NEW HAVEN — As many people — seven this year so far including five in August alone — have been killed by cars as by guns this year in New Haven.
That stark statistic along with other more recent outbreaks of a kind of traffic violence — including six pedestrian/cyclist collisions with cars in late September, and a trending national crisis in pedestrian and cyclist deaths — were at the heart of a public hearing at City Hall.
The hearing Tuesday night, held by the Board of Alders Public Safety Committee, was requested by Downtown Alder Abigail Roth and Prospect Hill/Newhallville Alder Steve Winter. It was a followup to a similar hearing last year, at which time they learned that there were 92 accidents involving cyclists and 165 involving pedestrians. That also was alarming data.
The August carnage led to a call for action on the “slaughter taking place on our streets.”
Tuesday night a full phalanx of public officials — from the police, transportation, traffic and parking, public works, and engineering departments — faced the alders for three hours of polite yet intense questioning.
While alders expressed gratitude for new bike lanes, painted safety areas, and other improvements, they pressed officials on where and why the accidents are occurring. They asked how the statistics on crashes and the operations of the now 10-year-old Complete Streets improvements program can be augmented and made more accessible to the public. And they sought clarification on data collection, enforcement, and other interventions, large and small, that are in the offing.
Only three members of the public testified, including Williams Street resident Aaron Goode, who termed the situation a full blown crisis demanding from city officials “a full court press.” Goode termed current enforcement lax, contributing to a “permissive atmosphere for distracted driving.”
Alders voted Tuesday night to communicate their concerns to the full board and to continue pressing officials, perhaps in more regular meetings of the Complete Streets working group.
Roth called attention to the tenth anniversary of the Complete Streets program, which enlists departments to respond to public applications for street improvements at dangerous locations for pedestrians and cyclists.
“Let’s celebrate 10 years of Complete Streets,” she said as she read a letter written by East Rock cycling advocate Rob Rocke into the public record, “by focusing on how to change the cycle of traffic violence. We’re not living up to the spirit of Complete Streets.”
Alders and officials acknowledged that solutions are complex with a tangle of moving parts, and shared jurisdictions between the city and state, among other challenges.
Winter said he thinks more regular meetings with officials might be in order to keep officials’ feet to the fire to address the issues.
“We really want to solve these problems,” said City Engineer Giovanni Zinn. “I’ve got four kids” and plenty of neighborhood speeders.
This story appeared originally at www.newhavenindependent.org/