Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Response from Mayor DeStefano on In-Street Crosswalk Signs

Hello everyone,

Recently our group joined with Elm City Cycling to write to Mayor
DeStefano requesting use of in-street pedestrian crossing signs in New
Haven. Below is the Mayor's response and the original letter. I have
to give most of the credit to Tom Harned and the folks at Elm City
Cycling who have been pushing for these signs over the past few years
and put in the work to write a well-researched proposal. Please send
me an email if you would like to see a picture of the signs we are
talking about.



August 8, 2008

Elm City Cycling
c/o Thomas Harned

Yale Medical Campus Traffic Safety Group
c/o Rachel Wattier

Re: In-Street Unsignalized Pedestrian Crosswalk Signs

Dear Mr. Harned and Ms. Wattier:

Thank you for your letter of August 5, 2008 concerning the use of
in-street, unsignalized pedestrian crosswalk signs. The City has
reviewed your letter not only from the perspective of increased
pedestrian safety, but also from a broader mission to create liveable
streets and to develop a cultural "share-the-road" mindset in New

In regard to the specific request of your letter, the City's
prevailing concerns about in-street signs do not relate to liability
or effectiveness. In fact, the Transportation, Traffic and Parking
Department - following meetings with you and others - has reviewed
this technique and concurs there is merit to this technique. Our
prevailing concern is related to maintenance and this is an issue that
can be addressed.

With that in mind, my staff will arrange for the two of you to meet
with city staff and develop a pilot program for implementation at
once. We will look for opportunities based on accident criteria and
road condition and then implement accordingly. Longer term, we
continue to work on the broader mission and this includes
outreach/educations, new thinking on physical improvement and
systematic traffic enforcement.

Thank you again for your time and detailed research. I encourage you
to continue to work closely with City staff on the other major
projects in this fiscal year. These include the Union Station
Interconnect of bike route (s) / bike parking connecting Union Station
with four city neighborhoods; the proposed Complete Streets
Resolution; the various ongoing traffic calming improvements; and a
new education / outreach effort. Our collective effort will indeed
result in a more sustainable transportation system here in New Haven.

Very truly yours,

John DeStefano, Jr.
City of New Haven

August 5, 2008

Mayor John DeStefano, Jr.
New Haven Mayor's Office
165 Church St # 2
New Haven, CT 06510

  Re: In-Street Unsignalized Pedestrian Crosswalk Signs

Dear Mayor DeStefano:
We have prepared this letter on behalf of Elm City Cycling, the Yale
Medical Campus Traffic Safety Group, and numerous members and
supporters of the New Haven Safe Streets Coalition, formally
requesting that the city of New Haven permit and pilot the use of
in-street Unsignalized Pedestrian Crosswalk signs on public roadways.
We will outline the purpose and proper use of the devices, the
perceived barriers that have prevented the use of these devices in the
past, and offer supporting evidence outlining the safety and efficacy
of the devices.

In light of the recent tragedies that have occurred on New Haven's
roadways, numerous community groups have taken up the cause of traffic
calming and the need for streets that are safe for all roadway users
whether they be pedestrians, cyclists, or motorists. Many of these
groups have assembled as the New Haven Safe Streets Coalition. While
we, Elm City Cycling, Yale Medical Campus Traffic Safety Group and
various members and supporters of the New Haven Safe Streets
coalition, believe that major changes in roadway design and
enforcement of the traffic laws are necessary to achieve streets that
are safe for all citizens, we also believe that there are
cost-effective short-term solutions available.

Chief among these is the in-street Unsignalized Pedestrian Crosswalk
sign, or the Yield to Pedestrian in Crosswalk Device (YTPCD). A
photograph of several variations of the device is shown in Figure 1 on
the following page.

Figure 1 – In Street YTPCD Devices

The YTPCD is a standard roadway sign used by municipalities across the
state of Connecticut, as well as major cities throughout the country.
Its purpose is to signify to drivers that state law dictates that
motorists must yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk. Placing the sign
in the roadway serves to alert drivers to the presence of the
crosswalk and in doing so creates a safer environment for pedestrians.
Additionally, the presence of an object in the roadway tends to cause
drivers to reduce their travel speed thereby producing a traffic
calming effect, which yields safety benefits to all roadway users.

The device is outlined in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control
Devices (MUTCD), a publication produced by the Federal Highway
Administration (FHWA) of the United States Department of
Transportation (USDOT). This is the manual used by transportation
professionals throughout the country and spells out the standards by
which traffic signs, road markings and signals are designed,
installed, and utilized. The in-street YTPCD has two variations in the
MUTCD: R1-6 and R1-6a. A copy of the portion of the MUTCD describing
this device is enclosed.

Elm City Cycling, the Yale Medical Campus Traffic Safety Group and
numerous members and supporters of the New Haven Safe Streets
Coalition have frequently expressed interest in the potential
deployment of this device.  However, the city of New Haven has thus
far declined to utilize it, citing several objections.

The first of these objections is the issue of liability. City staff
has, in the past, expressed concern that the city could be held liable
if a driver struck a YTPCD that had been placed in the street. While
we understand the city's concern, we feel that it is largely
unwarranted. As noted before, the YTPCD is an established sign listed
in the MUTCD. As such, assuming it is installed and utilized properly
within accepted traffic engineering practices, the city's liability is
limited, if not eliminated. To give an example, the Pennsylvania
Department of Transportation (PennDOT) has installed 4,500 such signs
since 2001. According to PennDOT officials, to date, the state has not
been sued by a motorist who struck a sign.

The second objection, often heard is that the sign would not result in
increased safety for pedestrians. It has been argued that it would
simply be another sign largely ignored by motorists. This objection is
a justifiable reaction, as many traffic signs are indeed ignored by
motorists. This is precisely why we are requesting the use of the
in-street YTPCD. Motorists in the United States are largely
unaccustomed to objects placed in the roadway. Therefore, when signs
are placed in the roadway, they tend to attract the attention of
drivers. In fact, a study by PennDOT confirms this. A safety
evaluation of PennDOT's yield-to-pedestrian devices revealed the
following results:

The likelihood of the first motorist arriving at a crosswalk yielding
to a waiting pedestrian increased 30-34 percent at intersections and
17-24 percent at midblock

The percentage of pedestrians who yielded to motorists decreased 11-16
percent at intersections and 8-13 percent at crosswalks – PennDOT
concluded that this result suggests increased pedestrian security at

A copy of the full PennDOT report on the efficacy of YTPCD can be
provided to the city upon request.

The third objection that we have heard from city officials and police
in the past is that while the YTPCD is utilized successfully in dozens
of other communities in Connecticut, the political and cultural
realities in New Haven are sufficiently different, such that the
successes realized elsewhere could not and would not be duplicated
here in New Haven. While it is true that New Haven is in many ways
very different from the suburban communities that surround it, towns
and cities of all sizes have realized the benefits of the YTPCD.
Provided below is a partial list of towns, cities, and states that
currently utilize the YTPCD:

Rocky Hill, CT
Winsted, CT
Windsor, CT
Washington, CT
Salisbury, CT
Kent, CT
Norwalk, CT
Milwaukee, WI
Baltimore, MD
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

The YTPCD is a standard traffic control device that is approved for
used by the FHWA, and utilized throughout the country to improve
pedestrian safety. The reasons given by city staff in the past for not
using the devices are not supported by the experience of other cities,
and do not agree with relevant studies on the matter.

In light of the significant benefits to pedestrian safety that could
be realized through use of the YTPCD, as well as the minimal cost of
the device when compared to other safety improvements, we strongly
urge that you work with the appropriate city staff to allow for the
pilot implementation of a minimum of 20 Yield to Pedestrian in
Crosswalk Devices throughout the city no later than November of 2008.
Additionally, we recommend that the pilot implementation be
coordinated with the New Haven Police Department to include increased
enforcement of existing traffic laws at the pilot locations selected.
We believe this will maximize the efficacy of the device and increase
driver awareness of its use.

Finally, we respectfully request a meeting with representatives of all
relevant city departments to discuss the details of such an
implementation. Issues to be discussed include: scheduling, potential
pilot locations, design standards such as minimum street widths and
device placement, as well as any additional concerns or questions that
city staff may have.

If you have any questions, or need any additional materials, please
contact Tom Harned of Elm City Cycling.

Very truly yours,
  Tom Harned, representing:

  85 Avon Street, Apt. 2
  New Haven, CT 06511

  Rachel Wattier, representing:
382 Whitney Ave., Apt. 10
New Haven, CT 06511

New Haven Board of Aldermen

Michael Piscitelli, AICP, Director, Dept. of Transportation, Traffic &
Parking, City of New Haven

Robert Smuts, Chief Administrative Officer, City of New Haven

Lt. Joseph Witkowski, New Haven Department of Police Service

State Senator Toni N. Harp
State Senator Martin M. Looney
State Representative Juan Candelaria
State Representative Patricia Dillon
State Representative Bill Dyson
State Representative Robert W. Megna
State Representative Cameron Staples
State Representative Toni E. Walker

Dixwell CMT (DECMT)
Downtown-Wooster Square CMT
Dwight CMT
East Rock CMT
East Shore CMT
Fair Haven CMT
Hill North CMT
Hill South CMT
Newhallville CMT
Quinnipiac East CMT (QEMT)
Westville-West Hills CMT
Whalley-Edgewood-Beaver Hills CMT

1000 Friends of Connecticut
America Walks
Cedar Hill Blockwatch
Central Connecticut Bicycle Alliance
Chatham Square Association
Church on the Rock - New Haven
City Point Hist. Dist. Neighborhood Assoc.
Coalition for a Livable Whalley
Congregation Beth El-Keser Israel
Connecticut Bicycle Coalition
Edgewood Neighborhood Association
Edgewood Park Defense Patrol
Elm City Cycling
Friends of East Rock Park
Friends of Edgewood Park
Grand Avenue Village Association
Hill City Point Neighborhood Action Group
Historic Wooster Square Association
New Haven Bioregional Group
New Haven Environmental Justice Network
New Haven Urban Design League
Quinnipiac River Community Group
Ronan-Edgehill Neighborhood Association
Safe Kids Connecticut - Greater NH Chapter
Town Green Special Services District
Transportation Alternatives
Tri-State Transportation Campaign
Trowbridge Square Renaissance
Upper State Street Association
West River Neighborhood Services Corporation
Westville Village Renaissance Alliance
Whalley Avenue Special Services District
Yale Medical Campus Traffic Safety Group
Yale Public Health Coalition

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