Sunday, January 5, 2014



A December 27 letter to the Burlington, VT Department of Public Works Commissioners—below--asks the City to convert new and other affected intersections on the Champlain Parkway (Parkway) project to roundabouts.  The $29 million cost requires a 2 percent City match, about $600,000 overall.

The safest single-lane roundabouts were recommended to the Commission several years ago by an independent engineering panel, but the Commission rejected the recommendation.  Single-lane roundabout properly configured for walking and bicycling really amount to an “intersection safety belt” for all users.

The goal here of quality infrastructure for all users cannot be sacrificed because it might cost a year or two—Burlington, its citizens and businesses deserve only the best quality transportation facilities.  In a way we are fortunate that this project delay brings us to the point where we can add innovative walking and bicycling designs which came to the fore only in the last decade or two.

The decades old project (pre-dating the first modern roundabout in the world in the U.K. in 1966!) needs updating.  Right now the “new” roadway section includes signalized intersections at Home Ave., Flynn Ave., and Lakside, Ave.   The “new” roadway includes a shared off-street path similar in approach to the one on Riverside Avenue.  In addition to the basic changes for walkers and bicyclists contained in the letter below, a widening of the shared path similar to that on NY 9 at the south edge of Plattsburgh needs to be considered thereby providing a separate pathway for bicyclists and walkers.   This change along with cycle track along adjacent approaches to the Parkway, particularly along Lakeside Ave., completes the basis formula for walking and bicycling treatment.  Fair and equal treatment of all modes along the Parkway route means bicycle and walker infrastructure usable by all regardless of age, skill, and gender. 


December  27, 2013

Dear [Burlington Department of Public Works]…Commisioners:

This letter respectfully requests a Champlain Parkway design adjustment with the following changes: (1) new intersections at Home, Flynn and Lakeside Avenue be changed to single lane roundabouts; (2) any other projected construction involving intersections, particularly Pine Street and Lakeside Avenue, be revamped to roundabouts; (3) that each roundabout be designed to include shared or separate walking and bicycling pathing (see Dutch CROW design approaches and also that of NYSDOT at Plattsburgh NY 9 intersection at City’s south edge); and (4) provision for Lakeside and Pine Streets of either one-way cycle tracks or a single two-way track configuration. 

The key point remains: the City can get for little or no money (over 90% federal funds) walkable and bikable infrastructure—what the City cannot afford from the current Parkway design is more unwalkable and unbikable streets, the kind that with the exception of the Marketplace permeate the busy City streets. 

In support of these project revisions please consider the following:
  1. As you are well aware, the original “value engineering” study by a third party engineering panel identified roundabouts as a cost saving measure for the project which your Commission then decided to reject.  Your re-consideration of this action at this time for cost savings alone deserves consideration.  But, in addition, as your Commission and staff are well aware, the roundabouts at the three key intersections—all single lane roundabouts—assure a reduction in serious injury rates for vehicle occupants and walkers of about 90%, something beneficial to the Commissioners themselves, the Public Works Department staff, and all who travel to and along Lakeside Avenue itself. 
Commission Chair Alberry           December 27, 2013                   Page 2 of 3 Pages

  1. This year a vital connection between safe bicycle infrastructure and roundabouts suddenly became important as the cycling community abandons bicycle unfriendly and bicyclist-unsafe bike lanes for protected cycle lanes (cycle track).  UVM’s Prof. Luis Vivanco, a Local Motion Board member, in his new book, “Reconsidering the Bicycle” from the first paragraph onward charts the sudden change to cycle track because it enables everyone regardless of age, skill, and gender to safely and comfortably bicycle busy streets.  The Dutch who built cycle track rapidly starting in the 1980s to address literally young bicyclist carnage on their streets as car traffic grew after World War 2
now have 18,000 miles of cycle track—the Burlington equivalent is 45 miles and the only Vermont cycle track, about two miles, can be found along Dorset Street, So. Burlington, between Williston Road and Kennedy Drive.  (Both the walker and bicyclist fatality rate per mile of travel are four times the average of the Dutch and German rates and our U.S. injury rate per miles of travel for bicyclists is 25 times (twenty-five times) that of the Dutch/German average.

The key point regarding the Parkway is any provision of bicycle accommodation along Lakeside Avenue and other segments of construction (the Parkway itself has a shared sidepath) requires either a sidepath treatment and/or cycle track for bicyclists.  Examples of cycle track include those in place in downtown Montreal in 2007.  A google search yielded this site showing well over 100 examples plus typical designs:

You may find the landmark study showing cycle track safety by Stowe Bikepath creator, now Dr. Anne Lusk, Harvard School of Public Health, in the American Journal of Public Health July issue apropos:

  1. The newest—and most noteworthy consideration—involves safe accommodation of bicyclists at intersections since sidepaths or cycle track provide a superior level of safety and service for every one along street segments.  General consensus in the engineering and transportation policy community exists regarding the far superior performance of roundabouts for walker and car occupant safety, particularly at single lane roundabouts where research is conclusive—it is the reason that four states, including New York since 2005, and two Canadian provincial transportation departments operate on a “roundabouts first” policy for intersection investments  Meanwhile for decades some leading bicycle organizations and bicycle experts found sidepaths unsatisfactory since increases of bicycle crashes at intersections cooled any safety gain along street segments.  But two unconnected studies—one Dutch and one by Sweden’s highway research agency (VTI)
reveal this issue resolved and confirm single lane roundabouts giving a cyclist the choice of “taking the travel lane” or going off to a separate or shared path with walkers

Commission Chair Alberry           December 27, 2013             Page 3 of 3 Pages 

and using the crosswalks leads to major improvement in safety, i.e. a sharp injury reduction moving from an overall of about 60% towards the walker reduction versus signals/signs of about 90% lower injury rates.

Therefore the need to switch intersections from signals to roundabouts (something AARP policy calls for since about half of all older citizen fatalities occur at intersections) includes not only the gain for car occupants and those who walk, but also because only through the combination of cycle track and “pathed” roundabouts can we attain a similar safety and comfort gain for bicyclists of all skills, ages and gender!

Finally, again, changing designs at this point costs little or nothing for the City, but pays huge dividends in every aspect ranging from reduced pollution, gasoline consumption, improved scenic quality, reduced delay for all, to the known safety gain for all modes for decades to come. 

The deaths at 25 mph intersections here—for examples, employee Karen Borneman driving the intersection in sight of City Hall, Sam Lapointe crossing  a marked cross walk at Barrett and Colchester Avenue, and Charles Burch bicycling at Manhattan Dr./VT 127—need to give us pause as to the price we pay for poor, inadequate walking and bicycling infrastructure.
Thank you for your consideration of this request.


Tony Redington

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