LETTER TO BURLINGTON PUBLIC WORKS DEPARTMENT
In a letter dated August 22, 2012 to the Burlington (VT) Department of Public Works bringing to their attention a possible safety issue for bicyclists, also addressed is the Department's failure to address intersection safety. The only roundabout on the front burner was literally pressed on them by the Vermont Agency of Transportation—the City has none today. The letter reads in part:
Vermont, particularly the Burlington area, trails other progressive states, provinces and communities in adopting safe intersections, that is, mini- and regular single and two lane roundabouts. Unfortunately “complete streets” policy and law (and the research behind it) does not address safety at intersections in any way, and, in fact, adopting bike lanes without addressing intersection safety can reduce safety for all streets users.
Go back 15 years to 1997 when the Vermont Bicycle-Pedestrian Coalition adopted a policy supporting single lane roundabouts because they reduce walker injuries (and yes, car occupant injuries too) by about 90%. Mini-roundabouts installed in low-speed environments present a real solution to the four-way stop intersections which infect Burlington (they are against the law in the U.K.). Four-way stops on Maple, Pine and similar contexts create an opportunity for applying the low-cost mini- which even with lighted bollards at the walker crossings cost only a few thousand dollars.
Note that for New York State, Virginia and two western Canadian provinces their state/provinces transportation agency policies are “roundabouts only” (for Virginia Department of Transportation it is a “preference” for roundabouts). The facts of roundabouts generally are well known. As your Department knows, the Vermont Agency of Transportation refused to even consider a signal at the “rotary” and said it would fund a roundabout or nothing. Simply, the roundabout is a safety treatment and where a roundabout is feasible a signal is not a safe treatment.
Vermont's first mini- is now (finally!) being built in tandem with a one-laner at “malfunction” (soon to be “function”) junction in Manchester Center. Of course roundabouts also erase congestion, reduce pollutants and gasoline use at busy intersections by about 30%, enable denser land use, reduce delay for all users and beautify. But most important, they reduce serious and fatal injuries by about 90% (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study of U.S. roundabouts published in 2000). Roundabouts fit perfectly with the recent AAA findings that safety investments are far more important than dealing with congestion in metro areas, and that the President should hold a White House conference and adopt a “zero fatality rate” highway safety program.
Any town or region (especially Burlington and Chittenden County) need to review all their intersections for conversion to roundabouts—and the no regrets choice becomes the “low hanging” fruit, the list of prioritized intersections convertible to single lane and minis. A death and serious injury or two will continue each year at busy signalized intersections and four-way stops until conversion to roundabouts is completed. Yes, there is even a “safety bonus” to roundabout installations, the more you install the higher the level of safety on all roundabout—that is the experience of the French who lead the world at this time with 30,000 roundabouts.”
A copy of the letter was forwarded to the Burlington Walk Bike Council. Note that the Council name gets it right—it is “walk” not “pedestrian” and “bike” comes in its proper place as a second place transportation mode to the walking mode.