Saturday, September 26, 2015

Burlington's (VT) Walk Crash Record--When did the Canary Stop Singing?

The recent revelation in the Burlington Walk Bike Master Plan process, planBTV Walk Bike, of the “dirty 17” Burlington intersections with nearly one walker crash per year average for 2011-2014 brings to mind the silence of a canary signifying dangerous gas buildup in a coal mine. When did the canary stop signaling here?

A little arithmetic translates the four years of data, 61 intersection-related walk crashes, to 150 injured pedestrians for the decade plus 2.5 fatalities. Burlington recorded one fatality on a crosswalk in 2011 and another walker died in a crash on the Sheraton/Staples crosswalk just beyond the City boundary in So. Burlington last fall. The 150 estimated injuries suffered by those on foot for the decade equals about one per hundred City households.

The 150 injured pedestrians estimate applies to only the “dirty 17” intersections—many more occur yearly at other City intersections.

Burlington prides itself in being “pedestrian friendly” and certainly the Marketplace precinct and Bikepath deserve that raring.. But for residents who must ply the other streets of City including those needed to access the Marketplace and other key destinations—City Market, Fletcher Free Library, and neighborhood stores, for examples—conditions remain less than friendly.

Since speed remains the primary factor in frequency of walk mode crashes and injury severity, a real reduction in speeds at the “dirty 17” and other City intersections must be the first and foremost way to reduce injuries and fatality to those who move on foot. Education and enforcement cannot overcome the speed factor, safe infrastructure comes first. The one and only treatment which reduces the existing rate of walk mode injuries about 90% at intersections is the single lane roundabout. It does the same for walk safety at intersections as does installing a sidewalk along street sections, also a walk mode reducer of injuries by about 90%.

Most of the “dirty 17” intersections can be converted to roundabouts (American Association of Retired Persons [AARP] advocates converting signals to roundabouts for reducing senior driving fatalities). The U.S. dropping from first to 19th in safety among nations in significant part can be explained by its failure to rapidly adopt roundabout technology. There are other traffic calming measures which can be used to reduce speeds—medians which divert the vehicle straight path, raised crosswalks, speed humps/bumps, and similar measures. Measures which do little to diminish speeds—signs, flashing lights and pavement markings.

What if” the “dirty 17” were converted to roundabouts, what would the the likely result? Well, instead of 61 injuries per year at the 17 intersections, the number would be six and those injuries less severe on average. Fatalities? Instead of 2.5 per decade estimated above, the number would drop to one every four decades!

The American Automobile Association (AAA) in a study found the costs of injuries were far higher than congestion costs in metropolitan areas. The Federal Highway Administration uses dollar figures to estimate the cost of a highway crash injury--$126,000 in 2009 and a separate figure for a fatality “Value of a Statistical Life” (fancy way to say value of your life) which in the most recent policy ranges between $5.2 and $12.9 million. The life value is taken from a number of economic studies. AAA used the high value in their metropolitan congestion versus vehicle crash costs analysis.
Taking the $126,000 per walker injured and $12.9 million for a pedestrian fatality and applying that to the estimated 150 walker injuries for the decade and 2.5 walk fatalities for Burlington this decade provides a sense of the dimension of the cost of pedestrian crashes at the “dirty 17” Burlington intersections 2010-2020: $44.7 million total.

What Burlington needs to concentrate on are “safe” streets. Then there remains the subject of bicycles crashes in the City...

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Burlington's "Dirty 17" Most Pedestrian Injuries 2011-2014

The Burlington, VT “Dirty 17”: Walk Mode Injury Generating Intersections 2011-2014

During the 2011-2014 period, 17 Burlington intersections generated on average 0.9 walk mode injury crashes yearly. Of the “dirty 17”, 13 were signalized with at least two with the highest technical designs with a dedicated pedestrian phase, and four were stop controlled. Every one of the five intersections along South Winooski Avenue parallel and accessing the Marketplace made the “dirty 17” list.

Any of these intersections replaced by a single lane roundabout (or mini roundabout) which reduces walk mode injures by about 90 percent, would drop one injury a year predicted to one injury per decade as well as a reduction in injury severity. The corollary: replacing a roundabout with a signal or sign control on average will increase pedestrian injuries by about 800%. Injuries recorded 2011-2014 are in parenthesis. Any intersection recording more than one pedestrian injury a decade (except those in the Marketplace area bounded by Battery St./Main St./Pearl St./So. Winooski Ave. and a few others) needs to be of special concern and if feasible converted to a roundabout. Further, the South Winooski Avenue intersections parallel to the Marketplace demand attention and part of any improvements to those intersections for pedestrian safety should include speed management designs.

The intersections along South Winooski Avenue between Pearl and Main Streets certainly have both a heavy volume of vehicles and pedestrians crossing. The Murray St./North St. crossing is noteworthy (as is Shelburne St. “rotary”) for bordering elementary school grounds.

  1. So. Winooski Ave./Bank St. (6)
  2. Archibald St./Intervale St. (5)
  3. So. Winooski Ave./College St. (5)
  4. So. Winooski Ave./Main St. (5)
  5. Main St./St. Paul St. (5) Kaye Borneman, 43, driving vehicle, in fatal crash 2010.
  6. Riverside Ave.--Intervale St. to Hill St. (4)
  7. North St./near Murray St. (4)
  8. No. Prospect St./Loomis St. (4)
  9. No. Winooski Ave./Pearl St. (4)
  10. So. Winooski Ave./Cherry St. (3)
  11. No. Winooski Ave./North St. (3)
  12. Pine St./Lakeside Ave. (3)
  13. Colchester Ave./Barrett St. (2) Bruce “Sam” Lapointe, of Winooski, fatally injured on Barrett St. crosswalk 2012.
  14. Colchester Ave./East Ave. (2)
  15. Pine St./Locust St. (2) Critical injury 2014 on “rapid flashing beacon” (installed about a year before) crosswalk.
  16. Shelburne St. “Rotary” (2)
  17. Shelburne St./Home Ave. (2) Linda Ente, 48, Winooski, supermarket employee, fatally injured on crosswalk 1998.  

    Note: injury data from draft documents of the Burlington walk bike master plan process planBTV Walk Bike.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

"Intersection of Death" Lives at Least until 2021

Shelburne Street Roundabout--Burlington, VT

A contact Monday (September 14, 2015) with the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) section handling the design and construction of the Shelburne Street Roundabout at the “rotary” intersection in Burlington finds the Chittenden County's first roundabout on a busy public street now scheduled for construction 2020-2021.  The project is for safety improvement as the intersection has a high accident rate history.

As this intersection is one of the "dirty 17" in Burlington identified this year averaging one walk mode injury per year, the period from the time base design was completed in 2010 to actual roundabout constructed, 2021 about six individuals crossing the intersection will suffer injuries.  

VTrans engineer Michael Lacroix explained there will be some exploratory work related to underground utilities at the Shelburne St./So. Willard St./St. Paul St./Locust St. shortly but that work does not signal construction. The intersection project also addresses easing entry and exit to Ledge Street just three or four car lengths south of the roundabout as designed. The 100% federally funded roundabout with safety program funds involves a single contract for construction with the first year, 2020, re-configuration and any new/upgraded various utilities which criss-cross the intersection, and 2021 the actual construction of the roundabout. Lacroix said there is no truth to a recent rumor in Burlington that a design contract send out to bid found no takers.

In fact the project with the roundabout design completed in 2010 following the final public meetings and reports in 2008 still requires time consuming right-of-way acquisition before the bid plans are prepared, the bidding process takes place, contractor selected and construction begins. Interestingly the first northeastern U.S. roundabout in Montpelier took three years from authorization by the City of a committee to opening for traffic, development period which included a twelve month pause for addition of funds to the City budget for the project.

At the present pace the project, first discussed and began its development process in 2002, will be completed after 19 years. Meanwhile the high level of walk, bike and vehicle injuries and crashes the roundabout chosen to address continue. In the four year period 2011-2014 two pedestrian crashes occurred. The intersection ranks among the “dirty 17” with highest walk mode injuries in a draft report from the planBTV Walk Bike master planning project now under way. The average frequency of walk mode injuries at the “dirty 17” intersections reaches almost one per intersection per year. A single lane roundabout based on Vermont roundabout experience and research findings can be expected to reduce injuries for those who walk, bike or travel by vehicle—particularly serious and fatal injuries—by about 90%.