NORWALK, Conn. — Norwalk Police are seeking the identity of a driver who they say fled after striking a teenaged bicyclist June 11 on Connecticut Avenue, where it meets Taylor Avenue.
That intersection is a great example of the problems outside Norwalk’s older core, where streets and land were largely developed around the car, Norwalk Bike/Walk Commission Chairman Tanner Thompson said.
“The hit and run was horrifying, and the Bike/Walk Commission is committed to making Norwalk a place where this doesn’t happen,” Thompson said, after watching a video posted on social media by the boy’s mother.
Sarah Williams said her 15-year-old son has recovered well. The video, taken from a nearby building, shows some cars proceeding through the intersection and others turning left onto Connecticut Avenue from North Taylor Avenue. The young victim appears at the top of the video, riding a bicycle into the intersection with the green light. He is struck by a black SUV and pushed to the pavement but gets up fairly quickly. He speaks to the SUV’s driver as other vehicles slowly pass by.
“My son jumped up in the video for his safety but ended up collapsing off camera,” Williams wrote on NextDoor. “Fortunately I was minutes away from this location and got there right away after he called me. I rushed him to the hospital and the police met us there. They told him he should have stayed at the scene of the accident but the mother in me just panicked and went straight to the hospital 1st.”
Norwalk Police say the teen’s bicycle was lodged under the vehicle. The driver reversed the SUV, dislodging it, then left the scene, heading east on Connecticut Avenue.
The SUV was a Toyota Rav 4 with orange plates, possibly a New York registration, with front end damage and a broken right headlight, police say. The driver is said to be a Black man in his 60s with a gray beard. He was wearing a black hat.
“Anyone with information regarding this incident is asked to reach out directly to the investigating officer via email, at [email protected],” Police say in a press release.
You could also call the Norwalk Police tip line at 203-854-3111, submit an anonymous tip through the Norwalk Police website www.norwalkpd.com or text to TIP411 (847411), typing “NORWALKPD” into the subject line and then the message.
Williams said her son has been riding Norwalk streets for two years and this is the first incident she knows of.
“Cyclists and pedestrians are the most vulnerable users of our streets,” Thompson wrote. “As cars have gotten bigger and streets have gotten wider, pedestrian and cycling casualties have increased across the nation. Since 2009, the number of pedestrian deaths nationwide increased by 53%, while all other traffic fatalities increased by only 2% (source: CT DOT pedestrian safety strategy, page 1). Between 2010 and 2016, annual cyclist deaths increased over 35% (from less than 630 to 852, see source for this and many other stats).”
He explained that Norwalk has a “denser, older urban core that was laid out before the time of the automobile,” but elsewhere the landscape is designed around cars. Pedestrians attempting to cross the five lanes of traffic on Connecticut Avenue have to press a “beg” button. “There is no dedicated space or signals for people on bikes and the design of Connecticut Avenue encourages motorists to drive much faster than the posted speed limit of 30mph. The whole area is designed to move as many cars as possible, with pedestrians included only as an afterthought and cyclists not at all.”
Like others, Thompson said Norwalk needs a concept called “Complete Streets.” He described that as “streets designed for all street users.”
Norwalk Chief of Operations and Public Works Anthony Robert Carr recently called it “Vision Zero,” a “total package for a streetscape that allows motorists and pedestrians to function in a very safe and comfortable environment.” He said Vision Zero is incorporated into the update to the Department of Public Works roadway standards, approved by the Common Council in April.
“A handful of towns in Connecticut have implemented Complete Streets design guidelines but Norwalk is not one of them,” Thompson said Friday. “The City government needs to design, adopt, and start implementing Complete Streets guidelines so that our streets can be safe for all users.”
Norwalk Communications Director Josh Morgan said:
“That accident was terrible and we hope that anyone who has more information will contact the Norwalk Police Department.
“Recently, the Transportation, Mobility, and Parking Department (TMP) submitted an application to fund a Connecticut Ave/Van Buren Ave Corridor Transportation Master Plan under the Connecticut Department of Transportation Corridor Study Program. With this study, the City will be able to develop a comprehensive short-term and long-term transportation and land use plan that is equitable. The Study will not only provide a plan for future land use, but also encompass all modes of transportation decisions that will be made within the corridor. This plan will build on previous plans developed for the corridor and support Complete Streets principles.
“This plan will serve as the blueprint for future infrastructure and design improvements needed in the corridor and as support material for future grant opportunities and capital funding requests. This study will provide the city businesses, residents, and visitors with an efficient, safe, and aesthetically inviting street with the streetscape, sidewalks, bus stops, crosswalks, and other transportation amenities that they require. We are building a Complete Streets design manual that provides equity for all users and builds the framework for a safe, efficient, and equitable transportation network throughout the City.”
The Bike/Walk Commission is a new body but was preceded by a Bike/Walk Task Force, formed by Mayor Harry Rilling shortly after he was first elected in 2013. Many task force members were appointed to the Commission.
Recently, the Commission formed a Pedestrian Committee. Chairwoman Audrey Cozzarin said:
“Norwalk, like the rest of our region, has a high population of busy people and road congestion is a constant problem. During the pandemic, people have been walking and biking more, and we need all hands on deck to make sure our roads are safe for ‘active transportation’ as well as more highly-functional public transportation.
“If we encourage people to walk and bike, for exercise, to walk dogs, or to get to work and school, everyone who drives really needs to examine how they’re driving. Traffic laws are not in place to annoy motorists. These are laws that exist for the common good of everyone, to keep us all safe.
“The June 11 hit and run of a teenager on a bicycle, as well as the motorcyclist hit on July 4 (both, ironically, on Taylor Avenue), highlight the need for motorists to ‘drive mindfully,’ safely, responsibly. The Norwalk Bike/Walk Commission advocates for timely and meaningful improvements to our roadways, community outreach, and enforcement. But, we can use help from everyone to do their part: Drive safely and follow the law, and always watch out for pedestrians and bicyclists.”