It happens to me several times a week. It is a feeling of total panic. As Mordechai leaves the house twice a day, once early in the morning, and then later in the day, my stomach begins to turn in fear of what could happen to him as he attempts to cross the street at the corner of New Bridge Road and Westminster. He is on his way to daven at Beth Abraham. Yes, there is a crosswalk at that corner, but few drivers take the initiative to stop. If a driver is kind enough to slow down, in most cases, the driver behind him zooms around to pass the slowing car. Each day I am in constant fear that he will be hit. When our children visit and walk back to their home I have the same concern. It is bad enough during the day, but as the sun goes down my inner alarm goes into extreme overtime.
On Shabbat morning, we do have the heightened luxury of having a crossing guard at the corner. We all know that one of those crossing guards was not quite lucky enough to avoid the car that cruised directly into her. On the evenings of the last days of Pesach the Bergenfield Police Department was kind enough to deploy a police car to the corner and two policemen stood there attempting to stop the traffic as people needed to cross the street. As I thanked one of the policemen and told him that we needed them to be there full time he laughed and told me that they had just stopped a driver who had driven right past them as they directed him to stop. The driver’s mind was somewhere else. They chose not to ticket him. Again, this is a corner waiting for another tragedy. I blame not only the drivers. Although Rabbi Neuberger constantly implores everyone to wear their reflective belts in the evening, the majority of people choose not to. Anyone who drives close to Beth Abraham on a weekday night as Maariv finishes takes a chance in that there are people scurrying all over the streets—many dressed in black who are almost impossible to see. In that case an accident is definitely the fault of the recklessness of the people who insist on walking on the road, running back and forth, without considering the poor drivers who need to creep along with the hope that someone won’t meander into the way of their cars.
The question is what we, as ordinary citizens, can do to avert a tragedy. We must be proactive. I already know that the fact that there is a traffic light at the corner of N/S Prospect and New Bridge Road disallows another light to be placed at that corner. There is a rule that a specific distance must be factored into the decision of where a light belongs. However, we have noticed in other cities, most noticeably to us in Montreal, that at crosswalks there are signs that are electrically controlled. Surrounding the area where the cross walk sign is placed are lights that constantly are lit, enabling drivers to see the crosswalk that much more easily, and therefore driving in the evening the clarity is that much greater. I have driven many times in the evening on New Bridge and find that it would be impossible to see a person waiting to cross in the darkness of night without the assistance of a lit crosswalk sign. Would it be unheard of for us as a community to petition the city of Bergenfield’s help in guiding us to wherever necessary to at least beg for the installation of better signs that can be seen by drivers as they approach crosswalks? Would it be unreasonable for us as a community to raise necessary funding to install electric signs at the crosswalks on New Bridge Road?
I believe that this problem belongs to everyone in the community. There are young children allowed to cross at that corner, aging individuals who are not as sprite crossing the street, regular shul goers, women with baby carriages—something must be done. Please, I do not want it to be my husband or anyone else in the community. We have to do something!
By Rabbi Mordechai and Nina Glick