Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Teenage Driver Critically Injured in Crash

New Haven Register, 10/29/08: A 17-year-old was critically injured Tuesday morning when the Honda he was driving hydroplaned on a wet road and slammed onto a utility pole near Wilbur Cross High School. The youth, who was not identified, was ejected through a window of the car and suffered serious injuries, police said. The crash occurred at 10:14 a.m. on Mitchell Drive between Nicoll and Willow streets near the Cross athletic field. Police believe the youth was driving on Mitchell Drive when he lost control after driving through a deep puddle of standing water that covered almost the entire roadway.

Update: New Haven Independent coverage here:

Monday, October 27, 2008

New Haven Complete Streets Legislation Passes Board

On Thursday, October 23rd, the New Haven Board of Aldermen unanimously passed legislation establishing a "complete streets" steering committee. See here for press coverage of the public hearings that led up to this vote, and here for a copy of the legislation.

Committee to examine equal use of streets, New Haven Register, 10/24/08

The Board of Aldermen gave the green light Thursday night to establishing a steering committee which will develop a "complete streets" policy granting equal rights for pedestrians and bicyclists in their daily battle with motorists. The committee ultimately will propose "complete streets" legislation based on these egalitarian principles.

The aldermen approved the measure unanimously after hearing appeals for support from Alderman Roland Lemar, D-9, and Alderwoman Erin Sturgis-Pascale, D-14. Lemar, of East Rock, and Sturgis-Pasacale, of Fair Haven, said street safety is a big issue in their neighborhoods. The vote also came in the wake of a Sept. 22 public hearing in which 40 members of the public submitted testimony endorsing the idea. The steering committee will adopt designs to reduce motor vehicles' speed, guarantee input from all residents and educate everybody about the rules of the road. Lemar said bicyclists, children, the elderly and the disabled are particularly vulnerable to being struck by motor vehicles and deserve to be safeguarded.

Sturgis-Pascale said about 30 percent of New Haven residents don't own a car. "We need to think more carefully about how they're going to get around; how they'll get to work or to school." She said the new policy will not be "anti-motorist" and drivers won't be expected to drive 5 mph. After the meeting, Sturgis-Pascale said Board President Carl Goldfield will appoint the three aldermanic members of the steering committee (she and Lemar are expected to be included) and Mayor John DeStefano Jr. will appoint three city staffers and three members of the general public. "The policy will say all users have the right to equal access," she said. "That's a moral statement. Now it's very lopsided in favor of cars."

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.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Reinventing American Transportation

An article by Transportation For America's policy director outlines the plan for a 21st century transportation system - including complete streets that are accessible and safe for all road users.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Yale College Council Passes Safe Streets Resolution

YCC sees clear road ahead for safer streets, Yale Herald, October 10, 2008:

Most Yalies have resigned themselves to the fact that Yale is located in a bustling city and that crossing busy streets is an inevitable part of campus life. Almost everyday, cars barrel down Elm St. at nearly 40 miles per hour in a 25-mph speed limit zone. Drivers often give mixed signals as to whether or not they’re going to slow down at the yellow light. It is not always the driver’s fault, of course—rushing Yalies are often ill-behaved pedestrians. Yet Yale students remain in danger of traffic-related accidents. ....

Even within the University itself, students are mobilizing in the crusade for safer streets. The YCC recently passed a resolution entitled “Road Safety and New Haven Safe Streets Coalition,” committing the student organization to “work with the New Haven Safe Streets Coalition, the City of New Haven and Yale University on issues pertaining to road safety.” ....

The recent convergence of interests between the New Haven Safe Streets Coalition, the YCC, and City Hall looks promising in terms of making New Haven Streets safer. In the past, City Hall and Yale have been slow to take action because they failed to hear the call for safer streets. Now that there’s a unified voice, facilitated by the partnership of the NHSS, YCC, Yale, and City Hall, the voice for change is loud and clear. “Full steam ahead,” said [Ward 1 Alderwoman] Plattus.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Pedestrians struck on Whitney Avenue

News report here. Comment section discusses the need for crosswalks and more respectful road users.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Two Children Hit by SUV

Sunday, October 5, 2008, NH Register: NEW HAVEN — Two children, ages 8 and 11, were treated at an area hospital Saturday for non-life threatening injuries after being hit by a sport utility vehicle at the corner of Whalley Avenue and Orchard Street. The driver of the vehicle has not been charged and is cooperating with police, said city spokeswoman Jessica Mayorga.

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.

Friday, October 3, 2008

YDN Op-Ed: University, city must take responsibility for bicycle safety

Letter by Samuel Sims here:

As a former student at the extremely bicycle-friendly University of Oxford, England (Oxford city center is largely closed to cars and dominated by bicycles — 2007 statistics show that 19 percent of Oxford commuters ride a bicycle to work), I recall frequent police initiatives whereby cyclists riding in darkness without lights were given a $60 fine, which was revoked upon the presentation of a receipt for the purchase of appropriate lights to local police within 48-hours of the offence – a highly commendable policy given that one Oxford University student a year on average over the past two decades has been killed as a result of a bicycle collision with a car. Surely Yale must act more responsibly to aid in accident prevention before it is too late.

Within the existing atmosphere of ignorance towards cycling safety in the city, the occurrence of accidents and associated fatalities are simply a matter of time. Therefore, as the driving force behind this proposed change in attitude towards the relative merits of two wheels over four, the University, in conjunction with the police, must surely take responsibility for educating its staff and students appropriately – a task with which it is currently falling dangerously short.