By EMILY WEIKL
(TEANECK) – Weiqui Wang and Daniel Clarke have a few things in common. Both were hit by a car as they were crossing River Road. Both drivers said they didn’t see either person. Both were students at Fairleigh Dickinson University. That is where their similarities end.
Clarke lived. Wang did not.
Wang was killed in November 2016. Just two months later, Clarke was hit in the same crosswalk in January 2017.
And they are not the only ones.
Within the last five years, two other FDU students were struck in the crosswalk on Lone Pine Lane, just off River Road by the Public Safety building, while walking together. That driver also told police that she did not see the students.
Dennis Rozestwinski has been attempting to solve the road’s problem. Rozestwinski was a classmate of Wang’s who started a petition to improve safety on River Road in the aftermath of her death. By February 2017 it had more than 1,500 signatures. This petition has since been presented to the Student Government Association, the Bergen County Freeholders and the Teaneck City Council. Rozestwinski also has a Facebook group called River Road Petition Teaneck and shares updates regarding it.
Rozestwinski is adamant.
“Any changes on River Road need to take these factors into consideration to ensure the safety of the pedestrians,” he said. “Following only the state statutes and regulations on the traffic safety might not be enough. The county and the city of Teaneck should act proactively to prevent any future tragedies. The
pedestrians and the bicyclists are the most vulnerable traffic participants and their safety should be the first priority.”
Rozestwinski has seen little progress on River Road since Wang and Clarke were hit.
“Besides that the bus stop has been relocated, I have not seen any physical permanent changes yet,” he said. “However, last spring, Teaneck police have gone undercover as ‘pedestrian decoys’ on River Road in an effort to change attitude and behavior of drivers who do not stop for pedestrians, and I have also noticed more cars to be pulled over for speeding.”
Rozestwinski said the County Engineers for Bergen County conducted a traffic study on River Road in February 2017. They have since sent a letter to City Manager William Broughton that included recommendations concerning pedestrian signal options and a reduction of the speed limit from 35 to 25. Campus Executive Robert Vodde addressed the university’s position on the issue.
“In light of the tragic death of one of our international graduate students last year as she was crossing River Road, our Department of Public Safety has been working closely with the Teaneck Police Department, the County, and the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority in a Pedestrian Safety campaign,” Vodde said in an email to the campus community.
“We are also working in collaboration with the Township of Teaneck to explore sharing costs for the installation of high intensity flashing warning lights that can be activated by pedestrians,” Vodde said.
There are things people can do now to make River Road, and all roads, safer in the meantime, Roszetwinski said.
“The fall is already here, days will be shorter, we will have more rainfall. All these conditions will make the situation on the River Road more dangerous.” he said. “The word of caution for our students: cross the street only at the designated crosswalks, be very attentive, do not cross the street before the vehicle comes to a full stop, ideally on both sides of the road.”