Complete Streets for Kindergarteners

Bloomfield’s Halcyon Park is a great example of Complete Streets. Complete Streets as defined by Smart Growth America is:

Complete Streets are streets for everyone. They are designed and operated to enable safe access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities. Complete Streets make it easy to cross the street, walk to shops, and bicycle to work.

Essex County has a Complete Streets resolution.

Every morning Montclair mom Nicole Gray has to walk her 6 year old kindergartner down Upper Mountain Road in Montclair to reach the school bus stop. Upper Mountain Road is CR-631, which means it is a county road and under the jurisdiction of Essex County.

CR-631 has no sidewalks on the southeast side and the posted speed limit is 35 mph.

As I traced Gray’s walk to her kindergartener’s bus stop, a walk that we did in the street owing to there being no sidewalk, I noticed some people were going up to 60 mph.

CR-631 is a major thoroughfare. People use it to rush to work and to rush home. People use it to access Montclair University. People do need to get to where they are going. We all understand that, but kindergartners use that road to walk to the bus to go to school.

Children who are 5 years old have to share the road with 4,000 pound cars going 50 mph.

A text, a hiccup, a sneeze or seizure, owing to this street’s design could lead to tragedy.

According to the blog Safe Speed:

If someone is hit by a car at 40 mph they are 90% likely to be killed.
If someone is hit by a car at 30 mph they are 50% likely to be killed.
If someone is hit by a car at 20 mph they are 10% likely to be killed.

Imagine those odds for a 40 pound kindergartner?

Gray is advocating for a safer bus stop for her child, a bus stop that is closer to her home, but she shouldn’t have to.

All the streets in Essex County should be Complete Streets. The roads in Essex should be safe for children, disabled people and the elderly.

Children’s lives should not depend on an individual driver not making a mistake and being lucky enough to have a mother like Gray,  who knows how to advocate for her child’s rights.

Kindergartners should not have to depend on luck, to get to school.

by Teka-Lark Lo


  1. Is this woman serious? Did she consider the school bus routes, before buying her house? How about just crossing the street, by the traffic light on Normal/ Upper Mountain? It must be nice to have enough free time to film a video, while most of us are going to work. The coffee cup was also a nice touch. Seems like instead of posting this nonsense and complaining, she could just drive her child to school. If this is her most pressing “issue” she must really need a hobby, more attention, or perhaps a job. Excuse my lack of empathy, but I will save that for people who have legitimate problems.

    1. This is not about one person. This is about the fact that Essex County has a Complete Street resolution and this street, is not adhering to that policy. The cars don’t have rights over people. That road is badly in need of a road diet.

      That street is not easy to cross and when you’re getting up in the morning to go to school crossing a major street to then cross back over is very challenging with a little kid. That is why the bus exists so that danger element of our streets is not an issue with children getting to school.

      This whole issue would be a non issue if Essex followed their Complete Streets resolution.

    2. Sorry, but Montclair has no neighborhood schools, so you can’t exactly ask your neighbors where the bus stop is before buying a house. None of my neighbors go to our school, and the transportation department won’t sit down and discuss routes with a non-resident as it is a safety issue for the children to freely hand that out. Maybe learn about the town before being a total bitch.

  2. Well only person decided to make a video, correct? There are plenty of busy streets in Montclair, where children have to cross to get to a bus stop. I can think of Claremont Ave, Orange Road, Valley Road, Grove Street, and Harrison Ave, to name a few. There are better ways to get a point across. Upper Mountain Ave has been like that (without a sidewalk on that side) for at least 40 years. It seemed like nothing more than a sad, conspicuous play for attention. If she has the time to sip coffee, and film a video, why not just drive her child to school? Since she took time to chat with a crossing guard, obviously she’s blessed with way too much free time. Also her comments about speaking Spanish to bus drivers, and them “working hard” came off as incredibly condescending.

  3. This is about Complete Streets. Susan, give me some other streets you feel are not safe and I will film them. I want to show streets that work and streets that don’t work. I do appreciate you taking time to watch read the post and watch the video.

    Teka Lark, VELO Bloomfield

  4. Susan, I actually have a well established career and am well respected in pharmaceutical marketing and journalism. I work from home and put in many years in NYC onsite in order to do so.

    Regarding the larger issues, we have already determined that we need to broaden the purview of our efforts. My friends on Grove St. are fighting this battle, and my neighbors have also tried fighting it. I’m simply picking up the baton. My friends on Midland have fought this battle and prevailed.

    In terms of simply ‘driving my kid to school’ as you suggest, I counter that we pay exorbitant taxes for the bus. Moreover, perhaps my husband can just drive the kids to school. That perspective is sexist.

    In terms of having real problems, we have chosen to raise our mixed-race kids in Montclair, because this is the only place that makes sense to us. I don’t know who you are, or what your ethnicity is, but until you step into my shoes as a woman of color,with a built-in reflex to protect my children from discrimination, I don’t expect you to understand. We have worked very hard for this life.

    Montclair has a particular intersection of race, class and politics. Perhaps I am prototypical in many ways of this, but that does not mean that I don’t have real problems. I identify as a woman of color. This is one way that I am choosing to address what I consider an injustice. There is a lot of other work to do—and I am doing it.

    And regarding real problems, my 23 year old nephew was shot to death two weeks ago. I have the very real problem of grieving with my family, and trying to help heal the hurt of my beloved parents and my sister, brother-in-law, nephew, etc. And watching as detectives search for the gun man and turn up nothing. Nothing more real than having your son or nephew (young man of color–also from a nice neighborhood, etc.) die at the hands of a gun.

    I hope that you never face this very real problem.

  5. A few years ago at about 3am a car jumped the curb on the corner of Jerome place and Upper Mountain Ave. and crashed through our fence and into our front yard, then it drove across our yard and crashed out another part of our fence and on to Upper Mountain Avenue and drove away. The story was in the Montclair Times. This incident and the huge speeds on Upper Mountain makes me nervous to have my kids play in our front yard, so I put another fence in dividing the front from the back so that my kids do not play there. I am very glad that my kids do not have to cross Upper Mountain Ave. for the school bus, because I have nearly been hit by screaming drivers on crosswalks there many times over the years. Most of the houses on Upper Mountain Avenue have families with children living in them and should be protected. I have often wondered about that particular stretch of road that hasn’t any side walk and am very glad to see someone using her precious time and energy to do something about it. North Mountain residents managed to have the traffic slowed down on their street and I would like to see this on Upper Mountain. There is a 40 MPH limit which is way too fast, and most people are going well over that. I have noticed more traffic and much greater speeds over the years than when we first bought this house and i think it is due to traffic changes in other parts of Montclair. Upper Mountain and Jerome have become the most common cut through for neighboring townsfolk wishing to get to the train or the freeways. I put up a fence so that my kids or pets would not wander out on to that death trap, and I would greatly appreciate it if the street had more speed bumps and was narrower. Perhaps real bike lanes with concrete boarders would help?

  6. You have my condolences for the recent loss. Sadly, none of us are immune to grief and loss. Still that has nothing to do with your choice of filming a gratuitous video, that really serves as a “look at me” moment. Nobody is questioning having legitimate concerns over child safety. What I questioned was your method of delivery. Again since you clearly have free time, it would be much more productive and prudent, to schedule meetings with the proper channels at the Montclair Board of Education.

    I didn’t ask about your career, education,ethnicity or background. Who cares? None of that information is relevant to your choice to film a puff piece video, while strolling down the road, with a cup of coffee. Take another look at your work. Ask yourself if the video was about an issue, or a need to be seen on a larger scale?

    You mentioned your taxes. Welcome to Montclair. All of us who own homes here are paying high taxes. Congratulations on working hard for your life. Again, welcome to Montclair, as your saga is no different from many other residents in town.

    In closing, I haven’t seen any other concerned parents, who decided to film a video on this issue. Most of the parents I deal with,are too busy getting their children to school, and commuting to work. If you can’t handle constructive criticism, I suggest you refrain from posting any more videos on public forums. Enjoy your day, and by all means have another cup of coffee.

  7. Some of us are good at getting out messages and reach for help in different ways. I don’t care how they do it, but I praise everyone who works for the safety of our children.
    What is the problem with the coffee?
    Also I find tremendously offensive that you think one should check the bus routes before buying a house. Are you serious?! As in saying that some ‘wrong parts of town’ should not be served equally?

  8. Susan, thanks for downplaying the issue of ethnicity. Are you a person of color or not? You may not care about ethnicity, because it doesn’t affect you (or perhaps you’re a self-hating person of color). I’ve lived in Montclair a long time, so no need to welcome me. I like living in a diverse town, with other like-minded people, people raising kids similar to mine, and a large population of people of color with whom I have certain things in common. We have a long history in this town associated with the magnet school system, where children go to school, and transportation. Oh—and maybe you haven’t heard about the role of bus-riding during the Civil Rights Movement?

    And by the way, the fact that I choose to respond to your so-called constructive criticism doesn’t mean that I can’t handle it. How adept are you at social media and leveraging available resources?

    Videos and social media are one way to get a message out. And indeed I drink a lot of coffee. I even have a blog about it: It’s part of my branding. I get a lot of work because of it. Take a look. You seem to be very offended by my coffee-drinking. You would think that I was smoking a joint by your response. This could be great for page views on my blog, quite frankly.

    Do you have children? Do you spend time with them? Do you generally look down on stay at home moms? Do you keep a clean house and serve meals to your children? Are you a person of color—and how invested are you in your white privilege if you’re not? You make a lot of assumptions about me based on my video—really upsets you for some reason. My questions reflect a similar assumption-making approach.

    We all knew that there were people in Montclair like you. So glad you’re not my neighbor and I don’t have to deal with you.

  9. Perhaps this ray of sunshine is just one of those people who mows down pedestrians and doesn’t stop around here? We’ve all encountered them. I had to change the bus route my kids are on because it crosses a busy intersection where I have three people been hit in the crosswalk- and it isn’t as if I hang out there.

    Perhaps I should mention, since you are clearly unaware, that bus drivers from the elementary schools aren’t supposed to release children unless there is a parent or guardian there to collect the child.

    I have plenty of neighbors and friends who work- and you hating on people who stay home is ridiculous and your jealousy is showing big time.

  10. Hate to burst your bubble, but I am a person of color. Since you asked, I’m actually a few shades darker than you. No identity crisis here sweetie.

    Did you have a problem assimilating with our people during childhood?

    I’m not sure why my ethnicity is so important. White privilege? That’s humorous considering you are complaining about a transportation situation on Upper Mountain Ave.

    I am black and proud all day and every day. Not when it’s convenient for you in February, but 24 7, and 365 days a year.

    As someone who referenced “speaking Spanish” to the drivers, and said “They work really hard” perhaps you have a little conflict with who you are, and what you see in the mirror. Condescension at its best.

    Since you mentioned civil rights and bussing, please allow me to educate you again. I was one of those kids who attended Bradford, and Mt. Hebron on the Black bus. Do you still want to discuss your “long” history in Montclair?

    To answer your question about children, yes I have two, who are also Black. They’re both doing well in college, so thanks for asking.

    I’m not sure why you referenced your little blog about coffee, and branding. Once again who cares?

    Since your last post was on January 12th, it must not be all that relevant. If this blog is part of your marketing strategy, you may want to invest more free time on it, and seriously elevate your game.

    Your actions are indicative of someone who clearly desires attention. Are you one of those helicopter parents, who lives vicariously through her children?

    I’ve always advocated for my children’s well being here in town. I just never felt the need to do it with a camera, and a 10 minute video.

    Since you clearly have time for videos and coffee blogs, why not show up at a Board of Education meeting, and present your concerns?

    There was one tonight at 7:00. Did you attend? Probably not.

    I’m happy to refer you to a colleague, who can help with your self esteem issues, and insatiable need for attention.

    My guess is that you probably have the therapy thing covered though.

    Also interesting that you chose to reference “smoking a joint. ” Are you one of those hypocrites who publicly condemns social drinkers, and partiers, but privately smokes marijuana in the shadows?

    Anyway this has become quite boring, and way off topic. In closing I wish you well with your transportation issue, and in the search for an actual identify.

  11. Well said, Kate and Deb. It’s pretty easy to tell when someone does not have experience raising children in this town or dealing with the transportation system. You learn how to fight for what you want for your kids early on. Once you’re a couple of kids in and you’ve been doing this for a while, then you’re not likely to take random ‘suggestions’ from someone just because they’re having a bad day, or want to throw words around like ‘gratuitous.’

    She thinks that because she disagrees with someone’s approach to addressing an issue that suddenly she’s the authority on how much free time someone has available, or whether a person needs a job. That type of condescension belies an attitude of low self-esteem, disdain for other women borne of envy, and a limited way of seeing the world—because we all know that you can’t drop your kid off at the bus (after getting another one out the door) and have a job and earn a decent living. That’s just impossible. And more than one kid at that—go figure.

    Oh and ‘welcome to Montclair’—how many generations have you been in Montclair? And all of the coffee comments—how clever. Don’t you look smart now, Susan?

  12. Well Susan, congratulations. We now have your whole life story and a lot of political babble, and cliched bravado, to go with it. Basically everyone on Facebook is trashing you.You have managed to alienate a whole group of women—women whose children are still young and in the educational system. Perhaps you should make your own video and just get off this post. Maybe you’ll feel better. And who smokes joints ‘in the shadows?’ That’s hilarious. Its legal in lots of places btw and no one goes in shadows. This is not a PSA from the 1980’s. I don’t care if people drink socially. They can become alcoholics as far as I’m concerned. It’s legal and there are lots of support groups, etc. for those people. I won’t use words like ‘sweetie’ with you. That’s disrespectful. I don’t use terms like that with other women. ‘Black and proud’—well you can be anything and proud. How dated those perspectives are.

    Are you a psychologist? You seem to offer insights into why a person would choose to make a video? Why are you so bitter? I just don’t get it. There is a whole world of social media out there. If a mom making a video offends you, especially someone like me who basically maintains a polite demeanor even when I’m angry inside, then you should not venture onto Facebook too many times a day. However, I assure you that I will never be impolite or have too much bravado in the face of your type of criticism. It’s in poor taste and feeds a monster that does not exist for me.

    Too bad—because a woman like you who has already raised her children could be an advocate for other women, instead of berating them for how they choose to use social media, or referring to a another woman’s project as ‘little.’ I will never do that to other women. Most men I know don’t even talk about women in those terms. And if they do, then they immediately reveal themselves not worthy of our respect. And what’s up with this whole ‘in closing’ thing. It’s a nice transition tool when writing, but this is not a political treatise. It’s a conversation on social media. I happen to be one of the administrators on this site. It’s social media—a tool.

    Enough already. Have a good evening.

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