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Kerri Ana Provost

The first pedestrian to be killed in Connecticut this year was Emily Piasecki in Killingly. The mother of two was using Route 101 in the early morning. There are no sidewalks, no marked crosswalks, and the speed limit is 45. It was dark and street lighting was non-existent. This rural road is designed to kill.

In April, a publicly unidentified woman was killed in the early morning while using five-lane Route 162 in West Haven. There is housing, retail, and bus stops, but the design does not suggest a person moving outside a car should have access to any of them. There is no marked crosswalk or pedestrian signal at the nearest intersection, and the sidewalk is inconsistent.

In June, Shawn Kiefer was pedaling along Route 800 in Torrington when a driver ran off the roadway, striking and killing her. The speed limit is 45 mph. Kiefer was cycling on the narrow shoulder where the only thing separating her from a car was a line of white paint.

The patterns in these deadly collisions are impossible not to see, yet decision-makers have been unwilling to take meaningful action up until this last year.

Roughly half of all pedestrian fatalities in Connecticut are on state roads, even though these roadways make up around 20% of road miles. That alone should tell you something.

Almost 10 years after the CTDOT issued a vague Complete Streets policy statement, the agency amended its design guidance. Had the CTDOT’s Complete Streets directive existed years ago, the recent Route 44 redesign through Hartford would not have included sharrows. These are markings that only the rarest of birds can explain, rendering them useless. Sharrows are the road treatment nobody asks for, and safety advocates have suspected that their existence has been a way for engineers to have the appearance of doing something for cyclists, while in fact changing nothing at all about the status quo. 

CTDOT’s Complete Streets directive that went into effect on Sept. 1, 2023 tells designers how and when to use bicycle facilities, and defines what qualifies as one: sharrows are not on the list. Instead, designers may work with designs that work: bike lanes, including those that are buffered by paint and those separated and physically protected by vertical elements including sturdy bollards, flexible plastic posts, flower pots, and more. Side paths and shared use paths are permitted, and in this case, the shared space is among those traveling at low speeds.

Paved outside shoulders are considered acceptable if the posted speed is under 40 mph or the traffic volume is fewer than 18,000 vehicles per day. With this guidance, all three cyclists killed this year could have had safer streets – Route 1 in Stonington, 80 in East Haven, and 800 in Torrington – and might still be with us.

The new Complete Streets directive also has something to say about bus stops to nowhere, like the one on West Haven’s Route 162 near where a person was killed in April. A stop that is a sign but lacking sidewalk is now officially unacceptable. Stops with either infrequent service or high usage would be eligible for benches and shelters, providing dignity and comfort to public transit users. 

The document describes design criteria for more general pedestrian infrastructure, too. Certain types of roads, like those in rural town centers and in areas where pedestrian traffic is expected – such as near housing and shopping plazas – should have sidewalks on both sides of the road, and it needs to be wide enough to accommodate those using wheelchairs and other mobility aids. 

But, there are caveats and loopholes galore. It’s easy to imagine how someone wishing to remain behind the times might take something like this statement as an excuse to ignore the safety of all road users: “Designers should select bicycle facilities that provide bicyclists with a suitable accommodation and are feasible to implement given considerations such as, but not limited to, available right-of-way, geometric constraints, construction cost, and maintenance factors.” Will it be as simple as a designer saying “there just wasn’t enough room for a bike lane on the six-lane road”? How will CTDOT ensure that “every reasonable effort” has been “made to design projects within the ranges of standards”?  

The Complete Streets design criteria is a potential gamechanger, but it promises that safety advocates will need to get even more serious and organized. If we want liveable communities, we are going to have to be persistent in challenging those who might not be motivated to readily embrace the new rules – the difference is now we have a clear set of rules that we can point to.

Kerri Ana Provost is a Hartford-based writer who also publishes at

The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of or any of the author's other employers.