Collision Ended “Helper’s” Life

by Paul Bass | October 26, 2009 3:51 PM | | Comments (44)

DSCN5922.JPGAs police pieced together how a homeless man ended up dead on Church Street, a bottle of mouthwash appeared to figure into the picture.

A bottle of generic mouthwash from Rite Aid was lying on the street near pedestrian Bryan Neff when he collided with a moving car at 8:30 p.m. Friday. Neff was pronounced dead around 1:45 a.m. Saturday due to head injuries suffered in the crash.

Neff and his friends drank mouthwash on a regular basis. He appears to have purchased a fresh bottle just moments before the accident.

On Monday, downtown beat cop Paul Kenney returned to the scene and nearby blocks to try to learn about Neff’s final hours, in an attempt to get a fuller picture of what led up to his death.

The police don’t believe the driver was at fault or was speeding, according to department spokesman Officer Joe Avery.

Like other cops at the scene of the collision Friday night, Kenney recognized Bryan Neff. He recognized the round, gold-rimmed glasses on the street near Neff’s bleeding body. Neff was a regular fixture downtown, one of 10 or so adults who move from spot to spot during the day and evening, drinking.

Kenney also had a good sense of why the full bottle of generic Listerine-style mouthwash was at the scene. From what he has been able to piece together so far, it seemed that Neff and his pal “Italian Frankie” had just purchased a bottle of the mouthwash at the Rite-Aid at the corner of Crown and Church. They were then crossing the street, possibly staggering. It was dark and rainy. Frankie made it across the street. Neff, according to witnesses, seemed to have darted into the side of a moving car and hit the ground, never to recover.

“It is a myth that you can’t die from a low-speed collision with a car,” Officer Kenney said. “It’s how you fall. It’s how you land.”

The driver, who lives in New Haven, said on Monday afternoon that he didn’t want to talk about the incident.

Neff and some of his friends drank versions of Listerine on a regular basis, according to Carmella Stankiewicz, a member of their informal group.

“These guys have been drinking it for years,” she said. “They must have the cleanest insides of anyone I know. How they survived this long, I don’t know.”

TraceyMoore.JPGAt the pocket park by the Chapel Street bus stop between Church and Orange Streets, Stankiewicz and other friends Monday recalled Neff as a kind-hearted soul who rarely caused trouble. The pocket park is one of the stops where Neff would hang out with friends each day; others included the bus stop at 55 Church, Pitkin Plaza, Temple Street near Chapel at the edge of southern edge of the Green, and the bench outside Artspace at Crown near Orange.

Tracey Moore (pictured), who’s 38, said she grew up with Neff. They attended junior high and high school together in North Haven. She continued to hang out with him in downtown New Haven each day. She described him as “a regular kid, a nice kid” growing up, not into any special activities.

“He was a drinker [in his later years]. You know that. I know that. He didn’t do drugs. He didn’t steal. he didn’t hurt nobody. He was a good kid,” Moore said.

“He had his moments. But more often he was helping.”

She and Stankiewicz said Neff would help people who were too drunk to walk or needed other assistance.

Officer Kenney said Neff has been part of the downtown drinking and panhandling crowd for the past five years. He had a prior address in Wallingford. Kenney didn’t know if Neff had had worked in the past.

He did know that Neff rarely caused trouble. Occasionally he would be boisterous with some friends; Kenney would break up them up for a while, perhaps write a warning ticket. But that was the exception.

Like others on the downtown circuit, Neff usually had a place to sleep. He was recently with a friend in the apartment of a man in a wheelchair whom he helped around town.

“He was always in clean clothes. He was never dirty or soiled,” Kenney recalled. “He had different clothes on each day — not what you think of as a homeless person.”

Many of the people in circumstances like Neff whom Kenney encounters downtown either technically have places to live or are “homeless by choice,” “service resistant,” he said. They don’t trust the shelters. They’re not interested in drying out. They take their chances in the street.

DSCN5906.JPGRobin Crane (pictured speaking with Officer Kenney) said Neff’s parents had moved to Vermont.

Kenney made the rounds Monday, trying to separate “what’s fact, what’s fiction” in the stories he heard. He had already put in quite some time on the case. Friday night he was about to go sleep, having worked a 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. shift, when he got a call to come to the scene of the collision. He ended up working until 6:30 a.m. Before hitting the street to interview people Monday, he went up to the state’s chief medical examiner’s office in Farmington for the autopsy.

This may not be a high-profile case with arrests pending or dramatic court appearances. CNN and Fox News won’t be setting up satellite trucks to report on it live. But the full story hasn’t yet been told. Kenney and his colleagues plan to do their best to tell it.

Meanwhile, a liter of Rite Aid’s house-brand mouthwash was selling for $3.99 Monday, next to the Listerine brand at $5.99.

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Posted by: anon | October 25, 2009 12:07 AM

If he was crossing from Dunkin Donuts, at Center, that means he was legally in a crosswalk. Drivers are required to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk.

Why won't the city stripe this crosswalk? Are the lives of Dunkin Donuts patrons less important than the lives of Yale Students? (a crosswalk is striped at Wall and College, which is the exact same situation)

Posted by: fingers | October 25, 2009 4:07 PM

they won't stripe it because there are crosswalks at chapel and church AND crown and church.

The crosswalk at wall street and temple is horrible. too many people. i avoid it all the time.

Posted by: Tragedy | October 25, 2009 4:08 PM

This is very sad. May his loved ones find peace.

Anon -- there is no crosswalk at Center Street going over Church because it is an illegal location to cross Chapel. There are a crosswalk, lights, and timed crossing signal half a block away at Chapel and Church. There is also a crosswalk and stop sign to allow crossing over Center abutting Church near the bus stop and Dunkin Donuts.

Posted by: Norton Street | October 25, 2009 5:07 PM

"The crosswalk at wall street and temple is horrible. too many people. i avoid it all the time."

I know, right; aren't people awful? When is someone finally going to invent a suction tube transportation system that allows individuals to move about without ever having to come into contact with others especially pedestrians.

This man may have been dumb to walk out into the street and expect anything less than to be killed by a car, but we as Americans are far dumber for having allowed and persued a way of life dependent upon cars. We have ruined out cities and towns, developed horrible changes in architecture, become used to living out of scale lifestyles and we are a people who blame pedestrians for getting hit by cars.

The street is the public realm, it always has been, it always will be. This period of accepting an arbitrary set of boundaries and laws for how to occupy streets in a car is going to be very short lived.

we've given up this:

for this:

Obviously, the conditions in the above photo are dirty and crowded, but remember that is the Lower East Side, which is of a different scale than New Haven. It is idiotic to think that we cannot replicate these conditions today and make them far sanitizer. Wouldn't it be nice to expand out farmer's markets by reclaiming our streets for the public?

Or we could always turn State Street into:
to help suburban commuters get to downtown 3 seconds faster.

Posted by: anon | October 25, 2009 5:16 PM

Please refer to Connecticut General Statutes Chapter 249. Every corner is a crosswalk, whether or not one is striped: See here for a useful video.

Are you arguing that people deserve to die just because you think that they shouldn't be crossing here, even in the face of 1) the law; 2) the very high prevalence of disabled, elderly, children in the area, who tend to be the ones killed; and 3) the fact that many intersections that are identical to Church & Center -- e.g., in wealthier parts of the city like near Yale or in East Rock -- are clearly marked as legal crosswalks with bright, fresh paint?

This might be easy for you to say, but try walking these blocks every day of the year, and getting to know the neighbors -- you might gain a new perspective.

Posted by: Brian | October 25, 2009 8:41 PM

If I have interpreted the situation accurately, and the man was crossing within the extension of a sidewalk across a three-way intersection, then he was, in fact, crossing within a legal crosswalk according to Connecticut State Statutes.

Also, I believe the speed limit on Church Street is 25 mph. I'm no expert, but I had previously been under the impression that it is very difficult to injure somebody seriously enough to kill them at speeds less than 25 mph. Unless this man was particularly frail, it would appear that the driver must have been speeding in order for this to have happened.

Overall, I would say there is grounds to investigate this collision as vehicular manslaughter. It will be interesting to see how they handle this.

Posted by: Elm City Beat | October 26, 2009 10:10 AM

Would anyone know if this was "Roger" who frequents this area?

Posted by: JP | October 26, 2009 10:13 AM

Even if you paint the street it wouldent help since there is no stop light. the real problem is the bus stop. you cant see around the busses to see if there is on comeing traffic. Also can you point out any other crosswalk downtown that is not at a light? I can't think of one. In a few years church will be a two way street so maybe that will get people to cross at the proper points.

Posted by: ELD4676 | October 26, 2009 10:30 AM

I frequently park on Center, and often see people crossing at Church & Center. As JP stated, itís a horrible intersection due to the bus stop. Even if CT statutes make Church & Center a legal crossing, it really shouldnít be. Itís just too dangerous with buses pulling in and out.

Posted by: Terryandgirls | October 26, 2009 11:06 AM

Thank you for the update.

Posted by: streever | October 26, 2009 11:12 AM

JP: but you are wrong

that IS a proper point, and the city is potentially liable.

The reason I heard for not striping it is the hill right before reducing visibility: I say, paint a box in the street that says, "SLOW
Pedestrian walk-way ahead" or use an in-road sign just before the hill.

People see in-road markings/signage--

Posted by: Norton Street | October 26, 2009 11:21 AM

JP and Eld,
The problem is not the bus stop. The REAL problem is that there are too many vehicles on the road. There are too many vehicles in this country. Not nearly enough rail is being used, not nearly enough walking (and not nearly enough places where walking is comfortable), and not nearly enough good public transportation.

Posted by: bunker | October 26, 2009 11:26 AM

It's not "Roger".

Posted by: nfjanette [TypeKey Profile Page] | October 26, 2009 11:36 AM

Overall, I would say there is grounds to investigate this collision as vehicular manslaughter. It will be interesting to see how they handle this.

A inquiry into the history of incidents such as this one disproves many of the theories posted in the form of comments on these tragic stories about pedestrian deaths. From what I can find, in the vast majority of cases - including every fatal incident in New Haven over the past few years for which the drier was known, as reported in NHI - no charges were brought against the driver. There is legal theory and there is legal reality, and thankfully, that reality accommodates the concept of pedestrian fault. Assuming lawful operation (not speeding, etc.) there are limits to the responsibility and ability of motor vehicle operators to avoid sudden appearances of people that have walked into the path of the oncoming vehicle.

Posted by: Bruce | October 26, 2009 12:00 PM

Very, very sad. I don't see how they can determine that speed was not a factor. The pedestrian fatality rate from 20-40 mph jumps from 5% to 85% (

The limit in New Haven is 25, so it is more likely that this guy would be alive if the driver were following the legal limits.

Posted by: Greg | October 26, 2009 12:24 PM

JP, there's a crosswalk for each street at the intersection of Orange and Court - no light.

The buses are a huge issue at this intersection, they cut down on visibility both in terms of pedestians and vehicles. Also, some of the buses pull a few feet away from the curb without intending to pull into traffic yet - they're just testing the waters - and this can cause problems with the drivers coming up Church St.

I wonder if this is Brian from the Listerine Crew.

Posted by: Bill | October 26, 2009 12:45 PM

Norton Street,
The standard of living in your utopia was poverty for the masses and that was when poverty was real. A society built on that model could not exist with a modern standard of living with the number of people who live in this country. Transportation is key component of a successful society.

Posted by: ROBN | October 26, 2009 12:48 PM

I know a lot of street people by sight but not name...does the NHI have a picture of Bryan Neff?

Posted by: Q | October 26, 2009 1:29 PM

First of all, my condolences to Mr. Neff.

I kind of feel like we've got an eternally circling argument that's never really going to move anywhere. Norton Street and Anon have a perfectly good point.

That's a really really bad intersection, and yes it's dangerous. I've crossed there many times, and it's always at a jog, and when I'm damn sure that there is a red light further down.

However, that's the point. THIS IS A REALLY DANGEROUS INTERSECTION. This is not rocket science. The people saying that he was taking a risk are right. Darting across that street at 8:30pm on a friday night sounds like just about the most idiotic thing you can do.

None of those facts are in dispute, but everyone seems to be arguing as if they are.

It's not like by saying that Chapel street should be a slow boulevard makes it so. And it's not like by saying that it's dangerous absolves the city of figuring out a way to make it less so.

But this guy knew the risk he was taking. He was a regular to downtown and knew EXACTLY the problems at that area. He was taking a calculated risk to cross at a very dangerous intersection, and he crossed at precisely the wrong moment. Did he deserve to die? Of course not! Did he know that he was crossing at a risky intersection? Almost certainly so.

Posted by: robn | October 26, 2009 1:39 PM

ANON and BRIAN are incorrect.

ANON, you happen to be correct that a crosswalk exists (painted or unpainted) at the projection of sidewalks where they T into streets, however...

FIRSTLY, the existence of a crosswalk (painted or unpainted) doesn't always grant Right Of Way for the Ped. If a vehicle has a green signal before the Ped leaves the curb into a (painted or unpainted) crosswalk, and there isn't a sign like the one at Trumbull and Whitney specifically giving the Ped ROW, then the vehicle has the ROW. This is why...
CT General Statutes
Ch 249
Sec. 14-299.
Traffic control signals.
(b) When traffic at an intersection is alternately directed to proceed and to stop by the use of signals exhibiting colored lights or lighted arrows...
(1) Circular green alone: Vehicular traffic facing a green signal may proceed ...except that such traffic shall yield the right-of-way to pedestrians and vehicles lawfully within a crosswalk or the intersection at the time such signal was exhibited...

SECONDLY, in the specific case of Church and Center, the vehicle had the ROW. There is a jaywalking statute specifically designed to keep inner-city traffic flow regulated. (Not saying its right or just is what it is.)
CT General Statutes
Ch 249
Sec. 14-300b
Pedestrian use of crosswalks and roadways.
(b) No pedestrian....shall cross a roadway between adjacent intersections at which traffic or pedestrian-control signals are in operation except within a marked crosswalk.

Posted by: JP | October 26, 2009 1:47 PM

your right there is one there I didnít think of that. That is a 1 lane almost back alley though not a 5 lane main road (counting parking and bus lanes). I still donít understand how painting the road would help either way it a pedestrians obligation to make sure no one is coming and a drivers obligation not to hit a person if they are in the road some paint doesnít change anything. If the bus stop gets moved you will be able to see whatís coming at you before itís to late.

Posted by: Norton Street | October 26, 2009 1:53 PM

While it is true that there were big problems with 'the industrial city', the problem was not itself 'the idustrial city'. Its true, the standard of living was low, but in most cases the quality of life was good. A life defined by meaningful interactions with people, in beautifully diverse and detailed places, with jobs that produced necessary goods for the masses and local retail that reinvested capital into the community is a life of quality. That is surely better than our current isolation in single passenger vehicles, stuck in traffic for hours and hours a week just to go shopping in sensorally abusive public places in gigantically energy ineffiecient big box stores or to work in cubicles where all we do is push money around on computer screens or to go home to a cardboard house with vinyl siding and an enormous ugly garage to be with kids that hate their parents. Dense urbanism was not the problem of early 20th century America, overly dense urbanism was. The solution for this was thought to be modernism, which promised to open up the city. This was a complete failure. The correct solution would have been to IMPROVE urbanism, not destroy it.
I never called the Lower East Side circa 1900 "utopia", that is a gross mischaractization of what my opinions are. Saying such idiocy is exactly why this country has yet to solve the issues of poverty, lack of quality of life and working class job scarcity.
Its true that transportation is a key component. Reorganizing communities in order to use mass transit is the key, that is all I recommend and preach. Going back to the slums of industrial housing would be bad, I've said this many times in other posts. There is a balance between sprawl and extreme density, this balance can be found in New Haven's traditional neighborhoods.
It is important to recapture the sense of community and quality of life that was present in early 1900s urbanism while trying to best keep our standard of living. But if one has to be sacrificed more than the other that sacrifice must come from our standard of living. No one needs a 5000 square foot house, but everyone needs a sense of worth and acceptance.

Posted by: center street | October 26, 2009 1:53 PM

Photos on see click fix make it pretty clear the busses are a visual hindrances

Posted by: streever | October 26, 2009 2:37 PM


it comes down to if you think the risk should be death or not.

I am a big fan of calculated risk & being responsible for one's own well-being, but I question that the car was going 25 mph here. It'd be one of the few cars on Church street going the speed limit in my experience.

why not try to mark the road leading up to the crosswalk? I'm sure it could work, and it'd be worth trying. Make the whole section a pedestrian area & put in-road markings before the hill warning people to slow down. Drop the speed limit for that block to 15 mph.

Seriously, the most impact that will have on travel time is probably 15 seconds.

Posted by: AndersonScooper | October 26, 2009 2:37 PM

These downtown "T" intersections are a problem, and we're going to continue to have fatalities until they're addressed.

The simple solution is the City Hall fix. Do what they did in front of Mayor DeStefano's office and put in a traffic light, along with a crosswalk, and pedestrian call buttons.

If you sync it with the other lights, you're not really slowing down traffic. But you are out the cost of installation.

Other dangerous "T" intersections are High and George, Crown and Howe (which has a light), Edgewood and Park, ... (I'm sure NHI readership will come up with more.)

Trying to get across George at High Street is particularly dangerous, as the cars routinely drive at 40mph or more, and the cars coming out of the AT&T parking garage never yield to pedestrians, b/c, of course, there is no crosswalk!

Posted by: Morris Cove | October 26, 2009 3:32 PM

I don't know what the big argument is about, but the intersection of Center St., and Church St., is not a cross walk, the actual cross walk is at Chapel St., or Crown St.

I worked downtown years ago and people crossing at Center St., has always been a problem, they dodge cars like the video game Frogger around this intersection.

It appears to be a horific accident, but you can't put blame on the driver, was Mr. Neff wearing dark clothing?, did he step between a bus ?, there is not enough information to even make an informed opinion without sounding like a know it all. My sympathy to Mr. Neff and his family.

Posted by: Brian | October 26, 2009 4:30 PM

I'm glad that the Independent elaborated on this story. It raised a lot of aspects that were not readily apparent from the first report. I take back what I said in my first comment (made when the first report came out). What a tragedy. I hope Officer Kenny is able to get some sleep soon. It's nice to hear that he's doing such a thorough job.

Posted by: streever | October 26, 2009 5:39 PM

Morris Cove:
It is a LEGAL crosswalk as defined by State Statute. Please read the statute. With that being said, the man seems to have been at fault. I'm sorry for his passing, but I am grateful that the NHPD has an excellent officer in Kenney, who did some serious work.

Thanks NHPD, and NHI, for elaborating on this: it's starting to become standard that the officers do a fully investigation in these cases, and I'm grateful!

Posted by: Norton Street | October 26, 2009 6:03 PM

On the bottom right hand side of the photo, you can see a white line extending across the street. That is the cross walk for the corner of Center and Church. Center Street used to be two blocks (ending at Temple), and even with the demolition of the second block and the 4 way intersection, the crosswalks remains with the "T" intersection.
This type of ambiguity is actually one of the many problems created by the modernization of cities. What was once common sense knowledge, like pedestrians before cars, has been eroded due to our mutilation of the city's transportation infrastructure for the occomodation of cars. History tells us that streets in America are the public realm, there for everyone to use and enjoy; they are not simply a device used to get from point "A" to point "B" as quickly as possible, they are a place where beautifully detailed buildings, plazas and parks define outdoor space for the people who contribute to the city. Without historical context, our cities are meaningless and with a modern approach to changing cities comes the obliteration of history.

Here is Center Street (between Church and Temple) while it was being demolished:

Here is a balanced street:
Pedestrians can coexist with cars, cars with trolleys, trolleys with pedestrians. When cars numbers are limited, all other transportation modes (walking, biking, mass transit efficiency,etc) become more viable and pleasant.

Morris Cove, did you watch the video Anon posted?

"These downtown "T" intersections are a problem, and we're going to continue to have fatalities until they're addressed."
Cars are the problem here; there's too many of them. The solution doesn't lie in the paint, concrete and ashpalt that make up the physical street, it lies in the car dependent culture.

"there are limits to the responsibility and ability of motor vehicle operators to avoid sudden appearances of people that have walked into the path of the oncoming vehicle"
This is why too many cars is a bad thing. This limited ability of drivers to be able to prevent collision multiplied by the hundreds of thousands of vehicles on the raod everyday in New Haven County tells us that too many cars going on too many trips, to places too far away is a bad thing.

Look at New Urbanism, green architecture, look at what NYC has done on Broadway. This country is moving in a direction of smart growth, consolidation, walkability, and mass transit. If you aren't helping this transition, then you're evenutally gunna get run over by progress. The car dependent culture in America is coming to an end. Stop throwing a tantrem and help make this country better.

Posted by: robn | October 26, 2009 7:49 PM


After my last post I had a sinking feeling I was wrong and I re-combed the statutes for the legal definition of an intersection but could not find one. My assumption is that an intersection is the crossing of two streets and not a T.

If T is an intersection, then the Ped had right of way...if the T is not an intersection them Ch 249, Sec. 14-300b kicks in and the vehicle has the right of way.

Can anyone help? STREEVER...can you quote a specific passage in the statute defining a T as an intersection?

Posted by: Morris Cove | October 27, 2009 12:57 AM

Norton St.

I just saw the link, I'm always a little leary to click on these links because I'm afrraid of a virus. You mentioned Broadway, have you been, it's real mess, you are right there are too many cars, but whats the solution taking a bike to work?, mass transit?, my jobs take me all over the State, and I enjoy decompressing after a long day, I don't want to share my ride home with 30 to 40 people.

I thinks it was terrible accident that should have been avoided but there were several factors involved, and I'm sure the mouth wash in his pocket might have contributed to this.

And for the person who was concerned if it was Roger, it wasn't I saw him this evening by Black Bear ( if you are refering to shaggy salt and pepper hair Roger ), he's a fixture downtown and a really nice guy.

Posted by: Check It Out | October 27, 2009 9:06 AM

An intersection is the area within the prolongation of the lateral curb lines. Therefore, two streets that meet in a "T" would in fact be an intersection.

Posted by: Mister Jones | October 27, 2009 10:32 AM

Two guys walked into traffic on a dark rainy night. One guy made it, the other didn't. "Head injuries" is a polite term. I talked to two people who saw the gory details. It's horrific and sad, but that doesn't make it a crime.

None of this means that the driver was at fault, or that he had to be speeding for death to result, although both are of course possible. People crack their skulls just by falling down. A women was killed on State and Elm a few months ago when she darted in front of a vehicle that has just started up after being stopped at a light. The fact is that cars and pedestrians can be a deadly combination, and everyone needs to be very aware.

Posted by: anon | October 27, 2009 11:39 AM

"These downtown "T" intersections are a problem, and we're going to continue to have fatalities until they're addressed. The simple solution is the City Hall fix. Do what they did in front of Mayor DeStefano's office and put in a traffic light, along with a crosswalk, and pedestrian call buttons."

I agree with AndersonCooper's comment above.

Somehow, we can make intersections safe to cross at Yale, in front of the Omni, in Greenwich or Darien CT, or at the State Capitol building, but can't when lower-income people/children/minorities/bus riders/etc are present.

Makes you wonder why we continue to have these policies and who benefits.

Posted by: JCP | October 27, 2009 11:50 AM

I read the statute and could not find a mention of the "T" crosswalk. I also would like a specific reference. Do you have such a reference Streever or Check it Out?

Posted by: robn | October 27, 2009 1:24 PM

I think I found the definition of intersection and I think I was incorrect and that ANON and BRIAN were correct. I think that Center and Church IS and intersection and therefore the Ped had ROW....that being said, I don't know if its reasonable to hold the driver at fault if they were obeying the speed limit becuase it was dark and the pedestrian was stumbling.

CT General Statutes
Ch 246 Motor Vehicles
Sec 14-1 Definitions

(40) "Highway" includes any state or other public highway, road, street, avenue, alley, driveway, parkway or place, under the control of the state or any political subdivision of the state, dedicated, appropriated or opened to public travel or other use;

from footnotes
Definition of "intersection" (former Subsec. (18)) includes area embraced within prolongation of the lateral curb lines of two or more highways which join one another at an angle whether or not one such highway crosses the other. 152 C. 219. Cited. 165 C. 422.

Posted by: Pedro | October 27, 2009 3:52 PM

An aside...but it looks like Mr. Neff was crossing the street FROM the Rite-Aid, not from the intersection under discussion. Just puttin' it out there.

Posted by: Norton Street | October 27, 2009 3:53 PM

This is remarkable; people have justified man slaughter. Walking out into the middle of the street should not be considered a risk; in fact, it wasn't for all of human history up until about 50 years ago. New Haven's streets were not made solely for the circulation of cars, we are doing this city an injustice by misusing it.

****Ideally, people should not be killed and injured in the numbers that they currently are AND people should not be serving jail time because they accidentally hit someone with a car NOT BECAUSE its hard to control cars, its difficult to see at night, and/or pedestrians are bad walkers BUT BECAUSE the conditions that allow these two things to happen should not exist.****

Morris cove,
I spent the day in Manhattan 2 weeks ago and thoroughly enjoyed Broadway being closed down around Time's Square. I usually find Midtown's scale overbearing and oppressive, but the monstrous buildings become much more manageable and actually enjoyable when the size of the buildings can be experienced from the middle of the street as opposed to the sidewalk. So who is this a "real mess" for? I took the train into the city and walked around all day; it was great, no problems.
"I enjoy decompressing after a long day, I don't want to share my ride home with 30 to 40 people. "
Human beings are a social creature, if you find that being around fellow human beings while in public (outside you home) is unpleasant, perhaps civilization isn't for you. Also, this is one of the oldest cities in the country, designed on a traditional scale and street system that was never intended to carry the amount of cars it currently does. "Improvements (widening, paving, restriping, etc)" in streets has done little to alleviate these problems because cars grow to fit and exceed capacity in every example and most of the streets in the city are still in their traditional size.

Single passenger car traffic is going to get worse and worse, as cities across the country begin repairing the destruction done in the 50s and 60s. New York City, the most influential place in the world, shut down one of its major streets in the middle of the city, so that pedestrians could forcibly reclaim their public realm since there is no such thing as sharing when mass amounts of cars are involved. The turning point has occurred, its over, there are only 2 options now: continue fighting progress and remain dependent on cars, or change and help make the transition easier and faster. This isn't some wacky opinion of mine; this is what has happened.

Posted by: Q | October 27, 2009 11:54 PM

Norton Street, it looks like poor Mr. Neff drunkenly RAN INTO THE SIDE OF A CAR. The police feel the driver was neither speeding nor at fault. THIS WAS NOT MANSLAUGHTER.

I wonder if you realize that your hyperbole actually does great harm to your cause, turning away otherwise sympathetic citizens who agree with you on the merits.

Posted by: Norton Street | October 28, 2009 11:36 AM

If Mr. Neff did run into the side of the car, then the driver is not at fault.
If Mr. Neff was at either the corner of Center or Crown cross Church and was hit with the front of the car, the driver is at fault.
Either way I understand the difficulty in maneuvering whatever the exact situation was. It was dark, and the situation happened quickly; I can sympathize with the driver in that respect. I feel that if Mr. Neff was hit with the front of the car, the driver needs some reprimand. If the collision occured on the side of the car, the driver can walk away.

None of this changes the idea that streets should be safe for the public. In a society that puts life ahead of funding middle eastern countries, destroying air quality, wasting money on frequent road repairs, isolating people in boxes, separating people geographically, dividing neighborhoods AKA car culture, then we have a society where people can engage the street in most anyway they please and not have to worry about getting struck by a vehicle.

Posted by: Uncle Egg | October 28, 2009 4:05 PM

One of the arguments I've heard against striping mid-block sidewalks is that it can give pedestrians a false sense of security. They walk out into the street thinking they'll be safe, but drivers frequently miss them because mid-block is not usually a "danger zone" for drivers. The line of thinking is that it's better not to strip the intersection so that pedestrians don't cross expecting drivers to stop.

Posted by: anon | October 28, 2009 6:22 PM

Uncle Egg - that argument is also known as an excuse. By that argument, we shouldn't have any traffic signals or airbags either.

Why not design our cities so that they are livable places that balance the needs of all road users, not just prioritize speeding traffic above people's lives?

Posted by: William Kurtz | October 29, 2009 9:38 AM

The discussion of blame, fault, and responsibility, and the casual tossing around of words like 'manslaughter' (one word, NS) is misguided and does little to advance the conversation about safe streets in any useful or productive way. Assigning blame is judgmental, and while it may be useful in a criminal or civil court, it's a dialog stopper. Once we know who to 'blame' everyone else is off the hook--the other involved parties, the surrounding culture and expectations, the infrastructure, and so forth.

The 'blame' pie is more of a hot potato that no one wants to be left holding. It's better to talk about causes and reasons, which can be divided up in more precise proportions. There's enough of that pie to go around. Complex events have complex causes and the apparent and likely causes of this sad event include: weather and poor visibility, the lack of pedestrian-friendly infrastructure at the intersection, likely impairment on the part of the victim, likely inattention on the part of the driver, possibly speed, (while the police don't seem to think so, it's rare in my observation to see people driving at or under 25 mph, even if they're not going what we typically consider recklessly fast), and probably other ones, too.

Anon's point about street design is a good one. As a society we seem ready to design streets in accordance with how motorists actually behave, rather than how they should behave, but we don't extend that same courtesy to other users. The right-on-red law is a good example, as is creating four-lane mini-highways like Whalley and Whitney. Why not mid-block crosswalks? If motorists are going to be told to drive 25 but given a road that encourages them to do 40, why not give pedestrians an extra place to cross the street, rather than expecting them to walk up and down blocks to get across the street? It doesn't obviate the need for personal responsibility (point of fact, NS--walking in front of vehicles in the street has been a safety risk for a lot longer than 50 years. So it's probably a good idea for everyone to pay attention

Posted by: Norton Street | October 29, 2009 2:38 PM

Williams Kurtz,
Great post. As for my grammar and mispellings, I don't think I've ever posted a comment that was 100% grammatically correct.
Obviously people have been injured in the street for longer than 50 years. That's not what I said. Since America began organizing life around automobile use (1950 ish to present) the street has become defined as an unsafe place for people. This was not true when life was organized at a human or local scale (pre 1920s ish). Old photographs reveal that people used to casually cross the street at their leisure which was fine because there were few vehicles on the road, and the vehicles that were on the road moved extremely slowly. So what has changed is our perception of what is appropriate activity to take place on the street and what is the appropriate use of the street.
Also the street and sidewalk are one system of circulation, they are not separate. The sidewalk was created in order to prevent water that was draining from slashing up against the fronts of buildings. The elevation difference is not a hierarchy that was established to separate pedestrians from cars, it has to do with drainage. In Boston for example one can still see the brick sidewalk and brick street in tact with only a granite divider that blocks rain water from hitting people's feet. So its more than road design and crosswalks, its our society relearning how to inhabit a place.
Everything is for pedestrians, the street, the sidewalk, plazas, parks, houses, offices, stores, everything. The other stuff, cars, bicycles, buses, trolleys, airplanes, come second and are best accommodated for within respect to pedestrians. If we start from the assumption that streets are for vehicles, then we've already lost; not only that but we are failing to acknowledged and understand how past generations have inhabited places.

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