It all started the summer of 2009 when Calla Aniski attempted to walk across Ship Bottom’s Long Beach Boulevard to get to the beach. In the process of crossing the road that is seven-lanes wide, she inadvertently caused a 3-car crash. This experience convinced Calla that someone needed to take action to improve pedestrian safety for residents and visitors of Ship Bottom, and she decided she was the right person for the job.
The Borough of Ship Bottom has a population of approximately 1,400 residents, and in the summer, its population explodes to over 10 times that amount! Most of these visitors are in Ship Bottom for its beach, and unless they are staying right on the beach, they must cross Long Beach Boulevard to get there. Despite the heavy foot traffic, prior to Aniski’s involvement there were very few traffic lights and few marked crosswalks which made the trip to and from the beach very dangerous.
Over the past few years, Aniski has worked with the municipal and county governments as well as local non-profits to push through infrastructure that would make the area around Long Beach Boulevard safer for pedestrians and motorists alike. Creating safer streets in Ship Bottom was no easy task, but Aniski was persistent and determined.
Shortly after her crossing mishap, Aniski began collecting signatures for a petition to create a safer pedestrian street environment. “When I started,” recalls Aniski, “I was thinking that it’d be no problem. They’d just have to paint in a crosswalk and be done.” The city council denied the petition because Long Beach Boulevard is a county road and out of their jurisdiction. Undaunted, Aniski contacted the county engineers. Her original plan included two crosswalks across Long Beach Boulevard, one at 13th Street and one at 15th Street. “That way,” she explains, “people would be able to cross at every other street instead of walking down to 11th or 17th.” The engineers, however, deemed the crosswalk installations too dangerous due to the speed limit and block length and instead suggested working with her to install crosswalks on the side streets and two county roads that run parallel to Long Beach Boulevard. Ansiki recruited her parents, friends and neighbors to begin surveying the area in preparation for the crosswalk implementation. Using data and survey models from the county engineering department, the team compiled and analyzed data that was collected over the span of a few days at various time periods and in various weather conditions and presented it to the engineering board.
But Aniski’s work did not end there. She created an interactive website which included information on the crosswalk law that went into effect this year, links to safety tips for pedestrians crossing the street, and information about the dangers inherent to motorists and pedestrians during a vehicle stop. One page of her site even invites pedestrians and motorists to suggest crosswalk sites for the borough. To make people aware of the website, she distributed business cards to beach visitors and residents, encouraging them to visit the website. She was also able to get a traffic safety alliance to donate pedestrian safety signs and brochures to local businesses.
And the end result? Aniski’s project has been approved and installed! A total of 80 crosswalks on the side streets and two county roads that run parallel to Long Beach Boulevard have been designated and painted, and a state-of-the-art traffic light at E. 14th Street has been installed and in operation!
For her efforts, she was awarded the Gold Award, the highest leadership award that a Girl Scout can earn. “These improvements should make it safer, easier, and more enjoyable for vacationers and residents to walk to and from the beach.”
Calla Aniski is certainly an example of an exceptional teen, working hard to make a difference in her community! “I’m still learning, but it’s important to not give up. The end result is definitely worth it,” Aniski says.
If you are interested in increasing pedestrian safety in your community, contact the Safe Routes to School Coordinator at your local Transportation Management Association to see how you can get started!