Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Pedestrian "Safety"

I've been complaining for years that Waterbury is extremely unfriendly towards pedestrians. In a city where a very large percentage of the population doesn't have a car, this is a serious problem. According to the Hartford Courant, this is also a dangerous problem:

For Older Pedestrians, Waterbury And Bristol Are Most Dangerous Places In State
By DON STACOM, dstacom@courant.com
9:56 PM EDT, May 25, 2010

Waterbury and Bristol were the two most dangerous Connecticut cities for older pedestrians, according to a new report by a mass transit advocacy group.

The report, released Tuesday by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, listed five Connecticut cities in which disproportionate numbers of senior citizens have been killed in recent years. The cities are spread throughout the state, but one factor remained consistent both in Connecticut and in adjoining states: Older pedestrians — especially those over age 75 — are at much higher risk of being run down than any other group.

"Pedestrian fatality rates for people 65 years and older living in New Jersey, downstate New York and Connecticut are 68 percent higher than for the rest of the country," the campaign said in its report, "Older Pedestrians At Risk."

"Those 75 years and older suffer a fatality rate that is 84 percent higher."

That pattern is especially troubling because the population in the tri-state region is aging, the organization said, so more seniors will be at risk in future years.

The nonprofit group studied pedestrian deaths between 2006 and 2008 in all three states, and concluded that Connecticut has the overall best safety rate on a per-capita basis.

But several Connecticut cities stand out for their grim statistics concerning senior citizens walking on their streets and sidewalks, the transportation group reported.

In Waterbury, five of the six people killed in the study years were 60 or older. The comparable figures were three of four in Bristol, and two of three in three cities: New Britain, North Haven and Norwalk.

The organization is recommending more funding for the Complete Streets program, a nationwide campaign to improve or create sidewalks, crosswalks and bike lanes to promote walking and bicycling.

State Rep. Frank Nicastro, D-Bristol, said Tuesday that he will call on the General Assembly to look into the matter.

"I know the DOT has been looking at making Route 6 safer," said Nicastro, a former mayor who serves on the General Assembly's transportation committee. "The DOT has a responsibility to make sure all state roads are as safe as possible."

State Department of Transportation spokesman Kevin Nursick said that Connecticut's signalized crosswalks are designed to account for the average age of users. The state also uses large LED-type signals to be more visible to those with vision deficiencies, and its newest crosswalk signals use "countdown" clocks to show pedestrians how much time remains to cross safely.

"The engineering of our transportation infrastructure is obviously very important, and we continue to work diligently to make it as safe as possible, but the safety of the public, without question, requires their cooperation as well," Nursick said.

In 2008, "unsafe use of highway by pedestrian" was the most common reason for pedestrian-involved accidents — including those in which victims were hit but not injured, he reported. Those accounted for 45 percent of all pedestrian accidents. The "driver failed to grant right of way" category represented 20 percent of pedestrian accidents.

Copyright © 2010, The Hartford Courant

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