Birch Street Crosswalk Request Tabled for Further Study

The Highway Safety Committee has tabled a request by a resident to have a crosswalk installed at South Avenue and Birch Street. Erich Whitney, a resident of Wilson Avenue, had written to Public Works Director Mike Fowler asking for consideration of a crosswalk, noting that the intersection was difficult to cross and that the South Avenue side- walk disappeared at that intersection.

Fowler referred him to the Highway Safety Committee, and the issue was discussed at the Feb. 21 meeting.
Whitney observed that the nearest crosswalks were at Pierce Avenue to the south and the Peabody Funeral Home to the north. He called crossing Birch Street a “gauntlet” and suggested, “Rather than isolate this neighborhood, or mak- ing them walk all the way up to the funeral home, why not put in a crosswalk?”

Whitney said he fre- quently rides bicycles with his children on the Rail Trail, and to get home he comes out South Avenue, takes a right, goes down Birch Street and turns left on Wilson. “You are almost safer doing that,” Highway Director Alan Cote said. “You’ve solved your problem by finding a safe place to cross.” Member Randall Chase pointed out that if the cross- walk went perfectly straight across, it would end in some- one’s driveway. “It is not good alignment,” he said.

Cote added, “One of my fears is that people can get hit in crosswalks more than outside of crosswalks. This is already a tricky intersection. By putting in a crosswalk, would we be giving people a false sense of security?” Whitney countered that “People have an expectation of traffic at South Avenue.” He also said the Blue House Pizza restaurant was generating a lot of foot traffic. “I would like to table this until I can do a little more fact-finding,” Cote said. The board voted unanimously to table the issue.

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