Update: Join us and speak up about strengthening the draft action plan at the last scheduled Vision Zero meeting on Monday Jan 8th from 5-7pm at the West Hartford Town Hall, room 400. If you cannot attend, email your feedback to BikeWestHartfordInc@gmail.com and we’ll do our best to share your views at the meeting. Also, we are concerned that the Town of West Hartford has NOT yet posted an agenda for this meeting as of the morning of Friday Jan 5th.
One year ago in December 2022, Bike West Hartford supporters stood at the corner of Boulevard and Whiting Lane, where 89-year-old pedestrian Eugenia Yurovsky was killed by a driver, to demand safer road design. Today, while we appreciate the direction that West Hartford’s Vision Zero process is headed, town leaders have not brought us as far as they promised at the height of the crisis, and we call for strengthening the Draft Action Plan. Download a PDF version of our letter below.
Dear West Hartford Vision Zero Task Force members:
- West Hartford’s problem of fatalities and serious injuries from car crashes is increasing.
- 56 percent of these crashes occur on 9 percent of our roadways, which the consultants mapped out to identify a High Injury Network of state and local roads.
- Injuries and fatalities are more likely when drivers collide with walkers and bicyclists.
While we appreciate the direction that West Hartford’s Vision Zero process is headed, town leaders have not brought us as far as they promised at the height of the crisis a year ago. Making our streets safer matters even more now because the Town has granted permission to construct 1,500 new housing units, with more under consideration, and many of these are located in the High Injury Network. Unless the Town makes real change, the results are predictable: adding more car drivers will kill and seriously injure more walkers and bicyclists.
Give us an Action Plan, not an Audit Plan
The Draft sections from the Introduction to the Safety Assessment (pages 1-32) do a good job of contextualizing the problem and our common goals. But more work still needs to be done on the remaining sections (pages 33+) to advance high-priority action steps with resources:
- The draft emphasizes “Road Safety Audits” more than taking concrete actions for change.
- The draft often states “if and when” rather than “we commit priority action with resources.”
- At least 43 out of 66 Vision Zero goals are listed as representing “staffing obstacles.”
We recommend holding off on bumper stickers and other feel-good public relations tactics until the Town has actually made concrete changes we can be proud of.
One Year Ago, Leaders Promised Quick-Build Road Safety Designs
Earlier this year, when the Town Council committed to a Vision Zero policy to eliminate roadway deaths and serious injuries, leaders promised rapid short-term progress toward long-term goals:
- Jan 5th 2023 CT Insider reported Town Manager Rick Ledwidth said “the town will begin acting immediately” and quoted him: “This doesn’t mean that there are not things that we can do in the short term with regards to potential road design, speed reduction solutions, particularly along roads where the most recent accidents occurred.”
- Jan 10th 2023 Town Council Vision Zero resolution submitted by Mayor Shari Cantor instructed the Town Manager to report on “recommendations for near term solutions that can be implemented immediately.”
- Jan 11th 2023 We-Ha.com quoted Mayor Cantor: “We will use tactical urbanism to experiment with road design changes to slow drivers, protect pedestrians and bicyclists, and improve traffic flow.” The article continued: “Tactical urbanism projects, according to Town Manager Rick Ledwith, are small-scale, low-cost and temporary measures to pilot street design changes to see how they work. They are implemented by traffic engineers through signage, cones, barrels, paint, tape, and planters to slow down cars and make streets safer. The designs can become permanent if they work.”
- March 22th 2023 CT Insider headline: “Task Force Seeks ‘Quick Build’ Improvements to Road Safety” and “identified potential actions that could be implemented sooner rather than later… such as speed hump trials, speed cushions, traffic calming measures along Main Street…”
One year later, despite all of the talk (with funds) promising to test short-term traffic-calming strategies in high-crash areas, the Town has not created any “quick-build” solutions. (We’re not counting the Woodrow Street semi-diverter because it was never central to Vision Zero discussions and was part of a separate agreement with a luxury housing developer.) In fact, the draft delays the benefits of quick-builds by stating that they should be implemented within two years after a road safety audit has occurred. Meanwhile, several neighboring municipalities have made real changes this year:
- Hartford is testing traffic calming measures near Rawson School in Blue Hills neighborhood.
- Wethersfield installed a raised crosswalk to calm traffic in front of Keney Center on Main St.
Reverse Anti-Walk and Anti-Bike Town Policies and Practices
When we asked residents to share with us their comments to the West Hartford Vision Zero Task Force, we were surprised to learn how existing town ordinances block meaningful change:
- One resident asked the Task Force to revise the Town’s sidewalk policy, which effectively allows individual residents to block new sidewalk construction adjacent to their property. Instead, the Town Engineer responded by defending the rights of property owners to oppose sidewalk construction, rather than embracing the Town’s responsibility to ensure public safety.
- Another resident told us that the West Hartford Police Department warned her that e-scooters are not allowed on public streets because Town Ordinance 168-33 prohibits any “motorized scooter designed for recreation.” Furthermore, this ordinance is so confusing that it led this resident to believe that e-bikes are prohibited, even though they are not. The Town should revise this entire ordinance to clearly support micro-mobility transportation alternatives.
- Town Ordinance 53-1 prohibits riding bicycles on most sidewalks in West Hartford Center. We believe that pedestrians and bicyclists both deserve safe pathways. But when the Town does not build any bike lanes in the Center – and removes the only one that previously existed on LaSalle Road – the policy message is clear: the Town is not making it safer to bike here.
We Demand a Public Hearing on the Full Draft
The Vision Zero consultants publicly acknowledged in their December 6th meeting presentation that the current draft report is incomplete. Here’s what’s missing:
- Frequency of Actions – how often will the Town take steps to correct what’s broken?
- Performance Metrics – how will the Town measure if our actions are improving safety?
- Accessibility Considerations – how will the Town address residents with special needs?
- Equity Considerations – how will the Town address neighborhoods historically left behind?
While the consultants stated that a “full Action Plan (is) still in development,” the Town has not yet scheduled any meetings for public input on the “full” draft before the proposed Jan 17th Town Council DECD committee meeting.
In conclusion, many residents copied us on their comments to the WHVZ draft regarding important issues we did not address above, such as calling for “no right on red” and revising the minimum parking mandate town ordinance for new developments. We urge everyone to read comments publicly shared by others on our website, BikeWestHartford.org.
Sincerely, Bike West Hartford board members:
Jack Dougherty, Jen Fleet, Ethan Frankel, Tracy Frankel, Jim Head, Tom Martin
Note: Since BWH board member Mary Donegan also serves on the WHVZ Task Force, she recused herself from this letter.