Monday, October 6, 2008

Successful Public Hearing on Complete Streets Legislation

The New Haven Board of Aldermen's public hearing on Complete Streets Legislation was very well attended, with testimony received from several dozen residents and community leaders. Written testimony was also received from a wide spectrum of community groups and organizations. The Board is continuing to accept testimony on the subject this week, so feel free to submit written comments.

Please click here (MP3 file) to hear Ward 14 Alderwoman Erin Sturgis-Pascale's excellent testimony on the subject.

The event received wide coverage including being the lead story on the New Haven Register and the top story on the 11-o-clock news. Here's a rundown of some of it, and a few excerpts:

In Wake of Two Deaths, Making Streets Safer, New York Times, 10/3/08:

In a meeting two weeks ago, the Board of Aldermen’s legislation committee voted to create Complete Streets, a comprehensive blueprint of how drivers, pedestrians, cyclists and others can coexist safely on the streets of New Haven. According to the 2000 census, more New Haven residents — nearly 14 percent — walk to work than in any other New England city. And an additional 31 percent bike, car-pool or take public transportation.

“These aren’t just thruways,” said Roland Lemar, an alderman who was one of the cosponsors of the Complete Streets program. “These are the streets we live on.”

In April, Mila Rainof, 27, a Yale medical student, was fatally struck by a car on a city street. In June, Gabrielle Alexis Lee, 11, was killed in a hit-and-run accident. A group of residents formed the New Haven Safe Streets Coalition, which has gathered more than 1,800 signatures in a petition calling for “immediate action to improve traffic safety within our communities — with the immediate goal of reducing traffic injuries by 50 percent by 2009, 75 percent by 2012 and 90 percent by 2015.”

The measure calls for the creation of a steering committee to come up with the details of the Complete Streets program, which would require legislative approval. Ms. Sturgis-Pascale and Mr. Lemar believe this is the first step in not only making the streets safer for walkers, cyclists and drivers but also creating streets that are economically and socially vibrant.

Residents crowded into the Board of Aldermen’s meeting two weeks ago. New Haven is made up of a series of neighborhoods, said one resident, Justin Elicker. “Why do we fear to cross Whalley? Why do we avoid the intersection of Trumbull and Orange? Because roads in New Haven are designed for cars,” he told the board.

Aldermen Working To Make Streets Safer, WFSB TV-3, 9/22/08:

NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- Two aldermen have come up with a plan they said will make New Haven streets safer. Erin Sturgis-Pascale and Roland Lemar said a common complaint in the city is that the streets have to be made safer. They said roughly 14 percent of people walk to work and 31 percent bike, carpool or take public transportation. 'Well, what this law does is it has this look at transportation from an access view,' said Sturgis-Pascale. 'Let’s make sure that everyone has access to goods and services. It’s not just about moving cars through the streets, but it’s about moving people.'

Panel OKs Safe Streets Law, New Haven Independent, 9/23/08:

Pascale said she’d like to see the city’s streets evaluated not by the number of lanes or traffic lights, but by other measures. “Are our streets being used for people to socialize? Are our children playing in the streets safely? Are they able to ride their bicycles? Are we welcoming people with disabilities? Are we protecting our seniors on our streets?"

Elm City Looks to Enforce Road Safety Law, WTNH TV-8, 9/22/08:

"There is a whole tool box of features that ensures that people have save and convenient access to transportation that we should be suing in a more systematic way in the city," Erin Sturgis-Pascale, of Ward 14, said.

In the past, if there were a lot of accidents at a certain intersection -- they would go out and try and fix the problem. What they are doing now is looking at everything. All the streets, the cross walks to access for wheel chairs, to streets signs and wide-enough double parking. Before lawmakers created a new ordinance, they wanted to hear from the people. At the meeting the committee heard from Alycia Santilli. She lives on Quinnipiac Ave has been a victim of unsafe streets repeatedly.

"There is constant speeding that goes on, our car has been hit about three times or more," Santilli said. "I have recently been hit by a car while biking -- so there is a lot that can be done here in New Haven regarding our streets." Santilli told the committee while in favor of new law, she wants the old ones enforced. "People are speeding all the time not only up and down on Quinnipiac Ave but other streets in the neighborhood," Santilli said. "People are blowing red lights and there is so much that can be done, we need to be smarter about the types of streets we are creating."

It's Time to Slow Down, New Haven Register, 9/23/08:

For Alycia Santilli and her husband, Ethan Hutchings, the consequences of potholed streets and inattentive, speeding drivers are not theoretical issues. Each has been hit by a car, in separate instances, while riding their bicycles; their vehicles have been sideswiped multiple times and as a public health researcher, Santilli sees a connection between obese children and the bad streets that set up roadblocks to exercise.

“We have a serious problem,” Santilli told a committee of the Board of Aldermen Monday, which was taking testimony on a proposal for a “complete streets” program that aims to reduce traffic-related injuries and fatalities in New Haven 50 percent by 2009 and 90 percent by 2015. ...

Enforcement of traffic violations has gone up 35 percent this year over last and the number of accidents has gone down 5 percent. Lemar and Sturgis-Pascale had high praise for city officials, and the 40 members of the public who submitted testimony were equally happy with the plan. Lemar said the city has come up with solutions for Woodward Avenue and River Street, with a proposal forthcoming to halt the drag racing on Long Wharf Drive and speeding on Route 80.

The lack of funds was paramount in the minds of all the city officials who testified, but nonetheless they felt progress can be made with police expecting to double its traffic unit next year.

Aldermen Hear Safe Streets Plan, Yale Daily News, 9/23/08:

The New Haven Safe Streets Coalition’s vision for a redefined pedestrian city moved one step closer to reality Monday evening. The Board of Aldermen held a public hearing last night on the proposed “Complete Streets” plan offered by Safe Streets Coalition’s founding members, Ward 9 Alderman Roland Lemar and Ward 14 Alderwoman Erin Sturgis-Pascale. The plan by the Safe Streets Coalition — a New Haven organization that lobbies for safer streets — calls for reducing the number of traffic-related injuries and fatalities by 50 percent by 2009 and 90 percent by 2015 “while promoting streets that are more liveable, walkable and economically vital.”

Monday night’s hearing, held before the Board’s Legislation Committee, drew over 50 New Haven residents, including about 20 of Yale undergraduate and graduate students in support of the Complete Streets plan. Lemar and Sturgis-Pascale introduced the plan to the rest of the committee and were followed by representatives from several city agencies and members of the public in a meeting that ran for nearly three hours.

Piscitelli said the first stage of New Haven’s response will start Oct. 19, when the city, working with over a half-dozen community groups, rolls out a new education strategy. “We want to sensitize drivers that they are driving in an intermodal community,” he said. “At the same time, we want to sensitize cyclists and pedestrians to sharing the road and obeying traffic regulations.”

City Chief Administrative Officer Robert Smuts ’01 said the city’s plan to make streets safer involves a three-pronged approach consisting of education, enforcement and engineering. Smuts announced that the New Haven Police Department will be doubling both the size and hours of its traffic-enforcement division.

Safe Streets proponents argue that the program will promote economic opportunity while raising property values. “[Complete Streets] will upgrade our infrastructure to meet the needs of a new New Haven, and in the long run, will net the city money,” said Mark Abraham ’04 the founder of the Safe Streets Coalition. As for the meeting, Abraham was impressed by the turnout. “It shows that a lot of people are passionate about improving the safety and quality of our city life,” he said.

Initiative Aims To Make Streets Safer For Walkers, Cyclists, NBC30-TV, 9/23/08:

Glen Vasquez said the pedestrian way of life isn't any better. "It's kind of scary sometimes," he said. "I mean, you walk across the street, and people don't care if you're walking or not -- they just keep going."

Update: Please see this page on Design New Haven for more information about the legislation.

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