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'Ghost Bike' Memorializes Road Traffic Victims at Pittsfield City Hall
By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff
04:15PM / Monday, November 20, 2023
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Pittsfield Community Design Center founder Nick Russo speaks at Sunday's event remembering traffic victims held on the steps of City Hall.

The group walks from North Street to City Hall for a vigil in memory of the nine people killed in traffic incidents this year in the county.

A ghost bike and shoes symbolize the victims.

Commissioner of Public Services and Utilities Ricardo Morales, right, walked with the group and spoke about what the city is doing to improve pedestrian and biking safety. 

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Pairs of shoes were solemnly placed next to a "ghost bike" in front of City Hall on Sunday, the annual World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims.

Countywide, there have been nine people killed in pedestrian or traffic incidents this year and many seriously injured.

"For me, I don't want to see memorial crosses and stuffed animals on the side of the road, I want to see sidewalks on the side of roads. I don't want to see flashing ambulance lights on our streets, I want to see flashing crosswalk beacons instead," Pittsfield Community Design Center founder Nick Russo said.

"I want to put the accident reconstruction team out of business. I want our streets to be safe for everyone and not have these preventable deaths and serious injuries in the system that we built. We can fix it."

A small group began at the design center on North Street and marched to City Hall where a vigil was held. That night, the building was lit up yellow for the cause and a bicycle painted white, called a ghost bike, will be chained in front for a week.

Early this year, Shaloon Milord was struck by a car and killed crossing West Street near Dorothy Amos Park and last month, Shane Cassavant was struck and killed farther up the street while working on the roadway.

Commissioner of Public Services and Utilities Ricardo Morales recognized that the city saw an increase in deaths, adding that "our hearts are with their families."

He said the community needs to recognize that it can do better and that the city can't do it alone. The design center and the Berkshire Bike Path Council, who also participated in the event, were recognized as important partners.

Morales detailed the city's efforts in addressing pedestrian safety through multiple projects.

"We have plans for our future. We have not stopped developing what West Street is going to look like because someone lost their life crossing the street. We want to change that. We want a street that protects people no matter how they decide to interact with that street and we have plans for Holmes Road in the move. We want to improve how that street is as an experience for anyone using it, especially kids that use it to cross around and go to school," the commissioner said.

"We just finished Tyler Street and improving that mostly for kids. That's where it was born from to improve the experience and safety of kids going to Morningside School and we're not stopping there. We have the work on Berkshire Medical Center, around that area, starting next year, as soon as winter allows, as soon as winter goes away we're going to start that project and that's going to be major. It is going to connect Tyler Street to North Street and it's going to have this compounding effect."

The redesign of North Street to include one lane of travel each way and bike lanes has been a topic of criticism over the last few years but "hate it or love it," Morales pointed out that it has reduced the amount and severity of collisions.

"I'm sure we can do better. We can have better-looking infrastructure in our downtown. I think we deserve that as a community and I'm happy to be part of that conversation and get that going but the reality is that these things work. Bike boxes, bike infrastructure, race tables, horizontal and vertical deflections, they work," he said.

"We don't have to leave it up to the driver to make the right decision. We can cause and induce people to make the right decision based on how we build our environment so I think the only thing I have to say other than remembering those that we lost is let's take the opportunity to also celebrate that we are doing a lot of good things so that we don't have to suffer as a community from any more losses and in doing so I think we can build a Pittsfield we want in the future."

Bike Path Council President Marge Cohen pointed to the importance of the Vulnerable User Laws passed this year that provide safeguards for people walking and biking, roadside workers, people using wheelchairs, micromobility devices, and farm equipment.

She thanked everyone who travels at the speed limit, stops at lights, wears bright colors when they are walking or biking, rides with the flow of traffic and walks against traffic, drivers who give non-vehicular travelers four feet of space, and everyone who wants to share the road.

"Today we remember those who have passed away too early," Cohen said. "Their lives cut short reminds us that every day is a gift. Today we must recommit our efforts to making safe streets."

Russo said the design center at 429 North St. is gearing up for regular events such as talks and debates and aims to be an accessible neutral space that is not a government building and not a person's private home.

"This isn't the thing about bikes versus cars or scooters versus pedestrians. It's really all of us versus streets that were made for sending cars quickly through from one place to another but not always considering the people outside of the cars were trying to also get around," he said, adding that being divisive is counterproductive and everyone is really on the same side.

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