Editorial: Monday mix on road safety, stained glass, youth homes

Published: 05-29-2017 3:15 PM

The death of a bicyclist at the intersection of Hinckley and Nonotuck streets in Florence is a tragic reminder that all of us must take care when sharing the roads.

Bicyclist Alan Porter, 78, of Florence, was killed about 3 p.m. May 15 when he attempted to cross Nonotuck from Hinckley Street and was struck by an eastbound vehicle. Police have not yet determined fault or ruled whether speed was a factor.

However, speeding on Nonotuck Street has been documented by the city, and two permanent speed bumps will be constructed on the road this spring. According to a Department of Public Works study, motorists on certain sections of Nonotuck Street exceeded the 30-mph speed limit on average by between 10 and 12 mph, and temporary speed bumps installed last September brought the average speed down almost to the limit.

Last week, neighbors organized a memorial to Porter as well as a creative exercise in slowing traffic. A white bicycle and flowers were placed at the site of the fatal crash, and white ribbons decorated parked cars and telephone poles.

“We’re not only memorializing our deceased neighbor, but coming together in a sense of unity,” explained Rick Haggerty, who has lived for 20 years on the street that residents call the “Florence highway.”

On May 22, they parked their vehicles on the street, creating a bottleneck that slowed traffic. “Our advocacy will continue until the entire length of this street is calmed,” said Alex Papouchis.

In addition to the speed bumps on Nonotuck Street between New Street and Landy Avenue, a raised crosswalk will be built at Hinckley Street.

At-large City Councilor Ryan O’Donnell, the chairman of the Transportation and Parking Commission, said, “No solution is likely to be perfect, address every issue, or meet with the approval of 100 percent of people. But in this case it was important to take action.”

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Just as importantly, everyone on the roads must use common sense in policing themselves.

Motorists, cyclists and pedestrians must obey traffic laws, and use extra care in paying attention when entering intersections and crossing streets. No one should be texting or wearing headphones while driving a motor vehicle or bicycle or walking in crosswalks.

As Nonotuck Street resident John Van Beckum said, the fatality “just puts such a focus on how easy it can be for someone to lose their life in a moment. And there’s some responsibility that we all share for that.”

​* * *

Three years ago, leaders of the First Churches of Northampton on Main Street wanted to sell its famed Tiffany “River of Life” stained glass window to help pay off the debt incurred during a $2.2 million renovation of the building. But the Massachusetts Historical Commission denied the request.

Today, the more than century-old window has been removed and will be restored. The church received $213,000 from the city’s Community Preservation Act and $7,370 from the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution to pay for the project.

The window with deep greens, blues, magentas and indigos shows a river flowing from hills in the background to lily pads in the foreground.

“It really is pretty spectacular,” says the Rev. Todd Weir. “It’s just kind of a stunning effect to see how they’ve done the layered glass.”

The restoration is expected to be completed by October. We’re glad the church raised enough money to keep the Tiffany window in Northampton where its beauty will be enjoyed for years to come.

​* * *

A long-planned mission to serve homeless youths in the Northampton area is nearing completion with the purchase of a two-story house on Hatfield Street that will be converted to a pair of two-bedroom apartments.

The project is a partnership of Friends of Hampshire County Homeless individuals, which runs the seasonal shelter on Center Street in Northampton, and DIAL/SELF, which has offered youth services in the Valley since 1977.

The renovation is expected to be complete this summer, and the rooms will be offered to youths between the ages of 18 and 24 who will sign three-month renewable leases, pay income-based rent, participate in support services and complete four hours of community service a month.

Fundraising continues to pay for a structure on an adjacent lot to house four efficiency apartments. Donations to help keep youths off the streets and moving toward productive adulthood may be made online at www.hamphomeless.org/donate/. We can’t imagine a better investment.