We sent a letter to City leaders outlining why the current Main Street concepts are unsafe and problematic, which you can read and co-sign below!
You can view the current concepts for Main Street here. It's not obvious, but the shared use path is shown on pages 2, 5, 11, and 14.
Dear City Councilors & Commissioners, DPW Staff, and Main St. Great Streets project team:
I am writing in regard to the current concept plans for the Main Street Great Streets project. Local Motion is excited to see this project moving forward and we enthusiastically support most of the current concepts. We are also pleased that the project team is looking at how to prioritize safety and level of service for people walking and biking at the intersections.
Main Street is the gateway to our downtown, institutions, and waterfront. For years, we have heard that Main Street will be rebuilt into a great street worthy of our great city. A gateway top to bottom, with infrastructure that is safe and pleasant for people walking and biking, while still accommodating cars. So, we are surprised that the current concept does not include continuous, separated bike lanes and sidewalks for the full length of the project as one would expect for a Great Street and a complete street, and as identified in PlanBTV Walk/Bike. For some reason, there is a break in this continuity between South Winooski and South Union, where there is a shift to a shared-use path on the south side of the street.
Our understanding is that the reason for the shift is to preserve parking. The tradeoff here—which is continuous, safe infrastructure in exchange for keeping a few parking spaces—is simply too great.
There are very few parking spots along the south side of the block between Winooski and Union, and the few businesses on this block have large parking lots. We know that we do not have a parking shortage downtown, and these few spots would do nothing to diminish the perception of a shortage given their peripheral location. Building consistent, enjoyable, and safe walking and biking infrastructure will do more to reduce pressure on our parking supply than these three or four parking spaces. Let’s build a truly great street, not a mostly great street.
A shared use path along this block is problematic for several reasons:
- Hazardous design — This shared use path would see two-way traffic from various user types traveling at divergent speeds with little room to maneuver. It also has frequent curb cuts. This simply isn’t workable and is a recipe for frequent injuries.
- Discomfort for people walking and using assistive devices — As the presentation delivered to City Council on May 9th stated, the community has clearly expressed that “Accessibility and safety of pedestrians is paramount” along Main Street. Forcing people walking—including those who use assistive devices such as wheelchairs—to share a steep, constrained space with people biking creates an uncomfortable and dangerous situation. This will be especially true for those with disabilities, who may not be able to maneuver to avoid hazards. This design does not hold the accessibility and safety of pedestrians as paramount—it subverts it in order to preserve an exceedingly small number of parking spaces.
- Level of service for people biking — Main Street is one of very few east/west corridors in Burlington. As such, it should be built to the highest standard of comfort and service for people biking. Mixing with people walking will generate delay, inconvenience, and hazards for people attempting to use Main Street as a bicycle transportation corridor. The impact will be worse for less-strong and less-confident riders, for whom it may be difficult to regain momentum after slowing to pass groups of people walking on the steep uphill.
- Student traffic pattern — The shared use path will encourage students leaving Edmunds by bike to remain on the south side of Main Street. Students proceeding west will then have to cross Main Street at South Winooski—a wider and more hazardous intersection than South Union. Instead of crossing Main Street, many students will make a dangerous contraflow movement across Winooski Avenue. They are then apt to proceed against the flow of the eastbound bike lane, or will ride on the sidewalk—creating further hazards and degrading the experience for people walking.
We encourage DPW and the project team to adjust the concepts by removing the very small number of parking spaces between South Winooski and South Union, and adjusting the proposed curb lines to accommodate the separated bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure that the community originally envisioned for this corridor. Let’s get this right the first time, and make this a truly complete, and truly great street that we can be proud of for generations to come.