Monday, March 28, 2011

Petition and Discussion to Stop the Violence in New Haven

As part of our efforts to advocate for streets that are safe, comfortable and attractive for residents of all ages and abilities, the New Haven Safe Streets Coalition maintains a strong focus on policies such as "complete streets" and lower speeds, which have been proven to lead to a reduction in the hundreds of traffic injuries and fatalities that plague our community each year.

However, our efforts have also focused on the crucial links between physical activity, community cohesion, safe streets and community violence. These relationships are well documented on the Prevention Institute page, Connecting Safety to Chronic Disease, and elsewhere. An example application of this knowledge is San Francisco's Pedestrian Environmental Quality Index, which is used to plan walkable neighborhoods and which takes perceived public safety (like graffiti and lighting) into account. Safer streets and safe neighborhoods can lead to increased rates of walking and cycling, which are directly linked to reductions in overall injuries and fatalities as well as other gains in community well-being.

The tragic killing of Mitchell Dubey, a well-loved Downtown New Haven bicycle mechanic and musician, and other recent homicides within a few of New Haven's neighborhoods have spurred an increased level of attention to safety issues in the city.

If you would like to join in this discussion, the link and petition below may be of interest. Feel free to comment, add relevant documents or stories, discuss suggested violence prevent strategies, or recommend other items that should be on the page.

Petition: Stop the Violence in New Haven:

Addressing issues of public safety often requires persistence and collaboration across the civic sector. As one example, the image here shows the dark ceiling of the Chapel Street arcade at 900 Chapel Street last year, which had long-neglected, burned-out lights before it was "fixed" (and re-lit) through a combination of SeeClickFix issues, numerous calls to the property owner by local elected officials, citizens, and officials at the Town Green District, and several of Mary O'Leary's newspaper stories in the New Haven Register. Poorly-lit or abandoned public spaces cause a feeling of insecurity, and can discourage local residents from walking.

In addition to civic collaboration, individual relationships and community cohesion (which a new research brief shows can be severely undermined by income inequality) are critical as well. As local organizer Kevin Ewing points out on the SeeClickFix thread above, "The only people who are going to be able to stop the violence and crime happening in our communities are the people who are committing the acts of violence and crime in our communities. The rest of us have to convince them to stop. It's not going to happen unless we directly engage them... build relationships with them... understand what they want and push them to go after it. I don't think we need more programs. I think we need to fund the ones that make real impact. More importantly I think we need to fund the PEOPLE who are on the ground making direct differences."

On the same thread, Barbara Tinney suggests citizens take action around issues of gun control: "When the quality of life and public safety everywhere in our city becomes everyones concern then we can stop gun violence. When everyone asks the question - how do guns find there way into the streets of New Haven and demand an answer then we can stop gun violence. When we decide that no -one has the answer and that the solution will only result from true collective action then we can stop gun violence. When tragedy isn't the trigger for collective outrage, but is replaced with the genuine belief that we as citizens are better off when everyone is safe and we act accordingly then we can stop gun violence. We, the collective we that crosses neighborhood boundaries, racial lines, socio-economic differences and all the other things that keep us in our silos decide that will not not stand for gun violence in our city then we will witness its elimination. If we muster the will to take a stand as full participants in community life we can stop gun violence."

The New York Times recently highlighted this issue, pointing out that guns that fire 33 bullets before re-loading are now legal again thanks to the expiration of the ban on assault weapons. The Connecticut Against Gun Violence organization maintains a useful page with facts about this issue locally. For example, in Connecticut, one study showed that 23% of small-city 9th and 10th graders and 15% of affluent suburban 9th and 10th graders said that it would be sort of easy or very easy to get a gun. New Haven is a member of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a national group devoted to this issue.

Although Connecticut and New Haven are, in general, very safe places, this issue indirectly or directly affects all of us, and it must be addressed if we want to have healthier, more vibrant streets.

More Information

For information about public safety related to New Haven, one place to begin is the New Haven Health Department's briefing reports:

Creating a Healthy and Safe City: The Impact of Violence in New Haven (2011)

Executive Summary (Short Version)

Full Report (with Maps, Charts etc.)

Additionally, Community Mediation and the New Haven Police Department have been holding a series of discussions on the topic of community and police partnerships. Please see the schedule of events and a summary of the discussions at this page.

Monday, March 21, 2011

SB706 Intersection Safety Camera Legislation Passes CGA Committee (Again)

A new bill allowing cities to install intersection safety cameras, which issue tickets to vehicles that do not obey red light signals, has passed the Transportation Committee by a vote of 25 to 11. Text and other information about the bill, currently labeled S.B. 706, may be found here on the Connecticut General Assembly's website. There are many supporters of the bill this year, including Toni Walker and Roland Lemar, state representatives from New Haven. The bill is also supported by Bike Walk Connecticut, the state's largest bicycle and pedestrian advocacy organization.

The Hartford Courant reports at,0,594323.story, and links to an online poll (shown here) which, with 1,072 votes recorded, indicates support for the devices. An excerpt from the Courant's coverage:

The legislature's transportation committee voted Friday to approve a bill that would enable any Connecticut municipality with a population of more than 60,000 to install cameras to take pictures of red-light violators at intersections, and to impose a fine of $124 for each violation.

The 25-11 committee vote sends the bill to the floor of the state Senate for debate and action. Approval also would be required in the House before the bill could be sent to the governor, who then would decide whether to sign it into law. Legislative approval isn't guaranteed. At least one such bill has cleared the committee in recent years, but none has been approved in the full House and Senate.

According to the Courant, the towns of more than 60,000 people in Connecticut are Bridgeport, New Haven, Hartford, Stamford, Waterbury, Norwalk, Danbury, New Britain, West Hartford, Greenwich, Hamden, Meriden and Bristol.

Click here for our coverage of previous years' legislation, and here for an earlier summary from the Tri State Transportation Campaign.

A group called CT Safe Roads has launched a website to help advocate for the devices. If you support the use of intersection safety cameras, which are currently deployed in more than 400 U.S. cities and have been shown to be extremely effective at reducing deaths caused by red light running, please visit the website and email, call or set up a visit with your state representatives. Several well-written op-eds supporting the cameras can be found in Connecticut's newspapers, including the Courant, Bristol Press, and New Haven Register.

Friday, March 18, 2011

City Point Neighborhood Association Requests Traffic Improvements

The City Point Neighborhood Association, after meeting with the City of New Haven and volunteers from the New Haven Safe Streets Coalition, has decided to request temporary and permanent traffic calming measures through the City's Complete Streets program.

City Point is a beautiful area at the southern end of the "Hill" neighborhood, bordering Long Island Sound. Designated as an official historic district by the City of New Haven, the area is known for its small oysterman's houses, marina, parks, and well-preserved 19th- and early 20th-century homes along Howard Avenue (such as the one shown here). Despite the area's beauty, community cohesiveness and high quality of life, traffic has been identified as a major concern. In the 2010 Neighborhood Quality of Life Survey, the several dozen City Point residents who responded clearly indicated that the control of traffic speeding and enforcement in the area was not acceptable.

The measures the group who was present has decided to request are as follows (these are excerpted directly from emails to the neighborhood association):

Temporary Measures

Seasonal crosswalk signs--these are temporary structures that are placed in the middle street that alert drivers to watch for pedestrians. These are seasonal in that they can't be placed in the streets in the winter (because of snow, plowing, etc) but they have been used and proven to be effective on State Street. We are going to request these for various spots on Howard Avenue.

Removable Speed Bumps--these are temporary because they are placed on the street and removable, not cemented into the road. These will be placed on Sea Street because and possibly other small streets that experience heavy traffic at times (Sea Street does because of the Sound School). These are not as effective on wide roads and are not a good option for Howard Avenue.

If you would like to sign onto the application we will submit requesting these temporary measures from the city, please contact the Safe Streets Coalition via email at newhavensafestreets [a/t] to sign on (replace the "[a/t]" with an "@" sign).

Options for Permanent Traffic Calming

These were discussed in detail at last week's meeting. I will only provide a brief overview of each here as these options will be discussed again in detail in April when we reconvene. (However, please feel free to send any questions you may have in the meantime). Whatever options we do choose, city and Safe Streets staff did stress that these are not truly effective unless they are used in multiple locations (for example, one traffic circle or one bump out alone will not serve to slow traffic, but a series of them will).

Traffic circles--These are "roundabout" structures, that traffic has to go around. These have proven to be extremely effective is dramatically reducing speed and accidents on streets that are long, straight and wide (like Howard Avenue). These have been installed on Woodward Avenue in the East Shore area.

Medians- these can consist of "temporary" ones that are huge potted plants down the length of the road or permanent, cement ones. To be effective, a cement/asphalt median needs to have plantings.

Bump outs- this is where the sidewalk extends out into the street more than usual at intersections. It serves to slow cars down since it narrows the road, but also gives pedestrians a little extra safety as it increases both their view of traffic and traffic's view of them.

Textured pavement-used in conjunction with bump outs, textured pavement can be concrete that is "stamped" to look like stone (or a plastic based covering that looks like brick) and is bumpy which slows traffic.

Bike lanes- bike lanes also help slow traffic as they visually narrow the road to drivers. However, these have already been planned for Howard Avenue and used alone, will not likely slow traffic significantly on an avenue as wide as Howard.

Other Resources

The City of New Haven's Complete Streets manual includes more detailed information and photos of various traffic calming measures. It can be found here: Beginning on page 47, there are descriptions and photos of both temporary and permanent traffic calming measures. At the end of the manual is the application. Anyone can fill one out and submit it at any time, but especially for larger, permanent traffic calming plans, the city is not very likely to approve an application unless it has support from a large amount of residents in the given area.

More information on the Safe Streets group:

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Ongoing Crashes at the Tomlinson Bridge in New Haven: State Board Called for Speedy Resolution Last Fall, but Few Actions Taken

As we have reported multiple times in the past two years, the Tomlinson Bridge in New Haven has been the subject of local, state and national news coverage because of the extreme danger presented by the combination of an oblique rail crossing and a high speed road. The Bridge is the topic of a SeeClickFix issue that has received over 14,000 hits.

The Connecticut Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board has highlighted these concerns in their 2010 annual report, as one of the most severe issues in the entire state. Their report, and a history of correspondence on the issue which includes calls for a "speedy" fix to the problem, is available here as a PDF.

Please contact us if you would like to add more reports of crashes to the list below. More information on the Tomlinson Bridge may be found on Wikipedia (in the photo here, it is shown on the left hand side). There are also more comprehensive articles on the history of the controversy on Design New Haven as well as on our site. The bridge is a crucial connection between Downtown New Haven and all neighborhoods, urban and suburban, located towards the east side of Downtown.

The following bicycle injuries have been documented at this railroad crossing. This is an incomplete list that only highlights some of the more severe falls:

**June 26, 2010: Two cyclists fall on tracks during the annual New Haven Century. One of them breaks his femur.

**September 26, 2009: Two cyclists fall and are injured while riding during a Yale Cycling event.

**September 25, 2009: A cyclist falls during an evening group ride over the tracks, and suffers minor injuries.

**September 13, 2009: A cyclist falls after his wheels become stuck in the tracks.

**August 30, 2009: A cyclist is involved in a hit-and-run incident on the bridge and severely injures his arm and shoulder.

**June 24, 2009: A cyclist falls on tracks while biking to Lighthouse Point and fractures her wrist.

**August 2008: A cyclist crashes on the bridge, due to a passing car, and breaks his elbow.

**August, 2007: A cyclist falls on tracks and seriously injures his left shoulder rotator cuff.

According to local bicycle shops and avid riders, many other cyclists (including city officials) have reportedly crashed while cycling over the tracks, suffering broken arms and collarbones.

Local bicycle advocates, including members of ElmCityCycling, have urged city and Connecticut Department of Transportation (ConnDOT) officials to take action to prevent further injuries at the crossing. To date, signs have been posted warning cyclists of the crossing, but injuries persist. Cyclists have commented on the limited visibility of the signs. To date, ConnDOT has not adequately addressed the situation.