An episode of opposites, North Salem Edition:
“Thank you! I love the new layout on North Street!”
“North Street is horrendous! How did this happen?!”
In case you wanted a glimpse into my daily conversations, now you have it
For every couple “it’s really not that crazy” I get a few “it is so crazy!” … But there is one thing EVERYONE I talk to agrees on; something needs to be done to make North Street safer for all. As a driver, walker, bicyclist and traveler, North Street is not a safe road (along with many others in our city).
That double yellow line down the middle of North Street is not there for looks. It is there to show that passing of vehicles is not allowed. Yet, who hasn’t been passed on the right by another driver trying to speed up to then slow down? Perhaps while you were passed on the right you were stopped to let someone use a crosswalk. Speaking of – have you ever tried to cross North Street as a pedestrian? Watch out for those cars passing on the left! They can’t see you! Many Salem children must cross North Street to get to their bus stop or walk to school. Should we try to make this a safer experience for them, or should we continue to do more of the same = nothing.
I fully support the North Street project. Over three years of community input meetings, surveys, presentations and design tweaks have left us where we are today. (you can see the history here: https://publicinput.com/northstreet) We worked very hard to be strategic with keeping parking where needed, moving bus stops to make more sense, adding a crosswalk, and implementing protected bike lanes, which are proven to be the safest (Reference: “A 13-year study of a dozen cities found that protected bike lanes led to a drastic decline in fatalities for all users of the road” https://usa.streetsblog.org/…/protect-yourself…/ Cities that build protected lanes for cyclists end up with safer roads for people on bikes AND people in cars and on foot.
Is the final product perfect and leaving everyone happy & satisfied? I wish the answer is yes, but I know and understand that it is not. I am empathetic to those that need to change their habits, that is never an easy ask or one that is taken lightly.
Has this been installed and implemented perfectly? I guess that is another thing we can all agree on. Nope – it has been quite painful actually! October was not a first choice (or second or third…), but there are so many factors here that impacted when this could be installed. Budget timelines & grant approvals, Utility work, Contractor timelines, weather and more all were factors. To add to the confusion, there are multiple contractors need to help with the project, all with different timelines and priorities. Which brings me to another point: we are not done! We are still waiting on flex posts, the blue bike station, additional paint and signage to be installed. These are all little details that will really help with those that are navigating the road.
Trash and Recycling details have been provided to residents and I am confident it will be worked out as time goes on. Same for snow removal and parking in the new locations. The car travel lanes are now 11 feet wide. To give perspective, a highway lane is 12 feet wide. Should North Street have the same feeling as a road where the average speed is 65 miles per hour? I hope not. The curves in the road leave room for emergency vehicles to navigate. There are breaks in the parking to allow for cars to pull over if needed. Is it different, and perhaps a little weird or strange to some? It sure is! But I am less concerned about making drivers comfortable while driving down a road in a 1-ton metal box while my neighbor is attempting to get coffee at Spells, or while my 11-year-old is walking to the bus stop or while my friend is biking to the train for their commute to work.
Years ago, I envisioned a “Welcome to Salem – NOW SLOW DOWN!” sign on North Street at the Peabody entrance. I feel we are close to that vision… In summary: not fully done yet, and there are tweaks that are needed! I am pushing the administration to make those quickly (CC: Kim Driscoll!) North Street is also not the only street with traffic and safety issues in the city. With each implementation of traffic calming measures, we learn and are able to do our next project even better. Finally, screaming into the void that is Facebook is not as effective as sending constructive comments in via email – You can reach out to the Mayor at Mayor@Salem.com and the Director of Parking and Traffic via the contact form online: https://www.salemma.gov/user/11633/contact (And as always, I am at MRiccardi@salem.com)
A personal Thank you to all of North Salem for your patience with not just the North Street project, but also the month of October! Happy November Everyone!