Video: Citizens install new safety measures at fatal bike path intersection

Four men move swiftly to improve safety at site of fatal accident

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Dissatisfied with the state’s response to the death of 6-year-old bicyclist Mason Sterne at the intersection of Poppasquash Road and the East Bay Bike Path this past Tuesday, a group of concerned citizens from Bristol and Somerset took action.

A few minutes after 9 a.m. this morning, a pickup truck pulled up to that intersection and four men emerged; they pulled two stop signs set in concrete in 5-gallon buckets and a small sandwich board sign from the truck. The small sign was positioned in the bike path crosswalk, while the stop signs were placed facing vehicular traffic in each direction.

“The state promised a six-month study of bike path intersections, but we’re concerned about their timing,” said Matt Hayes of Bristol, who was joined by fellow Bristolians Angus Davis and Mike Siino, as well as Pedro Ramos, a Somerset resident who lives next door to Masons’ grandparents.

“We’re concerned about this weekend.”

The signs that the group placed at the intersection are not permanent, but they hope that the state will do the right thing and make them a permanent part of the intersection. “We treat this intersection like there is a stop sign, because we grew up here,” said Mr. Davis, who is father to three boys, ages 6, 4, and 2. 

“But if you are from out of town, you don’t know.” The driver in Tuesday’s accident is a resident of Canton, Conn.

The men purchased the signs and assembled them, noting that the signs are about $50 each, manufactured at a facility right here in Bristol. They spent less than $200 and an hour of their time to purchase, make, and place the hard-to-miss warnings.

Acknowledging that setting their own signs may be a violation of the letter of the the law, the group hopes that the state will look at the bigger picture. “We’re not trying to cause trouble or do anything other than fix this,” said Mr. Hayes. 

Existing signage just notes that there is a bike path ahead, but does not require a stop. Mr. Davis pointed out that it would be easy for the state to swap those bike path signs for stop signs. In the meantime, the temporary unauthorized signs stand in the spot where everyone involved wishes a sign had been in place to warn that driver on Tuesday afternoon.

“If the Rhode Island DOT wants their only action to be to remove these signs, rather than install permanent ones, that’s their decision,” said Mr Hayes. 

“We hope they will make this a permanent solution.”

Editor's note: Matt Hayes, who is included in the reporting of this story, is publisher of East Bay Newspapers, which operates EastBayRI.

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.