Monday, October 20, 2008

New Haven Launches "Street Smarts" Educational Campaign

As part of a community event in Edgewood Park this past Sunday, October 19 from 11 a.m.-3 p.m., the city launched its "Street Smarts" educational campaign to improve safety for all road users. Excerpts from the extensive news coverage are posted below; click on the flyer to enlarge.

City to promote road-sharing efforts, New Haven Register, 10/14/08.

More than 2,000 people signed a grass-roots petition advocating for more pedestrian- and bicyclist-friendly streets, and two like-minded aldermen hope to legislate the goals into law.

On Sunday, the effort will gain another partner when City Hall unveils "Street Smarts," a public education campaign aimed at enhancing road safety for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists. Its goal is to promote road sharing among pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists in a city where about 14 percent of residents walk to work, more than any other New England city, according to aldermen Erin Sturgis-Pascale and Roland Lemar.

In September, the two proposed a Complete Streets law for the city that would, in support of the coalition’s goals, create a design and engineering manual and require any developer or contractor who builds or rebuilds a city street to comply with specific pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly guidelines.

The safe streets coalition was formed in May, a month after medical student Mila Rainoff was hit and killed on South Frontage Road and a month before Gabrielle Lee, 11, was killed on Whalley Avenue by a hit-and-run driver. Since then, more than 100 organizations, virtually every alderman and more than 2,000 other people have endorsed its goal of "promoting livable, walkable and economically vibrant streets" in New Haven.

The Police Department, under new Chief James Lewis, has made traffic enforcement a renewed priority, with traffic tickets up about 35 percent since Lewis took over in mid-July, compared to last year. Saying losing a loved one to a traffic fatality is no less painful than losing one to gun violence, Lewis said he plans to double the size of the traffic unit next year. The coalition has requested neighborhood-by-neighborhood reports of enforcement data.

Pedestrian deaths spur 'safe streets' movement, WTNH TV-8 (AP story also picked up by Boston Globe, WCBS-New York News Radio and others), 10/14/08

A series of pedestrian deaths in recent years, including those of a Yale student and a fifth-grade girl, has spawned a movement to improve road safety in New Haven.

The "Street Smarts" public education campaign launches Sunday in the Elm City. It comes after more than 2,000 people signed petitions seeking street improvements. They want New Haven's roads improved to make them safer for pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers.

The campaign gained momentum after a Yale medical student was killed in April. Two months later, an 11-year-old girl was killed by a hit-and-run driver as she entered a laundromat. New Haven aldermen say pedestrian safety is critical because about 14 percent of the city's residents walk to work, among the highest percentage of any New England city.

New Haven "Street Smarts" Campaign, WTNH TV-8, 10/19/08

A new campaign is officially underway in the Elm City and aimed at making streets safer for pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers. The Elm City's "Street Smarts" campaign was sparked by a series of pedestrian deaths in recent years.

Bill Mrowka, of New Haven: "Everyday, four-to-five times, I cross this street here." Taskey: "How is it getting around?" Mrowka: "Suicide." It's a battle for 83-year old Bill Mrowka to cross the street near his New Haven home. "Even with this thing in the road (pointing to sign) I get stuck in the middle of the road and can't get to the other side," he said.

The city put up portable cross walk signs at State and Elm hoping to remind drivers to yield to pedestrians. "There's something in the middle of the road, people tend to slow down for something in the road," Ben Berkowitz, of New Haven, said. "So I do see more break lights during rush hour which is nice.

Road rules take priority in Elm City, Yale Daily News, 10/20/08

In interviews, several Yalies said they agree that in New Haven, traffic rules are little more than a formality, and that most students jaywalk to and from class without thinking much of it. Lukas Colberg ’12 said that Yale’s campus is built such that it is convenient to break traffic rules, such as on the stretch of Elm Street filled with students weaving between cars to get to class.

"Street Smarts” Drive Launched, New Haven Independent, 10/20/08

Shawn Perkins (left) took the “Smart Driver” pledge and Alexander McDonough was fitted for his first bike helmet, as officials inaugurated a traffic-calming campaign that grew out of a citywide grassroots movement.

Mayor John DeStefano called the evolution of the Street Smarts campaign a sign of vibrant citizen activism in New Haven. It grew from the grassroots. First there were the two main activist groups focused on single issues. Those groups in turn united with other grassroots neighborhood organizations with broader agendas, such as the downtown management team and Westville Renaissance. Finally, these activists found a city official, transportation czar Mike Piscitelli, who already sympathized with their cause and was eager to try out new traffic-calming ideas.

DeStefano also spoke of how New Haven’s streets were originally dominated by pedestrians and cyclists (and horses) before America became car “obsessed” in the 1940s. “We started forgetting what streets were,” he said, “wonderful places that connected us.” He urged New Haveners of all transit persuasions to “give a little” and “make space for everybody.”

City kicks off Street Smarts program, New Haven Register, 10/20/08

One reason for the awareness campaign, which employees a professional marketing firm, is because physical changes to make city streets safer cost money and take time. But getting people to be more aware of each other can start making things safer more immediately, Travers said.

“Drivers’ habits have changed over the years. What we want to do is change that behavior” to make it safer and “alert motorists that they need to be aware of the bicyclists” and pedestrians on the road, he said.

Street Smarts effort aims to make city safer for pedestrians (Op-Ed by Mayor John DeStefano, Jr), New Haven Register, 10/19/08 (excerpt)

Indeed, thousands of people walk through the downtown area, the medical district and our neighborhoods every day. For many residents and students, a bicycle has firmly replaced the car and cyclists are on city streets at every hour of the day. The combination of higher fuel prices, shifting demographic patterns and the tremendous growth in downtown all suggest that even more people will be walking and cycling on city streets in the coming years. In no uncertain terms, we must be attentive and respectful to everyone using the roadway.

The Street Smarts campaign also responds to a nationwide concern over the number and severity of traffic accidents. In the United States, a pedestrian is killed every seven minutes and another 85,000 are injured every year. These are our neighbors and friends, not just statistics.

Here, New Haven still mourns the loss of Mila Rainof, an amazingly talented student at Yale University, and Gabrielle Lee, an engaging 11-year-old school child. Both Rainof and Gabrielle died in tragic crashes this summer. Many others lost their lives in motor vehicle crashes as well.

In just a few months, the community has been galvanized through the New Haven Safe Streets Coalition of residents, civic leaders, city officials and organizations. Their advocacy has accelerated the pace of change with tangible programs sponsored by Elm City Cycling, Yale University, the Yale School of Medicine's Traffic Safety Committee, the City of New Haven and the Connecticut Department of Transportation.

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