Gloversville Mayor Dayton King has been getting more than the usual calls from concerned parents recently.
“A number of them have reached out to me asking for ‘Children at Play’ signs in their neighborhoods,” he said, “so I looked into it.”
The death of 9-year-old Jonathan Blaney in April prompted a wave of concern, he said. Blaney was riding his bike near the corner of Bloomingdale and East Pine Street in the city when he entered an intersection and was hit by a truck.
Many parents, including Blaney’s, requested signs along Bloomingdale, around area schools and on North Hollywood Avenue.
“A lot of kids walk and play out in the street even though we have sidewalks,” King said, “and it’s 2013. All the drivers are in a hurry.”
Children at Play or CAP signs are meant to remind drivers there are kids around.
A few dozen CAP signs already dot city streets, but there won’t likely be any more.
“They do absolutely nothing to slow traffic,” said Department of Public Works Director Kevin Jones.
When so many parents requested signs, the City Council asked Jones for official input. He recommended against putting up any more. Over the phone Monday he explained why.
“When you see a stop sign or a yield sign, you know exactly what to do,” he said. “When you see a sign that tells you there are kids around, there’s nothing to do.”
He was careful to point out Gloversville still has a safety issue.
Second Ward City Councilman Arthur Simonds, who represents Blaney’s neighborhood, described a worrying view from his home.
“I live right where Eagle Street dumps out on Park,” he said, “People are squealing their tires, going too fast. Kids aren’t looking when they cross the street, riding around with no helmets and no brakes on their bikes. It’s an all-night thing.”
Blaney’s was the only fatal crash Simonds could think of, but he said there have been a number of narrow misses.
“I don’t think any sign would hurt,” he said, suggesting more patrol cars would prove more effective.
According to Jones, though, signs could very well hurt. He mentioned a slew of government studies showing CAP signs might actually desensitize drivers to road signs in general and give parents a false sense of security.
“It might make parents feel better,” he said, “but when a kid comes in contact with a 4,000 pound vehicle, a sign isn’t going to do much good.”
The best thing, he said, is for parents to keep their kids off the road.
Since CAP signs are suggestions and cannot be legally enforced, they fall under Jones’s purview. Barring political pressure, he said there won’t be any new CAP signs in the area. Each new sign would cost roughly $300, but cost isn’t the point.
“It’s about road safety,” he said.