Grassroots bike and pedestrian advocacy has paid off in New Haven. Late last month, the city’s Board of Alders unanimously passed legislation creating a “Complete Streets Steering Committee” which will develop a complete streets policy which provides for pedestrians, cyclists, and transit users. This includes developing a design manual and community planning process, and working with the New Haven police department to develop traffic safety benchmarks.
The City of New Haven also kicked off the Street Smarts Campaign last month, an educational safety campaign aimed at motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists.
In an op-ed coinciding with the campaign’s opening event, Mayor DeStefano, in welcome language, called New Haven streets “community spaces” and rightly noted that:
“The combination of higher fuel prices, shifting demographic patterns and the tremendous growth in downtown all suggest that even more people will be walking and cycling on city streets in the coming years. In no uncertain terms, we must be attentive and respectful to everyone using the roadway.”
The Mayor, alderpersons (particularly Erin-Sturgis Pascale and Roland Lemar, who sponsored the complete streets initiative), and groups like the New Haven Safe Streets Coalition should be applauded for the incredible progress they have made in such a short period of time. The combination of grassroots activism, sparked by the tragic deaths of Yale student Mila Rainof and 11-year-old Gabrielle Lee, and open-minded elected officials is a textbook example of how to achieve policy change.
Perhaps this local success will serve as an example to ConnDOT, which is still underfunding bike and pedestrian projects. The agency could broaden the legislation’s impact by targeting transportation dollars to communities like New Haven that show interest in creating pedestrian and bike-friendly developments.