Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Complete Streets Experts, and Fourth Graders, Call for Livable Streets in Hill Neighborhood

[Photo at left courtesy New Haven Independent.]

Experts aim for streets safe for all users, New Haven Register, 3/31/09:

The “complete streets” specialists visited the Hill Monday, scoping out ways to strike a balance among walkers, bikers and autos so they can all safely share the neighborhood’s main roads. Engineers from CHA, a consulting group, Ian Lockwood, an early guru of the “complete streets” movement and James Travers, deputy director of transportation for the city, led the short field trip for a handful of citizens and officials.

The aim is to make streets safer and more walkable through roundabouts, curb bump outs, tree plantings, on-street parking, bicycle lanes and even a raised intersection where needed, to slow down drivers. All of these things have the effect of calming traffic, Lockwood said. Basically, they act as visual clues to drivers to slow down, that they are in an urban environment. “It helps drivers behave themselves,” rather than necessitating more traffic police, he said.

Lockwood said the whole intersection at Congress and Howard avenues could be raised to slow traffic, something other states do around elementary schools as safety measures.

“Complete Streets” Begins in the Hill, New Haven Independent, 3/31/09:

Last year for their science project these three fourth-graders clocked an oil truck at 52 miles per hour and even a school bus racing at nearly 40 by their school, John C. Daniels Elementary. On Monday afternoon, they joined city officials and others on a “walking audit” of their Hill neighborhood to help planners calm traffic and make the streets safer for kids, pedestrians, and bicyclists.

Near Congress and Howard, the crew paused to hear Lockwood suggest safety could be enhanced by the addition of bump-outs at bus stops, and lifting the crosswalk to the level of the sidewalk. “This ramping up puts motorists on the level of pedestrians. It also raises the heights of kids four to six inches when they cross, making them more visible, and therefore safer,” he said.

All along Congress, leading toward John C. Daniels School, Sousa suggested that long curb cuts, such as inappropriate driveways, most holdovers from a previous era when big trucks were making deliveries, should be eliminated. “You want to reward walking and incentivize it with sidewalks that attract pedestrians, not cars.”

The John Daniels students said their this year’s science project would be to expand their own traffic study from the immediate area of their school to all of the Hill.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Activists Tackle Hazardous Bike/Ped Conditions on New Haven Harbor Crossing

The $120 million Tomlinson Bridge (shown at left) represents the only viable east-west connection from Downtown New Haven to points east, yet is completely inadequate for bicyclists and pedestrians. Please see http://www.seeclickfix.com/issues/1300.html to read more about this urgent issue. The state of the crossing has recently attracted additional media coverage within the community.

Hazardous rail tracks mar popular bike route, New Haven Register, 3/29/09:

If you are zipping along on your bicycle on Forbes Avenue heading east toward the Tomlinson Bridge and downtown New Haven, watch out for the railroad tracks that cross the road. The road is popular with bike commuters traveling from the East Shore to New Haven and the angled tracks can send bicyclists sprawling onto the hard pavement.

Within 24 hours of a posting on an interactive Web site, more than 100 people attested to the need to fix the situation, or at least warn people of the angled rail crossing. The state Department of Transportation has heard the complaints and is expected to have a report on it next month, according to its spokesman, Kevin Nursick.

Keri Christie, 24, commutes by bicycle Monday through Friday from the East Shore to her job downtown. When she moved here three years ago, she said she took a nasty spill onto the tracks. “It was really scary,” and like everyone else who had fallen, Cristie was grateful she wasn’t hit by the cars following her. Sometimes she said she will bike on the sidewalk on the south side of the bridge to get out of traffic where she said cars travel at 50 to 60 miles per hour and there is no road shoulder.

“Safeways for bikes and pedestrians to move between the center city and the East Shore are important now, and will be even more critical when construction of the Q bridge commences. This needs to be fixed and protected as a secure route before the Q bridge project goes any further,” said Anstress Farwell, president of the New Haven Urban Design League.

Everyone pointed to Portland, Ore. as the best example of roads and bridges designed to safely carry cyclists and cars. “It’s the benchmark on how to treat a biker on the road,” Feiner said. Beyond simple signage, members of the New Haven cycling community are discussing various options they would like the state to consider to make the bridge safer. They suggested designated bike lanes or a widened sidewalk for mixed pedestrian-cycling use.

“The key is to make it possible for everyone to cross (the bridge) safely, even families who are cycling along with young children in tow,” Abraham said.

SeeClickFix, Transportation Safety Innovation of the Year, Tackles Tomlinson Bridge "Disaster", Design New Haven, 3/19/09:

Opened in 2002, this massive, $120 million bridge represents the only viable pedestrian and bicycle connection from Downtown New Haven to the eastern suburbs of the city, and ConnDOT is currently constructing another, $757 million highway bridge right next to it. Unfortunately, besides the fact that the bridge is not a "complete street" by any remote stretch of the imagination, the railroad grade crossing is at a 30 degree angle to the roadway, and is unsigned for cyclists and improperly paved -- and therefore is extremely dangerous for even the most experienced bicyclists.

Following posting on SeeClickFix, over 500 people viewed the issue and many comments were posted on the site, all of which can be read on the issue itself, whose link is http://www.seeclickfix.com/issues/1300.html. In addition to the posted comments (which are automatically sent to anyone who signs up for the issue with their email address), dozens of local commuters and cyclists emailed one another regarding the number of people they knew who had been seriously injured at the crossing. Frankly, the catalogue resulting from this exercise was frightening and deeply disturbing.

Friday, March 20, 2009

CT Livable Streets Forms Steering Committee

To assist with statewide-level advocacy. The Steering Committee will grow over time.
  • Tokunbo Aanifalaje, Board Member, West River Neighborhood Services Corporation (New Haven)
  • Mark Abraham, Secretary, Dixwell Community Management Team (New Haven)
  • Kirsten Bechtel MD, Section of Pediatric Emergency Medicine, Injury Free Coalition for Kids, Yale-New Haven Hospital
  • Justin Elicker, Co-Leader, Friends of East Rock Park (New Haven)
  • Beth Emery, Member, Transportation Alternatives Middletown
  • Tom Harned, Board Member, Elm City Cycling
  • Doug Hausladen, Chairman, Downtown-Wooster Square Community Management Team Public Safety Subcommittee (New Haven)
  • Chris Heitmann, Executive Director, Westville Village Renaissance Alliance (New Haven)
  • Ryan Lynch, Senior Planner, Tri-State Transportation Campaign
  • Erica Mintzer, Co-Coordinator, Yale Medical Campus Traffic Safety Group
  • Juli Stupakevich, Co-Coordinator, New Haven Safe Streets Coalition
  • Erin Sturgis-Pascale, Ward 14 Alderwoman, City of New Haven
  • Brian Tang, Student, Yale University
From: http://www.livablestreets.com/projects/ct-livable-streets/project-home

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Red Light Camera Legislation Passes Transportation Committee at CT General Assembly

Original Post 3/10/09: Today's New Haven Register reports that a pilot bill enabling red light cameras in New Haven has been voted out of the Transportation Committee in Hartford. Currently, the bill -- known as S.B. 149 -- may be tracked at this page. Excerpts from the Register story here:

The red light camera law moved forward Monday in the Transportation Committee as part of a two-year pilot program in New Haven, which is in the middle of a safe-streets campaign. The high-profile deaths of a Yale University Medical School student and a young girl, in separate incidents last year, triggered a citywide coalition of cyclists, public officials and physicians to push an ambitious agenda aimed at traffic safety. "I think it is the first step for making city streets safer and more civil. We can’t put police on every corner," said Mayor John DeStefano Jr.

About half the states in the U.S. either have red light camera legislation, or are considering it, according to the Federal Safety Administration, and it is widely used in Europe. The committee voted in favor of the bill 24-12. It now goes to the Senate, which will refer it to other committees for review before it comes back for a vote. Dr. Kirsten Bechtel, an associate professor of pediatrics at the Yale Medical School, said nationally there were 900 deaths and 153,000 injuries in crashes that involved running red lights in 2007. "I would like nothing more, as a pediatric emergency medicine physician, to reduce the number of children I treat who are injured from being struck by cars running red lights," Bechtel said.

The bill contains many provisions designed to overcome objections that have been raised in the past, including a 50/50 revenue split between city and state that will make it unlikely to generate significant municipal revenue. The bill also contains language requiring a phase-in period, an appeals process, signal timing reviews and warning signage.

New York currently has a similar pilot program with 100 cameras, but the program may be set to expand. Red light cameras are also used in cities including Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, DC, as well as many smaller cities and towns. Additional research is compiled on the IIHS website.

In response to Rep. Lawlor's criticism of the bill, one commenter on the Register site writes:

The concerns about rear-end collision are understandable, but let's look at what has happened in other places. These result in far fewer fatalities and serious injuries. Look at it this way. Instead of 2 life ending crashes, you might get 3 fender benders. The increase in rear-end collisions drops off dramatically over time, though, & most of those statistics come from places where the signage was not as obvious & explanatory as it is now. ... Even if we do have a minor increase in fender benders--which I don't think we'll see, because New Haven tested these before & had no increase in rear-end collisions--I think it's well worth the lives that will be saved & the serious injuries that will be prevented. Fact. The majority of accidents are at intersections from red light cameras. It's very hard for a police officer to ticket this because they have to run a red light to catch the driver. This is a great tool that will really help us reduce death & accidents without endangering the public. Let's get with it! 20 other states do this already. What are we waiting for?"

Red Light Cams Coming to New Haven (WTNH TV, 3/10/09)

It took a News Channel 8 crew less than a minute to spot someone running a red light at the intersection of South Frontage Road and York Street in the Elm City. Pedestrians here know they better look once - and then look again - to cross. "It's rugged, you know," said New Haven resident Rob Davis. "Lot of traffic, people getting off work - and they fly through here.

Update 6/15/09: Despite modifications and negotiations, the bill failed to pass other committees during this legislative session. City officials hope to raise it again next year.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Useful Graphic: Pedestrian Injuries Vs. Speed of Vehicle

The graph at left is courtesy an article in Streetsblog SF (data is from the FHWA, and is linked to elsewhere on this site):

As Streetsblog San Francisco reported last month, cities around the world have timed their traffic signals to favor slower moving modes... Motorists are already seeing a benefit. Initial studies show the re-timed signals improve overall travel time by more than a minute during peak commute hours. Additionally, motorists will save gas and reduce pollution if they drive at a steady 15 mph pace.

If our society wishes to end thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands of injuries that are completely preventable, it needs to take this graphic into much greater consideration when designing roads, particularly within urban areas. Creating walkable, livable streets with appropriate accommodation for all road users is the only way to eliminate 100% of injuries and deaths. Many other cities around the world are already doing this in various ways.

Perhaps even more disturbing than the number of deaths are the social implications - unsafe streets are major day-to-day barriers preventing people from walking their neighborhoods, shopping locally, playing outside, going to clinics, attending PTA meetings and using cost-efficient transport such as transit, biking and walking. This has ripple effects which undermine local economies and have a disproportionate impact on already-stressed urban neighborhoods.