I took the 10-15 minute drive from my house to Westfield on Wednesday at about 7:00 pm to do most of the shopping for a party I’m holding this weekend, planning on purchasing most of the items needed at Trader Joe’s. When I encountered a sawhorse blocking the street at North & Broad, I turned toward Lord & Taylor and planned to take the back route. I got as far as Cowperthwaite Pl. near Elm before I saw the cause of the roadblocks: dozens of people running in a race.
Having just visited Trader Joe’s on Monday, I was surprised that I had not seen any signs about a race or road closures resulting from it, either along the course of the race or in stores. I sat at the intersection for about ten minutes, watching a never-ending stream of runners pass by. The group dwindled, but there were still runners as far as the eye could see. I finally got out of my car and approached the police officer at the intersection to see how much longer the road would be closed. He replied “Until the last group comes through.” I live in Linden, and as President of the Linden Cultural & Heritage Committee, which holds a spring 5K race, I know that the last group can take up to 45 minutes to finish a race.
After letting other inquiring drivers know that they might well be waiting another 20 minutes to move forward, I returned to my car, and along with many others, turned around, left Westfield, and did my shopping elsewhere. I spent about $167 at the Shoprite in Clark. Although I plan to return to Trader Joe’s tonight to pick up a few things unique to their store, I spent money that would have gone toward Westfield’s economy elsewhere. Presuming that the road was closed from maybe 6:45 until 8:00, which is prime time for people who work to shop, run errands and dine, and further presuming that a mere 150 people spending as much as I spent went elsewhere, that’s about $25,000 in business taken from Westfield and spent elsewhere in a mere 75 minutes.
Not included in this estimate is the bad will engendered by a long surprise road closure, which will cause me (and likely others) to think twice about spending 20-30 minutes round-trip for nothing. While I’m sure that the race supported some good cause, and it was refreshing to see so many people involved in their community, the total lack of notice was an indicator of poor planning. If I had known the road would be closed at a certain time for a long period, I would have planned my trip around that knowledge.
Despite the cop saying “it was in the Westfield Leader,” I found no mention of it in the last online issue before the race, no notices in streets or stores or even on the official Westfield website. It wasn’t in a Union County First Alert system e-mail, which I subscribe to. Further, Union County has a mobile electronic sign that Linden uses a week in advance of major road closures to alert motorists, but I did not see the sign in Westfield prior to the race. After searching further online, I am now learning from the Westfield Patch that 2,700 runners got pizza and raised money for street improvements for Westfield. Of course, living in Linden, I don’t subscribe to the Westfield Leader, nor do I often browse websites for the town. That’s why more public notice in the form of street signs, etc. is important. Now that the town has all the money raised from the race, maybe it can buy its own sign(s).
Being prevented from completing my busy schedule of errands after work leaves a bad taste in my mouth that will often cause me to consider whether or not my shopping really requires a trip to Westfield whenever I’m tempted to point my car in that direction, and brings the concept of “shopping locally” even closer to my home base. For the well-being of businesses in your town, I hope that notices of future road closures will be better publicized in advance.