Residents concerned about pedestrian, cyclist safety on Long Plain Road in Whately

Residents on Long Plain Road in Whately have raised concerns about increasing traffic in the neighborhood and the safety of pedestrians and cyclists. In response, the town has moved one of its radar trailers to the road to remind drivers of the 35 mph speed limit.

Residents on Long Plain Road in Whately have raised concerns about increasing traffic in the neighborhood and the safety of pedestrians and cyclists. In response, the town has moved one of its radar trailers to the road to remind drivers of the 35 mph speed limit. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

By CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer

Published: 10-13-2023 1:32 PM

WHATELY — Amid growing safety concerns for pedestrians and cyclists on Long Plain Road, several residents appeared before the Selectboard this week to recount their experiences.

Joanne Ostrowski and other neighborhood residents described the character of the approximately 75-home cluster on the final stretch of Long Plain Road from a Nourse Farms strawberry field to the Hatfield town line, and how increasing traffic over the years is making pedestrian and cyclist use of the area unsafe.

“It’s a neighborhood of old people, young folks and we have disabled people on the street as well,” Ostrowski said. “We all like to bike, walk, jog, walk the dog, take the baby out in a stroller.”

With no sidewalks on Long Plain Road, Ostrowski said these sorts of activities are often done on the street, and with many drivers exceeding the 35 mph speed limit, those who live there are concerned. In the last month alone, she added, two dogs have been hit by passing vehicles, with one of them being killed.

She said she has lived in the neighborhood for decades and there have been concerns in the past, but the development of Pine Plains Estates and other homes has increased the number of vehicles traveling on the street.

To help address the situation, Ostrowski and others suggested to the Selectboard a few short-term solutions, including a traffic count to study the number of vehicles on the road, increasing police surveillance at certain points during the day or installing speed radar signs to remind folks what the speed limit is.

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She mentioned the state’s new Vulnerable Road User laws, which went into effect on April 1 and require drivers to provide a “safe passing distance” of at least 4 feet when passing pedestrians, roadside workers, cyclists and other people using the road.

Town Administrator Brian Domina said the state Department of Transportation (MassDOT) recently sent 12 signs to Whately, and one or two could possibly be put up on Long Plain Road to remind motorists of the new regulations.

Another solution — and one that was implemented less than 24 hours after Tuesday’s meeting — was to move one of the town’s mobile radar signs to Long Plain Road to let drivers know how fast they are going. One of the trailers, Domina said, can collect data on vehicle speed and time of day, which can help “narrow down times when enforcement makes sense.”

Selectboard Chair Fred Baron noted speeding concerns are a constant issue and cited Haydenville Road, among others, as a common area of concern. He said the town should also take a look at Long Plain Road. Any discussions, though, will require the input of Highway Superintendent Keith Bardwell.

“It’s a question of what we could do for all of them. … We appreciate you bringing it to our attention,” Baron said. “We’ll keep the conversation going, but Keith is the critical element in all of this, both in terms of signage and road condition. He knows what can and can’t be done.”

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com or 413-930-4081.