Are CT streets safe for pedestrians
12:50 pm
Fri July 25, 2014

Looking at pedestrian safety in Conn., after a tragedy

Cars turn through crosswalks, even when the "WALK" light is lit
Cars turn through crosswalks, even when the "WALK" light is lit
Credit Craig LeMoult

A woman was hit by a car and killed earlier this week while walking in a crosswalk near downtown Stamford, Connecticut. The incident is just one of many pedestrian accidents seen in the state each year, as advocates ask for more steps to make streets safer for pedestrians.

As Priyanka Joshi crossed the Stamford street where the fatal accident occurred earlier this week, she pushed a baby stroller and held the hand of her older child.

“I’m always scared. Whenever I come out, for the kids, I’m scared.”

And with good reason.  Michael Norris, who’s on the Connecticut Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board, stood at the same intersection.

“You can actually see with this black Subaru that just went through - I hope the mic picked up the tires squealing - but because the intersection is set up the way it is, that car made the turn pretty fast, and if that person were to see someone crossing they would not have the chance to stop in time.”

Norris says there are steps that can be taken to avoid that kind of accident.

“One thing that the city can do, and just towns in Connecticut in general is take a very critical look at how intersections are designed and think of ways to enable drivers to travel a lot slower.”

Norris is pushing for the city to adopt a national policy called “complete streets,” which designs roadways to be better shared by bikes and pedestrians. Stamford Mayor David Martin says he’d like to see that, too.

“There’s a lot of progressive cities, and a lot of cities that even aren’t that progressive that have move much more rapidly on complete streets,” said Martin.

The problem is limited resources. Right now Stamford has just one traffic engineer, and the Mayor says he’s hoping to hire another one next year. Stamford has budgeted for a transportation planner, who has not yet been hired.

The Stamford area is not the most dangerous city in Connecticut for pedestrians. A study by the group Smart Growth America says from 2003-2010, there were 75 pedestrian fatalities in the Bridgeport, Norwalk, Stamford area. That’s compared to 99 in the New Haven-Milford area, and 121 in Hartford. There were 36 around Norwich in New London.

For now, following this week’s accident, Stamford is taking some immediate steps. The city has already begun repainting all the crosswalks.

“Police department is going to be doing a distracted driving enforcement program in September, using some grant money that we’ve gotten for that purpose," said Martin.

Martin also wants to move all the “no right turn on red” signs so they’re next to the signal light, rather than on poles that aren’t always visible to drivers. And he says as each intersection requires construction, they’ll make sure they’re modernized, to be as safe as possible.