Complete Streets Law Complete

Thomas MacMillan File PhotoAlderman Yusuf Shah arrived by bus and planned to carpool home. Alderman Justin Elicker rode his bike. Despite a recent collision, Alderman Carl Goldfield planned to cycle, too, but had to change his plans.

They all ended up at the same destination with the same result: at City Hall, voting for a plan to make New Haven road travel safer for people who avoid driving cars.

Shah, Elicker, and Goldfield joined a unanimous Board of Aldermen vote to establish the city’s new “Complete Streets” policy. The vote Tuesday night marked the culmination of a legislative process that began over two years ago.

In September 2008, then Fair Haven Alderwoman Erin Sturgis-Pascale teamed up with East Rock Alderman Roland Lemar to put forward an ordinance amendment calling for a comprehensive plan to make New Haven’s streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists. That proposal was the result of two years of public brainstorming and deliberation on traffic-calming growing out of concern about fatal and near-fatal collisions around town.

The resulting document, “City of New Haven Complete Streets Design Manual,” was unveiled in July at a meeting of the Board of Aldermen’s City Services and Environmental Policy Committee. On Tuesday it came up for approval by the full board, which voted unanimously to adopt it.

The 113-page manual is a comprehensive guide to road design that includes a slew of tools, like sharrows (pictured) and roundabouts, designed to make streets more walkable and bikeable. The City Plan and engineering departments will use the manual when evaluating and approving public and private development projects of all kinds.

Thomas MacMillan File Photo East Rock’s Alderman Elicker (pictured) introduced the manual to the board on Tuesday night with words of praise for Sturgis-Pascale. It was a theme picked up by Alderman Lemar, who also hailed the former alderwoman’s tireless dedication to making city streets safer. “This really was one person’s passion,” he said.

“Unfortunately it was pushed forward by a few tragedies,” Lemar said. He referred to the death of 11-year-old Gabrielle Lee, who was run down while crossing Whalley Avenue. Her death galvanized the traffic-calming movement. The new manual will transform neighborhoods throughout the city, Lemar said.

The item passed unanimously.

Getting There

Conversations with three alderman revealed several methods of getting around the city and a preference for avoiding travel by car.

Before the vote, West River’s Alderman Shah said he traveled to the Board of Alderman via the “My Ride” service for seniors and the disabled. He planned to return home by carpooling with another alderman.

As an insulin-dependent diabetic, Shah said, he has trouble feeling his feet sometimes. “I don’t feel up to driving right now with my feet feeling the way they are.”

Shah said he no longer owns a car. He praised My Ride as a convenient and cheap way to get around. It costs him $2.50 per trip.

Elicker said he biked to the meeting. He doesn’t own a car either. “I believe in cycling as a way to reduce energy use,” he said.

Elicker said he’s biked in many different cities, including Taipei, Taiwan; “New Haven is the worst city I’ve ever ridden in.” New Haven drivers are the most dangerous he’s encountered, he said.

Beaver Hill’s Alderman Goldfield (pictured) experienced that danger firsthand a month ago. He was heading in to his downtown law office one morning when a Dodge 4x4 pickup sideswiped him at the corner of County and Goffe Streets.

“I went flying into the intersection,” Goldfield said.

Fortunately, County is a one-way street at that point, and no cars were coming.

“I got scraped up,” Goldfield said. He pointed out the scars on his knuckles. “Your typical road rash,” he said. “I realized why riding a motorcycle is completely insane if you’re not wearing leathers.”

Several people stopped to see if he was OK, Goldfield said. But the truck never slowed down. A “good Samaritan” followed it to Whalley Avenue and got a plate number, which led to the arrest of the driver, Goldfield said. “Obviously he didn’t care if I was in the road.”

Goldfield said he’s still riding his bike, although he’s now “totally paranoid” about it. On Tuesday night, he had to drive to the Board of Aldermen because he’d had to meet a client, Goldfield said. But otherwise his bike is his main means of transport.

He said he’s in support of the new Complete Streets legislation, but he cautioned that some streets are set up in a way that little can be done to create room for cyclists, short of making them one-way. Things will be better with the new manual, but change will take a long time, he said.


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posted by: THREEFIFTHS on September 8, 2010  11:10am

Are there going to be fines for bikers who run red lights,Are you going to have safe bikes on the road like.I seen bikes with no brakes,Bad tires.

posted by: anon on September 8, 2010  11:23am

Congratulations to Lemar, Elicker and Sturgis-Pascale for pushing this forward.

It’s only “going to take a long time” to make our streets safer for pedestrians, bikers and bus riders only if policymakers and city officials (the vast majority of whom drive their personal cars everywhere and therefore have little understanding of these issues) continue to show the same lack of interest in making them better. 

If lawmakers cared, these types of changes could be made in a very short period of time.

posted by: HewNaven?? on September 8, 2010  11:56am

Hurrah for Complete Streets!

posted by: streever on September 8, 2010  1:22pm

Great work! I’m proud of our two excellent East Rock alders, Erin’s legacy, and the other alders work on this.

posted by: Downtown on September 8, 2010  2:09pm

Agreee with threefifths I see it all the time weaveing in and out of traffic almost always going thru red lights whats up with that? Bikers should be held accountable just as drivers should be.

posted by: anon on September 8, 2010  2:30pm

I think everyone’s for ticketing dangerous behavior, but I’d like to see the police prioritize first.

Until the police stop every homicidal driver that speeds up my street at 50 miles per hour (a street which is filled with children), something that occurs about every 10 minutes all day long, I don’t want them to waste their time issuing a single ticket to harmless pedestrians or bikers.

If police don’t start enforcing the traffic laws against car and truck drivers, the city is going to continue to lose population and wealth.  Who wants to live, start a business, or raise a family on a street where cars are constantly speeding past, creating noise and running into parked vehicles? 

Glad that our aldermen and Mayor are living on quiet side streets with their own cars and driveways, do all their shopping at Stop & Shop, and don’t have to deal with this.  But most of us do have to actually live in our neighborhoods, and we’re pretty fed up about the city’s lack of action.

posted by: jenn stockwell on September 8, 2010  2:43pm

I think that the more bicycle riders adhere to the laws the more car drivers will be educated as to what to expect and what is correct. I try and ride my bike to work when I can, and find that there are so many things bicyclists do wrong, that it’s no wonder car drivers don’t know what is correct and what isn’t. In one two-day period earlier this summer I was harassed 2-3 times by the same Yale maintenance guy sitting in his van on the side of the road yelling at me to “Get on the sidewalk!”

It seems like it would make sense for the DMV to send something out to all registered drivers letting them know the rules of driving on roads with bicyclists. For a lot of people who went to driving school decades ago, it’s not something they’re aware of unless they’ve actively seeked it out.

posted by: Martha Smith on September 8, 2010  3:38pm

THANKS to all who worked on this, but especially to Erin Sturgis-Pascal.

There is MUCH more to be done, but at least the first step has been taken.

posted by: William Kurtz on September 8, 2010  4:31pm

I agree completely that more cyclists need to be better educated regarding their rights and responsibilities when using the streets. 

FYI:  Elm City Cycling has several instructors certified by the League of American Bicyclists through their LCI program who are available to teach classes in traffic skills and safe cycling. If your business, community group, school, non-profit, church or other organization is interesting in a program, please feel free to contact us at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

posted by: Thomas on September 8, 2010  4:34pm

Hey maybe City Hall will begin taxing bicycles to pay for all these projects. And I agree that many cyclist want to be treated like motor vehicle’s except when they come those bothersome red-lights and one-way streets. 

“If police don’t start enforcing the traffic laws against car and truck drivers, the city is going to continue to lose population and wealth.”

Yeah the reason L.A and NYC are in financial meltdown is because they don’t hand out enough traffic tickets.

posted by: Brian M. on September 8, 2010  5:15pm

It seems pretty basic to admit that drivers shouldn’t speed or run through red lights.

Pretending that cyclists deserve extra scrutiny compared to distracted, angry, phone-talking, coffee-drinking, radio-changing drivers piloting a ton of steel at 40 miles per hour in a 25 MPH zone is nonsense, no matter how many speeding drivers Ray Hassett ignores.

posted by: anon on September 8, 2010  5:35pm

Thomas, I don’t think that New Haven is competing against NYC or Los Angeles. We’re competing against places like Guilford, Milford and Cheshire.  It’s fine if some people don’t want a higher quality of life in this city, for whatever reason, but I’d say that the vast majority of residents and investors here do.

posted by: Bill Saunders on September 8, 2010  7:57pm


By State Statute, bicycles are exempt from personal property tax.
Maybe Alderman Goldson can waste some effort finding a loop-hole.

posted by: john on September 8, 2010  8:18pm

The “bikes need to follow the rules” posts are red herrings. You are right that the enforcement should be uniform, but cars, which clearly represent the majority of vehicles on the road, set the tone—and it is common practice in this town to ignore signage, common courtesy, etc. (“get on the sidewalk!”) and though i dont always agree with anon, in this case, s/he’s absolutely right: a car is almost certainly a deadly weapon if it hits a pedestrian. a bike, maybe; highly unlikely.

On another note, where does the upper Whalley widening fit in? The pictures they showed at the community meetings looked too good to be true, and it’s likely that the VASTLY widened avenue is going to become a high-speed thoroughfare. Will have to see what it looks like when done, but I’m skeptical. And I’m only a recreational biker; too scared still to ride downtown.

posted by: L on September 8, 2010  9:14pm

Thank you Aldermen! this is a great step forward.

posted by: robn on September 9, 2010  8:50am

Just yesterday a 17 year old girl in the hill blew through a light and got hit. Cyclists need to obey the law out of self preservation. The police need to enforce laws on cars first becuase in a case when they’re at fault, they’re asymmetrically more dangerous to others than cyclists.

posted by: streever on September 9, 2010  8:58am

Thomas, most cyclists already subsidize a road system that they may not even use in our income & in property taxes. Not sure why we’d have to pay extra to get something out of what we’ve already been paying into.

I see time and again people who think that the meager taxes they pay on their car provide the multi-billion dollar state highway system they use, and the assertion that cyclists don’t pay in.

The reality is that most cyclists also drive, and do pay as much in taxes if not more.

Those of us who do not drive get all the negatives with none of the benefits. I don’t get to enjoy using the glorious highway whenever I want. I just get to pay for it.

That cyclists would request incredibly cheap, 1000 dollar improvements like sharrows, while drivers continue to DEMAND multi-billion highway construction seems like such a small scale request that I wonder why we don’t ask for our own set of roads.

posted by: Darnell on September 9, 2010  9:56am

@ Bill Saunders:

Bill, I think you have me confused with our mayor, tax assessor, or the 20 aldermen that voted to increase your taxes here in New Haven. I’m the guy that actually argues for REDUCING the tax burden on New Haven residents. I have suggested that we do tax New Haven city employees (who salaries are paid for by New Haven taxpayers) who do not live in or pay taxes to the city of New Haven. If you know of any loop holes to get that done, please let me know.

posted by: Pedro Soto on September 9, 2010  9:58am

Thomas, you’re doing no favors with your argument. That’s like a bicyclist saying “well all drivers speed and blow through pesky red lights and don’t want the rules applied to them.” Is that true? Of course it isn’t. Only a small percentage break traffic laws and cause trouble, and the same is true of cyclists. Do you really see EVERY cyclist break the law every day?

I think that if both sides can agree that law and rule enforcement should be a priority and stop demonizing the other side, then we’ll be on much better footing to create safe and enjoyable roads.

posted by: Pedro Soto on September 9, 2010  10:04am

Robn, you and anon raise good points-
When drivers break the law, they are likely to injure or kill another person more than themselves. When cyclists break the law, they are far more likely to injure or kill themselves than another person.

Had the girl who was struck yesterday been driving a car, she likely would have injured or killed herself and the driver who struck her.

posted by: New Haven Taxpaying Cyclist on September 9, 2010  11:18am

As a long time cyclist, I think all this sharrows business is a waste of precious city resources. I’ve got along fine on my bike for over 20 years in this town without bike lanes and such. Our public schools are far more deserving of the funds.
This is just more city dollars going to make the city more comfortable for rich, pampered Yalies in East Rock.

Elicker has lived in town for what, 2-3 years? It’s a shame more working class, longtime resident East Rockers didn’t get out to vote for their interests for alderman.
And when are the police going to start ticketing all of these Yalies riding on the sidewalks?

posted by: Brian M. on September 9, 2010  11:36am

Do people seriously not realize how dangerous it is to ride in town?

Cars run red lights all the time in my experience. At every intersection at every light. I ride from West Rock down past SCSU to Union Station. I appreciate the sharrow - I’ve been told to ride on the sidewalk. I’ve been yelled at. I’ve been bumped by cars at lights. I’ve been scolded by a cop for not coming to a complete stop at a stop sign, while we both watched a car not even tap its brakes as it drove past us.

I’ve been nearly sideswiped, nudged into the curb, and had someone throw a beer bottle at me from their pickup.

And that’s just in the last year.

I’m a conservative rider, using it for a commute. I’m not a Yalie or from East Rock.

I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask for minor road improvements that will help me stay alive, or to expect the NHPD to focus on people in cars when cars are the biggest cause of death for kids in this country.

Right now, we’re sitting ducks out there. I get caught at red lights that aren’t synced properly, so I’m constantly stuck with a pack of cars and frustrated drivers. And I hit the same lights at 1 a.m. when the streets are nearly empty and there’s no reason for a 4-way pedestrian crossing that nobody’s pushed a button to activate. During the day it makes it more likely that I’ll be hit, at night it makes it more likely that I’ll be mugged.

I can understand why drivers hate seeing cyclists go through red lights. I don’t understand why they don’t instead do something about the red lights. Who wants to stop every 1/10 mile at empty intersections because the lights are out of sync or deliberately synced to maximize time wasting?

posted by: Ben Berkowitz on September 9, 2010  3:34pm

Decent start but still no direct route to East Rock or Fair Haven on the Lombard side from downtown.

Please do not hesitate to run the sharrows straight up state street and out Lombard.

It took way too long to get to this point…lots of catching up to do

posted by: Bill Saunders on September 9, 2010  5:07pm


As long as you keep your eye on the fiscal ball, you have my support.
But let’s face it, some of your latest policy ideas fall strictly in the contrarian camp.

posted by: Darnell on September 10, 2010  1:48pm

@ Bill Saunders:

Contrarian? What policy ideas are you referring to? If you look at the record, you will see that the majority of the time I am with the majority. But even if I were not, should I be voting with the majority because everyone else is? Or should I vote my conscience.

posted by: Just curious on September 10, 2010  4:18pm

I agree that bikes belong on the road as they pose a danger to pedestrians on sidewalks but what are the rules about minors bicycling on the road?  I’ve always been curious about this and I’m hoping this would be the place to get some answers.  Bikers on the road essentially have to follow the same laws as driver stopping for red lights, understanding right of way, etc.  Most adult cyclists are also licensed drivers so they know how to follow laws of the road but what about teens that are not licensed drivers?  Don’t they pose a danger to themselves and others if they do not fully understand the laws of the road?  I’m not a parent but if I were I would certainly not allow my 14 year old who doesn’t know the first thing about driving to ride their bike in a busy city street so that they can get them self killed.  Does anyone know how minor unlicensed drivers are supposed to go about cycling in the street?

posted by: bill Saunders on September 10, 2010  7:17pm


Specifically, I am speaking of your “poster ordinance” that would fly in the face of state statute, thus my snarky post….

posted by: bill Saunders on September 10, 2010  7:21pm


That stuff has gotten hard to find with google.  From my recollection, youth, fifteen and under, may only ride in the street with a helmet, though that statute has no real teeth for enforcement.  Otherwise, they are permitted to ride on the sidewalk.