Alt-Transiteers Map Attack On “Anarchy”

Thomas Breen PhotoMore people biking in protected lanes, paying tolls, surviving crosswalks — and running, for office.

Advocates promoted that vision for safer streets and, with the running suggestion, how to realize it, at a strategy session Monday night.

The occasion was the latest edition of Transportation on Tap, a semi-regular conversation series organized by the local alternative transportation advocacy group GoNewHavenGo.

The series, started in 2015, connects transportation experts with community members every few months to talk about how to achieve improved pedestrian, cyclist and public transit infrastructure and access throughout the city.

Monday night’s conversation, which took place in the back room at BAR on Crown Street, focused on civic engagement and political processes.

That is: Which policy proposals would encourage a safe, sustainable transportation system in New Haven? Which local and state laws are currently standing in the way of that vision? And how can regular citizens best pressure lawmakers to respond to their transportation-related concerns?

Amidst trays of sausage pizza and half-emptied pitchers of beer, around 30 attendees spread throughout the room to discuss three topics: stop (not yield) pedestrian crosswalk legislation, improved bike infrastructure in New Haven, and automated red light cameras.

“Streets Are Anarchy”

Brianne Mullen from Yale’s Office of Sustainability led the breakout group on crosswalks.

A fact sheet she passed around about the state’s current crosswalk laws indicated that vehicles must yield the right-of-way when a pedestrian has stepped “off the curb or into the crosswalk” (CGS § 14-300(c)).

Mullen explained that, from 1994 to 2007, state law required vehicles to grant the right-of-way to pedestrians even before they had entered the crosswalk, once they had stepped to an adjacent curb.

But the legislature changed that rule in 2007, meaning that now pedestrians are protected only once they have already stepped off of the curb and into the crosswalk.

“And even then, cars only have to yield,” Mullen said, “and not necessarily stop.”

She asked attendees about their experiences at pedestrian crosswalks in New Haven, and if they feel safe crossing city streets.

“The streets of New Haven are anarchy, and are just waiting for people to be killed,” replied Martin Simon, who grew up in Westville and now lives downtown on Chapel Street.

He said that he felt much safer crossing the street as a teenager several decades ago. Now, he said, the streets are more congested, and drivers simply do not respect the rights or safety of most pedestrians.

The members of Mullen’s group suggested curb extensions, flashing lights at crosswalks (like those at the intersection of Temple and Wall Streets), elevated crosswalks, stricter enforcement, more frequent driver’s tests for license renewal, and public service announcements about pedestrian laws as potential policy solutions for forging a safer walking culture in the city.

Mullen’s handout also identified two proposed Connecticut General Assembly bills that were co-sponsored by Hamden State Rep. Joshua Elliott in 2017, H.B. No. 5390 and H.B. No. 6274, which would require drivers to grant the right-of-way to pedestrians “who step to the curb rather than require pedestrians to step off of the curb.”

In the middle of the room, Elm City Cycling advocate Rob Rocke and WEB (Whalley-Edgewood-Beaver Hills) Community Management Team chair Nadine Horton led a session on how best to improve biking infrastructure in the city.

Rocke and Horton said that their group advocated for bike lanes on Whalley Avenue, more connectedness across existing bike lanes in the city, and more protected bike lanes that are completely separated from roads with vehicle traffic.

“The fact of the matter is that some people will never be comfortable biking unless if they’re in separated bike infrastructure, like the Farmington Canal trail,” Rocke said. Horton also noted that the more that the city’s existing bike lanes and trails are connected, the more that ridership will increase.

15 Years To “Nowhere”

At the far end of the room, city transportation staffer Ray Willis led a discussion about automated red light cameras.

He passed around a slideshow presentation from 2009 that the Connecticut Livable Streets Campaign had put together to advocate for a law that would enable cities and towns throughout the state to implement red light cameras at select intersections at their own discretion. Willis said that these cameras would deter red light violations, prevent unnecessary accidents and improve safety for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists.

“It’s taken us 15 years to get absolutely nowhere on red light cameras,” said city deputy traffic director Michael Pinto, referring to the state legislature’s reluctance to even vote on the issue.

“Red light cameras are just not sexy,” Willis agreed. He said that lawmakers have been susceptible to an Orwellian fantasy that the state will use red light cameras to spy on citizens than to the practical reality that these cameras would reduce unnecessary collisions, injuries and fatalities.

Willis and his group also spoke about how many in the business and technology sectors are anticipating fully automated, driverless cars to become widely adopted in the next 15 years. With driverless cars on the road, is there really any need for red light cameras?

Willis suggested that this new technology may soon render red light cameras redundant anyway, and perhaps transportation advocates should focus instead on policy proposals that would ensure pedestrian safety in the world of driverless vehicles.

Solution: Run—For Office

For the first half of the event, city transit chief Doug Hausladen, Hamden State Rep. Joshua Elliott, former Hartford State Rep. Dave McCluskey and Common Cause CT executive director Cheri Quickmire spoke to those present about the channels that citizens must go through in order to influence the direction of transportation legislation.

McCluskey and Quickmire stressed that people need to organize broadly and get to know their legislators personally if they want to enact any kind of meaningful change.

 

“It’s important to get to know the folks [in office],” Quickmire said. “And get to know what the committee schedules are, get to know what the bills are that you all want to address, and what the committee deadlines are.” She urged everyone present to reach out directly to the members of the General Assembly’s Transportation Committee, and to do so en masse and in person. She warned that sending a lone email to a politician you’ve never meet will accomplish absolutely nothing.

Elliott, a first-term progressive Democrat from Hamden, told the group that he feels stymied by the sway that conservative-leaning Democrats have in a General Assembly that is split 79-72 in the Democrats’ favor in the House (and tied in the Senate).

He said that the only way for progressive Democrats to get votes on issues like tolls, medical marijuana, paid medical leave and a $15 minimum wage is by running more like-minded candidates in 2018.

“With only 79 Dems, we’re not going to get a single vote from Republicans,” he said. “They want us to fail, because if we fail, they look good. They can say: look, they’re not governing, and then they have a shot at the next election cycle.”

“The best thing that you can do is find somebody that you know and run them [for office],” he continued. “It’s all numbers. The die is cast at election cycle and then you have two years to figure out what’s possible in that framework. We need better numbers and more progressive Dems. Run one race, and run it well.”

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posted by: 1644 on December 5, 2017  8:31am

Connecticut has well-regulated, legal system for medical marijuana.  Elliot is promoting legalizing recreational marijuana.  One should note that while Congress has blessed medical marijuana by prohibiting the use of feral funds to prosecute the sale and use of medical marijuana in states where it is legal, recreational sale and use remains illegal on the federal level.  Legalizing marijuana has been opposed not just by some Republicans, but by our Democrat governor and many elected Democrats.

posted by: robn on December 5, 2017  8:39am

The problem with the “step to the curb” issue is that constantly in New Haven, people linger at corners giving the appearance of wanting to cross, but they’re really waiting for a bus or gabbing on their phone or whatever.
I am all for curb extensions and speed tables; however, NHV’s biggest problem is the antique one-way street system. Correct that and you’ll change everything for the better.

posted by: NewHaven18 on December 5, 2017  8:59am

I agree, the streets of New Haven are “anarchy,” but not solely because of cars. Automobiles, bikes, and pedestrians all contribute to a dangerous transportation culture. No one in New Haven follows the rules and all rules should be enforced; running red lights, j-walking, and biking on the sidewalk can all be done in front of cops with no consequences. Red light cameras are not the answer and there is no reliable data that they actually work to make streets safer. If anything, it’s an easy way for the city to rake in more cash on drivers frustrated with the horribly timed downtown street lights.

posted by: BetweenTwoRocks on December 5, 2017  9:31am

I am sure everyone did a great job, but I really think GoNewHavenGo needs to expand out of downtown and into other neighborhoods in these meetings. This meeting is almost entirely white people (something I’ve noticed attending previously), but New Haven is only 47% white. How are a bunch of people who live in Downtown and Wooster Square going to address the transportation needs of Dixwell and Fair Haven?

Who represents the 35.4% African American population in New Haven or the 27.4% Hispanic/Latino population?

In many ways this exercise feels like an echo chamber of one kind of New Haven resident (of which I am, admittedly, a part), but we really need to figure out how to reach out to other groups on these matters. Or maybe it just needs to target that demographic cause that’s generally who is driving cars and contributing to traffic.

posted by: manofthepeople on December 5, 2017  10:06am

This issue has a lot of sides. As a biker and a driver, I like to think I can see both sides. As a driver, I think that cyclists ignore the rules of the road, swerving on and off the road, around cars. Occasionally they run a red light too (hey, there was no traffic coming). They can’t make up their mind if they are pedestrians or cars, and are difficult to see. I also think that they should be issued licenses and registered for identification purposes e.g. citations, theft. (I had a cyclist take out my right side mirror in front of the Yale bookstore, and just continue on - I had zero way of identifying him and had to pay out of pocket). Especially if they are taking advantage of road services, they should pay taxes and be regulated.

As a cyclist, I feel that the number of poor drivers on the roads has increased significantly. I find the roads much more crowded, traffic too slow moving, and if I had a bike lane that people weren’t using to edge around other cars, I could quickly and without fear make my commute. The problem is cars think that bike lane is a “shared” lane and when they swerve in, it is very dangerous. A lot of the lights in New Haven are outdated, and the streets are all inconveniently the “wrong way”. I would like to see that change. Wider roads with bike specific lanes would be amazing (Don’t forget to include parking!)

posted by: HewNaven on December 5, 2017  11:12am

Has anyone noticed the canada geese in New Haven? Literally pooping all over town! I think both sides of the aisle can agree, bird poop from North-of-the-border is not welcome!

-Smart Guy#1

posted by: TheMadcap on December 5, 2017  11:16am

I wasn’t aware I don’t pay taxes because I don’t own a car, I’m going to have to go have a chat with our payroll person

posted by: Kevin McCarthy on December 5, 2017  11:25am

BTR, you’re right that the lack of diversity is a real problem at sessions like. But when outreach sessions were held in the Hill and Fair Haven on the bike share program, they drew relatively few people from those neighborhoods (and quite a few friends of mine from East Rock).

Part of the problem is the lack of available time in many people’s lives. If you are working two jobs or are a single parent, you probably don’t have the time or energy to spend an evening on transportation issues that will take years to affect. 

I and I suspect the TnT organizers would appreciate suggestions on how to make the meetings more inclusive.

posted by: AverageTaxpayer on December 5, 2017  12:06pm

If you wanted to calm traffic within the downtown grid, you might begin with:

1) Syncing traffic lights on the major arteries, with lights tuned to 25mph.

2) Go ahead with the conversion to 2-way streets.

Why New Haven can’t implement these changes is beyond me.

posted by: beaverhills on December 5, 2017  12:12pm

Having a meeting at a bar seems fun, but it definitely limits who participates. I bike commute and I’d definitely be interested in participating in a discussion like this, but it’s not the best venue to keep one eye on a toddler while also participating in a discussion (and I’m not against bringing my child to bars in general, just doesn’t seem feasible for this type of event). If this is a challenge for me with one child, it seems like you are cutting out the potential participation of quite a lot of New Haven residents who care about transportation.

posted by: anonymous on December 5, 2017  12:59pm

Given the limited resources of the volunteer group that’s organizing this, it makes sense to me that they would want to hold a regular meeting at a downtown bar where they can easily pull in an audience of walkers and bus riders after work hours.  If they had a staff, they might take a different approach. 

Not sure if the readers understand that this isn’t a city meeting and isn’t determining any policies - there are plenty of public hearings at City Hall or at the New Haven Public Library for those sorts of things, and they aren’t nearly as well attended as they should be.  Those public meetings would be the best places to provide child care and advertise more extensively for.  That way, families could easily come and comment on issues related to transportation.  I know that elected officials sometimes encourage families in their area to attend these, but it’s a challenge since child care or food generally are not provided at routine meetings at City Hall.  The state has held many transportation policy hearings downtown where nobody shows up except for Roland Lemar and maybe 3 other people.

If there is an interest, I think that volunteers should be organizing more meetings in public libraries, schools, and in venues in each neighborhood.  I’m sure that if they were well-organized, people would show up.  I doubt that getting panelists from city or state government would be a problem.  In fact, one of the non-profit neighborhood associations in New Haven recently organized a series of evening focus groups with food, etc., and talked about crosswalks and other development-related issues with at least 100 different people.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on December 5, 2017  9:16pm

For the first half of the event, city transit chief Doug Hausladen, Hamden State Rep. Joshua Elliott, former Hartford State Rep. Dave McCluskey and Common Cause CT executive director Cheri Quickmire spoke to those present about the channels that citizens must go through in order to influence the direction of transportation legislation.

Yep take back New Haven Doug Hausladen at it again.

Elliott, a first-term progressive Democrat from Hamden

Give me a break.He is not a progressive Democrat.In fact there are no progressive Democrat.Like I said before The donkey and the elephant symbols of the two dominant political parties are tied at the hip.They are two teams in the same league, serving the same corporatist plutocracy.Now here is a true progressive.party.

The Progressive Bull Moose Party Look at there platform.

http://www.progressivebullmoose.party/platform/

He said that the only way for progressive Democrats to get votes on issues like tolls, medical marijuana, paid medical leave and a $15 minimum wage is by running more like-minded candidates in 2018.

The only way is the system of proportional representation which would give the people more of a voice.Last the Democratic party in CT A$$ is in trouble for the election of 2018.You all better get ready for a Republican take over of the House and Senate and a Republican Governor thanks to slick Dan Malloy.

posted by: 1644 on December 6, 2017  10:12am

I would love to hear from bicyclists on their opinions of bump-outs.  As a driver and pedestrian, I think they are a great enhancement to safety.  When driving, I can actually see someone standing by the edge, waiting for me to stop so that they can cross safely.  As a pedestrian, I can look drivers in the eye and may even stick my hand out to get them to stop.  I imagine, however, that bicyclists would not like bump-outs, as they force bicyclists into the car traffic lanes.

posted by: robn on December 6, 2017  10:43am

1644,

This cyclists opinion…the bump outs usually bracket parking which a cyclist wouldn’t be in anyway. In any case, numerous obstructions appear at the side of the road including car doors (hint hint drivers…yuo’ll get sued if you door and injure a cyclist…use your mirror before you open your door) gravel, sand, and the most slippery substance on earth, wet leaves.  (Worth noting…Marked bike lanes are only a symbolic gesture to encourage good behavior by cars…they are NOT a limitation as to where a bike can go in a road. Statute gives cyclist the whole road if they need it for safety so drivers should always be aware that they may veer out from the side.)

posted by: RobotShlomo on December 6, 2017  10:55am

“Alt Transiteers”? Really?

Yes, the New Haven streets ARE anarchy. They’ve been for a while now, and the solution is not as easy as red light cameras. The real problem is that they let any bozo who can pass the test and $100 drive. You want to make the streets safer? Then you need to do what they do in countries like Germany and Norway, and make the driving test and license so expensive that you have to take it seriously, and have frequent retesting every X amount of years. But we all know that ain’t happening. Another thing I think that hasn’t helped is removing Driver’s Ed courses. Driverless cars aren’t going to help much, because what will happen is corporations will first use the tech to replace drivers to cut costs, and pocket the difference.

In the meantime here’s something you “Millennials” can do to make it a lot safer for yourselves. LOOK UP FROM YOUR DAMN PHONE!! I’m totally serious here. You don’t know how many times I see people with their noses buried in their phones wandering out into the street, totally oblivious to what’s going on around them. This is something called “situational awareness”. Being aware of your surroundings in relation to time and space, anticipating future events in the immediate environment and adapting to them. Part of that involves waiting for the signal, looking both ways, making sure it’s clear, and then crossing. You can’t do that when you’re texting all the time.

posted by: BetweenTwoRocks on December 6, 2017  12:18pm

@RobotShlomo: Pretty much everyone under the age of 60 is guilty of looking at their cell phones while driving. Blaming Millennials just makes you like an out of touch, blame-everything-on-the-young baby boomer.

But maybe that’s what you’re going for?

posted by: RobotShlomo on December 6, 2017  12:34pm

Baby boomer? Please. Generation X says hi. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there’s even notices on certain corners where it says to look up before you cross the street. But if you object to the Millennial stereotype so much, here’s what you do; Don’t be that stereotype.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on December 6, 2017  4:15pm

posted by: BetweenTwoRocks on December 6, 2017 12:18pm

@RobotShlomo: Pretty much everyone under the age of 60 is guilty of looking at their cell phones while driving. Blaming Millennials just makes you like an out of touch, blame-everything-on-the-young baby boomer.

But maybe that’s what you’re going for?

We can do this.
This City Will Fine You for Texting and Walking

Now Stamford, Connecticut, may become the second U.S. city this year to combat the problem with fines.
“The point is, if you’re on the street and not paying attention, it’s dangerous,” said Stamford Mayor David Martin.The Honolulu law will go into effect in October. Fines will start at $15 and go as high as $99 for multiple violations. There are a few details to work out before the Stamford Board of Representatives will take its vote, including what burdens enforcing the ordinance would put on the local police force.

http://time.com/4908647/stamford-texting-walking-fine/

posted by: William Kurtz on December 6, 2017  8:56pm

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on December 6, 2017 4:15pm

We can do this.
This City Will Fine You for Texting and Walking

Now Stamford, Connecticut, may become the second U.S. city this year to combat the problem with fines.
“The point is, if you’re on the street and not paying attention, it’s dangerous,” said Stamford Mayor David Martin.The Honolulu law will go into effect in October. Fines will start at $15 and go as high as $99 for multiple violations. There are a few details to work out before the Stamford Board of Representatives will take its vote, including what burdens enforcing the ordinance would put on the local police force.

http://time.com/4908647/stamford-texting-walking-fine/

THREEFIFTHS, help me to understand how in the comments on one story, you can be so dismissive of the ‘pro-police people’ and in another, be so willing to call for the police to have increased powers to stop, harass, and fine people who represent no danger to the public.

How much daylight do you see between this ‘texting and walking’ law and ‘stop and frisk’?

Who do you think is most likely to bear the costs of increased enforcement action?

posted by: chajila on December 7, 2017  7:57am

Without detracting from efforts to expand bike lanes and protective measures for pedestrians, I dare say we would do well to follow James Scott’s idea of “Anarchist Calisthenics.” I’m a new resident to the area and find a great deal of inspiration from pedestrians on Dixwell Ave. There aren’t enough crosswalks, so many simple walk out into the road when they need to. Driving down this road is a different experience than other roads. Drivers are forced into a more vigilant awareness of their surroundings. We seem to forget that jaywalking is a historic regulation based on population control with racist underpinnings. We need a more anarchist spirit. Drivers should feel a sense of unease. They should know pedestrians are ready with pitchforks and torches if they harm a crossing pedestrian. In other words, if we want to reduce the anarchy, pedestrians need to disregard some of these limiting regulations around them. Cross at will with confidence.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on December 7, 2017  8:19am

posted by: William Kurtz on December 6, 2017 8:56pm

THREEFIFTHS, help me to understand how in the comments on one story, you can be so dismissive of the ‘pro-police people’ and in another, be so willing to call for the police to have increased powers to stop, harass, and fine people who represent no danger to the public.

If you would read all what I have wrote you would see I called for equal enforcement of the law.

How much daylight do you see between this ‘texting and walking’ law and ‘stop and frisk’?

Under Stop and Frisk it was proven by the state Attorney General’s Office that while blacks and Latinos made up about 50 percent of the city’s population, they accounted for 84 percent of the police stops.Even The NYPD Department’s own reports on its stop-and-frisk activity confirm that.: The police are stopping hundreds of thousands of law abiding New Yorkers every year, and the vast majority are black and Latino.

As far as texting and walking’ law it is the same as texing and driving law. The New law in Honolulu states that “no pedestrian shall cross a street or highway while viewing a mobile electronic device”. Mobile phones are included as well as any “text messaging device, paging device, personal digital assistant, laptop computer, video game, or digital photographic device” but audio equipment is excluded.Holding a conversation on a phone while walking is still permitted, as is using a device in an emergency, but crossing the road while texting, reading or Facebooking – as millions around the world do every day – is not.
https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/oct/25/honolulu-fines-people-for-texting-while-crossing-road

Who do you think is most likely to bear the costs of increased enforcement action?

Those who break this law..Case Closed. Again as I have said. I called for equal enforcement of the law.What do you think should be done with those texting while crossing.