Sunday, August 3, 2008

"Safe Streets" City Ordinance Proposed

Reckless drivers, residents' fears prompt safe streets ordinance
By Randall Beach, New Haven Register Staff, August 3, 2008

NEW HAVEN - Responding to growing neighborhood interest in "traffic calming," two aldermen are preparing a safe streets ordinance that could lead to traffic designs to improve pedestrian safety.

Alderman Roland Lemar, D-9, said he and Alderwoman Erin Sturgis-Pascale, D-14, began drafting the ordinance after receiving considerable feedback from their respective neighborhoods of East Rock and Fair Haven. Lemar said they hope to have the proposal ready for the full board to consider in about a month.

The issue also has taken hold in the Whalley Avenue area following the hit-and-run death of Garbrielle Lee, 11, in June, as she was trying to cross that street.

The recently formed New Haven Safe Streets Coalition has been circulating an online petition advocating measures to cut citywide traffic-related injuries in half by 2009 and by 90 percent as of 2015. More than 1,600 residents have signed the petition, and 10 Community Management Teams have endorsed it.

Perhaps its strongest and potentially most controversial provision is to "re-establish and enforce a strict 25 mph speed limit throughout all streets and arterial roads in New Haven." Local speed limits also must be approved by the State Traffic Commission.

"It's exceptional that so many people in the city have signed on," Lemar said. "A broad spectrum of New Haven supports this. The city government should recognize this groundswell of interest in improving neighborhoods."

Lemar did not want to discuss the proposed ordinance in detail, but he said it would establish a traffic calming safe streets committee, as well as set aside money to make traffic safety improvements and require that new construction "passes this test."

"We've seen this work with bike lanes," he noted. "This would take it further."

Lemar said he and Sturgis-Pascale are working with Michael Piscitelli, head of the city's Department of Transportation, Traffic and Parking.

Illustrating the momentum of the safety movement, city officials have created a Traffic Safety Hotline. Citizens can call 946-6956 or e-mail to report a dangerous intersection or place where vehicles are speeding or not obeying red lights or stop signs.

The East Rock Management Team recently surveyed its members to identify trouble spots in that neighborhood. Members of the Ronan-Edgehill Neighborhood Association also were invited to pinpoint dangerous sites. There were about 30 responses.

The most dangerous intersection, cited by eight residents, was at St. Ronan and Canner streets, where respondents reported seeing cars speed up and down Canner Street, ignoring stop signs. A close runner-up, with seven complaints, was the intersection of St. Ronan and Highland streets.

Other trouble spots included portions of Trumbull Street, Orange Street, Whitney Avenue and State Street. An e-mail discussion group set up by RENA has been filled with complaints about unsafe motorists.

"We have a serious problem with groups of motorcyclists, four or five at a time, going up the hill at a terrifying speed while simultaneously riding only on the rear wheel," wrote an East Rock Road resident.

She added, "It happens in the afternoons and evenings when the kids and I are out walking the dog, and I am very concerned about the drivers losing control and taking us out in the process."

Bill Kaplan, who lives on Autumn Street between Canner and Highland streets, said in a RENA e-mail message that "a genuine traffic calming design" would be preferable to keeping police officers posted at the intersections.

Kaplan said he saw small traffic circles with permanent plantings slow down vehicles in his former home of Portland, Ore. Kaplan said the round fixtures are placed in the center of intersections.

"You have to slow down and steer around it. You can't blast through the intersection," he said. "They're attractive and they work day and night."

Kaplan said unless such measures were taken, the East Rock intersections would remain "a tragedy waiting to happen."

Lemar said he has also seen "Yield to pedestrian in the crosswalk" signs bolted into streets in East Haven, Hamden, Long Island towns and elsewhere. He said these could prove effective in New Haven, too.

1 comment:

Ajlouny said...

The more people rise and voice their concerns the more people will stop and listen. Hopefully they will listen before someone gets hurt or killed.