Westfield resident and avid walker Barbara Ruvolo has always enjoyed spending time in . But, after nearly being hit by what she called "aggressive cyclists," the Central Avenue resident decided she needed to take steps to ensure the safety of fellow pedestrians.
Last May, after being taunted by a speeding cyclist, whom she asked to slow down, Ruvolo went home and penned a letter to the Westfield Town Council.
In the letter, Ruvolo writes, "One cyclist came behind me yesterday, May 3, 2011, as I was walking along the pedestrian path three times and nearly ran into me each time. I really was frightened because he was speeding and weaving so much into the pedestrian lane that I thought his time he was going to run into me. On his fourth turn around I stopped him and told him to slow it down. He smirked and said, 'what are you going to do about it?' with a sneer and continued to speed away!"
Ruvolo said she was not just concerned about her own safety but that of the elderly, young mothers with strollers, and people who are walking their dogs in the park, who are subjected to "potentially being run over by these cyclists who have no regard for these pedestrians."
After sending her letter to the Council, Ruvolo waited to hear something. Months passed and she believed her letter had been forgotten until her doorbell rang. Newly-appointed Third Ward Councilman Mark LoGrippo, who had stepped in to fill the seat left vacant by former Councilman Mark Ciarrocca, came to Ruvolo's door to discuss her letter and talk about improving safety for pedestrians in the park.
As a result of Ruvolo's letter and conversations with LoGrippo, signs advising cyclists to stay to the right and travel in the car lane have been added to existing signposts in the park.
At Tuesday evening's Town Council meeting Ruvolo addressed the Council and thanked them for taking her concerns seriously. She did ask, however, if the could enforce the signs.
Following the meeting, Town Administrator Jim Gildea said pedestrians being able to point to the signs was a good start but agreed that additional wording reminding cyclists that they share the same responsibilities as motorists would be helpful.
"I believe 'when you know better, you do better,'" Ruvolo said. She added that she was also motivated by recalling how fellow by a cyclist, leaving behind a wife and two children.
"When someone gets injured (and believe me it will happen) I would feel terrible if I hadn't spoken up when I had an obligation to especially if it prevented someone from getting hurt," she wrote to the Council in August 2011.
Ruvolo said the signs are the first step toward improving safety for pedestrians.
"They go like it's the Tour de France," she said. "I just don't want to see someone get hurt."