Hanover Officials Offer Lebanon Pointers on Pedestrian Safety After Fatal Incident

Valley News Staff Writer
Thursday, November 15, 2018

Lebanon — Pedestrians and bicycle safety advocates in Hanover are offering to help counterparts in neighboring Lebanon establish an education campaign after a 52-year-old pedestrian was struck and killed in a crosswalk last week.

Matthew B. Biathrow, of Enfield, was struck by a motorist who was turning left onto Evans Drive from Hanover Street Extension, near Lebanon High School and the Hanover Street School. An investigation into the incident is ongoing, Police Chief Richard Mello said on Thursday.

The incident spurred Bill Young, chairman of the Hanover Bike/Pedestrian Committee, to reach out to planners in neighboring Lebanon. In an email, he offered to coordinate a response and help with education efforts.

“Sadly, accidents focus attention (on safety) but the message needs to go out,” Young said on Thursday. “It’s much easier to educate people than to change their behavior, but it needs to be done again and again and again.”

Young has experience reminding cyclists, motorists and pedestrians to share the road. He helped craft safety messaging in the wake of a similar incident last year.

Town officials and Dartmouth College sent out safety materials, improved signage and closed a mixed-use path after a 91-year-old Kendal at Hanover resident was killed last year after being struck by a bicycle on Lyme Road.

Cyclist Santiago Olaya Carrillo, who was a student at the Tuck School of Business, later pleaded no contest to a town ordinance violation that says no person over the age of 12 should ride a bike on a sidewalk.

While work has been accomplished to improve road conditions, Young said Hanover continues to improve its communication to students and residents.

“The message is simple. It’s basically be defensive, and be visible and pay attention while you’re walking,” he said.

Young called for people to remain aware of their surroundings, wear a light or some sort of reflective clothing and “wait, wave and walk.”

“Before you cross the street, look around and make sure the driver sees you and you see the driver stopping for you,” he said.

AAA offers similar recommendations, including maintaining awareness of one’s surroundings and avoiding distractions such as cellphones.

The company also asks people to remain sober because almost half of all traffic crashes where pedestrians are injured involve alcohol, with 35 percent of those on the part of the pedestrian.

Lebanon isn’t entirely new to communitywide conversations about pedestrian safety. The 2010 death of a Pinewood Village resident ignited years of discussion regarding the intersection of Route 10, Oak Ridge and Gould roads.

Jay Whitehair, 78, was killed after being hit by two cars while crossing the intersection south of Hanover. The incident later led to the installation of a median island, a pedestrian-activated light over the crosswalk and ramps to improve access to two bus stops.

But unlike the Route 10 intersection, there appears to be few infrastructure improvements capable of aiding pedestrians at the intersection of Evans Drive and Hanover Street Extension, Lebanon Associate Planner Rebecca Owens told the city’s Pedestrian and Bicyclist Advisory Committee on Tuesday.

“This wasn’t a location that we had on our radar when we talk about bike and pedestrian safety. We talk about some of the more urban areas,” she said in an audio recording of the meeting.

A crossing guard is stationed in the area as students arrive at and leave school, and there are sidewalks, active streetlights and a crosswalk, she said.

“It’s probably premature to think what improvements beyond conversion to LED streetlights would be warranted in that area,” Owens told the committee. “But what we can say now is the accident was extremely unfortunate. We should and we need to be using it as an opportunity for engagement.”

On average, the city sees 4.1 incidents involving either a pedestrian or cyclist every year, according to data compiled by the Lebanon Police Department and Alan Schnur, a member of the Pedestrian and Bicyclist Advisory Committee. None of the incidents were fatalities.

Between 2006 and 2015, police responded to 26 pedestrian and 15 bicycle incidents, Schnur found. Of those, most occurred during warmer months (May through October) and during the daylight hours.

However, Schnur noted in a 2017 presentation that it’s possible his numbers are incomplete, partially because not all incidents are reported to police.

Nationally, 5,376 pedestrians were killed and another 69,000 were injured in incidents in 2015, according to AAA. More than half of those deaths occurred at night, and 80 percent were outside of crosswalks.

Owens said on Thursday that Lebanon is planning an education campaign, potentially with Hanover, which would relay safety messages using the city website and email service.

The city also would send out reminders when the seasons change and continue efforts to keep children and parents safe through programs such as the annual bike rodeo, she said.

People soon will be able to find out more on the city’s website at lebanonnh.gov under the Ped & Bike Advisory Committee tab.

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.