . Vinny is just about buzz words and politically correct nonsense. Little Vinny is no more than a used car salesmen. The beach road should be returned to how it was before the mess was made of with the sharrows to satisfy a few loud mouths.
    500 Residents out of a city of 86,460

    Also vinny thank for the laugh with your statement “When I become Mayor”

  2. M. Murray

    Seems like a very low accident rate and fatality rate. To get a more accurate assessment they should figure out accident rate per vehicle usage and compare it to similar streets in the city. A better solution might be to make a pedestrian/bicycle path going behind Marvin School and through Taylor Farm. They would be completely protected from vehicular traffic.

  3. D(ysfunctional)TC

    Vinny would be an excellent candidate…..for the Republicans. Likely Mr. Moccia would win his most decisive victory in all his runs. In the miracle that Vinny did win, it would take him two years to find the bathroom at city hall in which time he would have completely destroyed what is left of any credibility of the DTC. What are they thinking?

  4. LWitherspoon

    “When speaking about the alleged danger of the design of Calf Pasture Beach Road last summer, Norwalk Traffic Commissioner Pete Torrano said records showed no accidents due to speeding there in more than a decade.
    That is no longer true.”
    This article’s opening lines rather dramatically declare that the accident’s cause was speeding. How do we know that? How do we know that this young driver’s steering wheel did not in fact lock up?
    How was the speed of 40-45 mph established?
    Might this be the exact sort of unsubstantiated exaggeration that Commissioner Torrano criticized in the first place?
    The article also states that “City officials greeted … claims of dangerous speeders on Beach Road with skepticism.” What City official expressed skepticism that there were dangerous speeders on Beach Road? I attended several public meetings where I heard all sides of the debate acknowledge that there is speeding on Beach Road. The disagreement was over how best to address the concern. In fact Chief Rilling memorably noted that there was speeding on Beach Road going back to his youth. He did not advise whether those were cars or horses and buggies.

  5. Tim T

    If I remember correctly when someone set up a radar gun on Beach Road last year the one they actually caught speeding was a police car. Rilling attempted to say that the cop was going on a call however no proof of that was ever shown. Maybe if the police in Norwalk would lead by example and stop speeding and blowing lights that would be a start. Also its time the police get off their cell phone when riding around town. If we are expect to use a hands free, I would think the “stressful position” a cop is in he most definitely should be using a hands free.

  6. LWitherspoon

    I’m surprised that Mr. Miklave didn’t respond to the request for comment. When this issue was being discussed last year, Miklave offered to personally paint new striping on Calf Pasture Beach Road. Perhaps he isn’t repeating that offer because he has since realized that doing so would take work away from the DPW union, and pandering to that union is more important than pandering to cyclists. Or perhaps he realized that it made him sound like a cartoon politician.
    Incidentally, I support greater accommodations in Norwalk for cyclists and pedestrians. I would prefer dedicated lanes over “sharrows” on Beach Road and elsewhere, assuming that it can be done without traffic disruption. But I will never vote for a politician such as Miklave whose disingenuous pandering is aimed more at winning higher office for himself than actually improving Norwalk for cyclists and pedestrians.

  7. Tim T

    Once again LWitherspoon posts false and factually incorrect information about Mr. Miklave.

    LWitherspoon states about Mr. Miklave

    “Perhaps he isn’t repeating that offer because he has since realized that doing so would take work away from the DPW union, and pandering to that union is more important than pandering to cyclists”.
    LWitherspoon constantly states that Mr. Miklave is pandering to the unions when in fact his website says the exact opposite.

    “Representing employers in defense of lawsuits brought under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act; the Americans with Disabilities Act; the National Labor Relations Act; the Help America Vote Act; the Civil Rights Acts of 1866 and 1871; the Worker Adjustment Retraining Notification Act; the Family and Medical Leave Act; the Employment Retirement Income Security Act; the Fair Labor Standards Act; the Employee Polygraph Protection Act; and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as well as equivalent state and local laws”

    Serving as lead negotiator and advising employers with respect to union-management labor negotiations”


    LWitherspoon maybe you are having problems understanding what this says but Mr. Miklave represents EMPLOYERS NOT EMPLOYEE.

    However if LWitherspoon would like to talk about pandering to the unions we could bring up the stunt his buddy Moccia pulled by appointing a new police chief with ZERO search for the best candidate for the police union endorsement.

  8. oldtimer

    There was a time City employees of the DPW painted lines on streets, but not now. Hal Alvord very quietly privatised that job to outside contractors a long time ago. Did you miss that ?

  9. Ken P Jr

    This is a silly thing I’v been hearing talking heads rant about since I was a boy. I will agree on only one point with Rilling, the sharrows make it confusing. We ALREADY have to share the road with cyclists. Today its to the point where some cyclists create their own issues by staying in the center of lanes & intersections. While we must remember we share the roads its also important to remember why they are there and that we all, even cyclists need to be considerate.
    Beach road either needs to be left alone or made wider. No ammount of political rhetoric will make it anything but what it is, a narrow 4 lane road. The city neglected to enforce its own laws when the condos were built, allowing an undersized sidewalk & vision restricting stone wall to be built. Those two things right there would help ALOT in that area. We could also build an entirely off the street cycling/pedestrian/skateboarder, etc path along the entire beach road on city property, thereby getting the crybabies off the street entirely. Theres alot we can do & the money should be made available for real answers. But it wont be, neither candidate who responded has a real solution, they never do. We have money for everything the city wants in the way of equipment, buildings & compensation but rarely is there real money for things which would benefit the taxpayers themselves. Unless of course there a grant to be applied for.
    The answers are clear & easy, but politicians are fuzzy & inconsistent.

  10. Asa H.M.

    Or maybe, LWitherspoon, Mr. Miklave doesn’t spend his every waking moment thinking up comments to write on this or any other blog. Just because he did not reply you have no idea what the reason would be. You really should try to find some positive comments about any issue. I bet if you actually contacted Mr. Miklave to ASK him his position you would find you are completely incorrect in your assumptions. Then again, facts do not seem to be important to you, just negative lambasting and whining. Wouldn’t it be refreshing to investigate and discuss your thoughts with real people instead of just critizing and complaining.

  11. As a former resident growing up in Norwalk, I clearly recall my Beach Road days. Twenty five miles per hour is a safe speed – but only if it’s obeyed. Problem is, it’s a long, straight road and twenty five seems like a crawl. Double lanes provides a challenge to pass. When I was younger, I saw a passing car as a challenge to speed up so it would not get ahead of me. I’m guessing teens today feel a similar challenge.

    Converting the two narrow lanes in each direction into one single wider lane each way, along with a dedicated bicycle lane separated by a raised curb, might be a solution to the speeding temptation while providing added safety from cars entering the bike lane.

    A radar driven sign that alerts drivers to a possible speeding ticket when they exceed 25 mph might slow some drivers down.

    Another technique is to install tuned recessed perpendicular groves in the road that are downright uncomfortable over 26 mph, but at 25 and under, there is no noticeable effect.

    Of course, the town of Norwalk will have to weigh the costs of these measures against the added safety to drivers. I hope safety prevails.

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