Stamford Mayor David Martin announced the creation of a new public safety and awareness initiative on Wednesday. “Stamford Street Smart” will take a “multifaceted approach” to traffic safety and is being led by the Mayor’s office in collaboration with the Stamford Police Department, Operations Department, Stamford Public Schools and community organizations.
The program’s launch was timed to coincide with the beginning of the school year. Sergeant Andrew Gallagher, who heads the Stamford Police Department’s Traffic Enforcement Unit, reported that his division on Wednesday had stopped dozens of motorists for distracted driving — a key focus of Stamford Street Smart — and even a few for passing school buses.
Stamford suffers from a sort of dual personality: on some blocks, Stamford seems to be a walkable urban center with several new mixed-use developments; on other blocks, Stamford is more like an automobile-dominated edge city with wide, high-speed streets that make getting around on foot or by bicycle a challenge. So it’s good news that the initiative will focus not only on enforcement and education, but on engineering as well.
Mayor Martin and Director of Operations Ernie Orgera said the City will review all 205 of Stamford’s signalized intersections, and has already begun to install flashing “No Turn On Red” signage. The City will also repaint crosswalks and re-synchronize the City’s traffic signals — something that hasn’t been done in 20 years.
While the mayor should be applauded for making good on his campaign promise to make Stamford’s streets safer for all users, there are some reservations about the Street Smart initiative. For example, while re-synchronizing traffic signals could “help drivers frustrated with the city’s unnecessary stop and go traffic patterns,” we hope the measure will also help pedestrians frustrated with the fact that they have to push a button to get a “WALK” signal. Mayor Martin said the police will target “jaywalkers,” but perhaps instead of treating pedestrians as an afterthought, the City should include concurrent pedestrian signal phasing — like what you see in New York City — as part of the signal re-synchronization.
Stamford Street Smart, for the most part, is a good first step, but more can be done at the state level to support progressive city transportation policies and plans. The Connecticut Department of Transportation has yet to adopt the National Association of City Transportation Officials Urban Street Design Guide, the State’s Highway Design Manual — which makes no mention of Connecticut’s complete streets law — is overdue for an update, and the state relies too heavily on federal funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects.