Zoe Berg

This year, Connecticut has seen an uptick in road safety accidents –– prompting city officials and local organizations to push for more stringent measures focusing on pedestrian and cyclist safety.

The city’s Transportation, Traffic and Parking Department is currently working on projects to increase pedestrian safety in New Haven, such as ensuring every traffic light in the Dwight, West River and Downtown neighborhoods have updated pedestrian signals. The city is also adding updated handicap ramps to these communities, according to Doug Hausladen ’04, the director of the department.

“Specifically in 2020, the state of Connecticut has seen a drastic increase in overall number of pedestrian deaths that has outstripped and outpaced the increases ever seen over the last decade, leading up to the record in 2019,” said Hausladen.

By updating pedestrian signals, Hausladen is moving away from exclusive phase pedestrian signals, which were the standard under Connecticut state policy. Exclusive phase pedestrian signals refer to all traffic being stopped at a traffic light, allowing for pedestrians on all sides to cross the street.

This year, after pressure toward the state from Hausladen and the department, the city is moving over to concurrent phase crossings, a system where pedestrians can cross adjacent streets while traffic is moving. The policy change also includes a “leading pedestrian interval,” which allows pedestrians to begin crossing a few seconds before vehicles are given the green light.

“[The pedestrian crossing interval] gives the pedestrians three, five, seven seconds of advanced walk time before the vehicles are given a green [light],” Hausladen told the News on Wednesday. “That puts the pedestrian in a place where they may be able to clear the conflict zone and the intersection … so it gives the pedestrian the ability to clear the conflict zone before the vehicles even start moving.”

In addition to efforts from the city, organizations like the New Haven Safe Streets Coalition are pitching in to try to make the streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists. Kai Addae, one of the Safe Streets leaders, has been advocating for the replacement of traffic lights with stop signs and helping with the city’s repaving and restriping projects.

“This would be the time to give feedback to the city and ask for better crosswalks or ask for a bike lane,” Addae said. “[We are] organizing meetings between residents and their alders and city officials so that they can have those conversations and figure out what will make their streets work for them.”

Addae also works part time at the Bradley Street Bike Co-op, a company which seeks to lessen transportation inequality in New Haven by providing bikes to those who need a mode of transportation.

Inspired by his work with the Bradley Street Bike Co-op, Kapp Singer ’23 is creating a website that will make the data in the Connecticut Crash Data Repository –– a database containing data on crash information collected by police throughout the state –– available and visualized onto an interactive map.

The website includes markers for bike lanes, pedestrian accidents and bicycle accidents from 2017 through 2020. Singer uses red dots to represent cyclist accidents and red outlined circles for pedestrian accidents. By clicking on them, the user is able to see the date the accident occurred, if there were any injuries and how serious the injuries were.

 “I wanted to experiment with these tools, and I thought this was a good way to learn how to do that,” Singer said. “It was something important that I wanted to show.”

The city has also been the recipient of multiple grants in order to improve safety conditions for residents. For almost two years, New Haven has received the Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The grant, which provides up to $3.8 million over a span of five years, focuses on decreasing racial and ethnic health inequality. The city also benefits from the Community Connectivity grant from the Connecticut Department of Transportation. This grant, which awarded $317,085 to the city, aims to improve conditions for bicyclists and pedestrians in the community.

With this grant money, the city is hoping to continue to improve the street safety by building sidewalks on Ella Grasso Boulevard, for example.

Hausladen also hopes to engage the community in the discussion of how to make the roads safer. On Sept. 30, city officials will gather on Dyer Street to present a safety project that will increase pedestrian crossings and add a bike lane to the street –– but only with the approval of the residents.

“We’re the infrastructure experts, but our residents are the neighborhood experts,” Hausladen said. “What we find most helpful is to go on a walk and just to talk to people about what their challenges are.”

He also identified other means of sharing traffic concerns, like the Yale Traffic Safety Committee — which works to improve traffic safety at Yale — and the SeeClickFix program, which allows New Haven residents to contact city officials about concerns they have on their walking routes.

According to data from the Connecticut Crash Data Repository, there have been 74 pedestrian crashes, 63 pedestrian injuries and seven pedestrian fatalities in New Haven in 2020.

Adam Levine | a.levine@yale.edu