The Farmington River Trail has become a popular destination for residents throughout the region, with usership increasing dramatically as new sections are completed.
However, as usership has increased, so has traffic in the area. And when it comes to safety at the crosswalks along the Farmington River Trail, it often becomes a blame game between drivers and users.
Canton Police officer Mark Selander has seen the issues firsthand and agrees there are many opportunities to educate the public.
Some trail users fail to use safety lights or stop at the crosswalks while many motorists travel at excess speeds and don't yield to pedestrians.
“It goes both ways,” he said.
With at least two trail users having been hit by vehicles this year, it’s a serious problem. One took a trip to the hospital via Life Star.
Last September, Patch witnessed Selander and another officer pull over 11 motorists in just an hour for travelling over the speed limit at the crosswalk on Maple Avenue, near its intersection with at the intersection of Maple Avenue and Allen Place in Canton.
On Monday, a ride with Selander highlighted another issue he feels is important. At the same intersection, two members of local media witnessed as a handful of users crossed without pressing provided buttons that trigger flashing warning signals on the road.
One walker said she was new to the path and didn’t know about them. She also admitted she probably wouldn’t use them anyway if she saw that no cars were coming.
Selander urged her to use the signals, pointing out the dangerous s-curves coming from the Collinsville direction. Many cars travel at a high rate of speed on the road and may not stop in time, he said.
Selander said people should use the buttons at the intersection as well as those at the Route 179 crossing. He would also like to see a sign along the path, alerting people to the signals up ahead.
Of course, he also acknowledged that many motorists are not paying attention, have limited visibility or ignore the pedestrians and he urges trail users to not make any assumptions and wait until the motorists do stop before crossing.
Trail users should stop at every crossing and on the busier streets, cyclists should dismount and walk across, he said.
“You have to use extreme caution at these crosswalks,” he said. "Don't assume (the cars) are going to stop."
As one of three certified bike officers, Selander has spent a lot of time on the path over the past couple of years. This year, it’s been tougher to get out since the department has been short two officers, a sergeant and its captain (which replaces the deputy chief position) much of the summer.
Selander’s been a certified bicycle officer since 1995 when he worked for the Hartford Police Department.
“This is a good patrol tool,” he said of the bike.
It allows an officer to fit into spaces a car can’t and gives the advantage of a quiet approach.
Beyond crime fighting, it’s a good way to interact with people, Selander added.
“You’re more approachable on a bicycle,” he said.
As Selander continued up the path toward Route 44, many other trail users smiled and at least one thanked him for being out on the trail.
Near the end of the ride, Selander offered a few more tips for trail users.
- Carry a cell phone
- Go with another person when possible
- Carry identification
- Know the route
- Know your limitations
- Be cognizant of the time of day
- Carry a light and bug spray
- If you see something suspicious or something doesn’t feel right, turn back
“Be aware of your surroundings,” Selander said.