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Media Coverage

Welcome to Local Motion's media file -- your source for local news stories on walking, biking, and active lifestyles. Have an article to add? Send it to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Thank you!

Pedestrian adcidents fairly random, Police say

Burlington Free Press

ELIZABETH MURRAY

FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER

December 8, 2014

 

Between late September and early November in Burlington, three motor vehicle crashes involving pedestrians or cyclists had occurred on or near Pine Street this year. However, Pine Street is not the place in the city with the heaviest number of general crashes this year, or consistently the area where pedestrian- or bicyclist-involved crashes are the highest, said Burlington Sgt. Thomas Radford. Radford is a 20-year veteran of the Burlington Police Department. 

 

In his experience, Radford said pedestrian or bicycle crashes with cars are fairly randomly spread throughout the city. These types of crashes make up a fraction of all accidents this year, with 28 crashes involving bicyclists and 10 involving motorcycles. The Burlington Police Department did not provide exact statistics on the number of pedestrian vs. car crashes that occurred so far this year. “My experience is that there are certain areas where one is more likely to get hit than others, but it’s pretty random throughout the city,” Radford said. “If you’re a pedestrian, you have nothing to protect you, so when you enter that crosswalk, you have to make sure that the vehicles have stopped. If you do that, then you’re going to keep yourself safe.”

 

As of Nov. 30, Burlington police statistics show that 1,731accidents have occurred this year. Most of these accidents,
or 62 percent, are property damage only events, according to statistics obtained from the Burlington Police
Department. The statistics also show that five percent of all these crashes involved injuries to people — which includes
motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians. These percentages are consistent with past years, the department concluded
after examining the statistics. 

 

Radford said pedestrian and bicycle crashes in Burlington seem to get the most attention from the media — making it seem like more have happened. According to Radford, he has seen several things improve in the city, particularly along Pine Street with the flashing crosswalk signal that was installed this year,  which he said has had a “huge effect.” The total number of motor vehicle crashes has gradually increased in Burlington over the last three years. However, this year’s crash statistics started high in January, with almost 200 crashes in one month, but eventually leveled off and dropped in November. 

 

A heat map created by the Burlington Police Department shows that areas in Burlington where crashes happen most often are around 1127 North Avenue, the Winooski Avenue and Main Street corridors, 11 Colchester Ave, the intersection of Main Street and East Avenue and at 595 Shelburne Road. Stu Sporko, a University of Vermont student and Burlington resident, said he often rides his bicycle to work at the Battery Street Jeans Exchange on Marble Avenue. As a bicyclist, Sporko admitted he does not follow the rules of the road too closely, but he said fault comes from both sides. He also said he would like to see more bicycle lanes around the city. “I’ve seen some people driving fast down Pine Street, and there’s not really a lot of courtesy to pedestrians on Pine Street compared to other side streets,” Sporko added. “If you’re trying to cross, you kind of have to wait until all the cars go by...

 

 

However, the real traffic really hits you on Shelburne Road.” Sporko said that Pine Street is fairly empty at night, but that is when he sees people speeding down the street the most. Burlington resident Tori Wonderlick said that she walks to work on Church Street every day from her North Avenue home. She said that being predictable to cars and bicyclists is the  way she keeps herself safe.


Wonderlick said she has observed that four-way intersections, especially near one-way streets in the Old North End, seem to be most confusing for drivers. She said she has almost been hit while crossing the street when the motorist only looked the one way before turning up a one-way street in the direction where she was crossing.  “Sometimes, I think people can get pretty impatient at some of those heavily-trafficked fourway stops that only have stop signs,” Wonderlick added. “At high-traffic times, people tend to act as if the stop sign is a stop light ... As a pedestrian, I feel like it’s important to pay attention to who is paying attention to you too.”

 

Contact Elizabeth Murray at 651-4835 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .
Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/LizMurraySMC.

 

Pedestrian adcidents fairly random, Police say

Burlington Free Press

ELIZABETH MURRAY

FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER

December 8, 2014

 

Between late September and early November in Burlington, three motor vehicle crashes involving pedestrians or cyclists had occurred on or near Pine Street this year. However, Pine Street is not the place in the city with the heaviest number of general crashes this year, or consistently the area where pedestrian- or bicyclist-involved crashes are the highest, said Burlington Sgt. Thomas Radford. Radford is a 20-year veteran of the Burlington Police Department. 

 

In his experience, Radford said pedestrian or bicycle crashes with cars are fairly randomly spread throughout the city. These types of crashes make up a fraction of all accidents this year, with 28 crashes involving bicyclists and 10 involving motorcycles. The Burlington Police Department did not provide exact statistics on the number of pedestrian vs. car crashes that occurred so far this year. “My experience is that there are certain areas where one is more likely to get hit than others, but it’s pretty random throughout the city,” Radford said. “If you’re a pedestrian, you have nothing to protect you, so when you enter that crosswalk, you have to make sure that the vehicles have stopped. If you do that, then you’re going to keep yourself safe.”

 

As of Nov. 30, Burlington police statistics show that 1,731accidents have occurred this year. Most of these accidents,
or 62 percent, are property damage only events, according to statistics obtained from the Burlington Police
Department. The statistics also show that five percent of all these crashes involved injuries to people — which includes
motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians. These percentages are consistent with past years, the department concluded
after examining the statistics. 

 

Radford said pedestrian and bicycle crashes in Burlington seem to get the most attention from the media — making it seem like more have happened. According to Radford, he has seen several things improve in the city, particularly along Pine Street with the flashing crosswalk signal that was installed this year,  which he said has had a “huge effect.” The total number of motor vehicle crashes has gradually increased in Burlington over the last three years. However, this year’s crash statistics started high in January, with almost 200 crashes in one month, but eventually leveled off and dropped in November. 

 

A heat map created by the Burlington Police Department shows that areas in Burlington where crashes happen most often are around 1127 North Avenue, the Winooski Avenue and Main Street corridors, 11 Colchester Ave, the intersection of Main Street and East Avenue and at 595 Shelburne Road. Stu Sporko, a University of Vermont student and Burlington resident, said he often rides his bicycle to work at the Battery Street Jeans Exchange on Marble Avenue. As a bicyclist, Sporko admitted he does not follow the rules of the road too closely, but he said fault comes from both sides. He also said he would like to see more bicycle lanes around the city. “I’ve seen some people driving fast down Pine Street, and there’s not really a lot of courtesy to pedestrians on Pine Street compared to other side streets,” Sporko added. “If you’re trying to cross, you kind of have to wait until all the cars go by...

 

 

However, the real traffic really hits you on Shelburne Road.” Sporko said that Pine Street is fairly empty at night, but that is when he sees people speeding down the street the most. Burlington resident Tori Wonderlick said that she walks to work on Church Street every day from her North Avenue home. She said that being predictable to cars and bicyclists is the  way she keeps herself safe.


Wonderlick said she has observed that four-way intersections, especially near one-way streets in the Old North End, seem to be most confusing for drivers. She said she has almost been hit while crossing the street when the motorist only looked the one way before turning up a one-way street in the direction where she was crossing.  “Sometimes, I think people can get pretty impatient at some of those heavily-trafficked fourway stops that only have stop signs,” Wonderlick added. “At high-traffic times, people tend to act as if the stop sign is a stop light ... As a pedestrian, I feel like it’s important to pay attention to who is paying attention to you too.”

 

Contact Elizabeth Murray at 651-4835 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .
Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/LizMurraySMC.

 

Closing Burlington streets to open community conversation

WCAX

 

Sep 16, 2014 

 

By Melissa Howell 

 

http://www.wcax.com/story/26548623/closing-burlington-streets-to-open-community-conversation 

 

 

BURLINGTON, Vt. -

It's a movement spreading across the nation, from Bogota, Colombia, to Portland, Oregon, and now, right here in Burlington. It's an event called Open Streets BTV. Local Motion is joining forces with the city to halt traffic to hold a party. Sunday from 9 a.m.-2 p.m., streets throughout the Old North End will be closed to cars and open to bikes.

Reporter Melissa Howell: The idea of shutting down a whole area in Burlington, how is that going to work for the neighborhood? For the people living on these streets?

Katelin Brewer-Collie/Local Motion: Well, we've anticipated that people will need to be able to drive on Sunday morning during the event, so we will have volunteers stationed at every single intersection along the route.

More than 100 volunteers will be escorting residents to and from their homes throughout the event.

"That's a pretty neat idea. As long as I'm able to get in and out of my driveway, I think it should be a pretty fun idea," said Jon Chamis of Burlington.

Yoga, dancing and free bike rentals for kids are just a few of the more than 30 activities replacing cars on city streets, and perhaps reconnecting the community-- improving the area's reputation.

"I think the North End gets a really bad rap sometimes, and when you see people get together and have fun like that, maybe it will change the while image a little bit," said Marni Cooney of T. Rugg's Tavern.

"It's this great opportunity to spread these positive messages about healthy habits, about community economic development, about local businesses, about coming together and thinking about streets differently," Brewer-Collie said.

While Open Streets BTV is all about bringing the community together, organizers also want to make sure that emergency vehicles can get through. And they've got a plan in place to make sure that happens.

"We will have half of North Street coned off and that lane will be reserved for emergency vehicles should there be one that needs to get through," Brewer-Collie said.

With a game plan already in place, the hope is to see Open Streets come back next year and take meeting the neighbors to a whole new level.

"We hope that in addition to just being a really fun way to spend your Sunday, Open Streets also helps promote that conversation about what everybody would like from their streets and how do we as a community get there," said Emily Boedecker of Local Motion.

The event is sponsored by local businesses. Street parking will be available to residents in all of the blocked off areas except North Street, but, of course, bikes are welcome.

Click here for more information on Open Streets BTV.

 

VTrendlines: Vermont's traffic congestion

Mike Donoghue, Free Press Staff Writer

September 15, 2014

Burlington Free Press

http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/story/news/local/2014/09/15/vtrendlines-chittenden-county-traffic/15514571/

 

 

The big-city problem of traffic congestion avoided Vermont for many years, but now traffic tie-ups are common in Chittenden County and beyond.

The Burlington Free Press wanted to know how the problem is being addressed and turned to Michele Boomhower at the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission.

Edited excerpts of an email interview:

Burlington Free Press: Traffic congestion in Chittenden County is an ongoing problem — and only will be getting worse. What is being done to address congestion?

Michele Boomhower: We know we are not going to be able to build our way out of congestion. The 2013 Vermont Transportation Funding Options Report identified a gap of $240 million in funds to maintain, operate and administer our current statewide system — this shortfall excludes any new construction. While at times it appears that traffic is increasing, we know that county-wide, vehicle miles of travel (VMT) per person is also on the decline, down 10 percent between 2003 and 2013. 71 percent of us drive alone to work, down from 76 percent in 2000 but amazingly high compared to the 1980 rate of 36 percent.

We are going to have to use all of the tools in our tool box to lessen congestion, including living closer to where we work, carpooling, taking the bus, biking, walking, information technology improvements for communicating delays and managing traffic signal timing, and increased transportation network options to allow for better street network interconnectivity and choice. In Chittenden County there is a coordinated effort among transportation providers and advocates — including the CCRPC, municipalities, the Campus Area Transportation Management Association (CATMA), CarShare Vermont, CCTA, Local Motion and others — to address transportation system needs from all angles.

There are many benefits to be enjoyed by changing our behavior. By choosing different modes and, if possible, changing the times that we travel to and from work, we can save money, time, improve personal health, reduce traffic congestion, improve air quality and reduce carbon emissions.

-BUR 20140723 ACCIDENT C2.jpg_20140723.jpg

Northbound traffic on Interstate 89 in Colchester slows following a car crash earlier this year.(Photo: GLENN RUSSELL/FREE PRESS FILE )

BFP: Routes in and out of Burlington are congested, and there is no "rush" in rush hour traffic. Drivers sit through multiple traffic-light cycles before getting through intersections. Reduction of key streets down to single lanes only exasperate drivers. What can Burlington and other communities do to get traffic moving and reduce pollution?

MB: Congestion is a sign of economic health. Significant congestion occurs principally during morning and afternoon peak commute times. The percent of people driving alone to work has remained steady at about 70 percent during the past five years, so it is difficult to predict if congestion will actually increase in the years to come. We'd like to see the region's overall drive-alone trend line decrease, and the rate of work trips made by carpooling, transit, bike and walking increase.

Another emerging trend is the younger generation's approach to transportation. According to StreetBlog USA, in 2011, the percentage of 16- to 24-year-olds with driver's licenses dipped to another new low. Just over two-thirds of these young Americans (67 percent) were licensed to drive in 2011, based on the latest licensing data from the Federal Highway Administration and population estimates from the Census Bureau. That's the lowest percentage since at least 1963.

We are observing youth and young professionals in Chittenden County following similar trends and engaging in alternative transportation choices, as well as choosing to live in downtown areas where they can work and play without needing to use a car.

This issue isn't about moving traffic; it's about moving people. Making it attractive, affordable and convenient to choose other modes (including carpooling/bus/walk/bike) will help get people moving, not necessarily traffic.

-BUR 20131011 TRAFFIC VIEW C1.jpg_20131011.jpg

Motorists are stuck in traffic on Main Street in Burlington last fall. (Photo: GLENN RUSSELL/FREE PRESS FILE )

 

BFP: What does Chittenden County Regional Planning/MPO consider the five most congested intersections/areas? What is being done about each?

MB: Congestion severity is somewhat relative to individual expectations. The five areas which we hear the most about are U.S. 7 heading into Burlington; Exit 14 heading east and west to South Burlington and Burlington; Exit 16 and the U.S. 7 corridor in Winooski and Colchester; Exit 12 and the Vermont 2A corridor heading into Essex Junction; and the Susie Wilson/Kellogg Road corridor in Essex.

There are several projects under development designed to reduce congestion and increase transportation system connectivity and operations.

• In the U.S. 7 corridor of Burlington, these include the Shelburne Road roundabout, Champlain Parkway and the associated Railyard Enterprise Project.

• Along Interstate 89, the South Burlington Third Lane addition at the Sheraton is nearing completion, the Colchester Exit 16 Diverging Diamond Interchange is in development, and planning for improvements to Exit 17 has recently been completed.

• In the Vermont 2A corridor between Williston and Essex Junction, multiple projects are planned including a four-phase upgrade to Exit 12 and the associated Taft Corners area, Industrial Avenue/Vermont 2A/Mountain View Road Intersection, James Brown Drive/Vermont 2A intersection, the Crescent Connector linking Vermont 2A/Vermont 117/Vermont 15, and the intersection of Vermont 2A and Vermont 289.

• The Susie Wilson/Kellogg Road corridor was recently analyzed for improvements and include plans to upgrade the intersection at Susie Wilson/Kellogg Road, implement Adaptive Signal Control in the corridor and upgrade the intersection at Susie Wilson Road and Vermont 15.

At the Vermont 2A and Vermont 289 intersection, upgrades include the state's first implementation of Adaptive Signal Control to manage traffic signal timing through an automated demand response system. A similar application is being analyzed for 28 signals in the Exit 14 areas heading into Burlington, out Williston Road and on Dorset Street. This system would connect the activity of all signals in an automated system.

Another technological advance under development is transit signal priority to allow buses to get a green signal upon approach to intersections — allowing for more efficient transit system performance.

BFP: Do traffic counts pinpoint other problem areas for traffic in Chittenden County that should be watched?

MB: The most critical area on our horizon is Interstate 89 between Exit 12 (Williston) and Exit 17 (Colchester/Milton). According to the VTrans 2010 Average Annual Daily Traffic Map, there are about 54,000 cars using the Interstate near Exit 14 daily. We are anticipating that at some point in the future, the interstate will need to expand to three lanes in each direction in this area. The CCRPC will be initiating an analysis starting in 2016 of expanding to three lanes.

Other areas to monitor include the U.S. 7 corridor from Milton to Colchester and Charlotte to Burlington, the Vermont 15 Corridor from Underhill to Winooski, and the Vermont 116 Corridor from Hinesburg to South Burlington. There are a number of specific intersections throughout the region which are also being monitored.

-BUR 20140723 ACCIDENT C1.jpg_20140723.jpg

Northbound traffic on Interstate 89 in Colchester slows following a car crash earlier this year. (Photo: GLENN RUSSELL/FREE PRESS FILE )

 

BFP: What can be done to increase carpooling?

MB: Creating new park and ride locations is critical to increasing carpooling. VTrans recently received a permit from the town of Williston to build a park and ride at Exit 12. A park and ride was established in the Riverside area of Jericho to serve the new Vermont 15 Commuter Bus Service, which runs from Jeffersonville to Burlington daily.

Programming through Go Vermont and Go Chittenden County is available to assist folks trying to find carpooling and vanpooling options.

If you carpool with only one other person, you save 50 percent of your travel costs; it just gets better the more folks you can engage in a carpool.

BFP: What can be done to increase public transportation?

MB: Easy and cheap access to parking incentivizes driving and increases congestion. Market pricing parking to incentivize leaving cars at home or at park and ride lots can be a great way to reduce congestion and increase transit ridership. Park and ride lots along commuter routes also are critical in providing access to transit in more rural areas. You can now drive or ride your bike from your rural Underhill home to the Riverside Park and Ride lot on Vermont 15 and take a leisurely ride to work in Essex, Winooski or Burlington.

Transit use increases dramatically when there are denser developments supported by walking and biking connections.

The cost of driving can influence use of public transportation. When gas prices soared above $4 per gallon a few years ago, demand for CCTA transit service grew substantially, and more commuters began using the bus.

BFP: Bicycles zipping in and out of traffic, not following rules and not having lights on after dark have added to traffic congestion and safety issues. How much does widening a road to add a bike lane for one mile cost?

MB: Local Motion has been informally collecting data for several years on rates of pedestrian, bicyclist and motorist compliance with the rules of the road at key intersections, providing a snapshot of what's going on in Burlington's streets. With regard to use of bike lights, they have consistently seen about 50 percent of surveyed bike riders use lights at night. Concerning crosswalks, an average of four cars go by before one stops, which amounts to a 20 percent compliance rate.

With support from the Vermont Governor's Highway Safety Program and the Vermont Agency of Transportation, Local Motion works in several ways to improve these numbers. This includes outreach on the streets at night, educating about the law and offering on-the-spot installation of discounted lights. They also work with area bike shops to offer discounted lights to patrons of their store, and so far in 2014, they have installed lights on 373 bikes.

In downtown Burlington, and in many of our town and city centers, slower traffic speeds and compact development are well suited to multi-modal transportation options. Although few currently exist, many of our roads have room within the existing curb-to-curb to accommodate bike traffic. However, we must all understand the rules of the road, act with courtesy, and where this fails there must be enforcement — for all violations, whether from a bicyclist, a motorist or a pedestrian. The Burlington Police Department should be writing more tickets for traffic infractions by people biking and walking. Given the many things on their plate, it is an ongoing issue.

The general perception is that infractions are harmless and acceptable. It is just as illegal to fail to yield to a person in a crosswalk, to roll through a stop sign (car or bike!), to drive 32 mph in a 25 mph zone as it is to ride without lights.

We are sharing the road, and our actions have an impact on others. Eight out of 10 people who are hit by a car traveling under 25 mph will survive. Only three out of 10people hit by a car traveling 35 mph will survive.

-BUR 0810 SINKHOLE C1.jpg_20120810.jpg

Traffic along Main Street in Burlington. (Photo: GLENN RUSSELL/FREE PRESS FILE )

BFP: What are the benefits for Burlington of becoming a place where walking and biking are easy and safe options for everyone?

MB: Transportation in Burlington is changing. From 2000 to 2012, the number of commutes in Burlington that were taken by bike increased from about 1 percent to nearly 6 percent.

Many people already know that increased bicycling improves public health, decreases crash risk, and adds to our quality of life. What is less well known, though, is the positive impact of bike friendliness on our business community. Among them are: recruiting top talent for tech and other highly competitive sectors, increasing international competitiveness for the tourism sectors, and improving employee health and productivity across all sectors.

An investment in a bikeable Burlington is an investment in Burlington's long-term economic health and competitiveness.

Michele Boomhower serves as assistant/MPO director for the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission, spearheading the organization's federally funded metropolitan transportation planning program. She also serves as an appointee of the governor on the Vermont Rail Council.

 

Carpooling options

Vermonters can use the state's free Zimride matching service to arrange carpools. The online system lets you see other riders' profiles and allows you to set any financial arrangements up front.

The state's Go Vermont program provides vans and subsidizes vanpools, which is cost-effective with five or more people with similar commute and work schedules: www.zimride.com/govermont.

 

Looking for a lane of their own

September 12, 2014

APRIL BURBANK, Free Press Staff Writer

Burlington Free Press

 

Would bike lanes lower blood pressure on North Avenue?

City Council to consider suite of changes that can accommodate all types of trans-portation, have been hammered out in.

 

It takes a certain kind of bicyclist to brave Burlington’s North Avenue.  The street is perilous and inconsistent for bicycles, city planners and cycling advocates say. They’re pressing for changes they argue would make North Avenue safer for everyone.

 

“For biking, North Avenue is really intimidating and really quite unsafe,” said Jason Van Dreische, director of advocacy and education for Local Motion, an advocacy group. “The setup right now is also really no good for drivers when there arebicyclists on the road.” Several dozen people filled a Burlington Police Department meeting room Wednesday night to discuss a new vision for North Avenue. The vast majority in attendance said they support changes that would narrow a stretch of the road to three lanes, remove on-street parking, add bike lanes on either side and paint new crosswalks.

 

The plans, which are intended to make North Avenue into a “complete street” studies and committees for more than a year. The City Council is expected to take a look later this month, and short-term steps could take effect within three years. “I think I’m a typical Vermont bike rider. When I’m in my car, I hate the bike guys,” said Joe Harig of Burlington. “When I’m on my bike, I hate the cars.” Bike lanes would reduce animosity, Harig said, by getting bikes out of the way. “Everybody breathes easier if everybody has their own space,” Van Dreische said.

 

But many people in the New North End would rather keep the current traffic configuration on North Avenue, said City Councilor Kurt Wright, R-Ward 4. Some are concerned that narrowing the road for vehicles would lengthen motorists’ commutes, and, those people point out, cyclists can use the bike path along Lake Champlain to get downtown. Wednesday morning, Wright was walking around the New North End when a “bike train” in support of the street changes rode by.

“That got them talking about this whole proposal,” Wright said, “and a lot of them were not happy with it. ... I ran into other people who said, ‘It took me an extra 10 minutes to get off my street.  ”Wright has yet to decide how he will vote when the City Council weighs the recommendations Sept. 22.

 

Paul Sisson, former interim chief administrative officer for Burlington, said he opposes the three-lane concept because he thinks it would have a “detrimental effect” on traffic — but that doesn’t mean he hates bikes. Sisson asked city councilors to wait for more public input before making a decision.“What’s the hurry?” Sisson asked.

 

The proposal

 

The proposal on the table emerges from a Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission study, which was filtered through an advisory committee of local residents and organizations.  The study’s analysis of North Avenue? Street parking is confusing, bike lanes are inconsistent, and sidewalks are in poor condition. Some intersections, such as Lakewood Parkway and Ethan Allen Parkway, have high crash rates. “Whatever we do should help make Ward 4 look like a neighborhood and not like a speedway,” Russell Ellis, a former city councilor, said during public comment time at the meeting. Proposed changes to the road would take effect any time from one year to more than seven years in the future. One set of changes would be shortterm pilot projects that would be retained only if deemed successful: Reduce the four-lane road to three lanes, with the middle lane as a turning

 

BRIAN JENKINS/FOR THE FREE PRESS

Liam Griffin gets on his bike to ride the rest of the way down North Avenue on Wednesday.

lane, between Vermont 127 and Shore Road — similar to the city’s recent change on Colchester Avenue. » Add bike lanes between Vermont 127 and Plattsburg Avenue, with protected bike lanes, separated from traffic with a barrier, between Burlington High School and Vermont 127. » Eliminate all on-street parking north of Washington Street. Other short-term proposals include new crosswalks and countdown signals for pedestrians, curb ramps and changes to some intersections, including making the intersection with Vermont 127 more closely resemble a traditional four-way junction.

 

An advisory group that worked on the proposal also wanted to reduce the speed limit to 25 mph, down from 30 mph. However, the Transportation, Energy and Utilities Committee voted 2-1 Wednesday to pass over that suggestion. Longer-term changes to North Avenue would include adding roundabouts, additional crosswalks and protected bike lanes throughout.

Further approvals

The City Council is considering an implementation plan, which would authorize the Department of Public Works and other departments to run with the ideas. Funding and other details remain to be worked out.

 

Frequent bike rider Chapin Spencer  - who co-founded Local Motion — is cautious about some elements of the plan in his role as Public Works director. Specifically, Spencer said he remains unconvinced about removing on-street parking. “My concern is that this recommendation to remove both sides of parking has not been fully vetted with the neighbors,”Spencer said.

 

There’s still time. Any changes to parking, among other things, would have to be approved by the Public Works Commission. The recommendations need to be implemented carefully and deliberately, Spencer said.

 

Mayor Miro Weinberger said he decided to support the short-term recommendations, with some caveats, after hearing support from all councilors in the New North End. “I think when we implement the first short-term changes, North Avenue will be a better road for everyone,” Weinberger said.

 

The mayor acknowledged that some people in the New North End have concerns, but he pointed out that some of the changes, including the three-lane proposal, would be probationary. “If they don’t work — and we’re going to agree up front on what the metrics of success are going to be — if they don’t work, they won’t be permanent,” Weinberger said. “They’ll be removed.”

 

Contact April Burbank at 660-1863 or abur This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

 

Video raises bike law questions

http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/story/news/local/vermont/2014/08/13/bike-law-questions-raised-video/14024317/

 

Elizabeth Murray, Free Press Staff Writer

 

August 13, 2014

 

 

 

 

An encounter on a dark road in East Montpelier in late July quickly became an example of the kinds of conflicts that can easily arise between motorists and cyclists in Vermont.

 

Carl Etnier biked in the center of the lane on U.S. 2 in the post-sunset hours of July 25. The road narrows at a certain point during his 10-mile ride from his job at Goddard College to his home in East Montpelier, and he later said the lane was too narrow for a car to pass him safely. He relied on his four-LED flashing red light and reflectors to make him visible.

 

Two men in a car came upon Etnier on the two-lane road, which has a speed limit of 50 mph, and began to follow Etnier closely, yelling at him and honking the horn. Etnier quickly turned on the camera he keeps attached to his bicycle helmet to capture any incidents that unfold, he told the Burlington Free Press.

 

"Get out of the road!" one man yelled at Etnier from the car, as shown in the video. "What the hell is wrong with you?"

 

Two cars went around Etnier and the car behind him, passing on the other side of the road.

 

Etnier eventually pulled to the side of the road. The car stopped next to him.

 

"Are you crazy?" the passenger in the car said while cursing. The man yelled that the vehicle almost "killed you," adding, he and the driver "should" have killed him.

 

Etnier responded, "What's your name?" as the situation escalated. He later fired back at the men: "You're on candid camera."

 

Etnier led the men to the nearby fire station, and he said he had the people on duty at the station call the Vermont State Police to settle the disagreement. The men willingly went along with him.

 

Etnier eventually received a ticket for failing to ride close enough to the right.

 

No other citations were given, and the state police did not respond to an email seeking the names of the drivers.

 

Cyclists' guidelines

 

Hoping the video captured on his camera changes the state police's minds, biker Etnier plans to fight the ticket.

 

Vermont law outlines a series of rules in which cyclists should obey many of the same rules as motorists, such as stopping at stop signs and red lights and signaling when making a turn.

 

When riding in the dark, cyclists also must wear a lamp in the front that emits a white light that is visible from at least 500 feet away, and wear reflectors or a lamp pointing in the opposite direction that is visible from at least 300 feet. The rear lamp should emit a flashing or steady red light, according to Vermont law.

 

The law also states that bicyclists must ride as near to the right side of the roadway "as practicable," said Jon Kaplan, the bicycle and pedestrian program manager at the Vermont Agency of Transportation. In portions of certain communities, cyclists can ride on the sidewalk, but this is defined by the specific municipality's law, Kaplan added.

 

For Kaplan, predictability is essential when a bicyclist is riding along a roadway. This ensures safety for the cyclist and for surrounding vehicle drivers.

 

"I see people ... ride in the road, and then if it's more convenient they get on the sidewalk and use crosswalks," Kaplan said. "That's actually less safe because then, vehicles have no idea what you're going to do."

 

Kaplan said that hazards, such as the potholes that were along the right side of U.S. 2 on the night of Etnier's incident, could prevent a cyclist from staying on the far right of the road.

 

A Transportation Agency "Bicycle Commuter's Guide" also outlines several instances in which a cyclist can take the lane, including:

 

• When traveling at traffic speeds and the cyclist needs to prevent motorists from "inadvertently cutting you off."

 

• When descending a hill and the cyclist needs extra space due to speed.

 

• When the lane width does not permit a car behind the cyclist to safely pass.

 

• When road conditions — such as potholes, road debris or parked cars — prevents a cyclist from riding farther to the right.

 

Etnier said he was following the rule: The stretch of U.S. 2 in which the incident occurred was narrow, and he also wanted to give himself space to maneuver in case a driver cut him off.

 

"There's basically very short sight distances," Etnier said. "The fog line on the right side of the road is up against the rock wall, so there's no room to be off the roadway there. ... That's one of the worst places I cycle around here.

 

"Clearly from the other drivers who passed me with no problems before these other drivers came along, there was no problem seeing me," Etnier added.

 

At the same time, taking the lane is "generally safest when traveling for short stretches on lower-speed roads," the bike commuter's guide states.

 

"It's my understanding from media reports that Etnier was riding down the middle of the road due to the narrow shoulder rather than a specific obstruction," Sgt. Trevor Carbo of the Vermont State Police wrote in an email to the Burlington Free Press. "I'm not sure I agree that it's a safer practice to ride down the middle of an unlit 50 mile per hour road in the dark, than the right side of the road."

 

Carbo said he is unaware of an obstruction along that stretch of road that would require Etnier to take the lane.

 

Driving nice

 

Vermont law states that motorists approaching or passing a "vulnerable user," such as a pedestrian or a cyclist, should "exercise due care" by increasing clearance while passing.

 

By taking the lane, biker Etnier forced vehicles to pass him using the opposite side of the road, but he said this was the safest option for both him and for drivers.

 

"I was in the middle of the lane to avoid an almost impassibly rough line of pavement on the right side of the right lane," Etnier said. "I wanted to make abundantly clear to drivers to stay behind me until we both could see whether it was safe to pass."

 

Harassment — such as following a cyclist too closely with a car, crowding the cyclist and throwing objects — also is prohibited by Vermont law. Troopers who investigated the incident the night it happened interviewed Etnier and the two men in the car before ultimately concluding there was no harassment.

 

"Etnier advised one particular motor vehicle honked their horn and yelled at him to move out of the roadway," Sgt. Carbo of the state police wrote in his email. "This in and of itself is not a violation of law. Mr. Etnier was asked to provide additional information such as any video of the incident to investigating troopers, and he has failed to do so."

 

Etnier said troopers declined to view the video on his helmet camera that evening because they did not want to plug a foreign object into their computers. He has yet to follow up with the state police to show the video, but he said he has an appointment for Aug. 22.

 

'Smart cycling'

 

According to the League of American Bicyclists, Etnier is a certified "smart cycling" instructor and a lifetime member of the league. Etnier said he teaches rules for cycling safely to other cyclists in Vermont. To become certified, spokeswoman Carolyn Szczepanski said, members must complete a nine-hour traffic-skills class and then take part in a three-day seminar.

 

Etnier said he teaches "vehicular cycling" to his students.

 

"I teach how to bike effectively and safely in traffic, and legally," he said. "The mantra of the type of cycling I teach is that bicyclists fare best when they act as, and are treated as, drivers of vehicles."

 

According to Sgt. Carbo, Vermont State Police troopers do not specifically go through a bicycle-safety course, but they are informed of road rules for cyclists and motorists at the police academy. Any updates or changes to the law are announced to troopers through training bulletins.

 

"Vermont State Police takes bicycle safety very seriously," Carbo wrote. "There is no room for error when it comes to incidents between bicyclists and motor vehicles. If we are provided with additional information that warrants additional actions against others, we will investigate it thoroughly."

 

Kaplan's Transportation Agency program is working on putting together a curriculum for law enforcement that would make these laws clearer.

 

"I don't know if the bicycle-related laws are widely understood or enforced consistently," he said

 

Etnier said he hopes he can get his ticket ripped up. He also hopes his story will elevate public awareness about cyclists' rights.

 

Contact Elizabeth Murray at 651-4835 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/LizMurraySMC.

 

 

 

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