By: Georgia Lobb
Photo courtesy of WalkSteps.org
We wrote about the deadliest roads in Connecticut recently, where Fairfield County topped the list of the deadliest counties for pedestrians, weighing in at 23 total fatalities between 2009-2011.
(See related: Vulnerable Users in NYC)
Despite the discouraging statistics, progress might be on the horizon for pedestrians and cyclists in the near future.
Senator Beth Bye’s bill (no. SB 191), which seeks stronger penalties for automobile users who cause harm to vulnerable users, advanced last week. The bill states that any person who injures a vulnerable pedestrian “shall be required to attend a motor vehicle operator’s retraining program and to perform community service and may be fined not more than one thousand dollars.”
(Steve Higashide of the Tri-State Transportation Committee reports that the version of the bill that was passed only includes the fine as a penalty — not the retraining program or community service.)
Legislation protecting vulnerable users comes at a key time for people like bike commuters. The Stamford Advocate reported that 2013 marks the third year in a row where bike ridership has risen, and that the numbers will only increase.
Bye’s bill isn’t the only one in Connecticut that marks hope for a safer future for vulnerable users.
Proposed bill no. 5126 would allocate no more that $1.8 million to build a bike lane and sidewalks in West Haven by the Metro-North station to Yale’s West Campus.
There’s also bill no. 6085, which proposes “that the Commissioner of Transportation conduct a study of pedestrian safety and develop a plan for pedestrian safety improvements in Connecticut.”
“We have been calling on CT to pass a vulnerable user bill,” Steve Higashide told me earlier this year. He mentioned that the vulnerable users who are at the highest risk are senior citizens.
“We have consistently found that senior citizens at greater risk of being killed while walking,” he said. “From 2008-2010, Connecticut residents aged 60+ made up about 19% of the state population, but over 38% of pedestrian fatalities.”
In Ridgefield, CT, a program is now up and running called Rides for Ridgefield, according to The Ridgefield Press. It’s a non-profit organization, which will rely heavily on volunteers as drivers. The organization seeks to provide rides in an effort to “maintain the quality of life” for senior citizens without a driver’s license; rather then just get them to and from necessities such as medical appointments.
In NYC, a program called Safe Streets for Senior is in place, which is an initiative to make pedestrian travel safer for seniors citizens through measures such as “extending pedestrian crossing times at crosswalks and shortening crossing distances, altering curbs and sidewalks, restricting vehicle turns, and narrowing roadways,” according to NYC.gov.
Connecticut would be wise to implement a similar program, said Higashide — but again, it all comes down to funding.