August 16, 2021

Lt. Governor, Senator Haskell, Westport Leaders and Officials Discuss Benefits of Pedestrian-Focused ‘Vision Zero’ Legislation

Today, on Westport’s Port Road, part of Connecticut’s Route 1 – the most dangerous road in the state for pedestrians, according to Department of Transportation information – Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz, State Senator Will Haskell (D-Westport), State Representative Jonathan Steinberg (D-Westport), State Representative Stephanie Thomas (D-Westport), Westport First Selectman Jim Marpe, Westport Police Chief Foti Koskinas and Westport Deputy Police Chief Samuel Arciola, among others, gathered to discuss the benefits of pedestrian-focused legislation passed this year by the General Legislature.

House Bill 5429 takes significant steps to protect pedestrians and reduce traffic casualties, perhaps most importantly by establishing the “Vision Zero” Council, tasked with reducing pedestrian and motor vehicle fatalities on roads with a future vision of bringing current numbers down to zero in the future. Among the changes made by the legislation: increased fines for distracted driving, among other traffic violations; requiring motorists to grant right-of-way to pedestrians indicating intention to cross a crosswalk; establishing a fine for “dooring,” or opening a vehicle’s door to impede travel of a pedestrian or cyclist; and allowing local traffic authorities to establish speed limits and pedestrian safety zones.

“We know, over the past five years in Connecticut, our state has averaged 55 fatalities due to pedestrian traffic accidents. That’s way too high, and in 2020, we actually had 65 related to traffic accidents,” said Lt. Gov. Bysiewicz. “Fortunately, our transportation leadership in the General Assembly, especially Senator Haskell and State Representative Roland Lemar, have put forward a really good solution to stop those accidents. The idea behind this legislation is ‘Vision Zero,’ a vision looking to have no pedestrian fatalities in our state. They’ve got great ideas including cameras at busy intersections to make sure folks slow down, increased penalties for distracted driving, and there’s also a council created to bring together policy makers, advocates and others to reduce pedestrian and traffic incidents. In congested areas, we’ve seen an increase in pedestrian fatalities and injuries. We want to do everything we can to reduce that.”

“In the state of Connecticut, there were 308 traffic fatalities last year. That’s up from 249 the year before,” said Sen. Haskell. “I’m tremendously pleased to announce today that it is official policy of the State of Connecticut that that’s 308 too many. Transportation policy is about more than wider highways. It’s about getting people where they need to go safely. That means planning for pedestrians, not just motor vehicles. This year’s pedestrian safety bill makes a number of long-overdue reforms. It increases the fines for distracted driving, creates new protections for cyclists, and gives local officials increased authority to lower speed limits. It has been an honor and a pleasure to work with fierce advocates like Rep. Roland Lemar, who fought for this bill for years.”

“Transportation policy, at its core, is about moving people safely and efficiently to where they need to go,” said State Representative Roland Lemar (D-East Haven), House Co-Chair of the Transportation Committee, in a statement. “Nothing is more vital to that goal that a robust network of safe and accessible local roadways that serve pedestrians, cyclists and vulnerable users of all ages. These roads are the building blocks of our communities and we need to be committed to prioritizing people first. I’m thrilled that we were able to pass this landmark legislation that makes Connecticut a national leader in addressing the increasing rates of pedestrian and vehicular fatalities across the United States while also making the policy changes that make our communities stronger.”

“This Vision Zero bill offers us opportunity and necessity. Just a block and a half from here, we’ve had several close calls, and we’ve had problems with our communities with problematic intersections,” said Rep. Steinberg. “This enables our leadership to take decisive, proactive action in addressing many of these problematic intersections. We know that for large sections of Post Road, people travel 40 to 50 miles per hour, if not faster, with major trucks traveling on roads as a bypass. We need a comprehensive solution for dealing with traffic in our communities. This is an important first step.”

“I felt like I used to take my life in my own hands every time I crossed Saugatuck Avenue before I got a parking permit,” said Rep. Thomas. “Crossing that avenue, late at night, that would be a struggle crossing the street, seeing cars whiz past. I’m so glad we’re no longer leaving this to chance, and I’m glad the Vision Zero Council will work to improve pedestrian, bicycle, passenger and driver safety alike. More and more, I hear constituents asking about how they can more safely walk and ride their bikes. Thanks to everyone’s hard work bringing us together today, we have answers for them.”

“CTDOT is committed to eliminating deaths on our roadways and having our sister agencies at the table will help make this possible,” said Garrett Eucalitto, CTDOT Deputy Commissioner and Vision Zero Council Chair. “By bringing diverse perspectives together on the Vision Zero Council and engaging with and listening to the concerns of the public and safety stakeholders, we can better shape our approach to making Connecticut’s transportation system safer for all users.”