A 61-year-old man was fatally struck by a driver earlier this week in Valley Stream on Long Island. The unidentified victim, a Bellerose resident, was attempting to cross Merrick Road near Green Street when the eastbound, 75-year-old driver hit him. The intersection does not have marked crosswalks or traffic signals.
Merrick Road is an east-west arterial road stretching 21.8 miles from Jamaica, Queens through Amityville, Suffolk County. The section where the crash occurred has two travel lanes in either direction and is subject to the village’s 30 mph speed limit. Development along the segment of Merrick Road near the crash site is primarily car-oriented, including street-facing parking and several auto dealerships and repair shops. And while it is not yet known whether the motorist involved in the crash was speeding, residents told News 12 Long Island that drivers frequently speed and disobey traffic laws in the area. Police have already said no criminality is suspected.
Merrick Road isn’t just consistently one of Nassau County’s most dangerous roads for walking; it’s also consistently one of the entire tri-state region’s most dangerous. With limited pedestrian space, few safe crossings and no bicycle infrastructure — not to mention no speed enforcement cameras — that isn’t likely to change. And it desperately needs to: Merrick Road is a crucial connector to a number of nearby schools, including Valley Stream Memorial Junior High School, where 12-year-old Zachary Ranftle was heading when he was fatally struck by a driver in late 2014 while crossing the street just a mile east of Monday’s crash scene.
With four lanes and parking on either side, Merrick Road is strong candidate for a road diet. Reducing the number of travel lanes to two and adding a central turning lane could reduce conflicts, create space for bike lanes, all while lowering driver speeds without diminished traffic flow.
Despite existing statewide and countywide complete streets policies, reducing pedestrian fatalities throughout Long Island has been sluggish. But there are signs of hope: last week, 45 New York State lawmakers–including Assemblymember Michaelle Solages, whose district includes Valley Stream–called for dedicated state funding for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.