Another Kid Hit By Driver At Winchester & Highland

A car struck a bicycle at the corner of Winchester Avenue and Highland Street Thursday afternoon and injured a young cyclist, the second such accident in a year.

The collision occurred around 5:30 p.m.

A woman was driving a blue Prius down the hill on Highland then preparing to turn right onto Winchester.

A 10-year-old boy was riding his bike through a crosswalk at that moment. The car hit the bike and, according to one account, sent it airborne.

Police received conflicting reports from eyewitnesses about whether the driver had come to a complete stop or not, according to Lt. Jeff Hoffman. The driver was not charged. The child sustained minor injuries, Hoffman said.

Another driver hit a child riding on a bike at the same intersection last year, according to Tammy Chapman, a neighborhood organizer who lives two doors away from that intersection. After the first accident, she worked with police to prepare an application to the city’s “Complete Streets” traffic-calming program. She submitted the application last November, seeking a speed bump at the intersection.

She said cars whip down Winchester, often ignoring the stop signs by the driver’s windows of school buses stopping to drop kids off.

Chapman expressed frustration Thursday that she has not yet heard back about the application despite repeated inquiries.

City Engineer Dick Miller said the committee is charge of Complete Streets is “absolutely” in the process of reviewing Chapman’s application.

“We have 60 of these things. That came late in the game” compared to some other applications, he said Friday.

Miller said he needs to study the intersection further before suggesting a traffic safety solution. He said he’s not sure the answer lies in speed bumps.

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posted by: anonymous on June 7, 2013  10:41am

Why can’t we go online and see exactly when every application was submitted, what was submitted (not just the top page that is currently posted online), who submitted it, and what review steps it has gone through so far?  That was the intent of the Complete Streets program. 

As we see that more and more of these requests are going unanswered, the public will be able to mobilize so that these projects get done in a timely fashion. 

A good example of this is in Seattle, where literally hundreds of very-low-cost “traffic calming” features have been installed every single year.  The City didn’t drag its feet and try to discourage neighbors by telling them how expensive things could be - they thought outside the box and got stuff done, using temporary measures if necessary.

We have 250 miles of streets and many of them need to be fixed in the next couple years, not 40 years from now.  Right now, everyone is in the dark and the city is focused on taking credit for a tiny handful of expensive projects each year.

posted by: Pedro Soto on June 7, 2013  11:00am

I commend Dick Miller for the work he has done in implementing “complete streets” in several areas of the city, howeverI really wish that the city would look more into “quick and dirty”  temporary calming solutions until a more permanent and expensive fix becomes available.

Even just using the standard construction traffic flashing light barrels, sandbags and cones and paint could transform an intersection in a single day.

Streets that go through heavy residential areas, where there are children out and about should definitely be a priority to making intersections harder to blast through.

While, yes the child was riding his bike on a sidewalk, but he was a child, riding his bike on a sidewalk! If kids can’t do that in residential neighborhoods, then traffic flow seriously needs to be assessed.

This is definitely a case where I’ve prioritize people being able to walk their community safely, without having to worry about drivers driving unreasonable speeds.

posted by: aharper on June 7, 2013  11:16am

The driver of the blue prius was me.  I was moving very slowly – the bike certainly was never airborne – and thank God the boy was ok, though scraped, bruised and scared. It could have been much worse had I been moving faster.  As to fault, the police determined that I was not at fault, and while I’m glad of that, as a cyclist myself I can’t help but think that anyone driving is in some way at fault if they hit a cyclist, particularly a child.  I have learned from this experience that however carefully you think you drive, drive 10 times more carefully than that.  However much you think you look before you move, look again. And again. Children on bikes need to be more careful, but they are children, and making mistakes is part of being a child – it’s what they do. It’s up to us drivers to be looking, always, everywhere. 

I don’ t think that a speed bump on Winchester would have prevented this particular accident – I was turning right onto Winchester when it happened and was moving very slowly. But, a general culture of pedestrian/cyclist first, car second – which speed bumps would promote - might have made me, and other drivers in the future, make that turn more carefully. Some other things that would help in my opinion… Proper enforcement of cars giving way to pedestrians at cross walks so that drivers know they’ll be ticketed if they don’t stop.  Ensuring that drivers learn, when they learn to drive, that the onus is on them to be careful.  Celebrating cyclists of all types and ages (regardless of where they cycle).  Having sessions at schools to encourage kids to cycle, including safe cycling classes. 

Though I always thought I was a careful, cycle-respecting driver before this, I have learned a real lesson here that I need to be much more careful.  I hope some people reading this learn that lesson before they have the same type of accident I did and risk hurting a child worse than I did.

posted by: anonymous on June 7, 2013  11:51am

AHarper, thank you for driving slowly.  If every driver were as conscientious as you, the city would be a much better place and there’d be many fewer injuries. 

We need to think about how streets are engineered because I guarantee that 99% of drivers are not as careful as you - all you have to do is look at the data that the city collects every year on speed levels for every street in the city, showing exactly how many drivers travel at a safe speed (20MPH or below) like you, and how many drivers travel at 50 miles per hour.

Personally, if I am driving in a downtown area, I limit my speed to about 15MPH because it is the only thing that has allowed me to avoid hitting people.  If you are going 25MPH or more through New Haven every day, you are pretty much guaranteed to kill someone at some point in your life. 

People make mistakes - especially children - and a mistake shouldn’t mean an automatic death sentence.  Once our engineers understand this concept they will begin to design streets very differently.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on June 7, 2013  12:04pm

I am sick and tired of the people point the fingers at the drivers.What ia a ten year old doing in the street with a bike.@ aharper.Get ready for the lawsuit.

posted by: robn on June 7, 2013  12:16pm

I’m going to be less forgiving. Parents are responsible for teaching their children how to ride a bike, including NOT quickly riding across intersections. I see this all the time in New Haven in all age groups and fear the day when I may find myself faultless, but wracked with guilt after having an irresponsible cyclist drive in front of my car. And before anyone asks; no, I did not ride my bike quickly through intersections when I was growing up because my parents taught me that it was dangerous.

posted by: TheMadcap on June 7, 2013  12:52pm

Good god do I hate it when people say “It’s the parents job to teach whatever”, truly kids always listen to their parents. I don’t for a minute buy you didn’t ride through an intersection quickly without looking unless you are a perfect human who never makes mistakes, because even adults can’t say they properly look every single time they go through an intersection.

posted by: Bill Saunders on June 7, 2013  2:18pm

To bolster 3/5’s again,

Per Connecticut State Law, children under the age of 16 must wear a helmet when cycling in the streets.  Otherwise, it’s the sidewalk, kids.

posted by: Gretchen Pritchard on June 7, 2013  3:22pm

While I agree 100% that drivers need to be more careful than most of us are, anonymous’s statement that “If you are going 25MPH or more through New Haven every day, you are pretty much guaranteed to kill someone at some point in your life” is patently ridiculous. 

If that statement were true, we would have hundreds of pedestrian deaths on our streets every year.  We don’t.

posted by: anonymous on June 7, 2013  3:46pm

Gretchen, 1) we do have hundreds of serious pedestrian injuries on our streets each year. 2) The comparison you are trying to make is more complicated - I was talking about an average. If you were to actually drive over 25MPH every day in downtown areas of New Haven, you would be likely to hit and seriously injure a person.

Luckily the average speed in a city center like New Haven is somewhere around 10-15MPH, due to the other cars on the road, buses, time to slow at lights, etc. That’s the only reason we don’t see more deaths. If you are driving down Chapel, you’re usually averaging about 10MPH.  But some people regularly exceed that level, especially on streets such as Whalley Avenue and in areas outside downtown.

As AHARPER pointed out, those who constantly drive at 25MPH or above are taking an enormous risk, because our downtown streets are heavily used by young children, elderly, people who can not see or hear, people in wheelchairs, cyclists, and bus riders - not just speeding vehicles.

Because of the car-oriented design of most areas of New Haven outside of Downtown, most pedestrians have learned to avoid these areas at all costs - something which cripples our local economy (and forces local residents to have to find work in far-away places like the Post Road). 

The only places that you see real pedestrian activity in the entire State of CT are the areas where average speeds are around 15MPH or below.

The reason is simple - they would die if they tried to walk somewhere else.  A few weeks ago, an entire family was mowed down and killed in Milford.  Even in large sections of our own city, you rarely see a pedestrian, unless they are trying to catch a bus.

posted by: apt_207 on June 7, 2013  4:30pm

Thank goodness the child was okay!  I hope this serves as a warning to both drivers and cyclists to be extremely careful out there on the roads.  Just the other night I was driving in Branford after dark.  In the distance I saw something moving and as I approached it turned out to be 3 or 4 kids on bicycles riding in the middle of the street, weaving around, just playing and being kids.  Not a one of them had light-colored clothing on, nor did any of them have reflectors on their bikes.  Had I not been driving slowly and had I not noticed their movement, a real tragedy could have occurred.  Parents need to ensure that their kids’ bikes are well-equipped with reflectors (if not lights) and warn them to stay out of the middle of the street when it’s dark.  Drivers need to slow down and be aware of what’s going on in the road ahead. Stay off the cellphones and watch the road!

posted by: Dwightstreeter on June 7, 2013  6:12pm

The child on the bike was in a crosswalk and therefore all traffic should have stopped for him, as it would have had to do for any pedestrian.

There is a problem with young people on bikes riding recklessly at times, with NO helmet and NO lights at night. I see this all over my neighborhood and it scares me.

An uncle hit a child who died years ago and he never recovered from that, even though the child was at fault. Children do not have an adult sense of vulnerability or caution.

I hope Elm City Cycling will do another event to teach safety to kids who bike.

Parents: please invest in LED lights from the dollar store and an inexpensive helmet from Target or post an ad for a Freebie on Freecycle.com or Craigslist.

I’d be happy to donate.

posted by: aharper on June 8, 2013  6:15am

I agree, cyclists need to be careful, and parents need to make sure their kids know what safe cycling means. Trouble is, there isn’t a culture of cycling at all, let alone safe cycling. The issue has never been brought up at my kids’ school, not once.  I cycle every day – if I’m on the road often times cars don’t look and I risk being cut off when they turn or open their doors, if I’m on the sidewalk I risk running over a pedestrian. Even the dedicated bike lanes can be dangerous because many drivers don’t know or care about them.  Safe cycling is not just about they cyclists, it’s about the drivers and the infrastructure that enables that safe cycling.

Ultimately the best thing drivers can do is drive slowly in an area where kids play. Kids make mistakes, drivers make mistakes, and accidents will happen. At least if you drive slowly the consequences of those accidents will be less serious.

3/5 - The kid was not in the street – he was on the sidewalk, and I hit him as he was crossing the road to continue his ride on the sidewalk.  There is no doubt that kids put themselves in danger every day in New Haven riding dangerously on the roads. This was not one of those kids.

Dwightstreeter – the kid was not in a crosswalk.  There was no crosswalk on this particular street. I was brought up in Britain, and though our streets are certainly not perfectly safe, it is very, very rare to see a car not give way to a pedestrian waiting at a crosswalk; serious penalties ensue if you do not stop (fine of $1,500 for example).  That is one area in which we could make New Haven’s streets safer – enforce crosswalk laws.

posted by: TChapman on June 8, 2013  7:30am

@Dwightstreeter. 
Your comments make sense.  Contact me at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).  Perhaps we can discuss more inexpensive ways for kids to stay safe.

posted by: Dwightstreeter on June 8, 2013  9:28am

aharper:

Thank you for the fact correction. The news report had the rider in the crosswalk.

posted by: RCguy on June 8, 2013  12:57pm

Wow, imagine if AHarper were not so well spoken and able to defend him/herself publicly like this? Does anyone else find this troubling?

Aharper: It’s unacceptable to hit a child on a bike. Drive more slowly and carefully, please. We do not need lecturing from the culprit.

posted by: RCguy on June 8, 2013  1:05pm

Curious:
Odd, your Google link is coming up as Hazel and Winchester.

posted by: aharper on June 9, 2013  6:02am

RCGuy. Yes I have thought about that. A lot. From the moment I began to interact with the police at the scene. Not that a lecture from me about it would help…..

As for my lecturing about hitting the child on his bike, my hope was simply to share my side of the story so that other drivers might be reminded to drive even more slowly and carefully than they already think they do.

posted by: William Kurtz on June 11, 2013  9:59am

Dwightstreeter: Those efforts are ongoing but they require the dedicated efforts of many volunteers and a substantial time commitment. For example, we recently conducted a five-week program at the Farnham Neighborhood House. Seven girls took part and learned bicycle inspection, basic rules of the road, hand signals, and handling skills. We took two group rides on the canal trail and a final one on city streets from the FNH to Quinnipiac River Park.

A number of volunteers, all of them local cyclists, some of them members of the Elm City Cycling board or League of American Bicyclists-certified instructors worked to make this happen in conjunction with staff at the Farnham House.

Elm City Cycling is ready, willing and able to offer this kind of instruction, but we operate with very limited time and financial constraints. We have no paid staff and no office space. Everything we do is done by volunteers and we welcome community and business partnerships.

Any business, school, non-profit, community management team, neighborhood group or other organization that wants to learn more about the possibility of helping us deliver safe cycling instruction can contact us at elmcitycycling at gmail.com.

posted by: robn on June 11, 2013  12:32pm

A clarification…CT law states that bicycles may be operated on sidewalks (deferring to pedestrians) unless prohibited by individual towns. New Haven prohibits bicycles on sidewalks. As far as bicycles in the street, they are governed by vehicular law and so riding in a crosswalk (perpendicular to road traffic) would effectively be prohibited, however there is a gray area loophole in section 14-286b regarding crosswalks because of poor cross referencing in the law. In any event, using this loophole would lead one back to the law stating that a pedestrian can’t abruptly leave a curb into traffic and create a hazard.
On the subject of crosswalks themselves, CT law does NOT require them to be marked. ANYWHERE you project the edges of a sidewalk across a street and they hit another sidewalk IS a crosswalk. This is probably the most misunderstood law in the state of CT.