'Safe, walkable:' Darien focuses on safe driving campaign, sidewalk work

Town Hall

Town Hall

Susan Shultz

DARIEN — Maintaining a safe pedestrian and bicycle riding community is key to a good quality of life, according to First Selectman Jayme Stevenson.

That’s why residents have been slightly inconvenienced this summer as the town has upgraded some 7,000 linear feet of sidewalks with more to come. And why Darien will soon be embarking on a first: a safe driving campaign that emphasizes community responsibility.

Public Works Director Ed Gentile told the Board of Selectman recently that the recent repair and replacement work is just the latest in a flurry of such work over the past years.

Within the next three years, he said, some 3.6 miles of sidewalk will be repaired at a cost of about $2 million.

“We’ve always had a desire to give more careful attention to sidewalks … we’re a small community, and very successful community centers have this,” Stevenson said. “We want people walking the downtown to the shops … we want kids to be able to safely ride their bikes to school and shops.”

Sidewalk work was recently completed on Tokeneke Road across the from the school, to Cliff Avenue from Great Hill.

“At this point, we have done the entire east — or north — side toward Norwalk depending on how you look at it,” Gentile said.

Public Works is now working on Hollow Tree Ridge Road in front of the middle school, with a total of some 2,000 linear feet to be repaired. He added that crews are about halfway done.

Gentile said his crew would be repairing sidewalks on Sedgwick, McClaren and Coachlamp — maybe not exactly in that order — repair work identified as part of a 2019 Sidewalk Inspection program. There are plans to work on sidewalks on the Post Road in the Hampton area in front of the YMCA.

“Leroy is also on the list, with plans to complete from West Avenue all to Kona Road,” he added.

The town is also undertaking a first-of-its-kind for Darien safe driving promotional campaign beginning in September.

The one-month-long campaign will feature banners, signs on the windows of downtown businesses, email blasts and social media updates calling on drivers to be more alert to taking it easy behind the wheel, she said.

“We want Darien to be a safe, walkable community,” said Stevenson, who teamed with fellow Selectman Saran Neumann in initiating the campaign. “We need to change the culture and create a more pedestrian and bicyclist safety mindset.”

The town has commissioned local business Nobel House to produce the campaign. Stevenson said there will be a brainstorming session soon to determine how to move forward and to select a slogan.

The campaign — with an initial cost of $12,000 to come from the Police Commission budget — will be designed to run every June to coincide with the end of the school year. Future costs will be some $4,000 annually, with those monies to come from the selectmen’s budget, she said.

“People need to be more mindful of other users of the roadways … we have a lot of new residents, and this is a great reminder,” she said. “We’ve never done anything on this grand a scale. It’s the first of its kind for us."