Lucas Holter, Senior Photographer
Traffic safety activists are ready to charge full steam ahead into the next few months with their advocacy for safer streets.
In a monthly mobilization meeting on Wednesday evening, the Safe Streets Coalition of New Haven tackled several issues, including outlining their future plans. Legislation was at the top of agenda, with members tracking a number of bills currently being considered by the Connecticut General Assembly.
One of those bills is H.B. 5429, an omnibus traffic safety bill that includes provisions for a speed enforcement camera pilot program, as well as local control of speed limits. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Roland Lemar, D-New Haven, was approved by the Connecticut House of Representatives’ transportation committee with the support and testimony of many Safe Streets members. According to Safe Streets member Lior Trestman, who was part of a group that met with Lemar, further advocacy is needed to get the bill on the governor’s desk.
“We’re really excited about how the public hearing and final vote in the committee went,” Trestman said. “Our goals are to continue to push for co-sponsorships, asking other groups around the state to push their representatives and senators to put their names on the bill.”
One of the group’s aims is to get all New Haven-area elected officials to support H.B. 5429. This weekend, several Safe Streets members will begin a flyer campaign around the city to raise constituent awareness, while others plan to request meetings with their own representatives to strengthen support for the bill.
Safe Streets members are also planning to make strong showings at hearings for other transit-related bills, such as S.B. 884. That bill would make Connecticut part of a coalition, called the Transportation and Climate Initiative, of states lowering transportation-related carbon emissions. The group is also focused on S.B. 1024, a zoning reform bill supported by Desegregate Connecticut. Transit, Traffic and Parking Director Doug Hausladen ’04 wrote an op-ed for the New Haven Register in support of the bill, noting that the New Haven Parking Authority voted on Monday to become a supporting organization.
“No matter what town in Connecticut you live in, parking requirements raise your cost of living and diminish the vitality of your downtown,” Hausladen said. “In 2021, parking requirements drive up costs, remove valuable assets from other uses, and cause immeasurable harm to the environment.”
If passed, S.B. 1024 would implement a series of caps on the minimum parking requirements that towns can impose on building developers. Proponents argue that this would limit wasted parking spaces in cities like New Haven, allowing urban planning to be more efficient.
The group’s advocacy extends to local policy as well. Ward 7 Alder Abby Roth and Ward 17 Alder Steve Winter, as well as Safe Streets organizer Lorena Mitchell, encouraged members to mark their calendars for the Elm City’s upcoming budget season.
“We believe that the city should continue to fund important infrastructure projects, and traffic violence is an epidemic,” Mitchell said. “Presenting testimony could be as simple as saying … ‘I believe that [traffic safety] is a priority for our city.’ Adding that voice and that support is super effective.”
Residents will be given an opportunity to voice their opinions on city spending at the public Board of Alders budget meetings scheduled for March 30 and May 10. Multiple Safe Streets members said on Wednesday that they plan to testify at those meetings.
Some Safe Streets members voiced concerns that in the event the city does not receive enough increased state funding through the PILOT program, the transportation and engineering departments could face budget decreases — even as transit officials are pushing forward a slew of new safety projects such as the upcoming Safe Routes for All plan.
“We are tiny, tiny departments that do not deserve the cuts that we’ve taken over the last six or seven years,” Hausladen said.
Beyond legislation, advocates made plans to investigate a city proposal for adding a two-way bike lane on Union Street, with Hausladen volunteering to lead residents on a ride-through of the area. Officials also announced their plans for a variety of initiatives, including Bike Month in May and imminent changes to York Street and Columbus Avenue as part of the city’s Downtown Crossing Project — which aims to increase connectivity for pedestrians and cyclists between Downtown and the Hill.
The Safe Streets Coalition of New Haven was formed in 2019.
Isaac Yu | firstname.lastname@example.org