We Did a Speed Study Where Julie Galezniak was Killed – Here’s What We Found

by | February 25, 2022 | News, Biking the Region, NJ, research, Vision Zero | 0 comments

We are still reeling from the tragic death of bicyclist Julie Galezniak of Stratford, NJ in December 2021. As we reported, Dylan Weatherwalks of Chesterfield, NJ was arrested and charged with vehicular homicide. It was determined that the driver of the truck was traveling at a speed of 75 miles per hour when he struck Galezniak. Just two months before Julie was killed, Mary Broderick, 71, of Chesterfield was struck and killed walking along Sykesville Rd not far from her home. The driver of that vehicle Valentina Golya, 86, Chesterfield was issued a summons for careless driving. The traffic violence on Sykesville Rd has touched the lives of many people who live in Chesterfield Township. And we believe that the design and function of Sykesville Road has to change.

Sykesville Road is a scenic township road with fairly light traffic and is a popular road with local bicycle clubs. The road is 22-feet wide with no shoulder and a 50 mile per hour speed limit. There are some curves and small rises that can limit visibility. There is a general consensus that the traffic on the road feels like it is traveling very fast and can be frightening if you are biking on it or walking or even standing alongside the road. So I along with Sonia Szczesna from the Tri-State Transportation Campaign went out on a very cold morning in late January to do a speed study at the crash site. We brought along the BCGP’s Bushnell Velocity Speed Gun. If you ever kept stats for a Little League Team you may be familiar with it. It works for cars as well as baseballs. The key is that you have to shoot it at a vehicle traveling towards you or away from you to get an accurate reading. Since we didn’t want to tip people off (and brake or whatever) we aimed the speed gun as motorists were driving past us. Having a second person is helpful with one person aiming and the second recording.

Average Driver Speed44.8
Median Driver Speed45.0
Top Driver Speed58
Minimum Driver Spd30
Vehicle Driver Count62
Drivers Exceed Speed Limit10
Percent Exceeding Speed Limit16%

Speed Limits are usually determined by speed studies. If this were an official speed study the conclusion would be that 50 miles per hour is perfectly acceptable. Speed limits are determined by the 85th percentile. In this case, 84 percent of the drivers were traveling at or below the speed limit. That perspective is also one-dimensional and counters to a Safe Systems Approach. The context is that Sykesville Rd is classified as a local road. Three of the four people involved in the fall 2021 fatal crashes lived less than half of a mile from the road.

Vehicle Impact SpeedAverage Risk of Death for a Pedestrian
30 MPH21%
48 MPH75%
58 MPH93%
Source – AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety: “Impact Speed and a Pedestrian’s Risk of Severe Injury or Death.”

The Spreadsheet for our Speed Study can be viewed here We recommend that Chesterfield Township apply for a grant to study ways to make Sykesville Rd safer. An easy change is to simply lower the speed limit, according to NJ parcel maps there may be enough right of way available to add shoulders to the road. There are also FHWA proven safety countermeasures such as traffic calming to slow down traffic. We noticed that a driver was hauling brush from a nearby property and some of it fell on the road. A few people did slow down to swerve around the debris. Chesterfield Township has implemented traffic calming before working with the County to replace two high crash intersections with roundabouts on Old York Rd.

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