By John Burton
RED BANK – Recently repaved and restriped, Shrewsbury Avenue looks nice and is great for traffic, but for pedestrians crossing the busy thoroughfare, things are as tough as ever.
“It’s still impossible to get across the street,” said Amy Goldsmith, a Locust Avenue resident and president of the West Side Community Group, an advocacy organization for residents and businesses.
Shrewsbury Avenue is a heavily traveled traffic artery, running north-south through the borough, with motorists regularly using it as an alternative to Maple Avenue/Route 35. The west side thoroughfare, lined with a patchwork quilt of residences and retail and commercial businesses, has a considerable amount of foot traffic with area residents walking or riding bikes around the neighborhoods.
Business owners and residents have long voiced concerns about the safety, specifically complaining that motorists regularly scoff at the state law requiring them to yield to pedestrians looking to cross.
“If you’re going to step off the curb you better watch what you’re doing,” said Mariana Fernandez, a borough resident, as she contemplated crossing last week.
The street, a Monmouth County road, was recently repaved but there are no specific plans to improve the lot for pedestrians – except to ask local officials to look into it, Freeholder Director Thomas A. Arnone said.
Residents say people don’t stop when they are in the crosswalks and when they do, “they are rude,” said Tricia Nelson, owner of British Cottage furniture, 126 Shrewsbury Ave. Impolite hand gestures often accompany the stop, she said.
Nelson and others suggested that plastic signs used elsewhere, including on East Front Street by Riverview Medical Center, that remind motorists of the law be installed. “They could help, don’t you think?” Nelson asked.
“They put them on the east side, they should put them here,” said Glenn Piscitelli, an employee of Strokers pizza and deli, 124 Shrewsbury Ave.
There have been discussions about various traffic calming proposals, most unrealized, Goldsmith said, such as talk of sidewalk bump-outs, redoing traffic signals and she has even suggested using the large, portable, illuminated signs, to remind motorists to stop for pedestrians.
Red Bank Police Captain Darren McConnell said county engineers and officials don’t like the small signs placed in the street for Shrewsbury Avenue because of the street’s relative narrowness. He said, while the signs are used on other roads, “we’re getting away from them. They’re a maintenance issue because cars hit them so often.”
Police have been addressing the issue by conducting an ongoing sting operation of sorts on that roadway and others. A plainclothes officer crosses the street and notifies a nearby officer in a patrol vehicle of motorists and pedestrians not adhering to the law.
“In a matter of a few hours we give out close to 50 tickets,” McConnell said. The tickets could mean a $200 fine and two moving violation points to the offender, he said.
Compliance is not just a problem in the borough.
“It’s all over the state,” McConnell said. It’s “more an educational thing than an enforcement thing.”
Goldsmith said she is concerned that when she stops her car at a crosswalk, the car following her won’t.
“I fear for my life and for the people walking in front of me that the people behind won’t stop,” she said.
“My biggest fear is getting squished on Shrewsbury Avenue,” Nelson of British Cottage agreed. She hopes more attention will be paid to the issue before someone is hurt or killed.
Shrewsbury Avenue was among road projects, totaling about 20 miles, that the county worked on this year, Arnone said. The project repaved and restriped the road, including crosswalks.
Still to be completed is the replacement of the traffic light at the Drs. James Parker Boulevard intersection where a light with a countdown clock will be installed and curb cuts will make the crosswalk handicap accessible, Arnone said.