New Haven hosts workshop to solicit community feedback on Safe Routes for All plan
The new plan recommends infrastructure improvements in New Haven to make streets safer for pedestrians, cyclists and bus riders.
Isaac Yu, collaborating photographer
Wednesday evening at Scantlebury Park in Dixwell, the City of New Haven hosted a Safe routes for everyone workshop as part of community outreach efforts to make the streets of Elm City safer.
In 2019, New Haven adopted the Safe Routes for All plan, a document that aims to create a master plan for improving public infrastructure in New Haven. In its first phase in 2020, the city installed low cost infrastructure reducing traffic around the city. Currently, the plan is being implemented in New Haven through partnerships with consulting firm Street Plans, the city’s transportation department, Community Alliance for Research and Engagement (CARE) and Safe Streets.
“Essentially, we’ll have a plan that serves as a model for the whole city,” said CARE director Alycia Santilli. “So anytime a street is repaved or there’s new construction or there’s a new federal grant on the streets of New Haven, we’ll have a plan to make it more bike-friendly,” more pedestrian-friendly and improve cycling infrastructure. ”
The Safe Routes for All plan consists of three parts: Ride New Haven, Walk New Haven and Bike New Haven.
Bike New Haven aims to improve streets for cyclists by increasing the mileage of dedicated bike lanes in New Haven by 150%, implementing continuous bike lanes, and introducing improvements to bike intersections, such as bike boxes, signal changes and prohibition to turn right on red signals.
For Bradley Street Bicycle Co-op owner John Martin, the need for safe streets is of particular importance as his friend was hit and killed by a car while driving. He said he believed the changes the plan would implement could save lives.
“The streets are a public space and we have a lot of them. You don’t need to have three cars in your house, ”Martin said. “May be [with the plan] you would need to drive around a block to find a parking space, but that sacrifice you would make, the return, would literally be that people didn’t die.
Walk New Haven aims to make the streets safer for pedestrians by upgrading the 10 most dangerous intersections by 2031, installing safety measures such as elevated crosswalks and wider touch pads, and installing plazas and temporary walks.
Ride New Haven aims to improve bus routes by improving bus stops in high-traffic lanes, installing dedicated bus lanes, educating community members to inspire residents to improve their bus stops and installing more bike stops nearby and at bus stops to improve availability of bikes.
The plan aims to implement these projects in an equitable manner by allocating a fixed budget each year for the improvement of pedestrians, public transport and bicycles in the BIPOC and working-class areas of the city.
However, Santilli added that the main challenges of the plan are funding, implementation and community trust. She said five years is an ambitious timeline for implementing the plan.
Martin said there is a lack of cycling infrastructure. He added that the Safe Routes for All plan is not the only initiative that aims to make streets safer for cyclists and pedestrians, citing last year Twenty is a lot campaign that advocated for the city’s speed limit to be lowered from 25 to 20 miles per hour.
At the event, Mayor Justin Elicker said “a comprehensive traffic plan is vital to the health of the city and impacts every resident.” He noted that the most common request he receives when canvassing city residents is to build more speed bumps.
Elicker added that as a local cyclist, the city has come a long way over the past decade to make cycling trips safer. Despite this, he still believes that there is still work to be done, but that there could be difficulties in implementing the plan.
“Some elements of the plan may eliminate a lane of traffic for a car or eliminate a lane of parking for a car to further facilitate access for pedestrians and bicycles,” Elicker said. “These growing pains can be difficult for people. [By] by eliminating traffic lanes, some people may fear that it will be slower to get from one place to another.
According to Elicker, the public should participate in the implementation of the plan even if it means that some elements are not realized.
However, Kevin McCarthy, a workshop participant and New Haven resident, raised concerns about the level of audience engagement at the workshop. Twenty to 25 people attended the workshop.
“The city of New Haven is more or less evenly divided – black, white and brown – and this crowd is not,” said McCarthy, referring to the predominantly white crowd. “I was talking to an organizer, and there was awareness, but [the meeting’s lack of diversity] is noticeable.
McCarthy added that the meeting’s lack of representation makes it difficult to gain community support for the Safe Routes for All plan.
He also said there are tensions between the cycling community and the city as a whole and said the plan should stress that infrastructure changes would also support pedestrian and bus safety. For example, he advocated for bicycle racks on buses to encourage people who live in the suburbs to cycle in the city.
“There are people who would benefit from repairing sidewalks, there are people who would benefit from cycle paths and there are people who would benefit from more frequent bus service. These are all good things, but there is a limited pot of money, ”McCarthy said.
According to Dana Wall, senior project manager for street maps, community feedback and accident data indicate Chapel Street and Whalley Avenue are the most dangerous streets in New Haven. Wall said one of the points of interest in the plan is to set up bike lanes at intersections like Chapel Street and Whalley Avenue so people can safely cycle for at least a continuous mile.
Currently, there are only 17 miles of bike trails in New Haven, with the proposed plan to double that to 36 miles.