HARTFORD, CT — Connecticut saw a 53% increase in pedestrian fatalities in the first six months of 2018 compared to 2017. That’s the fourth highest percentage increase of all states for that time period.
Two pieces of legislation passed earlier this year by the House would have made Connecticut’s roads and laws friendlier to pedestrians, but they didn’t come up for a vote in the Senate.
Current law states that a pedestrian must step off the curb and into the crosswalk before a motorist has to yield to the pedestrian.
Rep. Roland Lemar, D-New Haven, who co-chairs the Transportation Committee, said cars are literally flying through the intersection and you have to physically be in the crosswalk at the moment to signal your desire to cross the road.
He said the legislation that passed the House and sat for a month on the Senate calendar would have allowed a pedestrian to signal their intention to cross the road by lifting their arm or moving toward the crosswalk before setting foot in it.
Pedestrian groups had been pushing for the legislation, but it never came up for a vote in the Senate.
“In Connecticut, cars are flying through the intersection and you physically have to be in the crosswalk,” Lemar said.
The bill passed the House 110-33.
He said distracted drivers and larger vehicles are injuring more pedestrians, but some lawmakers view it as only an issue for urban communities.
Sen. Will Haskell, D-Wilton, said the younger generation is moving away from leafy suburbs and to more urban areas so lawmakers need to take notice. He said his high school friends are living in cities where they commute with public transit and then walk to work.
He joked that he probably spends more time in his car than all of his friends combined because he has to commute to the state Capitol.
All joking aside Haskell said the other piece of pedestrian-friendly legislation that passed the House and not the Senate will benefit suburban communities that may see an increase in traffic if tolls are ever approved.
The second pedestrian-friendly bill that died would have given municipalities more control over setting lower street design speeds. It also would have allowed municipalities to lower posted speed limits on neighborhood streets.
Haskell said there will be a diversion off the highway if toll gantries are put in place and local governments are going to want more control over the speed at which people are exiting the highways to local roads.
The bill passed the House 142-3.
The bill would have allowed local traffic authorities to lower speed limits on certain roads under their jurisdiction without approval from the Office of the State Traffic Administration.
“It’s small bill like this that go unnoticed in Hartford that make a real difference in people’s lives,” Haskell said.
Lemar said he gets news alerts almost every day about a pedestrian fatality somewhere.
“We’ve got to get a handle on this both on enforcement and engineering,” Lemar said.
He said population growth is happening in the cities and people expect to live in places with walkable streets.