According to the latest “Dangerous By Design” report, the number of pedestrians fatalities in the U.S. increased by 59% from 2009-2020. During this ten-year period, 64,073 people were hit and killed by drivers. The last four years (2017-2020) were the most deadly years for pedestrians since 1990. In 2019 alone, 6,529 people were killed, which is the equivalent of nearly 18 people dying per day.
In Monroe County, from 2012-2021, over 5,000 crashes involved bicyclists and pedestrians, and ten people die on our local streets every year as a result of these crashes.
Responding to this growing epidemic was the impetus behind the creation of our Complete Streets Makeover (CSM) program in 2018. Our goal is to bring attention to complete street design as one critical factor in creating streets that are safe for everyone. A complete street allows everyone—regardless of age, ability or mode of transportation—safe access on that street. It is a street shared by pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders and motorists.
At Reconnect Rochester, we believe providing safe streets for people to walk and bike is a matter of social justice, especially for those in our community who are most vulnerable — young children, the elderly, the transit dependent, and those who cannot afford to own a car. Through this program, we and our team of partners are taking social action around this issue in a creative way that produces tangible results and builds community in the process.
The Selection Process
Each year, we begin our Complete Streets Makeover program by putting out a public call for submissions. We ask Monroe County residents to help identify the intersections and corridors they find to be the least friendly to pedestrians and bicyclists. No one understands what it’s like to use our streets better than the people who walk, bike and roll along them every day.
From the public nominations received, a Program Steering Committee made up of City and County officials, transportation professionals and community advocates, selects a winning location to receive the “Complete Streets Makeover” treatment. Selection factors include crash safety data, proximity to kids, and the potential and feasibility of design improvements. In other words, we select the most dangerous street with the greatest potential for change.
Transforming the Street
We begin the makeover treatment with a community workshop, facilitated by the Community Design Center, that engages neighbors and other stakeholders. We listen to their experiences and ideas, and together we re-imagine a vibrant space that’s designed for people. Using the input from this workshop, the Stantec design team creates an illustration of temporary improvements that could be made.
The next step is for the community to bring this design to life. Neighbors come together for an on-street event that transforms the intersection. We utilize equipment from HealthiKids’ “traffic calming library”, street painting, and other creative “placemaking” elements. There is community building, food, music and joy. (Watch the short films below to experience the magic of the day!)
The temporary on-street experiment is intended to implement some elements of design improvement, enough for the neighborhood to show reduced speeds. With the help of Genesee Transportation Council, we collect speed data before the on-street installation, and then again post-installation. The neighborhood uses this powerful evidence to advocate for making permanent street design changes.
In the case of our 2018 project at the intersection of Parsells Ave. & Greeley St., it took some time, but in November 2020, the City of Rochester installed permanent raised crosswalks at two locations on Parsells Avenue (one at the intersection, and one a few blocks further down the road). The neighborhood succeeded in coming together to disrupt this car-dominated speedway, and take it back as a safe and welcoming space for everyone.
For every CSM project, Reconnect Rochester and our partners continue, for as long as it takes, to support the neighborhood’s advocacy efforts to make permanent street design improvements.
Experience the Magic
Nothing captures the life of a project better than film. For each of our projects, Reconnect Rochester, in partnership with Floating Home Films, produces a short film that tells the story. Watch and be inspired!