Northampton bicyclists voice safety concerns following Damon Road accident

A bicyclist hit by a car Wednesday morning on Damon Road in Northampton. People are now speaking out, asking for increased safety measures on a dangerous stretc
Published: Aug. 10, 2022 at 6:19 PM EDT
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NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) - A bicyclist hit by a car Wednesday morning on Damon Road in Northampton. People are now speaking out, asking for increased safety measures on a dangerous stretch of roadway.

We spoke with bike riders and local business owners, including one who captured the accident on his security cameras Wednesday morning. They are hoping an ongoing reconstruction project can help limit dangerous accidents like this one moving forward.

“I love it,” said Enlite Cannabis COO Matt Yee. “It’s the most convenient way to get into town. I cross the intersection, I just know to be extra careful because the car will always win in that battle.”

Yee uses the Northampton rail trail almost every day when riding to and from work at Enlite Cannabis. The dispensary is located right next to the rail trail crossing on Damon Road where he said his security cameras captured a car hitting a bicyclist who was crossing the street Wednesday morning, though he was not able to show us.

“I took a look at the video, submitted it to Northampton Police, and it just looks like drivers not paying attention,” he said. “Kind of see that a lot nowadays.”

One local bike shop owner told Western Mass News that it is not the first time this intersection has caused problems.

“It’s a little concerning because I’ve had many, many riders tell me that they felt like they had the light and it turned out that they didn’t,” said Northampton Bicycle General Manager Leila Everett.

Construction was recently completed on the rail trail crosswalk and Route 9 rotary, a stone’s throw away from the scene of the accident.

“Since they’ve redone the bike path and the rotary by where it crosses, they’ve changed the lighting,” Everett told us.

“It was even better when this was closed and we had to go up and around,” said Tom O’Brien of Granby. “You had to go through that circle, but it was better. The traffic was easier to negotiate.”

City officials told us that the state’s Department of Transportation is working on a reconstruction project which, “will improve crossing, bicycle, and pedestrian amenities and safety.”

In fact, a Northampton pedestrian subcommittee meeting was scheduled for Wednesday morning and Damon Road was on the agenda.

We asked around to get answers to the big question – what do people want to see come out of this latest project?

“I think it needs to get changed back to solid red until the light signal is done, and then it can go back to flashing,” Everett said.

“I know back in the day it was a simple 1-2-3, yellow, red, green, stop for a little while, go when it turns green,” Yee said. “I think that’s the pretty simple way.”

Everett said that accidents like these are reasons why she stays away from the road. She offered her own advice for riders, including riding defensively.

“It’s always nice to light yourself up like a Christmas tree as best you can,” she said. “Put as many lights on, but it doesn’t matter what you’re wearing if they’re not paying attention.”

The accident remains under investigation. Police said that the bicyclist was transported to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries and the driver does not face charges.

We also reached out to MassDOT officials for comment on the reconstruction efforts, but did not heard back in time for our broadcast.