Thursday, May 26, 2011

WTNH: Pedestrians Not Safe in New Haven, Especially at "Notorious" Whitney and Audubon Street Crosswalk

A new report by WTNH, New Haven's local television station, responds to the recent T4America "Dangerous by Design" report that chronicles the nation's severe pedestrian safety issues.

To illustrate, WTNH focuses on pedestrian safety at the notorious intersection of Whitney and Audubon, across from Yale University. The New Haven Independent has recently focused significant coverage on this intersection: Check it out here and here. Residents in the area have recently taken it upon themselves to fill out a Complete Streets Request form, in order to request improvements to the area.

Click here to see the video and article.

An excerpt from WTNH:

NEW HAVEN, CONN. (WTNH) - A new study says Connecticut is not a safe state for pedestrians. The Hartford metropolitan area is the most dangerous in the state, the second most dangerous in all of New England. Hartford is the worst, New Haven is a close second.

Whitney Avenue at Audubon Street is notorious for being unsafe for pedestrians. The problem is that you have to walk a full two blocks before you get to a crosswalk.

Earlier this month anonymous advocates painted a makeshift crosswalk of their own. The city quickly washed it away saying, it's not safe. There's a slight hill making it difficult for drivers to see people in the road. But it's hard to find anyone who doesn't cross in the middle of the street.

"It seems quiet but once you step out, here goes the cars, and there's no crosswalk here and it's dangerous," says Melissa Doumbia of New Haven. Doumbia's daughter attends classes on Audubon, she makes her walk the other way. "Oh, yeah, absolutely, I actually have her meet me down at the other end most of the time," says Doumbia.

With delivery trucks often parked in the area, visibility isn't the best for drivers and pedestrians. "People drive crazy here, everyone's rushing, there's a lot of students, there's bikes, a lot of bikes," says Francesca Colasanto of Branford.

A new study by Transportation for America is trying to highlight the problem. Over the last ten years, 373 pedestrians were killed in Connecticut. Pedestrians have only a 15 percent chance of survival when hit by a car going 40 miles an hour... According to the study, a full 12.5 percent of traffic deaths involved pedestrians.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Walkable Westville: What Makes a Neighborhood Great

Bennett Lovett-Graff writes into the New Haven Review to describe the things that make his home of Westville (pictured here, in a photo from a 2008 cover piece in the NYTimes Real Estate Magazine) such a great neighborhood for walking, and living:

"I grew up on Brooklyn and attended all my life the public schools to which I walked nearly every day of the thirteen years I had to go. At the age of 17, I left my family home and never came back.

This is not the same as saying that I didn't return to New York or even Brooklyn. I did. But I didn't return "home" in that most traditional of senses: taking up residence, as my brother did till age 35, in my parents' five-bedroom home on Glenwood Road.

When I left New York for the last time after a two-year stint as an editor to return to New Haven (yes, I lived here twice), my wife and I were not only overjoyed, we even returned to the neighborhood in which we had rented the first time around: that part of Westville between Whalley & Derby on the north and south respectively; and Yale Avenue and Forest Road as far as east and west go. We have had no regrets since in the last 10 years that we have resided here, and we both chalk that up not to New Haven itself, but the neighborhood in which we reside.

I could write electronic ream after ream on the wonderfulness of this neighborhood. My children walk two blocks to school (Edgewood School); my wife walks two blocks to work (Mitchell Library); we walk two blocks to synagogue (Beth-El Keser Israel); we have farmer's market directly across the street in the summers; access to tennis courts in Edgewood Park (across the street) and Yale fields (three blocks) respectively; sledding at the Yale golf course in the winter five blocks away we can walk less than a block to five art galleries, four bars, five restaurants.

It's the neighborhood thus that has made New Haven home for us (and our children) and not "New Haven" itself. The spatial proximity of creature comforts, leisure activities, the necessities of food and culture have created a latitude and lassitude in time: it moves more slowly, more relaxedly, more satisfactorily, with less alienating effects as I wave at friends going north along my block to synagogue or walking their children south along it to school or heading in either direction with dogs in tow or on bikes or in jogging suits.

Were I to leave New Haven, what I would miss is not its individual places or events but entire gestalt of a community created in a small corner of the city."

As reported recently in the New Haven Independent, neighbors are working on numerous Complete Streets submissions to make this neighborhood even better. If you live in Westville and want to get involved in making your streets even more able to foster a sense of community and local pride, please contact the Westville Village Renaissance Alliance (WVRA) or your local Alderperson.

Outside the historic core, not all of Westville is so walkable. Phil Langdon writes in the New Urban News about how Whalley Avenue, a main thoroughfare through the area, is an example of the Connecticut Department of Transportation's failure to address traffic safety issues. After an 11 year old was killed in a hit and run, the City of New Haven actually approved ConnDOT's widening of the road from two lanes to four lanes, which will make speeds even higher.

Friday, May 6, 2011

First Annual "Fair Haven Family Stroll": Saturday, May 7

Come out to the Quinnipiac River Park (corner of Grand Avenue and Front Street in New Haven) on Saturday, May 7, 2011 from 11am - 3pm for the first annual Fair Haven Family Stroll. The event is a fundraiser for four Fair Haven-based childcare centers - Alexis Hill Montessori School, Centro San Jose, Farnam Neighborhood House, and the Heights' Friends Center for Children.

The event will include a "stroll" around the Bridge Loop over the Quinnipiac to raise money to support existing families and to expand programs to reach more neighborhood families. All who register for the stroll or sponsor a "stroller" for at least $10 will receive a grocery tote bag filled with information about local resources, including a family resource map of Fair Haven and Fair Haven Heights.

Also, between 11am and 3pm there will be a festival in the park, with family-friendly activities including story-telling, yoga, dance, interactive music, food, and lots of arts and crafts.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

NHPD Chief Limon Wonders: When Will ConnDOT Stop Designing Roads That Kill People?

This March, the state's first Traffic Safety Conference was held at Yale-New Haven Hospital. According to attendees, the meeting addressed a broad scope of injury prevention factors -- examining motorcycle safety, the use of child car seats, impaired (cell phone distraction, substance abuse) driving, safety for new and old drivers, and enhanced police enforcement.

To read a complete round-up of the event, please see "When will transportation departments start making roads safe for all?", by Phil Langdon of the New Urban News. Mr. Langdon writes that while traffic deaths have fallen dramatically, safety advocates and officials still pay far too little attention to the potential of better street design. Public comments at the bottom of Langdon's piece are also helpful to illustrate current conditions in New Haven.

Though its focus was on other injury prevention factors, the Traffic Safety Conference also highlighted CT DOT's inadequate application of proper street design for cities in our cities. New Haven Police Chief Frank Limon showed two very striking maps, one of vehicular accidents, the other of vehicular violations. In Limon's maps, the traffic violations (like running red lights) were focused on typical New Haven streets, which are sometimes patrolled by traffic enforcement officers particularly within pedestrian-heavy retail districts. But fatal accidents were concentrated along the state roads (which also serve as city arterials) that have been recently rebuilt to DOT standards -- roads with wide and multiple turn lanes in car oriented environments like Foxon Road and Ella Grasso Boulevard.

Limon spoke at length about the intersection of Derby Avenue and Ella Grasso Boulevard, a spot that has seen dozens of severe crashes. In this location, ConnDOT installed multiple turn lanes, and broad expanses of pavement, within the past five years. Chief Limon advised: "Don't go near it."

Limon's data presented a clear case of what New Urban planners and traffic safety advocates have long argued -- that the wider lanes and higher speeds in single use zones create congestion and fatal accidents.

It is of great concern to many citizens that the current planning for the rebuilding of the Route 34 Connector and Route 34 West around the hospital zone is focused, as these failed DOT projects are, on maximizing high-speed travel lanes (aided and abetted by underground service roads). Dozens of public meetings and workshops have been held over the past year, in which hundreds of New Haven residents have demanded walkable and bikeable streets, traffic demand management and transit development rather than yet another at-grade urban highway.

Mr. Langdon's article argues that ConnDOT has largely failed the city over the past few years, not just because of deadly road projects like Ella Grasso Boulevard and Foxon Road, but also due to its negligent designs within smaller neighborhood districts like Westville and Whalley/Edgewood (shown in the photo here). Mr. Langdon notes:

Even today, DOT continues to carry out pedestrian-hostile projects in New Haven. Mark Abraham, leader of the New Haven Safe Streets Coalition, points to the current widening of Whalley Avenue, a thoroughfare that carries commuter traffic between downtown New Haven and suburban Woodbridge.

Says Abraham: "Whalley Avenue, in a densely settled area of New Haven, along a site that has been the scene of hundreds of crashes, including one that killed an 11-year-old girl in a hit-and-run, was unfortunately converted from a 2-lane road into a 4-lane road with no pedestrian medians, raised intersections, or other measures typically used to make streets in urban areas safer to pedestrians. In addition, there are long sections with no crosswalks whatsoever...." "Hundreds of neighbors and elected officials pressed for reasonable design changes, but the DOT, working in tandem with city government, was simply unwilling or unable to take significant steps that would have made the area safer but also supported retail activity along the street. Recent studies have shown that walkable streets have far fewer retail vacancies and 50 percent higher retail rents."

Alderman Dildine said that in his view,” a road diet is the only solution for residential neighborhoods.” DOT, he said, often seems to drag its heels on initiatives and policies that would make places function better for people who are not behind the wheel.

NHTSA has consistently found that three of every 10 fatal motor vehicle crashes involve speeding. In 2000, 30 percent of fatal crashes involved speeding. In 2009, despite progress in other respects, 31 percent of fatal crashes involved speeding. And as research has shown, the speed of a motor vehicle is what’s lethal for a pedestrian. Bring down the speed and a person who’s hit by a car has a far greater likelihood of surviving.

What all of this tells me is that community design, and particularly street design, are crucial ingredients in traffic safety. Communities are not going to be able to control driver behavior adequately through ticketing, red-light cameras, distracted-driver campaigns, and other measures of those sorts. Street design has to be an important element in the government response. Street design must be on the agenda of any conference looking for comprehensive solutions to the reduced, but still grievous, plague of traffic deaths.

At the very least, Langdon concludes, it is time for state transportation departments to stop the lip service and to start making real changes.

Anstress Farwell contributed a portion of the text within this online post.