GSA report tackles bike safety

GSA report tackles bike safety
Photo by Yale Daily News.

Almost 1,000 Yale cyclists could benefit from new bike lanes and safer streets if the Yale Graduate Student Assembly’s new bike plan finds support in city government.

Following a May 2012 report that identified several dangerous intersections, the GSA approved a proposal on Oct. 31 that seeks to improve bicycle safety in and around Yale’s campus. The GSA sought feedback on the proposal — which includes recommendations like the creation of bike lanes on York, Chapel and Grove streets, along with several other infrastructural changes — and submitted it to Elm City Cycling, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving bicycle safety in the Elm City. GSA member Dan Spakowicz GRD ’13 said the GSA plans to submit the proposal to the New Haven Office of Transportation after incorporating suggestions from EEC and various Yale departments.

“Some other members of the GSA and I are avid bicyclists,” said Patrina Pellett GRD ’14, GSA member and lead author of the new plan. “We all commute around New Haven, and drivers can be really aggressive and try to run you over.”

Tom Harned, a member of the ECC board and a representative on New Haven’s Complete Streets Steering Committee, said 15.5 percent of New Haven residents use non-motorized means to commute to work — the highest proportion of the 10 largest cities in New England. Though Yale’s 2011 Commuter Transportation Survey found that nearly 1,000 commuters travel to Yale by bicycle, Spakowicz said the GSA’s report found several local intersections to be dangerous for cyclists, highlighting the intersection of South Frontage and York, where a medical school student was killed in 2008, as a particularly dangerous intersection. Data in the report suggest that there is similar probability of such an incident happening at other intersections, such as the intersection of York and Elm. Eight students who regularly bike on campus said they supported the GSA proposals. Jordan Brower GRD ’16 said one of his friends fell face-first into the side panel of a car while biking.

“Even the most responsible bikers suffer mishaps here,” he said.

Though students expressed concerns over bike safety in New Haven, Yale recently received bronze-level status from the League of American Cyclists, making it one of only 44 “Bicycle Friendly Universities” in the country. The GSA’s plan highlights some of the improvements the city has made in the past year, including the addition of over 20 miles of bike lanes and “sharrows” — a shared lane marking that indicates to drivers that they should expect cyclists on the road. Though Spakowicz said 10 to 15 percent of New Haven residents are cyclists, he added that the city reserves less than 1 percent of its transit budget for pedestrian and cyclist infrastructure.

Pellett said the GSA hopes the city and the Yale Office of Sustainability will help bring their proposals to fruition, but she added that the group currently has no funding for the plan. The GSA will present the proposal to various Yale departments within the week, including the Office of New Haven and State Affairs.

“We want to make this a living document,” Pellett said. “We want to present it to different offices and get their feedback and incorporate it into the plan.”

David Streever, who is on the ECC board, said the GSA’s plan is important because it addresses the streets surrounding Yale — an area that ECC’s annual report does not cover in great detail.

New Haven Director of Transportation Jim Travers was unable to comment on the likelihood of the GSA’s proposal gaining approval from the city because he has not yet seen the report, but Streever said Travers has been receptive to cycling issues in the past. Still, Streever said the city as a whole does not always reflect Travers’ support when it comes time to spend money.

“The city really needs to be a little more visionary and just take ideas and run with them, and if they don’t have the funding now, they should still form a plan that would show the long-term improvement,” Streever.

The GSA report states that bike lanes have been shown to reduce riding on sidewalks, which is illegal in New Haven, by almost 60 percent.

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