Friday, November 13, 2009

USDOT Policy Proposal on Complete Streets Breaks Down Silos; Defines "Livable Community"

Great news today for pedestrian-oriented communities from the US Department of Transportation. A new policy proposal would dramatically expand, and help clarify, the funding eligibility of improvements for pedestrian access -- currently often limited only to areas immediately surrounding a mass transit access point -- to anywhere within 1/2 mile of a station (3 miles for bicycle improvements).

For the entire article and additional details, see: "Proposed Policy Statement on the Eligibility of Pedestrian and Bicycle Improvements Under Federal Transit Law," Federal Register / Vol. 74, No. 218 / Friday, November 13, 2009 / Notices.

If the policy change is accepted, a portion of federal transit (FTA) funding could be used to build complete streets that would connect train stations, schools, employment centers and residential neighborhoods. Researchers have found that these facilities dramatically increase the proportion of Americans able to walk or bicycle on a daily basis, while promoting transit use. The Safe Routes to Transit program is one example.

In New Haven, FTA station access funding is currently being applied to a bicycling route from Downtown to Union Station. Although the route is taking time to build due to bureaucratic obstacles and bicycle parking is an issue, the first round of street improvements should be completed in Spring 2010.

The USDOT's proposed change may help allow the federal government to funnel additional construction funding directly to transit-rich communities. Given the proven impact of complete streets on transportation access, the fact that taking a single one-mile trip by foot each day would save families hundreds of dollars per year, and the fact that $5.6 billion in national costs would be saved if just 10% of Americans were able to walk more each day, we believe that this this policy change will pay for itself many times over.

Incidentally, the Federal Register piece cites studies used by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as well as other agencies working to build a healthy, energy-efficient and economically-vibrant nation. This is good evidence that our Executive Branch is working to break down the longstanding agency silos in Washington.

A succinct definition of livable communities -- which closely ties in with CDC's public health priorities -- may be found within the announcement:

A livable community is ‘‘a community where if people don’t want an automobile, they don’t have to have one; a community where you can walk to work, your doctor’s appointment, pharmacy or grocery store. Or you could take light rail, a bus, or ride a bike.’’

According to Secretary LaHood, ‘‘[l]ivable communities are mixed-use neighborhoods with highly-connected streets promoting mobility for all users, whether they are children walking or biking to school or commuters riding transit or driving motor vehicles. Benefits include improved traffic flow, shorter trip lengths, safer streets for pedestrians and cyclists, lower greenhouse gas emissions, reduced dependence on fossil fuels, increased trip-chaining, and independence for those who prefer not to or are unable to drive. In addition, investing in a ‘‘complete street’’ concept stimulates private-sector economic activity by increasing the viability of street-level retail small businesses and professional services, creating housing opportunities and extending the usefulness of school and transit facilities.’’

To illustrate the Secretary’s point, more than half of older adults who described an inhospitable environment outside their homes would walk, bicycle, or take public transportation more if their streets were improved.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Pedestrian Deaths are Preventable: Demand Safer Streets! (Partnership for Prevention)

This article is reposted from Partnership for Prevention, a nationwide public health advocacy group: http://preventionmatters.blogspot.com/2009/11/pedestrian-deaths-are-preventable.html. Sean Barry explains Dangerous by Design, a report released yesterday from T4America and Surface Transportation Policy Partnership, which is receiving significant national attention.

The following guest post was written by Sean Barry with Transportation for America - a national coalition seeking to align our national, state, and local transportation policies with an array of issues like economic opportunity, climate change, energy security, health, housing and community development.

In the last few years, health advocates have increasingly urged Americans to walk, bike and exercise more often, noting regular physical activity is paramount to good health. Unfortunately, a new report released this week by Transportation for America and the Surface Transportation Policy Partnership reveals that walking in many of our communities is far more dangerous than it should be.

Dangerous by Design: Solving the Epidemic of Preventable Pedestrian Deaths (and Making Great Neighborhoods) shows that the level of pedestrian fatalities in the U.S. is roughly equivalent to a jumbo jet going down every month. But there is no national sense of urgency about pedestrian safety.

Under current federal transportation law, projects that benefit pedestrians and bicyclists are labeled “enhancements” and attacked by some as luxuries that detract from core road and highway building.

Current transportation policies vastly shortchange people who walk or bike. Less than 1.5 percent of total federal funds are ultimately spent on pedestrian safety, despite walkers comprising 11.8 percent of all traffic deaths and a comparable percentage of all trips. In this decade alone, 43,000 Americans have died preventable deaths while walking or crossing a street in their community. Although members of every demographic group are affected, ethnic minorities are suffering disproportionately, with African-American fatalities 70 percent higher than whites, and Hispanics 62 percent higher.

It should not come as a surprise that our inadequate investment in roads safe for all users adversely affects safety and health. For many Americans, daily physical activity is no longer a part of their daily existence. Seniors, the disabled and low-income Americans who cannot or chose not to drive face limited alternatives. Lower rates of physical activity are linked to rising obesity and pollution from automobiles increases the risks of asthma.

Dangerous by Design ranks America’s major metropolitan areas according to a Pedestrian Danger Index that measures how safe they are for walking. The report also profiles communities across the country that have successfully stepped up and reversed current trends.

In St. Petersburg, FL, for example, a “Vision 2020” planning process resulted in 13 additional miles of sidewalks and 32 rapid-flashing signals at crosswalks, improving driver-yielding compliance by 83 percent. In Charleston, SC, two-thirds of area residents say they are getting more exercise after the launch of a three-mile pedestrian and bike path. And, the installation of 1,600 speed humps in residential Oakland, CA led to a 50 to 60 percent reduction in the odds of injury or death among children walking.

There is growing movement for action in Congress as well. Last year, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA) introduced the Complete Streets Act. This legislation would ensure that new road projects emphasize safety and accessibility for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists and transit riders.

Transportation for America is working to arrange a meeting with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, perhaps as soon as next week. At this meeting, we plan to deliver the message from our hundreds of partner organizations and thousands of supporters across the country that safer streets must be a priority.

Sign our petition today and help us send a strong message to the USDOT!

We hope the release of this report will fuel a greater sense of urgency about pedestrian safety and the need for a more balanced transportation policy. With health care remaining in the headlines, let’s convey to our representatives that making our streets safer is no longer just an “enhancement,” but an essential.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Finally a Conclusive Literature Review on Cycling Infrastructure and Safety

Finally a decent, conclusive literature review on cycling infrastructure! The researchers at UBC did a great job with their report, which reviewed several dozen English-language studies and was released just a few weeks ago. Check it out: Winters, Meghan et al. The impact of transportation infrastructure on bicycling injuries and crashes: a review of the literature. Environmental Health 2009, 8:47. There's a PDF link at the bottom of the page. A hat tip to Elly at Bike Portland for the heads-up.

Of course, many studies have been done on infrastructure, but they have been mostly limited to specific situations. Although in the end, a large proportion of the data that these authors reviewed still turned out to be limited and inconclusive (proving that much more rigorous study is needed), they did conclude the following:

"The principal trend that emerges from the papers reviewed here is that clearly-marked, bike-specific facilities (i.e. cycle tracks at roundabouts, bike routes, bike lanes, and bike paths) were consistently shown to provide improved safety for cyclists compared to on-road cycling with traffic or off-road with pedestrians and other users. Marked bike lanes and bike routes were found to reduce injury or crash rates by about half compared to unmodified roadways."

When it comes to understanding the impact of infrastructure on transportation safety, access and promotion, this is the equivalent of a breakthrough. In light of the research, it is no surprise that so many communities are passing Complete Streets bills and that the CDC is specifically recommending bike lanes and crosswalks as a cure for the nation's still-expanding obesity epidemic.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pedestrian Killed in Crash Near New Haven Green

Excellent reporting from the New Haven Independent, on yet another Downtown tragedy, can be found here.

Bryan Neff collided with a moving car at 8:30 p.m. Friday. Neff was pronounced dead around 1:45 a.m. Saturday due to head injuries suffered in the crash.


Ongoing safety problems at this high-pedestrian-volume intersection were reported a year ago on SeeClickFix: http://www.seeclickfix.com/issues/1738 -- and are well known among local residents and business owners.

A number of the reader comments on the New Haven Independent article highlight the general consensus among New Haven elected officials and residents, expressed in the New Haven Safe Streets Petition and elsewhere, that specific actions must be taken to improve the safety of our transportation network:

AndersonCooper: "These downtown "T" intersections are a problem, and we're going to continue to have fatalities until they're addressed. The simple solution is the City Hall fix. Do what they did in front of Mayor DeStefano's office and put in a traffic light, along with a crosswalk, and pedestrian call buttons."

Streever: "It comes down to if you think the risk should be death or not. I am a big fan of calculated risk & being responsible for one's own well-being, but I question that the car was going 25 mph here. It'd be one of the few cars on Church street going the speed limit in my experience. Again, why not try to mark the road leading up to the crosswalk? I'm sure it could work, and it'd be worth trying. Make the whole section a pedestrian area & put in-road markings before the hill warning people to slow down. Drop the speed limit for that block to 15 mph. Seriously, the most impact that will have on travel time is probably 15 seconds."

Norton Street: "Look at New Urbanism, green architecture, look at what NYC has done on Broadway. This country is moving in a direction of smart growth, consolidation, walkability, and mass transit. If you aren't helping this transition, then you're evenutally gunna get run over by progress."

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

SeeClickFix: Bike Corral Needed in New Haven

Interesting issue reported by a citizen on SeeClickFix (http://seeclickfix.com/issues/8847), next to the Yale campus. Bike corrals, aka on-street bicycle parking areas, are widely used in Portland, Oregon and many other cities.

SCF is a "Gov 2.0" website and mobile technology tool, initially based on FixMyStreet, that is now being widely-used nationwide by citizens, advocacy groups, governments and media organizations to foster the collaborative resolution of civic issues.

Here is one of the comments on the issue:

A ‘bike corral’ would be great to have at the NW corner of Elm and York. What’s great is that it could help pedestrians, too.

The curb at the NW corner should be extended to reduce the crossing distances across York, similar to what was done on the SW side during the mid-1990s rebuilding of Broadway.

A curb extension would significantly slow the traffic that currently flies around the corner, endangering pedestrians. A shorter distance would also make the street easier to cross. Just past that, in front of ABP, could be a perfect spot for a corral.

Currently, there is a lack of bicycle parking in this area, and bikes tied to meters reduce the space available for pedestrians on what is a very busy sidewalk.

If you agree this area should have a bike corral, please leave your testimony on the SeeClickFix "ticket" under "Add a comment."

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

CEOs Study: Walkability Raises Property Values

Original Post 9/8/09: Click here for an analysis of a recent CEOs for Cities study, posted on Planning Pool. An excerpt:

CEOs for Cities just released a study showing that homes located close to shops, schools, churches, offices, libraries, parks, and restaurants are worth more than similar homes in less-walkable neighborhoods.

The report, “Walking the Walk: How Walkability Raises Housing Values in U.S. Cities” by Joseph Cortright, analyzed data from 94,000 real estate transactions in 15 major markets. Cortright found that in 13 of the 15 markets, higher levels of walkability, as measured by Walk Score, correlated to higher home values.


Update 10/7/09: From Streetsblog reporting at the Walk21 conference this week in New York City, more information that when it comes to walkability, money does indeed "grow on trees":

For every point on the PERS scale, neighborhoods saw a 5.2 percent increase in residential prices and a 4.9 percent increase in retail rent. Attracting more retail and consumers also means more jobs, though there should be incentives to maintain local businesses and affordable housing, Gaventa said. Having proof that making a space more pedestrian friendly will add value to it is a great way to convince those in power that change -- and a more comprehensive strategy -- is needed.

That strategy, Leinberger said, should be the development of more places where residents' everyday needs are within a maximum of 3,000 feet. We've largely run out of room to build more in the busiest urban areas -- it would be difficult for Manhattan to get much denser than it already is -- so the solution to fill that demand for pedestrian-centric space is to transform outlying areas, such as suburbs, into walkable places. ....

Having more walkable places also makes sense on a personal financial level. According to Leinberger's data, car-friendly suburban households spend anywhere from 25 to 40 percent of their income on transportation, whereas urban households spend only about 9 percent. That extra money can go into paying for housing, or even -- as Leinberger puts it -- that most Un-American of things: savings.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Knight Commission: Free Information "As Vital as Safe Streets"; Public Space Design Media Needed

A tweet today about the need to eliminate the "digital divide" (37% of Americans still do not have internet access at home!) by implementing national free broadband service, from urbandata:

Knight: Free information flow "as vital to healthy communities as safe streets" http://bit.ly/qfayF #gov20 @seeclickfix #gov20 #knightcomm

More on the Knight Commission report, from the AP coverage -- and more transportation parallels:

The nation needs to give the same urgency to making sure all Americans have broadband access as the Eisenhower administration did in building an interstate highway system a half-century ago, a report released Friday concluded... ''You have to have access in order to be socially first class, economically first class and politically first class,'' said Alberto Ibarguen, former Miami Herald publisher and president and CEO of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation..

Retweet this and support the call for information equity... and safe streets, too. Given new mashup online 311 websites like SeeClickFix, the two are now closely related. In fact, one of the report's 15 specific recommendations is to create new media that supports public space design.

Update: SeeClickFix provides a link to the report via Twitter:

RT @seeclickfix #knightcomm recs: new media for com'ty info & public space design, transparent gov http://ow.ly/slQh eg @mashable @govwiki

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Updated List of New Haven Petition for Safe Streets Sponsors and Supporters

The following groups and individuals have elected to officially endorse the Petition:

12 of 12 City of New Haven Community Management Teams (CMTs):
+ Downtown-Wooster Square CMT (listserv link here)
+ Fair Haven CMT
+ Westville-West Hills CMT
+ Whalley-Edgewood-Beaver Hills (WEB) CMT
+ Hill South CMT
+ Hill North CMT
+ Newhallville CMT
+ Quinnipiac East CMT (QEMT)
+ East Shore CMT
+ East Rock CMT
+ Dwight CMT
+ Dixwell CMT (DECMT)
These endorsements per official member voting.

Advocacy Organizations and Nonprofits:
+ Yale Medical Campus Traffic Safety Group (listserv link here)
+ Elm City Cycling / (listserv link here)
+ CT Livable Streets Campaign
+ New Haven Urban Design League
+ DesignNewHaven
+ Tri-State Transportation Campaign
+ Transportation Alternatives
+ America Walks
+ Keep Kids Alive Drive 25
+ Yale Public Health Coalition
+ New Haven Environmental Justice Network (listserv link here)
+ Connecticut Bicycle Coalition
+ Sierra Club - Connecticut Chapter
+ Safe Kids Connecticut - Greater New Haven Chapter
+ Connecticut Public Health Association

Neighborhood Associations, Business Improvement Districts and Religious Organizations:
+ Chatham Square Neighborhood Association
+ Christ Church - New Haven
+ Church on the Rock - New Haven
+ Coalition for a Livable Whalley
+ Congregation Beth El-Keser Israel
+ Edgewood Neighborhood Association
+ Edgewood Park Defense Patrol
+ First Unitarian Universalist Society of New Haven
+ Friends of East Rock Park
+ New Haven Bioregional Group
+ New Haven 828
+ Quinnipiac River Community Group (QRCG)
+ Ronan-Edgehill Neighborhood Association
+ Town Green Special Services District, per unanimous vote of Board of Commissioners
+ Upper State Street Association
+ West River Neighborhood Services Corporation
+ Westville Village Renaissance Alliance
+ Whalley Avenue Revitalization (WAR)
+ Whalley Avenue Special Services District (WASSD)
+ Yale College Council (per resolution)

Individual Residents and Businesses:
+ Over 2,000 area residents have signed the petition (paper copies also available on request), along with a number of small businesses.

Local and State Elected Officials:
+ New Haven Ward 1 Alderwoman Rachel Plattus (Downtown/Yale)
+ New Haven Ward 2 Alderwoman Gina Calder (Dwight)
+ New Haven Ward 3 Alderwoman Jacqueline James (Medical District/West River)
+ New Haven Ward 5 Alderman Jorge Perez (Hill)
+ New Haven Ward 6 Alderwoman Dolores Colon (Hill)
+ New Haven Ward 7 Alderwoman Bitsie Clark (Downtown)
+ New Haven Ward 8 Alderman Michael Smart (Wooster Square)
+ New Haven Ward 9 Alderman Roland Lemar (East Rock)
+ New Haven Ward 10 Alderman Allan Brison (East Rock)
+ New Haven Ward 14 Alderwoman Erin Sturgis-Pascale (Fair Haven)
+ New Haven Ward 15 Alderman Joseph Rodriguez (Fair Haven)
+ New Haven Ward 16 Alderwoman Migdalia Castro (Fair Haven)
+ New Haven Ward 17 Alderman Alphonse Paolillo Jr. (Annex)
+ New Haven Ward 18 Alderwoman Arlene DePino (East Shore)
+ New Haven Ward 19 Alderwoman Alfreda Edwards (Newhallville/Prospect Hill)
+ New Haven Ward 20 Alderman Charles A. Blango (Newhallville)
+ New Haven Ward 21 Alderwoman Katrina Jones (Dixwell/Newhallville)
+ New Haven Ward 22 Alderman Greg Morehead (Dixwell)
+ New Haven Ward 23 Alderman Yusuf I. Shah (West River)
+ New Haven Ward 24 Alderwoman Elizabeth McCormack (Edgewood)
+ New Haven Ward 25 Alderwoman Ina Silverman (Westville)
+ New Haven Ward 26 Alderman Sergio Rodriguez (Westville)
+ New Haven Ward 27 Alderman Tom Lehtonen (Westville)
+ New Haven Ward 29 Alderman Carl Goldfield (Westville)
+ New Haven Ward 30 Alderwoman Michelle Sepulveda (West Hills)
+ New Haven Democratic Town Committee Chairwoman Susan Voigt
+ State Senator Toni N. Harp, Deputy President Pro Tempore, 10th Senatorial District (New Haven/West Haven)
+ State Senator Martin M. Looney, Senate Majority Leader of the General Assembly, 11th Senatorial District (New Haven/Hamden)
+ Representative Juan Candelaria, 95th Assembly District (New Haven)
+ Representative Patricia Dillon, Assistant Majority Leader, 92nd Assembly District (New Haven)
+ Representative Gary Holder-Winfield, 94th Assembly District (New Haven)
+ Representative Robert W. Megna, Assistant Majority Leader, 97th Assembly District (New Haven)
+ Representative Toni E. Walker, Deputy Majority Leader, 93rd Assembly District (New Haven)

Local and State Candidates for Elected Office:
+ Katie Harrison, Candidate for Ward 1, New Haven
+ Mike Jones, Candidate for Ward 1, New Haven
+ Minh Tran, Candidate for Ward 1, New Haven
+ Justin Elicker, Candidate for Ward 10, New Haven
+ Moses Nelson, Candidate for Ward 21, New Haven
+ Lisa Hopkins, Candidate for Ward 22, New Haven
+ Greg Dildine, Candidate for Ward 25, New Haven

Additional sponsors will be posted as they are officially confirmed.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Video Posted of Dangerous ConnDOT Bridge Crossing

See this post at Bike Bridgeport for a good summary and link to the YouTube video. See here and here for more background on the Tomlinson Bridge. NHI has added coverage here.

Monday, September 21, 2009

YDN: Yale Considers Amending Traffic Safety Policy

Click here for today's excellent reporting on Yale University's new traffic safety initiatives from Victor Zapana of the Yale Daily News.

Several bright yellow fliers taped on boards across campus earlier this month greeted students with dire news, although many have since been covered or removed. “Third pedestrian killed in Downtown New Haven,” the fliers blazed in capital letters. “How safe are the streets surrounding Yale?”

Although it is unclear whether students on campus reacted to — or even saw — the fliers, a half-dozen students interviewed said they were surprised and disgusted by the flier’s statistics. “That’s terrifying,” Travis Gidado ’12 said of the flier. “People dying arbitrarily like that? It’s a problem that should be addressed by any undergraduate institution.”

Several students have approached University officials over the last year. In July 2008, 16 Yale students and alumni signed a letter to Levin asking for a “high-level traffic safety commission” to fix problems with on-campus traffic. In response, Levin arranged a traffic meeting to be held two months later, in November, between the group members and officials. Four months after the meeting, the group, which is affiliated with the New Haven Safe Streets Coalition, submitted a report (PDF here) to Vice President for New Haven and State Affairs Bruce Alexander ’65. The group highlighted existing University programs on traffic safety and provided a list of recommendations for improvement — from a “no-tolerance” policy on cell phone use in cars to the requirement that Yale Police Department Chief James Perrotti send campuswide e-mails about traffic incidents.

The article follows in the wake of increased activism for traffic safety on the Yale Campus, including a YDN masthead editorial calling for specific changes to be implemented immediately, an op-ed by a Yale student about the need for specific improvements on Elm Street, and numerous other reports and op-eds. Click here for our ongoing thread about these.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Sylvia Bingham, 2009 Yale Graduate, Killed in Cleveland Crash

News today of a tragic loss in Cleveland, Ohio, at the hands of a hit-and-run truck driver. The local Fox News affiliate reports that Cleveland Police say 22-year-old Sylvia Bingham was riding in the curb lane of Prospect Avenue at East 21st Street around 9 A.M., just a few blocks from where she was to start work that morning. A large truck turning onto East 21st hit Bingham, knocking her off of her bike and running over her. The truck didn't stop (though the driver was later found).

Fox also features an interview with Sylvia's colleague and photos of the scene, which is clearly not a "complete street" despite being in the heart of a dense urban district.

Details are still sketchy, but unfortunately, the facts of the story sound painfully similar to a 2006 incident in which Alex Capelluto (who was one class ahead of Sylvia at Yale) was killed by a truck while bicycling in West Haven, on the way back to campus from the Yale Boathouse.

A native of California, Sylvia had just moved from New Haven to Cleveland to serve as an AmeriCorps volunteer, and was extremely passionate about improving her new city. Until her recent move, she had frequently been observed bicycling around New Haven. More about Bingham from Cleveland.com:

The 22-year-old Yale University graduate was killed Tuesday as she rode her bicycle to work at the Hard Hatted Women office, where she helped tradeswomen become mentors.

"She rode her bike to work from Ohio City to promote being green and encouraged others to do the same," said Terri Burgess Sandu, executive director of Hard Hatted Women in Cleveland. "I only knew her for a short time, but she was everything -- the shining example of what is best in American adults."

"I am passionate about eliminating urban poverty, particularly by creating job opportunities in the skilled trades," Bingham described herself, on her LinkedIn page.

On Sylvia's intelligence and excitement about cities, New Haven historian Anstress Farwell wrote:

I was lucky to meet Sylvia, and witness the blooming growth of a person of exceptional intelligence and a good heart. She was taking a course with Doug Rae, and contacted me when scouting for a local development project to research. She chose Dixwell Plaza. In addition to reading about the history and architecture of New Haven's redevelopment period, she interviewed store owners and customers about their use of the place. She had great talent for field work because she could put herself in other people's shoes. She was destined to do great work in the world. Her death is a tragic loss.

Also see coverage by the Yale Daily News. Another Yale Daily News post interviews students and faculty about her life:

Bingham, who just moved to Cleveland for a job at organization that helps impoverished women, was a vivacious and dedicated woman - an inspiration to all who crossed paths with her. Effervescent, vivacious, and compassionate, Bingham lived her ideals, striving to improve the world while always taking the time to care for her friendships.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Yale Senior: Safe Campus, Unsafe Streets

An excellent op-ed from a senior at Yale University about traffic safety issues on the Ivy League campus: http://www.yaledailynews.com/opinion/guest-columns/2009/09/10/ellison-safe-campus-unsafe-streets/.

Timothy Ellison's article focuses in part on the elimination of right turns on red (RTORs), a concept many other pedestrian-rich cities throughout the United States have adopted. Eliminating RTORs was a key recommendation in this year's Nelson/Nygaard gap analysis study of Downtown New Haven. An excerpt from Ellison's op-ed:

In fall 2006, a Yale student, Kaila Queen ’07, was struck and injured by a car at the similar intersection of Elm and High streets. According to the report in the News, Queen said she remembered seeing the “Walk” signal, and the next thing she knew she was lying in a pool of her own blood by the post office. The intersection at Elm and High shares a problem with that at Elm and York: a “No Turn On Red” sign that drivers often ignore.

Queen was disabled for several days and fortunately recovered quickly, but we may not always be so lucky. Having lost a brother to a fatal car accident in 2002, I know what pain an accidental vehicular death can cause a family. What a tragedy it would be to lose anyone here at Yale to negligent drivers when the problem could be rectified.

Among the comments that follow this article:

- Yale students are constantly telling anyone who will listen how threatened they feel by reckless drivers, and yet nothing is ever done. Yale and New Haven, this is a life and death issue. Please take it more seriously!

- But I also agree that drivers in the city have gotten increasingly willing to drive through red lights, and when on a bike I am also aware of how crazy traffic and drivers have gotten. So its a complex problem. Traffic calming and more pedestrian friendly routes are for sure needed.

- On several occasions I've witnessed that a police officer ignoring red light violations, in particular when drivers ignore do-not-turn signs. Of course, drivers have every incentive to violate traffic laws when they don't have to fear the consequences.

- The situation on the streets around the campus, which were designed in the 1950s for high-volume auto traffic and never converted back into pedestrian-friendly streets, is completely unacceptable. Numerous students and Yale affiliates are injured or killed every year. Yale already pays tens of millions a year for security - they've done a great job increasing the feeling of security on campus late at night, and in terms of street crime, the campus is now the safest urban university in the United States. Next, Yale needs to immediately 1) step up the traffic enforcement, 2) following the model of Cambridge, MA or any number of other cities, step up and commit to financing the reconstruction of safe crosswalks throughout the campus, as they have in the past in areas where students have been killed, and 3) publish and implement a bicycle and pedestrian master plan that makes the campus accessible for everyone, not just drivers.

Traffic safety has been an ongoing concern on the Yale Campus; see here for more info and here for one of Yale's responses to the problem. In the past, Yale has contributed to infrastructure and traffic calming improvements around its campus, for example, in the rebuilding the entire Broadway district (shown in the photo above) at the heart of the campus to prioritize pedestrian travel.

For a good overview of the issue, you may download a copy of the Yale College Council and Yale community's Report Re: Traffic Safety at Yale University, released in March 2009 by a group of students, staff and alumni, here (PDF File).

If you'd like to add comments to a particular problem on the campus, here are a couple examples from SeeClickFix, a national forum where people can post non-emergency issues that they would like their neighbors, governments and communities to take action on: 1) Dangerous intersection and videos of red light running at the corner of York and Elm; 2) Need for a mid-block crosswalk on Elm Street near High, which is the main pedestrian route across the campus; 3) Improved crosswalk needed at the corner of Hillhouse and Sachem, near Yale's Science Hill; 4) No pedestrian signal on Route 34 crossings, also known to local residents as the Route 34 "Death Zone." Dozens of similar issues can be found by scrolling around the map.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Four Speed Humps Replace Choker in Fair Haven

The New Haven Independent covers the new traffic calming installations along River Street (NHI photo at left):

The four humps differ from their shorter yet higher, more axle-breaking cousins, the traffic bump usually found in parking lots. The humps will replace the temporary traffic choke at Blatchley, which has failed to slow speeders....

Cars should also slow to about 15 miles per hour before each hump. If properly placed in a series, humps should slow cars down on the street to 25 to 35 mph.

James Mahon, who has worked at Fair Haven Furniture at Blatchley Street for two years, agreed that four humps are well worth one choke.

Fair Haven Alderwoman Erin Sturgis-Pascale, the city’s expert on traffic calming, said she hadn’t yet seen the humps but that she was in principal pleased the city was making the effort. However, she cautioned against using speed humps as a standard practice. “Their installation,” she said in an email message, “is a reactive measure that doesn’t add value to our city streets the way a properly designed complete street would do.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Texting While Driving: Engineering Solutions?

Psychology Today blogs here on some of the new engineering methods being used to stop texting while driving, and comes to an interesting conclusion regarding "shock" video PSAs:

Gory shock films (fear appeals) sure are effective. Everyone knows that. Except if you look at anything remotely approaching a scientific standard of testing, you know that these persuasion tactics have little or no effect on actual behavior leading to fewer accidents and deaths. They just make the folks doing the scolding feel good about themselves.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Crash Sends 14 Year Old to Hospital in Critical Condition

Reporting today from the New Haven Independent about a very severe crash on a section of Quinnipiac Avenue notorious for crashes and speeding, but scheduled to be rebuilt over the next year using Federal stimulus dollars. An excerpt:

But neighbors also said that the intersection has been unsafe for years, with unpainted crosswalks, a dim light, and unenforced speed limits. This is the most recent of a number of bike- and pedestrian-related accidents in the city.

The three girls who had been biking were “sobbing” together on the corner near Stahl’s house, she said. When she went over to talk to them, she realized that they were standing on the spraypaint memorial for Mike Padua, the boy who had died in 2005.

While Tuesday’s accident seems to have been the boy’s fault, Stahl indicated that the fact that it is the second accident at the corner suggests a need for action. “If it happens once, shame on them. If it happens twice, shame on us,” Stahl said.

She suggested that a speed bump near the bottom of Clifton Street might serve as a deterrent for daredevil youth. Stahl has other ideas about how the intersection could be improved also. She and Rose said that they have contacted the city repeatedly to try to have crosswalks repainted. “They haven’t been repainted in ten years.”

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Pedestrian Struck; Killed in Downtown New Haven

A woman struck by a van driver at State and Elm Streets Wednesday died of her injuries Thursday morning. The accident occurred Wednesday around 1:17 p.m.

The woman, Margo DeMaio, 68, of Hamden, died at 8:45 a.m. Thursday at Yale-New Haven Hospital, according to police spokesman Officer Joe Avery. DeMaio suffered “severe head trauma” in the accident.

Avery said an investigation continues into the accident. No arrest has been made in connection with the incident.


Reported in the New Haven Independent, August 6, 2009: http://www.newhavenindependent.org/archives/2009/08/pedestrian_hit.php

Also see NH Register coverage here.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Texting Raises Crash Risk 23 Times

A review of recent scientific studies on the issue of distracted driving published in today's New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/28/technology/28texting.html. See here for more, and here for NYT's "Driven to Distraction" article series.

About half of drivers 16 to 24 said they had texted while driving, compared with 22 percent of drivers 35 to 44.

“It’s convenient,” said Robert Smith, 22, a recent college graduate in Windham, Me., who says he regularly texts and drives even though he recognizes that it is a serious risk. He would rather text, he said, than take time on a phone call. “I put the phone on top of the steering wheel and text with both thumbs,” he said, adding that he often has exchanges of 10 messages or more. Sometimes, “I’ll look up and realize there’s a car sitting there and swerve around it.”

Friday, July 24, 2009

Seven Hospitalized After SUV Crash on Division Street

Seven people, including three children, were taken to the hospital Wednesday following a rear-end collision in New Haven, WTNH reported. The crash occurred at the intersection of Winchester Avenue and Division Street when the driver of an SUV collided with the car in front of it when the light turned green but the car didn't move, police said. Police said one child was drifting in and out of consciousness.

Reported in the Courant, the crash occurred in the Newhallville area, just a block from where a young child was killed in a still-unsolved hit-and-run collision last month.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Cell phone-distracted driver nearly hits officer on horseback; Horse swoops in for arrest

Reporting and photo from today's New Haven Independent:

When a reckless driver nearly ran into them on a downtown street, Officer Kim Roche and her trusty steed, Marshmallow, swept in to make an arrest.

“Lunching at Geronimo’s, I watched as Marshmallow and Officer Roche pulled over and ticketed someone for driving while talking on a cell phone. ‘Nearly hit us,’ said Officer Roche.”


Only in New Haven, folks.

For more on how the government has put on blinders on itself when it comes to the risk of cell phones and driver distraction, check out this roundup of coverage at Streetsblog.

Maureen Dowd has a great op-ed on the topic in yesterday's New York Times (excerpt below):

Studies show that drivers who talk on cellphones are four times more likely to be in a crash and drive just as erratically as people with an 0.08 percent blood-alcohol level. In one study cited by the highway safety agency, “drivers found it easier to drive drunk than to drive while using a phone, even when it was hands-free.”

Christopher Hill, a 21-year-old from Oklahoma who killed a woman last September when he ran a red light while on his cellphone and rammed into her S.U.V., tried to keep dialing and driving with a headset his mother gave him two months after the accident. He “found his mind wandering into his phone call so much that ‘I nearly missed a light,’ ” he told Richtel. Now he says he rarely uses the phone.

Hollywood offered a cautionary story with the depressing “Seven Pounds,” which begins with Will Smith spoiling his perfect life when he BlackBerrys while driving in his fancy car with his gorgeous new fiancée. He crashes into another car, killing six strangers and his girlfriend. The movie ends with a poisonous jellyfish in an icy bathtub. Don’t ask.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Four Pedestrians and Driver Hospitalized After Vehicle Runs Off Whalley Avenue

Report here from the NH Independent. The serious crash occurred in an area of Whalley Avenue about to be widened, and just a few blocks from where Gabrielle Lee was killed by a hit-and-run driver while crossing the street last June.

“He crosses over the shoulder, hops the curb, and there’s a group of folks from Chapel Haven on the sidewalk that are walking outbound, out toward Woodbridge. “He goes over the shoulder, pops the curb, and strikes at least four of these individuals.” The driver ended up in the parking lot of McDonald’s, where he slammed into two parked cars before his Cherokee stopped. Tchakirides said he didn’t know how fast the man was driving.

Is "non-life threatening" a meaningful term?

Friday, July 10, 2009

July 9: Future of Whitney Avenue Neighborhood-Wide Meeting

Original Post 7/8/09: For background on the issue, please see this previous post and open public letter.

From Justin Elicker of Friends of East Rock Park (and a steering committee member of CT Livable Streets): "Whitney Avenue is thankfully being paved as many of you have noticed. That said, there has been great concern among residents that virtually no additional pedestrian, bicycle or traffic-calming infrastructure has been included in the plan. As such, Roland Lemar, David Streever and I are hosting a meeting open to all concerned residents. The meeting will focus on creating a vision for the future of a Whitney Avenue that is safe and community-friendly. I urge you to attend this meeting to highlight the level of concern by residents. If you are unable to make it but wish to be heard, please respond [directly to Justin, or to newhavensafestreets at gmail . com and we will forward your email to him] and I will make sure to voice your concerns at the meeting." The meeting takes place Thursday, July 9, 7pm, at Wilbur Cross High School Cafeteria, 181 Mitchell Drive, New Haven.

Update 7/10/09: Coverage of the Meeting

New Vision Sketched For Whitney Avenue, New Haven Independent (photo courtesy of NHI), 7/10/09:

This father and daughter made it across Whitney Avenue with their lives intact. Will they be able to again once government finishes redoing the road? That was the question on the minds of 35 East Rock neighbors who showed up to a brainstorming session at Wilbur Cross High School Thursday night.

The meeting was called by East Rock Alderman Roland Lemar, safe streets activist David Streever and aldermanic candidate Justin Elicker to address what they see as shortcomings of a repaving project on East Rock’s main thoroughfare.

In the discussion in the school cafeteria Thursday night, a Willow Street mom recounted a routine struggle of taking her child on a walk. The crosswalk lights on Whitney are not long enough to make it across the street safely with a stroller, she said. Neighbor David Cameron agreed.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Pedestrian at Kensington Street Suffers Head Injury

Reporting from the New Haven Independent here on a 29-year old man struck by a vehicle in the city's Dwight neighborhood:

A pedestrian sustained a “severe head injury” when he was struck by a car this afternoon in the Dwight/Kensington neighborhood. The crash took place at 1:21 p.m. at Edgewood Avenue and Kensington Street, police said. Unlike at a recent crash in Newhallville, the car’s driver stayed at the scene. The pedestrian was taken to the hospital. He was conscious when he left, police said.

The New Haven Register has an eyewitness account, published here.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Battle of the Bridge, Round 1: ConnDOT Vetoes "Complete Bridge"

Reporting here from Design New Haven. For additional background, see our post here.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Whitney Avenue Paving: "Everything you’d want out of a local access highway"

Original Post, 6/24/09: Local elected officials and city officials recently announced that the section of Whitney Avenue into Downtown New Haven will not be rebuilt as a "complete street."

The street runs adjacent to the main Yale University campus, and is one of the busiest pedestrian, bicycle and vehicular corridors in the entire city. Reporting from the New Haven Independent can be found here, along with a previous story from January about the initial announcement (which also attracted numerous comments) here. An excerpt from today's piece:

At a meeting of East Rock neighbors, some said the project falls short of the city’s new policy of creating “complete streets” that encourage transit by bike, foot or bus. “It’s everything you’d want out of a local access highway,” quipped East Rock Alderman Roland Lemar at the neighborhood management team’s monthly meeting Monday evening. He said while cars and bikes alike will welcome relief from the treacherous bumps and cracks, the improvements will result in allowing vehicles to zip by at 45 miles per hour. “Only 45?” replied a skeptic in the crowd. “That’s a conservative estimate.”

Plans for repaving Whitney Avenue had been in the works for several years, but had been delayed until this year. In the intervening period, the amount of pedestrian and bicycle traffic on the Avenue has dramatically increased.

On the earlier NH Independent piece, a writer from the CT Energy Blog commented:

In addition to agreeing with Tom Harned's points, I would add that one of the goals of improving bicycle infrastructure would be to protect the lives of the cycling population that already exists. New Haven has the second highest percentage of bicycle commuters in the Northeast. These include not only Yuppies and Yalies (no offense), but children and countless people who can not afford the staggering expense of owning a car in the city. With the exception of highways and freeways, our roads were never intended to be used only by motor-vehicle traffic. Many existed well before the automobile was invented. We've had too many preventable traffic-related deaths and injuries here involving people who were just trying to get from one place to another. It's high time we got our priorities straight and started taking deadly traffic conditions seriously. Again, thank you New Haven for taking this seriously, but we still have a long way to go.

Today, "Truthtopower" writes:

When will the DOT realize that the age of the auto is over? Spending valuable tax dollars to replicate outmoded roads shows that no lessons have been learned from $4.00 gas, air pollution levels, the increase in obesity and the consumption of land by parking lots. People want to be able to walk, bike and take public transit, but money continues to be funneled into projects that continue the old car culture rather than a new 21st century vision. Clearly the people are again ahead of the government on this.

The Independent contains a bit of good news about a new traffic calming project right around the corner, at Livingston and Edwards:

Lemar reported that the city has money in hand to repave Edwards Street between Whitney and Orange Streets. As part of the road reconstruction, the city will incorporate traffic-calming measures at Edwards and Livingston Street, a hairy intersection where a combination of high speed and poor visibility around turns has led to recent accidents.

A member of the CT Livable Streets committee sent an open letter to the City of New Haven's engineer, Dick Miller, on February 23, 2009. Local elected officials also have met tirelessly with key city and state officials, but little progress was made.

Hopefully, further improvements to the bustling street can be installed after paving is completed.

The open letter to Mr. Miller is reprinted here:

Dear Mr. Miller,

Thank you for presenting to the East Rock Management Team tonight about Whitney Avenue and the various bridge reconstruction projects in East Rock. It is excellent that you would take the time to update the East Rock neighborhood with your department's progress, and I applaud you for the significant amount of work that your office has been able to push through state reviews in the past year. Thank you again for your tireless efforts to keep our transportation system in good working order.

As you suggested at the meeting, I would welcome an opportunity to stop by and review the repaving and restriping plans for Whitney Avenue, which are scheduled to begin construction in a month or two. I've copied a few individuals who have been following the design plans for Whitney Avenue for a few years. I am not speaking for them, but I think some of them may be interested in reviewing the plans as well. What times might work best for you?

Please do not take my concerns as criticism of your work to date. Whitney Avenue is an urban corridor through an extremely densely populated area, and I am encouraged to know that you are doing as much as possible to ensure the safety of the community through which it passes. My concern about speeding on the avenue stems specifically from the extremely high volumes of families, young children, elderly and disabled residents, mass transit users, and K-8 public school students who cross the avenue on a daily basis. The avenue has more pedestrians than almost any other street in the city. My concern has been highlighted by the fact that, on two occasions just within the past few months, I have witnessed pedestrians crossing the avenue at dusk (in areas where I think there should be a crosswalk), and have watched helplessly as they were nearly killed, just very narrowly avoiding speeding vehicles in both cases. In one case, a speeding car swerved illegally to try to pass a car (on the right side, not the left side) that had slowed in order to yield to the pedestrian.

Also, the avenue is also one of the busiest cycling routes in the city, connecting Hamden commuters to Downtown New Haven. Anecdotally, I work in an office of just 10 people, and at least three of them use this route to bike to work from Hamden. All three of them believe that the road is inadequate as a cycling route in its current configuration. In an era where people can afford to drive less and less, perceived obstacles like these threaten New Haven's ability to be the economic and social hub for the region.

If the latest design for Whitney Avenue allows the current average traffic speeds of 30-35MPH to persist (or increase following repaving), it is almost certain that there will be additional injuries along the avenue. A few years ago, a prominent Yale University faculty member in the Neuroscience Department was killed by a driver along the Hamden section of Whitney Avenue, and numerous other pedestrian injuries have been reported along the road as well. As has been pointed out in many public meetings in New Haven over the past year, designing a street for 40MPH travel, while expecting drivers to obey the 25MPH limit, creates a massive demand for traffic enforcement which will be an unnecessary future burden on the city's taxpayers.

In the case of Whitney Avenue, I believe that there is overwhelming public support for designing a street that contributes to property values, walkability and safety for road users of all ages and abilities. Based on standards used in other cities, such a street would be designed for strict maximum travel speeds of 20-25MPH, with very narrow travel lanes, and contain a highly progressive system of pedestrian refuges, crosswalks and cycle facilities, particularly in the most urban sections of the street between Edwards Street and Downtown. Given that the new paving standards you have ordered are meant to last 20 years, there may be limited opportunities to reconfigure the avenue once the pavement is poured.

I appreciate all of the time and energy you have put into this project over the past few years, and realize that there are a number of restrictions at play as well. I realize that the project starts soon, but am wondering if there is anything that can be done to create modest safety improvements now, or to ensure that they can be easily added as soon as possible following the completion of paving. Even measures designed to be temporary solutions would be an improvement over having a street perceived as dangerous by walkers, cyclists and transit users of all ages. If nothing can be done at this point, please keep these concerns in mind for future projects.


Best regards,
Mark Abraham
New Haven, CT

Update 7/10/09: Dozens of East Rock residents attend a community meeting to propose changes for the avenue.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Student Hit By Car While Biking to School: Are Road Injuries "Minor"?

Original Post 6/16/09: The crash was reported in the New Haven Independent last week:

A 17-year-old student was struck by a car while riding a bicycle on the way to Wilbur Cross High School Tuesday, police said. The crash took place on Willow Street near the I-91 exit ramp at 7:35 a.m.

The press piece indicates that the boy suffered "minor injuries," thankfully, and was able to continue to bike to school before an ambulance was called to take him to the hospital. We hope that the student will fully recover as soon as possible.

However, in the broader scheme of practice, the word "minor" is often misused when describing traffic collisions. Many studies like this one from Oxford University (Psychological Medicine (2002), 32:4:671-675 Cambridge University Press) show that the impact over time can actually be much greater than initially realized. An excerpt:

Replies were received from 507 (66%) subjects. Although 76% of injuries were medically minor bruises and lacerations, 132 (26%) reported symptoms of psychiatric disorder and 104 (21%) moderate or severe pain at 3 years. There was little evidence of improvement in prevalence between 1 and 3 years, with continuing physical symptoms, psychiatric disorder and reported consequences for everyday life.

Home to Interstate 91 on-and off-ramps, the stretch of Willow Street where the student was hit is known as an extremely hostile, high-speed environment for bicyclists and particularly pedestrians, despite the fact that it is one of the only road connections between the East Rock and Fair Haven neighborhoods of New Haven (it is not exactly like one of the bridges in Portland). The condition of the road prevents thousands of children in the Fair Haven neighborhood from easily using East Rock Park, effectively creating a wall between two directly adjacent neighborhoods. Unfortunately, ConnDOT would have to approve any changes to the current configuration of the roadway.

Apparently, ConnDOT doesn't believe that "minor" road injuries are that big of an issue, considering that they have done nothing to install a simple fix to the situation on the Tomlinson Bridge even after dozens of cyclists have reported being seriously injured crossing its 30-degree railroad track crossing.

Does it take a few deaths before they take action?

A few reactions posted on the Independent article:

Yet we have a responsibility, a moral obligation, to ensure the safety of those students who do walk or bike to school.... The Willow St bridge was constructed in anticipation of the (thankfully scrapped) East Rock Connector. This is a perfect example of excess road capacity leading to unsafe conditions. THIS ROAD NEEDS A DIET.... Anybody want to help me write the Safe Routes to School grant?

It is a good thing the driver was going under 25. When I drive in an urban environment, I try to keep my speed at about 15 mph or below..... I have had several close calls with pedestrians, but luckily have never hit one, and I attribute this in part to driving at a speed that isn't likely to kill.

Making East Rock school more accessible from Fair Haven, via a better pedestrian connection, is crucial. Willow + Blatchley Street, between the school and Erector Square, is currently an unattractive pedestrian "no go" zone, even for able bodied residents. Ask people who live in the area. To say nothing about how a handicapped, blind, elderly or disabled person would feel.

Update 6/18/09: According to reporting in the NH Independent, another student near Fair Haven, this one an 11-year old child, was hit by a car on Tuesday. The crash gave the child "abrasions." According to other reporting the driver was not "at fault."

Monday, June 15, 2009

Candlelight Vigil for Baby Killed in Hit and Run Crash on Mansfield Street

The New Haven Independent reports here on the candlelight vigil for Montez Turner Jr. and Mauricia Stanley, which was attended by over 100 New Haven residents, and lasted well into the evening. An earlier, much more detailed story about the hit-and-run crash can be found here. The deadly collision occurred at the intersections of the Newhallville, Dixwell and Prospect Hill/East Rock neighborhoods, right next to the northeast corner of Science Park.

On the New Haven Independent's main report, there are a number of public comments which have to do with safety. Here are a few:

I am very familiar with that intersection and there definitely needs a mechanism that slow down traffic on that long somewhat winding block of Mansfield between Division and Munson Streets. Drivers speed both ways on that street, and, as walkers could attest, the drivers seem surprised, rushed and even irritated that there are even stop signs at each end.

Streets in front of the Capitol in Hartford have 10 MPH limits and pedestrian safety refuges. Streets in wealthy towns like Darien and Greenwich have 15 MPH speed limits and barriers in the street that make these kinds of crashes almost impossible (unless perhaps you are a trained stunt driver). Kids play out on them.

A speeding car through a stop sign is alarming and this time, tragic; however, how about all those citizens who do the "California roll" and just slow down enough to quickly look both ways and then roll on through. It seems to be the New Haven attitude toward stop signs.

No one expects to get hit by a car speeding through a stop sign. No one expects to their car roof supports to be tested by rolling down a hill. That's why you take EVERY PRECAUTION to protect these precious babies.

The Federal TF Highway Research Center quotes a study of 181 intersections converted to roundabouts which showed a 95% reduction in car crashes with injuries and an 89% reduction in pedestrian crashes with injuries. A single, correctly designed road facility can eliminate 100% of crashes. When you look at the figures of 95% injury reduction on 181 new roundabouts, for example, it is quite likely that at least half of those new roundabouts prevented 100% of injuries, while the other half had more mixed safety records (e.g., a 90% reduction).

Look at this bad community. A hit and run is always happening. But what they need to know is that these streets are dangerous.

And our city celebrates DOT widening Whalley. [see here for details on that]

Saturday, June 13, 2009

City Places In-Street "Yield to Pedestrian" Sign

Original Post, 10/17/08: The first in-street "yield to pedestrian in crosswalk" sign in New Haven was installed this week on State Street, and another "test" sign is reportedly planned for the intersection of Lincoln and Trumbull today. New Haven Independent coverage and photo here, and New Haven Register coverage is posted here.

Additional signs have been purchased, and many neighborhood groups have sent in recommendations for where they should be placed. Potential locations include Orange & Wall, Edgewood & West Rock, College & Wall, Mansfield & Sachem, Dixwell & Bristol, various intersections along Howard, State and Orange, and many others.

Click here (Word DOC file) for a copy of the original request letter, which was sent in by Elm City Cycling and the Yale Medical Campus Traffic Safety Group and CC'ed to the New Haven Safe Streets Coalition.
Update: The signs have received great preliminary reviews by local residents: http://www.newhavenindependent.org/archives/2008/10/new_signs_of_th.php

Update 6/13/09: The signs have now been placed in crosswalks all throughout the City of New Haven. Contact the City's transportation department to request more.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Ask Connecticut's Senators to Co-Sponsor the Safe Routes to School Reauthorization Bill

On May 21, 2009, Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA), Richard Burr (R-NC), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Susan Collins (R-ME) joined together to introduce the Safe Routes to School Program Reauthorization Act (S. 1156). S. 1156 would expand funding for SRTS to $600 million per year, include high schools, simplify regulatory compliance to improve project delivery, and strengthen research and evaluation. All of these changes will make SRTS grants more widely available, and help more schools and communities across the country make it safer for children to walk and bicycle to school.

This is an exciting step forward, as these five diverse Senators have agreed to champion the program. Now, Connecticut's Senators need to hear from more constituents about the importance of strengthening the Safe Routes to School program in the next transportation bill.

Please take a few minutes to contact Senator Lieberman and Senator Dodd to ask them to show their support for the Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program by co-sponsoring the legislation. If you do not already have personal contacts within their offices or do not wish to make a direct phone call, one way to do so is to follow this link: http://capwiz.com/lab/issues/alert/?alertid=13424291. A list of national supporters can be found here.

It is a good idea to personalize your message with a sentence or two about Safe Routes to School needs in Connecticut. Connecticut's school districts have participated in the program in a fairly limited way so far, but interest has been growing over the past two years, and an application for the program is expected to be submitted for New Haven in the coming year.

For more details on the legislation, including a summary of the bill’s provisions, a list of supporting organizations, and the text of the legislation, please visit http://www.saferoutespartnership.org/national.

Hat tip to Keep Kids Alive Drive 25, one of New Haven Safe Streets Coalition's partner organizations, for information that this post was adapted from.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

How To Document Speeding Vehicles: Citizen Enforcement

SeeClickFix gives a few good examples here: http://seeclickfix.blogspot.com/2009/05/how-to-document-speeding-101-citizens.html. Citizen led traffic enforcement can play an increasingly important role in traffic safety, particularly as public and shared vehicles become an increasingly larger proportion of local traffic.

A similar example, reported earlier here, was a city science fair project in New Haven, which found oil trucks speeding by a local elementary school at 52 miles per hour. Individuals witnessing these types of abuses should document plates, times, driver descriptions and other information and call the city's traffic safety hotline of 946 6956, as well as other local authorities.

Also see Design New Haven's collection of SeeClickFix "issues of the month," which give a more detailed explanation of how this kind of citizen reporting of nonemergency issues can work from an advocacy perspective.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Another Collision in Route 34 "Death Zone"

Design New Haven reports here on yesterday's pedestrian injury at College and Frontage Road in Downtown, and also covers which parts of New Haven's multiple traffic safety petitions have and have not been implemented.

[UPDATE: The pedestrian has died from his injuries. New Haven Register coverage here.: "He had worked at GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals in Pennsylvania for eight years and last November accepted a job at Kolltan Pharmaceuticals in New Haven. His wife remained in Glenside, Pa., and he commuted between the two cities on weekends. On Monday, he was crossing busy South Frontage Road at College Street when he was struck by the bus."]

The Design New Haven article refers to a piece in the New Haven Register, which is excerpted here:

Pedestrian ‘critical’ after being hit by bus crossing S. Frontage (NH Register, Tuesday, May 5, 2009)

By William Kaempffer, Register Staff

NEW HAVEN — A 56-year-old man suffered serious head injuries Monday after being struck by a bus while crossing South Frontage Road, a roadway that pedestrians say is a nightmare to cross.

Speed didn’t appear to be a factor in the latest accident at the intersection of College Street. A CT Transit bus turning left hit Michael Jaye of Glenside, Pa., in the middle of the street at 8:28 a.m., prompting police to close the road for hours as the accident reconstruction team investigated. Sgt. Chris Kenney described the injuries as potentially life threatening.

The scene has repeated itself along the stretch. Two years ago, a Yale public health student was struck and injured in the same area. Two blocks down, Yale medical student Mila Rainoff was fatally struck last year while crossing at York Street, prompting an outcry for safety upgrades and giving birth to a grassroots New Haven Safe Streets Coalition that promotes issues about pedestrian and bicyclist safety.

People who walk and bike across North and South Frontage roads, which parallel the Route 34 Connector with a series of exit and entrance ramps onto the highway, for years have decried it as hazardous.

“All these people are trying to get on the highway. People are getting off the highway. They’re all trying to accelerate to speeds of 65 mph,” said Aaron Cook, a public health student at Yale. Meanwhile, pedestrians are trying to get to and from the Yale medical district and downtown.

“Think about it. If you put two and two together,” he said. “You have people in a hurry. They’re getting off the highway. They’re getting on the highway at very high speeds. You have students who are trying to get to class at all hours of the day, whether it be dark, snow, rainy, whatever. You put those two things together and make it difficult to see when you should and should not be crossing the street.

“This is a death zone.”

Jaye, who was listed in critical condition Monday night, works as a senior scientist for the biotechnology firm Kolltan Pharmaceuticals Inc., which has an office in New Haven. A company official Monday described him as an “excellent colleague and fine scientist,” but declined further comment out of deference to his family.

A Yale-New Haven Hospital spokeswoman said Jaye was in critical condition.

Phil Fry, of CT Transit, said the company is awaiting police reports so it can initiate its own investigation. As it does in all accidents involving pedestrians, the company will conduct a drug and alcohol screening on the driver.

Following the Rainoff fatality, the city painted zebra-style crosswalks across North and South Frontage roads at York Street as an initial step to improving pedestrian safety.

It was unclear Monday whether Jaye was in a crosswalk or crossing with the light; personal items could be seen a few feet from the crosswalk after the accident.

On a larger scale, there are plans afoot to overhaul 12 intersections along North and South Frontage roads, said Michael Piscitelli, director of the Department of Transportation, Traffic and Parking. Intersections from Temple to Orchard streets are slated for full upgrades of traffic control equipment before the end of the year, including the one where the accident occurred Monday. College Street and South Frontage Road do have pedestrian signals, he said. The $3 million project to upgrade the 12 intersections, which is funded by the city and Yale-New Haven Hospital, is being reviewed by the state Traffic Commission and was a result of pedestrian-related accidents.

Speed is a factor on both streets, Piscitelli acknowledged. On South Frontage Road, drivers are accelerating to merge onto the highway, and on North Frontage Road, motorists are coming off a “high-speed environment” he said, “and much of the work we’re doing now is de-escalating that speed.”

Some long-term development plans also could hold some solutions to traffic. The city hopes to rip up and reclaim parts of the Route 34 Connector and has a developer lined up to build a 240,000-square-foot building west of College Street and reconnect the medical district with downtown.

In theory, city officials have said, that development would prompt many of the motorists who clog Route 34 and the frontage roads to seek alternate routes into the city, such as the Church Street bridge off Interstate 95.

Until then, Yale Medical School faculty member Mike Nitabach said the psychology of motorists will continue to put pedestrians at risk.

“You’re in a car and you’re on the highway going 70 miles per hour, and then you suddenly are on a surface street and it’s a whole different mind-set in terms of how you perceive your environment as the operator of a vehicle, and I think that’s part of the reason why Frontage Road is so dangerous for pedestrians,” he said.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Public Transit Users 3X More Likely to be Healthy

Because they walk a few minutes per day: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090326134014.htm

According to the study, people who drove the most were the least likely to meet the recommended level of physical activity. "The idea of needing to go to the gym to get your daily dose of exercise is a misperception," says Frank, the J. Armand Bombardier Chairholder in Sustainable Transportation and a researcher at the UBC Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability. "These short walks throughout our day are historically how we have gotten our activity. Unfortunately, we've engineered this activity out of our daily lives."

Also, see this report by the Robert Wood Johnson Federation: http://www.rwjf.org/pr/synthesis/reports_and_briefs/issue11.html

Obesity is the second leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., contributing to more than 100,000 deaths annually and a growing burden of chronic disease. Traditionally, interventions to increase physical activity and combat obesity have targeted individual behavior change through education and promotion. There is increasing recognition by researchers and public health leaders, however, of the need to expand the focus of interventions to the environments and contexts in which poor nutrition and lack of activity occurs. This focus has spawned a relatively new body of research examining the role of the community “built environment” in promoting or discouraging physical activity.

Monday, April 20, 2009

YDN: Student Death Spurs Action on Street Safety

Coverage from the Yale Daily News: http://www.yaledailynews.com/articles/view/28884

One year ago Sunday, Mila Rainof MED ’08 was struck by a car as she crossed the busy intersection of York Street and South Frontage Road. Her death a day later, along with the death of 11-year-old Gabrielle Alexis Lee in a hit-and-run last June, cast a shadow over pedestrian safety on New Haven’s streets, leading to a public push to reduce traffic accident injuries across the city. While Rainof’s friends and family still mourn her death, they said they have been consoled by city and community efforts to improve traffic safety over the past year.

A month after the accident, local residents united with officials and individual organizations to form the New Haven Safe Streets Coalition, meant to raise community awareness of traffic safety issues. Last October, the city launched the Street Smarts Campaign, which included an initiative funded by the Yale-New Haven Hospital to upgrade 12 intersections around Yale’s medical district, and shortly after, the city installed new crosswalks and pedestrian signposts in the area. The New Haven Police Department also arranged for two police units to patrol busy intersections throughout the city to slow down traffic.

Despite the array of initiatives to improve the safety of city streets, officials from the Safe Streets Coalition said they still see room for improvement and hope to avoid at all costs another unnecessary traffic fatality. Last week, Yale, along with the city’s Department of Transportation, Traffic and Parking, launched the Smart Street Web site to demonstrate how pedestrians, cyclists and drivers should act on city streets.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Speeding Driver Slams Into Car, Sending Six to Hospital in Downtown New Haven

Our sympathies go out to the victims of this horrible crash.

Police blocked off downtown streets at rush hour after an SUV driver fleeing the cops crashed into another car, sending six people to the hospital. The driver sped west on Crown Street. He crashed into a Hyundai driven by a Lombard Street man. A passenger was in the car, too. The SUV flipped over. The Hyundai (top photo) was totaled, landing on the sidewalk.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Portland Traffic Fatalities Drop to Lowest Level Since 1925

A very interesting discussion of the factors that might be behind the city's record-low injury rate. Is the national decline in vehicular traffic - even in New Haven - the real cause? 15 fatalities and 5 pedestrian deaths were recorded in Portland in 2008.

How much credit does mayor deserve for 2008's historic drop in Portland road deaths?, The Oregonian Blog, 4/2/09

Savvy politics. But one has to wonder if his staff bothered briefing him on this simple fact about modern commuting: People are driving less -- and, thus, dying less -- almost everywhere in the U.S.

Adams' statement on Portland's fatality numbers didn't mention any of those things. It didn't mention that TriMet ridership was up 2.3 percent. Last year's hand-count of bicycle commuters by PBOT found a 15 percent increase on city bridges and 32 percent at 60 intersections in 2008. Again, not mentioned.

The mayor reminded residents that he promised saving lives and reducing injuries would be his first priority when he took over as the Bureau of Transportation commissioner in 2005. For example, he said, after several "right hook" bicycle fatalities in 2007, where vehicles turned right and collided with bicycles, Adams said his office spearheaded the installation of green "bike boxes" at 14 dangerous intersections.

"Even one death or injury is too much," Adams said, "but our increased safety means
that fewer families had to cope with the terrible tragedy that traffic fatalities bring, and that our neighborhoods are becoming more livable."

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