Reckless drivers, dangerous streets: Manchester residents share concerns at traffic forum
Residents of Manchester city center took part in an open forum on Thursday to discuss issues affecting families in the area, most related to dangerous traffic on local streets.
About 40 people attended the session, where Mayor Joyce Craig and other aldermen heard concerns from the public. People said some streets have become dangerous in the past few months since a change in traffic. Drivers on Maple, Beech and Chestnut streets are speeding to the point of endangering people, the people said.
Neighbors said the two-lane, one-way streets encouraged drivers to drive recklessly.
“People are nervous about crossing the streets and going to the park,” said Arnold Mikolo, environmental justice advocate at CLF New Hampshire. He and others organized the forum. “We can make proposals and come up with ideas on how to solve this problem today,” Mikolo said.
Mikolo said he tried to encourage people to come forward and voice their concerns about the neighborhood, but it didn’t come easy. While business owners and apartment renters attended Thursday’s forum, only a few lived in the area.
Amanda Scanlon, who lives on Maple Street, said she sees accidents all the time.
“People are driving up and down and it’s terrifying,” she said.
Others said they were worried about the safety of local children amid the speeding.
Bicycle Collective advocates were also present. Florian Tschurtschenthaler, a cyclist, said these streets had too many cars: “Reducing it to a single lane can give people a visual incentive to disperse traffic from this super dangerous area,” he said.
He also wanted officials to know how different the city is a few blocks north, where there are bike lanes and traffic is much lighter.
“It’s a slice of heaven to have this just for peace of mind,” he said.
Most questions were directed to Chief Roads Engineer Owen Friend-Gray, who works for the Department of Public Works. He noted concerns that needed to be addressed immediately and pointed out that the department had been collecting crash data for a few months to determine why they were happening and where they were happening, “but there is still a long way to go,” he said. he declared.
“We don’t see the same things you do. We’re not here every day, so anything you can offer at this meeting is incredibly helpful to us,” Friend-Gray said.
Residents of the city center said access for people in wheelchairs is complicated and the streets need to be beautified with new lamps and trees. Local business owner Sandra Almonte explained how to approach the immigrant community to educate them about traffic in their language. Mary Georges, who lives in the area, agreed, but said everyone in New Hampshire, not just immigrants, needs driver education.
Some residents expressed concern about increasing local rents by sprucing up the neighborhood, to which Craig replied, “There is no rent control in New Hampshire.”
When the forum peaked, some people met for the first time and discussed what else could be done. Mikolo, the organizer, said there were plans to hold a similar session on lead paint, another critical issue in the region.
“When people come together, change can happen,” Mikolo said.