Friday, September 28, 2012



The Vermont AARP office this year continues to work with Brattleboro and others on the recent rash of walker fatalities and serious injuries which leads to the following thoughts....

Burlington, Rutland and Brattleboro all seek answers to a sudden apparent increase of serious walker injuries and fatalities in their community. In one week this year in Burlington a walker was killed and another seriously injured at busy signalized intersections. Rutland deaths occurred south Main Street and Brattleboro deaths and injuries occurred in various contexts.

There are no common clearly common elements. The Brattleboro walker crashes involved mostly drivers 50 or over with most of those involved off sidewalks. Both Burlington crashes occurred with the walker on a marked crosswalk. A fatality this week involved a young driver who careened at high speed in a parking lot, hitting two cars, then a teen-aged worker killing her in front of the store she was employed as she left at the end of her shift. Note the Federal Highway Administration figure for a fatality based on “value of life” research is (2009 $) $6.1 million and for an injury, $126,000. These figures include lost wages, family economic impacts, etc. A AAA study last fall using this data along with crash statistics and metropolitan congestion costs found, overall, the costs from injuries and fatalities, i.e., safety, were more than double the costs of congestion in larger metro areas and greater than congestion in all metro areas.

First and foremost, a key problem in the U. S. and Vermont comes in the form of a lack of comprehensive, programmed in all phases (education, engineering and enforcement) and readily accessible in document all can see: a highway safety program. The French integrated and comprehensive program reviewed annually for performance came about as a necessity to address human carnage on the streets and highways.

With that understanding at a minimum engineering, i.e., street infrastructure, can be examined in Vermont for providing the safest—though still not satisfactory overall safety—street environment for walkers.


For walkers only two basic safety infrastructure measures exist for streets and intersections-sidewalks along street segments and roundabouts at the intersections. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) posts on its website that sidewalks cut walker injuries and fatalities by 88% and several studies indicate that on average single lane roundabouts (and mini ones too) cut walker injuries and fatalities by about a similar amount. Not other infrastructure treatments attain the performance of sidewalks along street segments or roundabouts at intersections in terms of walker safety. It is no surprise, then, that France leads the world in the number of roundabouts (over 30,000) and that with about 12,000 “roundabout years” under our belts in the U.S. and Canada not a single walker fatality has occurred—and in France only about one walker fatal occurs per 15,000 roundabouts (or “roundabout years”). As the number of roundabouts increased in 1993 in France from 10,000 to 24,000 in 2003, the number of walker fatalities remained constant, about two, where it remains today. The presence of more roundabouts alone appeared to have significant impact on improving the safety of existing roundabouts, i.e., the more roundabout you install the lower the walker fatality rate at roundabout intersections.

Interestingly, Brattleboro was the first town in the U.S. and Canada where an entire corridor was evaluated for roundabout conversion and it probably shares with Keene, NH the title of the first downtown area with all its key busy intersections evaluated for roundabouts. The 1994 Brattleboro study evaluated all intersections from the now Keene Turn Roundabout (built in 1999) to the north on Putney Road to the shopping center area south of the town on US 5. A troika of roundabouts was sketched in the 1994 study where the one-way circular traffic continues through and around the municipal complex at the north end of the commercial downtown. A roundabout almost went forward at the complex intersection adjacent and over the Wellstone Brook where the greatest congestion occurs, exacerbated as traffic backs up and through during rail crossing activation less than a 100 yards to the east.

A fatal near the intersection of Strongs Avenue and South Main Street which occurred late last year is about a block from a busy intersection with a McDonalds on the southeast corner—an intersection where a roundabout was suggested by some about a decade ago, a roundabout which might have traffic calmed the area of Strongs and South Main which itself continues to be a good candidate for a roundabout. Overall, about 95% of busy Vermont intersections can be converted to roundabouts—and moving into a comprehensive, prioritized conversion program certainly must be the keystone to any comprehensive approach to dealing with the problem of walker safety.

Getting back to Brattleboro, the central area can be examined seriously for roundabout (“normal” and “minis”) to improve safety for walkers and car occupants, reduce congestion, traffic calm, reduce air pollution. One fatality occurred along Canal Street. The use of a simple median to cross near the Transit Center in line with the walker bridge crossing might improve safety and access at the mid point of the “level” part of the street. A “median diverter” which forces a movement of vehicles from a straight path at the median would add traffic calming to the median treatment.

On Western Avenue in Brattleboro, busy VT 9, roundabouts at the I 91 interchange would improve safety and access for walkers. Other significant intersections along sidewalked road segments also could be evaluated for roundabouts.

In view of the lack of State and Federal commitment to comprehensive highway safety—similar to the lack of action one might point to in another area, climate change—then a “do it yourself” “town comprehensive street safety plan” with emphasis on walking and bicycle modes could be undertaken. These local plans would continue to face lack of state and federal lagging in the areas of law, enforcement and education, but a local plan could heavily influence highway investments in a particular community and with cooperative efforts with other region towns at regional planning commissions impact regional highway expenditure—including funding local safety plans!

Thursday, September 27, 2012


 Vermont Digger gets the story right (including a map) regarding the excellent City proposal nn

Extending Battery Street a block or so south then hanging a left to connect to Pine Street, called an “urban grid,” represents the most sensible idea for Burlington since the City Council had the foresight to take a position against the Circumferential Highway. The proposal takes a lot of pressure off the residential areas along and adjacent to lower Maple Street and north on Piece from Maple.

Congratulations to Mayor Weinburger and Councilors Shannon and Seigel for showing us all how to work together. The “street” approach rather than the”Parkway” mindset makes sense for the neighborhoods and development needs involved. The City would be advised to take the same approach to the other end of the Parkway route. Why not, Phase i, just open up the I 189 stub at the south end of Pine Street for traffic. Then if one must extend the “Parkway” then do a Phase II simple true parkway–a single lane street with a median–two blocks and end it at Flynn Avenue. Then if one must in the future extend further to Lakeside Avenue, do a Phase III, extending the simple true Parkway to that point. One step at a time by working in cooperation with the VAOT.

The first priority after Battery Street Extension and connecting at the end of Pine Street to the I 189 stub (“Parkway Phase I) is addressing safety and service for Pine Street intersections by installing mini- and regular roundabouts. Cure the delay, cure the safety! All phases of any Parkway work needs to employ roundabout only intersections–just like the value engineering recommendations in the Parkway design documents.

Sunday, September 23, 2012


The Burlington Free Press comes out for a new streets investments in the City's South End rather than providing needed safety existing intersections which constrain traffic movement and generate delay and needless traffic crashes and injuries.  This comment entered online today:

If only the Free Press and our new contractor-friendly Mayor were as concerned with safety for walkers and drivers as for laying down more pavement. The safety and delay for all users of south end intersections except Home Avenue at Shelburne Road get quantum leaps in performance with single lane and mini roundabouts like the one nearing a start at the rotary on Shelburne Street. Why not allow traffic access right away to I 189 at the end of Pine Street? AAA tells us safety costs overwhelm congestion costs in metro areas--but is anyone listening? Oh yes, put roundabouts at the south end and congestion disappears too--its just a collateral benefit. Traffic in the few places it grows in Vermont (its mostly declining) now is slow and manageable without new streets and roadways. Let's welcome the post-auto age! First things first--first roundabouts, incentives for less driving, and money for public transport alternatives--after that and only after that look at new street investments.

Thursday, September 20, 2012


Yesterday's post tried to address the existing Winooski roundabout.  It is a project I have followed the planning phase forward.  But reflection leads to the conclusion one should not try to force fit changes on the traffic circle when the problem lies in the mission the available space was designed for and how best to address that mission and the transportation needs. That reflection leads to the following for consideration...

While the City and transportation planners try to fix the seven year old Winooski City Center roundabout, the “problem” really resides in the original concept, one which led to today's dead end traffic circle design with no satisfactory exit.
There exists a roundabout solution, but only after revising the entire design on the vast underutilized space surrounded by the 230 feet by 450 traffic circle-sized roundabout gets reallocated to productive functions. Most two lane roundabouts with walker traffic are under 200 feet in diameter like the Brattleboro Keene Turn Roundabout with a diameter of 172 feet with two laners as small as 150 feet in diameter.
Let's face it, the large central area of the roundabout operates as sort of a cemetery lot, dead space that is nice to look at but otherwise useless for most citizens. The City center area needs to primarily serve the needs of the adjacent businesses along with fostering social interaction and providing an urban ambiance—the dead space inside the circle succeeds in defeating that overall purpose.  Consider, for example, the sidewalk on the westside where the most popular breakfast spot in the region, Sneakers, with just a single line of outside tables making the narrow sidewalks almost impassible—just an example of the downside of the space now devoted to the dead central area. If the central roundabout island is so attractive and useful, for example, why does the Winooski Farmer's Market locate at the southeast corner of the roundabout adjacent to the Champlain Mill?
Everyone considers the walker signal access to the dead zone or to cross from the east to west side a safety issue and conflict welcome to neither walker nor driver.
The fix—when you look at the larger picture—becomes obvious. Forget the dead zone and serve the adjacent businesses and services, provide for safe walking and driving, and erase congestion. The solution? Why, a dumbbell of roundabouts of course! One each of about 150 feet in diameter on upper end and one at the lower end—with a central connector about 200 feet long north to south.
How does a Winooski Dumbbell help? It provides outstanding benefits to the businesses and transportation alike. First, it erases the long downgrade street segment which creates the speed problem dangerous to both drivers and walkers alike. Second, most of the land inside the dead zone becomes accessible to the east and west side so that plaza space becomes possible, workable parking occurs, and urban ambiance everyone seeks can be provided. Everyone wins. For walkers two safe new crossings are created similar in comfort to the north traffic circle crossings—and the southwest walker crossing where two of the three walker crashes occurred becomes low speed and far safer. West side parking might be faced eastward and the west side sidewalk more than doubled in width. The center City design would suddenly serve customers and citizens rather than the dead zone which looked nice in fancy plans but ends up totally useless, really a blight on the area and forcing the contorted and dangerous traffic circle now in place.
There are some short term considerations—raised crosswalks can increase walker safety and reduced vehicle speeds. Most important, trying to remedy a failed basic design makes no sense when an injury costs $126,000 and a fatality $6.1 million, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
A final note on walker safety. French roundabouts experience about one walker fatality yearly per 15,000 roundabouts and one walker injury per 225 “roundabout years.” Vermont walker injures so far are one in Montpelier and the three at Winooski when overall one walker injury would be anticipated to date. The walker crash rate at Winooski City Center Roundabout really rates the description astronomical. Note the death this year across the bridge in Burlington at the signalized intersection, Barrett Street and Colchester Avenue.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012



The Burlington (VT) Free Press on Sunday ran a feature on accident and operational issues for the Winooski City Center roundabout with its five year history which includes several injury crashes and peak hour backup.  

This roundabout can be termed a hybrid, mostly roundabout in concept but dealing with a large oval size, two small parking areas served, seven overall streets and a huge central island park accessed by walker traffic lights at the middle of the oval, and acting as the primary feature of a city center with several buildings dating to the late 1800s.  The mostly two-lane   400 feet by 250 feet roundabout compares to current roundabout design practice for a two laner in urban practice of 150 feet diameter which serves walkers.  Finally, there is the added context, north to south, of a descending grade which makes speeds along the long 450 ft west side of the roundabout presenting a conflict for walkers at the southwest exit.  The comments below were submitted at the Free Press site:

Considering the seven intersecting streets, access to parking areas, and a central island park with a signal for walker entry--the Winooski City Center roundabout crash record may well be comparable with that of the three traffic signal intersections along with other signed connection this new “hybrid” roundabout replaced. The re-design of a roundabout impacts both congestion and safety—the Winooski study separating the two errs. Injury accidents really the test of safety—not lumping in non-injury crashes which relatively cost little. Federal Highway Administration employs $126,000 for the value of an injury, $6.1 million for a fatality—fender benders a few thousand dollars. For example, during the first five years of the Brattleboro Keene Turn roundabout injuries dropped 98% from 55 in the previous five years to one in the first five years of roundabout operation—but crashes went up significantly from roundabout design defects the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VAOT) continues to ignore to this day.

The complex nature of the issues in the Winooski case—both safety and congestion—require the attention of experienced practitioners in the field and no such practitioners exist in Vermont with perhaps a dozen available in the U. S., including designers of New Hampshire and Vermont roundabouts . Probably Michael Wallwork of Florida who designed the first Vermont roundabout is most knowledgeable on safety issues (particularly for walkers and bicyclists) and Barry Crown of the U.K. who designed the two-lane Main Street and Keene Bypass roundabouts in that city may be the best in the world on maximizing vehicle flows safely.

Until Winooski accesses experienced, knowledgeable folks who have dealt with literally hundreds of roundabouts—and Winooski officials resisted this advice in the past—they will continue to stumble in the dark and further risk higher levels of injuries than necessary.

Monday, September 10, 2012



                      Caramelization (British English: caramelisation) is the browning of sugar, a     process used extensively in cooking for the resulting nutty flavor and brown color. As the process occurs, volatile chemicals are released, producing the characteristic caramel flavor.

It's time to add another very sweet meaning to a different kind of “caramelization”: “Carmelization.” “Carmelization” (drop the second “a”) is the process of converting most busy intersections in an urban area or town center to roundabouts. The meaning comes from the City of Carmel, IN population 70,000 which in 2012 reached about two-thirds of the goal of converting to roundabouts about 100 signalized intersections. Mayor James Brainard states the City objective of becoming a City with one traffic signal and 100 roundabouts. (Carmel which biblically means “God's vineyard” most probably refers to Mt. Carmel overlooking Haifa, a site rich in historical events.) Note all of Carmel's several freeway interchanges are already fully “Carmelized.”

What is the impact of “Carmelization”? Since the first U.S. and Canada roundabouts were installed in 1990, one can now count about “12,000 modern roundabout years” without a single walker fatality and only one bicyclist fatal. This record is consistent with that of France with the world's largest number of roundabouts, over 30,000, where about one walker fatal occurs per 15,000 roundabouts yearly.

Consider what that means in terms a locality or area.  The Burlington VT Metro (Chittenden County, essentially) contains about a quarter of the Vermont population and about 125 or so signals (and three roundabouts) and perhaps another 25 busy intersections, mostly all-way stops, convertible to roundabouts,150 total.  Consider converting all these intersections (certainly over 90% can be feasibly converted)--then apply one walker fatality per 12,000 roundabout years based on U.S./Canadian experience to date plus apply the 66 walker injuries France experiences per walker fatality.  

Using these numbers as a yardstick, Burlington Metro would experience on the 150 roundabouts approximately one walker fatality per century--and one walker injury about every 15 months. Burlington City itself already this year experienced one walker fatality at a busy signalized intersection and a second serious injury within days of that fatality at another busy signalized intersection.

Roundabouts—like sidewalks—are the only two treatments recognized by the U.S. Federal Highway Administration to reduce walker fatalities and injuries by about 90%.  Clearly data presented here are approximations—but they illustrate the the huge difference in the scale of walker fatalities and injuries at roundabouts versus non-roundabouts. Note a 2000 study of U.S. roundabouts by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found about a 90% reduction of serious and fatal injures for all users.
We also know that the walker crash rates improve the more roundabouts that are built based on the French experience.  Also, as the U.S. society encourages the walking mode for health and other reasons so numbers of trips and modal share are expected to increase substantially. It is only fair to argue for safer streets and intersections which roundabouts offer: roundabouts slow street speeds as well as cutting fatality and injury rates at intersections themselves.

Carmelization already pays dividends for its namesake as Carmel just received an award as the most livable City in the U.S. due in large part to the positive effects of roundabouts ranging from increased safety and reduced congestion to a perception of an increase in vibrancy throughout the community.

The City of Carmel derives it name from biblical history, most probably Mt. Carmel which overlooks Haifa, Israel, a site rich in historical events. The biblical meaning of Carmel is “God's vineyard.” The roundabout use, “Carmelization” refers to the process well under way in Carmel, IN, provides another description of a valuable application which reduces human fatalities and injuries on our busy streets and highways. The new word, “Carmelization” defines a proactive policy creating a markedly higher plateau of walking safety for us all.

Monday, September 3, 2012


Sometimes a news analysis story ascends to the outstanding—it tells a tale for all to see and experience. In connecting the employment of roundabouts to changing the landscape and function of the city street system, it takes the next step to conclude the City as the best in the North America (yes, its comments on the U.S. equally apply to the other North American nations, Canada and Mexico).
It may not be possible to prove the emergence of a lively, socially interactive community comes from the roundabout, but community designers know that bicycle/walker friendly environments with low speeds and reduced delay for all modes creates the context for a lively social/economic fabric.
Most important, what Mayor Jim Brainard set in motion can be duplicated anywhere. The Carmel blueprint applies to large cities—San Francisco or Sacramento—or very small ones like Burlington (43,000 population), largest in Vermont and that State's Capital, Montpelier (8,000 population). Mayor Brainard stated a goal all can understand for his city: a one traffic signal town with 100 roundabouts.
The article:
Indianapolis Star, August 20, 2012
America's top small city: A drive into Carmel may justify its No. 1 ranking as small city
Carmel, with its many trails and bike lanes, loves to promote itself as a pedestrian- and bike-friendly city.
But you don’t have to get out of your car to see why anyone would think Carmel is the No. 1 small city in America to live — as Money Magazine believes.
In fact, I might suggest you stay in your car and take a drive through the city.
Notice the lack of traffic signals — there are only 38 in a city with about 400 miles of roads. Notice the lack of 4-way stops. Many have been replaced with roundabouts.
Think about what makes a small, suburban city a good place to live. Transportation is no doubt a major factor.
Carmel sprouted as a suburb of Indianapolis. Most drove into the city to work. Many still do.
A few years ago, a five-mile trip down Keystone Avenue from 146th to 96th Street took 15-20 minutes and included long stops at several traffic lights — think SUV’s, mini-vans and Toyota’s mixed in with semi’s.
It was a mess.
Today, thanks to new roundabout interchanges, there are no lights. And the trip takes about 6 minutes.
Over the past 15 years, Carmel aggressively replaced stop lights with free-flowing roundabouts and roundabout interchanges. The city has 57 roundabouts, more than any city its size in America. And there are 34 more planned in the near future.
The easier it becomes to drive, the easier it becomes to live.
But it’s not just the roundabouts and mobility. It’s also about low taxes, personal safety and becoming more than just a sleepy suburb.
People in Carmel used to have a simple routine. They’d work 9-to-5 in Downtown Indy, drive home, lock their front doors and fall asleep.
Today, if you sling-shot your way down Main Street on a summer’s eve, you’ll notice the crowds hanging out at places like Bub’s and Detour on the Monon Trail. Plenty of places to eat or grab a drink after hours.
Head south and check out the Carmel City Center, the Palladium and Center for the Performing Arts. Plenty of opportunities to catch a concert or a play.
And all around the area, apartments, condos and single family homes are occupied or under construction. Plenty of places to live.
Call Star reporter Dan McFeely at (317) 444-6253.