LEONIA, N.J. — A once-dangerous intersection hasn't had a single pedestrian-motor vehicle accident in the past year after beginning use of an all-red phase traffic signal — stopping traffic in all directions for 26 seconds every few minutes.
During the two years before the all-red phase was introduced, seven pedestrians were hit by cars at Fort Lee Road and Broad Avenue in this New York City suburb, including one Fort Lee, N.J. woman who was dragged more than 70 feet along the road to her death.
Now, all four directions at the intersection turn red for 26 seconds every other cycle. That allows people on foot to cross the busy intersection safely and also allows them to cross on the diagonal if they desire.
"If we had kept going down the course we were going down, it was really a matter of when, not if, another pedestrian would be killed," said Mayor Judah Zeigler, who considered the change a great idea.
Seniors, who can take longer to cross the road, and students benefit the most from the all-red cycle, Chief Thomas Rowe of the Leonia Police Department said. An elementary school is less than a block from the intersection, so many students walk on their way to and from school, which coincides with rush-hour traffic.
Many drivers use Fort Lee Road as a cut-through when traffic is heavy on the George Washington Bridge, one of four ways drivers can cross the Hudson to New York City and its suburbs, Rowe said. With delays on the bridge reaching up to 90 minutes some days, people will turn on the map application on their phones to avoid the traffic, which redirects them through Leonia.
While some motorists have complained that the all-red cycle delays traffic further, Rowe said his first concern is pedestrian safety, and the town has no plans to go back to how things were.
"The benefits have been exactly what we were hoping for, and there's absolutely no reason for us to go back to the way it used to be," he said. "I can't allow our pedestrians to be put in danger."
Follow Michael W. Curley Jr. on Twitter: @MWCurleyJr