Thursday, February 11, 2010

Safe Routes to School Expands to Fair Haven, Foreshadows Citywide Approach

Elizabeth Benton's excellent article on the Safe Routes to School Program, a Federal program that will be implemented at a school in Fair Haven beginning this year, was published today by the New Haven Register.

The work reported on here builds upon the extensive public involvement in the Fair Haven traffic calming master plan, completed in 2008 with assistance from the City of New Haven and the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven. That process resulted in a series of very well-attended public meetings and "walkabouts" with Dan Burden, and in fact was one of the key events resulting in the creation of the citywide New Haven Safe Streets Coalition (PDF here).

The Fair Haven implementation, combined with the increased national focus on how the built environment plays a critical role in obesity prevention and child health, has sparked an interest in the program within New Haven's other neighborhoods. For example, Elm City Cycling's 2010 Bicycle Plan recommends gradually expanding Safe Routes to School to other schools in New Haven.

Program Promotes Walking to School, New Haven Register, 2/11/09

By Elizabeth Benton, Register Staff
(Copyright New Haven Register)

NEW HAVEN — Fair Haven School gym teacher Travis Gale estimates as many as half of his students, from kindergarten to eighth grade, are obese.

And of the 650 kids that attend Fair Haven School, only about 250 walk to school, he said. “It’s a problem,” he said. “Students are more into the video games. And the environment I teach in, the parks aren’t playable or possibly not open. They need more exercise in their life.”

Gale has been part of a team pushing for safer walking routes to school in Fair Haven, spearheaded by former Alderwoman Erin Sturgis-Pascale. After almost two years of work, the team has secured a $477,000 federal Safe Routes to School grant, which will be used to improve walking infrastructure around the school, including new sidewalks and crosswalks along Grand Avenue and Exchange Street and two pedestrian islands on Grand Avenue at the intersections with Bright and Atwater streets.

“This summer, some very significant and aggressive traffic calming infrastructure remodeling is going to happen on Grand Avenue,” Sturgis-Pascale said.

The Safe Routes to School program originated in Denmark in the 1970s as the country looked for ways to reduce the number of children killed walking and bicycling to school. The effort has since expanded internationally, and in 2005, Congress created a National Safe Routes to School program, which included $612 million in grants to improve walking routes near schools. Of that, $16 million was set aside for Connecticut schools.

Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said the grant ties into the city’s broader Street Smarts campaign, aimed at improving safety for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.

“As part of our Street Smarts campaign that launched a year and a half ago, we are committed to increasing awareness and making improvements in our infrastructure so that pedestrians, cyclists and motorists safely share New Haven streets,” DeStefano said. “This grant helps us advance this effort in Fair Haven, providing improved opportunities for children and their families to walk to school.”

According to Gale, there is currently one crosswalk on Grand Avenue in front of the school, manned by a crossing guard. But there is nothing to help children cross other nearby intersections.

In addition to the infrastructure improvements, Gale said he is considering starting a “walking train” this spring, where teachers and adults would meet children on nearby street corners and walk to school together. “This has to be partnered with educational and outreach programs,” said Sturgis-Pascale. “There are plenty of kids that live within one mile of the school who could walk to school. We hope to capture that, those children, and turn them from bus riders (and) children who are dropped off into walkers and cyclists,” she said.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

This Friday: New Haven Press Conference on Red Light Camera Legislation

WHAT: The Connecticut Livable Streets Campaign is hosting a Press Conference to announce the introduction of Red Light Camera Legislation in Hartford.

WHERE: Corner of College Street and North Frontage, New Haven, CT

WHEN: Friday February 12, 2010 at 2:00PM

CT Livable Streets Campaign Press Release

CONTACT: Erin Sturgis-Pascale (203)530-0256 and Doug Hausladen (203)676-8330 and

CT Livable Streets Campaign Holds Press Conference to Highlight the Introduction of Red Light Camera Enabling Legislation in Hartford

Mayor John DeStefano, Jr. and NHPD Chief James Lewis will join the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, members of the Connecticut General Assembly and the CT Livable Streets Campaign to announce the introduction of important life-saving Red Light Camera Enabling legislation in Hartford.

According to Mayor DeStefano: "This legislation will make New Haven safer. It will support the tough job our police have. This is a technology that is an efficient and effective tool that has proven successful in other parts of the nation. It will make New Haven streets safer for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists. This is the third year that we have sought such legislation. At a time when we expect government to do more with less, I don't think this is too much to ask of our State government."

The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM), the statewide association of towns and cities, has long advocated for local governments to have the option to use traffic cameras to enhance public safety. "Enabling towns and cities to make streets safer is not only common sense, but also common practice across the country. It's now time for the Connecticut General Assembly to follow suit, and allow our communities the choice to decide for themselves if they could benefit from this life-saving technology," stated Jim Finley, CCM Executive Director & CEO.

The Connecticut Police Chiefs Association supports the use of cameras to monitor and enforce traffic laws because many communities are experiencing both shortages of police officers and heavier traffic on our roads.

Drivers realize that the chances of getting a ticket are slim, and the result has been a visible increase in disregard for traffic laws. Red-light violations are particularly dangerous; collision at right angles can cause injury or death despite seat belts, air-bags, crumple zones, and similar car-safety features. Technology can tip the balance back in favor of safety. This proposal will allow technology-a factor in so many aspects of our lives-to save lives by improving driver behavior.