Sunday, May 22, 2011

Vermont lags in making roads safe for all --- still...

Carol Tremble of South Hero ties an arm band onto Andy Shuford of Montpelier before leaving the Statehouse for the Ride of Silence to honor cyclists killed and injured by motor vehicles.

MONTPELIER — Thirty cyclists filed down U.S. 2 out of Montpelier on Wednesday evening in silence. Dodging potholes, crumbled pavement and the cinders that gather on the side of the road, each wore an armband in honor of a cyclist who has been injured or killed by a car.
“We are about to ride on one of the worst sections of road in the state,” Nancy Schulz, executive director of the Vermont Bicycle & Pedestrian Coalition, told those gathered. “It’s not OK.”

By coincidence, a few hours earlier, the governor had signed into law a bill that is supposed to make sure state and local roads aren’t just for cars and trucks. Any new construction or upgrades must take into account the needs of cyclists, pedestrians, the elderly and handicapped, and public transportation options.

“This bill is going to ensure Vermont roads are safe for all users,” Gov. Peter Shumlin said as he was about to sign the bill into law Wednesday morning.

In a state that prides itself on having an active population and an environmentally friendly outlook, however, similar efforts have not always translated to results. Even before the new legislation, state law said road construction should take into account room for bicyclists and pedestrians. It was never mandatory, however, and elements that would make a road easier to navigate on bike or foot weren’t always included.
The state ranked just 34th in the nation for being bike-friendly last year, according to the League of American Bicyclists. By comparison, some other small, cold-climate states did better: Maine was third, New Hampshire sixth.

While Shumlin championed the new law he signed Wednesday, it, too, is not entirely mandatory. Planners can opt out of taking into account non-motorized usage if they can prove it’s not worthwhile.

Nonetheless, advocates are enthusiastic that the new law will change the landscape.

“No more will we have a strictly auto-centric approach,” Schulz said. “We’re in the room. We have a seat at the table.”
Read full article here.

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