Pro-bike resolution passes

Cyclists gathered to support a more bike-friendly New Haven at a Board of Alderman Community Development Committee meeting held at City Hall Thursday night.

The city’s plan to redevelop Route 34, called the Downtown Crossing project, will replace the end of highway Route 34 with urban boulevards and commercial real estate. At Thursday’s BOA meeting, members of Elm City Cycling and the Safe Streets Coalition came together to support a resolution urging stronger bike and pedestrian-friendly features for the new design. The group asked specifically for a road of no more than three lanes, and after an evening of debate, it adopted the resolution with a vote of 4-3.

“We object to the over-building of the road and the main concern … is how quickly they get people off the highway,” Board Member of Elm City Cycling, David Streever said.

Streever added that the primary issue was cutting down the number of lanes on the new road. As the plan currently stands, the street would be 60 feet long, making one of the widest in the city, Streever said. A new development, however, would bring more cars into New Haven which may necessitate wider lanes in the future, committee Chairman and Ward 24 Alderman Marcus Paca said.

Since 2007, cycling enthusiasts and organizers have met with city officials in over 100 meetings dedicated to the Route 34 project. Cycling groups have also organized meetings between engineers and architects to propose alternatives, Streever said.

Paca opened the discussion saying that city officials are working to ensure the project stays within its economic limits, adding that the infrastructure development is essential for New Haven’s economic growth.

The project consists of two phases. The construction-oriented first phase already has $33 million of public funding. The second phase of the project, which is dedicated to pedestrian and bike safety, is currently unfunded, said Mark Abraham ’04, coordinator of the New Haven Safe Streets Coalition.

Even though they could not testify, ten bikers demonstrated their support at the meeting by holding signs in the Aldermanic Chambers, advocating “Make it walkable bikable livable” and “The city’s best streets have the calmest traffic.” Many of them, like William O’Grady and Juli Stupakevich, had stories of their own bike accident — O’Grady was involved in an accident with a truck and Stupakevich was injured in a hit-and-run while biking.

The biker-proposed resolution recommends that the city prioritize safety above other concerns, said Abraham, adding that city law already requires this prioritization.

“Bikes are an indicator species for the street environment,” said Anstress Farwell, president of the New Haven Urban Design League. “When conditions are safe for bikes, conditions are safer for all users of the streets — walkers, drivers included.”

Despite these claims, the city’s Office of Economic Development has expressed concerns that the resolution will limit planners and may delay the design schedule of the project, the office staff wrote in a joint letter to Paca.

“Just because we have the time crunch as a variable does not mean that we should rush through and have to live with poor infrastructure,” Stupakevich said.

The Office of Economic Development supports the resolution’s intentions, but its members felt the resolution’s specification for 2 to 3 lanes was too specific, said Kelly Murphy, the city’s economic development administrator.

The city will continue to meet with concerned citizens in the coming weeks, Murphy said.

Comments

  • streever

    I applaud the community development committee for supporting a broadly shared vision, articulated by thousands of residents over four years, at public meetings, in op-eds, and in over one hundred phone calls made in the last week alone.

    I would like to particularly applaud Dolores Colon, Claudette Robinson Thorpe, Bitsie Clark, and Greg Morehead for embracing a bold vision of a strong city with a vibrant economy and safety for all citizens.

    With great leadership like this, I am confident that New Haven can move forward toward a safer, economically stronger city.

    David Streever, Board of Directors, Elm City Cycling

  • Sara

    A post on the NHI has some helpful facts…

    A few facts may help:

    1. Currently, the crossing at College & North Frontage is 3 lanes. The last rendition of the city’s plan widens this to 4 lanes.

    2. The crossing at Church & North Frontage is currently four lanes. The latest rendition of the city’s plan widens this to at least five lanes.

    3. Currently, local residents call both of these areas a “death zone” and Chief Limon says to avoid them because they are so dangerous.

    4. Everyone supports new development, but building a death trap that will result in dozens more deaths and injuries per year is simply not going to be tolerated by residents. For example, the Board of Aldermen voted 30-0 to pass the city’s complete streets law in 2008. That law required the “prioritization of walkability, inter-modal transit, traffic calming and pedestrian-based urban economic development over competing goals,” and stipulated that the city’s “standards will require that the target speed for streets around schools, hospitals and business districts that depend on pedestrian traffic be a maximum of 15 miles-per-hour.” A similar bill at the state level passed by a wide margin as well and was signed into law in 2009. These laws were passed following the urgent requests from more than 3,000 residents including many currently on City staff.

    Why does the City propose to make all of these roads even more dangerous? Why are all the streets being widened into 50 mile per hour highways?

    The sorts of changes suggested by Economic Development are simply unacceptable for a dense urban environment, unless other mitigating measures to reduce speed (like those used in London) are deployed. Reducing speeds just during the peak hour doesn’t cut it – what about Saturday afternoons?

    To be frank, city staff should be ashamed to propose measures like these. If pressured to actually move forward with them, should consider resigning from office in solidarity with the overwhelming voice of the community.

    The Economic Development office talks a great game about compromise, but the fact is, they have not listened to a single recommendation along these lines from the hundreds of people who have come out in droves to public meetings. Very few of them are “cyclists.”