I love to have heroes, don’t you?
Take Dana Coleman, a teacher and mother and an unlikely agent of change.
The Colemans live on Taconic Avenue — you know, the main road that goes between the Saint James Church and the CVS pharmacy and travels out toward Simon’s Rock and Alford. They have two children aged 8 and 11.
They are keenly aware that what happened in Adams to an 8-year-old boy could just as easily have happened in Great Barrington. That beautiful child was killed and the entire county has been in mourning because each of us knows that there is nothing more precious than the lives of our children.
Dana Coleman is a soft spoken, lovely woman who decided that she just wasn’t going to put up with people driving too fast. Twice she had harrowing conversations with drivers who she signaled to slow down and who took major and unacceptable offense. I’ve been there and done exactly that. It can be very unpleasant.
So Dana and a group of her neighbors decided to organize and reach out to the leaders of town government. They wanted to see changes in the way the town regulates drivers who speed. These people, many of whom moved here for the bucolic life, know that allowing their children to walk and play where there are often no sidewalks is very, very dangerous.
They collected data and police reports and traffic studies and what they found is truly frightening. They used a soft approach explaining to town officials why they needed to do more. In some cases, they offered to give up some of their land so there could be sidewalks where none existed. But the real problem is the speeders.
I don’t know why some people take out their rage behind the wheel of a car. There’s one guy who drives up Hollenbeck Avenue on the way to Lake Mansfield. He has the look of a wolf as he passes at a rate of speed I would estimate exceeds 50 miles an hour in a 25 mile an hour zone. The other day a whole bunch of neighbors happened to be outside and when the fool came up the street we all yelled at him at the top of our lungs. It didn’t help a bit. Frankly, I think we made his day.
Dana and her gang came up with a plan. They would print up some election-type signs that advised people to “Slow Down, Children Live Here!” Dana went online and asked who wanted a sign and while she paid for the first six, people were only too willing to kick in 20 bucks for their signs.
It occurred to me to ask Dana for a sign that said, “Slow Down, Old People Live Here.” Dana’s daughter Lucy and her friend Rowan Novick made that sign. I offered them money but they wouldn’t take it.
Now the whole neighborhood is getting involved but Dana says that she is fighting for our entire town. She wants changes that will spread out like a hydra on both sides of the river. Suddenly, we are seeing police cruisers in our neighborhoods, positioned in key places to grab speeders. I want a police car on Sumner Street across from my house that will catch the crazy driver. It will only take once.
It’s funny how it works. Dana and all her friends and neighbors are passing around petitions and calling meetings and at least one selectman, Ed Abrahams, is meeting with her group.
Dana is shy and I don’t think she’d like to be singled out but hey, I’m writing this, she isn’t. She’s my hero.
Originally published in the Berkshire Eagle, 6/20/15