Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Burlington's citywide speed limit falls from 30 mph to 25 mph today

From the BurlingtonFreePress

Dennis Sumner (right) and Dan Hill of Burlington's Department of Public Works Traffic Division install a sign alerting motorists that the speed limit thoughout the city is 25 m.p.h. on Tuesday, November 29, 2011. The new speed limit goes into effect at midnight Tuesday.
Dennis Sumner (right) and Dan Hill of Burlington's Department of Public Works Traffic Division install a sign alerting motorists that the speed limit thoughout the city is 25 m.p.h. on Tuesday, November 29, 2011. The new speed limit goes into effect at midnight Tuesday. / GLENN RUSSELL, Free Press

Consider the new law as a motorist’s license to loaf: Burlington’s citywide speed limit falls from 30 mph to 25 mph, beginning this morning.
Burlington police will continue at present levels of enforcement, using the lower speed limit, Police Chief Michael Schirling said.
The change — which retains some lower and higher speed limits in certain sections of the city — is expected to enhance the safety of motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians, as well as reduce air pollution, said Nicole Losche, a transportation and environmental planner at the Department of Public Works.
City resident Phil Hammerslough, an avid walker and biker, termed the slowdown as “a huge improvement,” worthy of celebration.
“I’ve been hit a couple of times by cars,” he said. “They took place at low enough speeds that I survived.”
Hammerslough, who lobbied for lower road speeds as a Burlington Walk-Bike Council steering committee member, said pedestrians — if they take the time to listen — will hear a significant drop in traffic noise when the law takes effect.
The new law, approved Oct. 19 by the Public Works Commission, states that a 30 mph speed limit will remain in force on Plattsburg Avenue, on North Avenue between the Vermont 127 entrance/exit ramps and Plattsburg Avenue; and on Shelburne Street between the intersection of Locust and Ledge streets and the South Burlington city line.
Other roads will remain posted as exceptions to the 25 mph limit:
• 5 mph: Church Street between Main Street and Pearl Street.
• 20 mph: Lake and Church streets between Main and King streets.
• 35 mph: On the Northern Connector, beginning 500 feet south of Plattsburg Avenue, north to the Colchester town line.
• 50 mph: On Vermont 127 (also known as the Beltline).
Downtown “slower streets” — as well as the heavily trafficked corridors on North and Plattsburg avenues and Battery and Shelburne streets — will continue to be evaluated for safety and speed, Losche said.
During public hearings for the proposed speed limit changes, Hammerslough was among those who argued, unsuccessfully, for a 20-mph cap in the city’s downtown core — a limit that was a part of the department of public works’ original recommendation, and based on the 2011 Transportation Plan.
Until more dramatic changes are made, “car-centric” policies in Burlington will continue adding to the city’s congestion and pollution, Hammerslough said Tuesday.
“Can they really find a parking spot any faster if they’re driving at 25 miles per hour than they can at 20?” he asked.
Kelly Devine, executive director of the Burlington Business Association, supported the drop from 30 mph to 25 mph, but argued against the additional 5 mph reduction for streets in the heart of downtown.
“We were concerned that the lack of consistency in speed limits downtown might actually prove confusing, and less safe, for out-of-town visitors,” she said.
In the absence of data that showed that a slightly higher speed actually caused more accidents in Burlington, Devine said she favored stronger efforts to promote safer passage by bicyclists, skateboarders, pedestrians — as well as motor vehicles — through the city.
And if a collision occurs?
Statistics support slower speeds, wrote Department of Public Works Director Steve Goodkind in a recent announcement. The U.S. Department of Transportation has found that injuries inflicted by cars on pedestrians at 25 mph are typically half as severe as those at 30 mph, he wrote.
Contact Joel Banner Baird at 660-1843 Read his blog at and follow him on Twitter

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Idaho Stop Law (David Hoffman)

From Urban Velo

Pulling Out The Stops

How a nearly 30-year-old Idaho law that permits bicyclists to sometimes roll through stop signs is gaining interest across the country.
By David Hoffman
In 1982 the Idaho legislature passed a law that allows bicyclists to in some cases treat stop signs as though they were yield signs. Under this law, permitting that there were no vehicles at the intersection, cyclists would perform a rolling stop. In addition, bicyclists are permitted to treat a red light at an intersection with no other traffic as a stop sign—first coming to a complete stop and then proceeding forward. Now known as the “Idaho Stop Law” or the “Stop as Yield” to many people, both legislators and advocates alike are beginning to explore the possibility of passing a similar law in their state. Unsurprisingly, this law generates considerable controversy—even among some bicycle advocates.
The tension between motorists and bicyclists is growing as more and more bicyclists are taking to the streets. Efficient bicycling relies on the momentum generated by the bicyclist to keep moving forward, and as anyone who has ridden a bike knows, stopping breaks momentum and forces the rider to work harder to regain the lost movement. This simple law of physics encourages most bicyclists to perform “rolling stops” at most stop signs—scanning left and right to make sure that there is no competing traffic, and then proceeding forward without letting the bike come to a complete stop. This behavior, or worse—blowing through a stop sign without even slowing—is observed by motorists, and there are few things that make motorists angrier when they share the road with bicyclists. Tensions rise.
The Debate
Supporters of the Idaho Stop Law note that laws are enacted to meet a need; in the case of stop signs and stop lights, the regulation of traffic through intersections. Additionally, laws can and do change over the years. Prohibition (the banning of the manufacture, sale, and consumption of alcohol) became the law in the United States in 1919 by way of the Eighteenth Amendment to the US Constitution.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Healthy Community Design workshop comes to Montpelier, Nov 30

From Local Motion

Healthy Community Design
Wednesday, November 30, 2011, 9:00am - 3:30pm

Municipal Planners, and Planning Commissioners:

This one day training will provide information, tools, and practice to individuals interested in creating new opportunities to bring public health voices and approaches to local policy decisions and efforts to increase physical activity and create access to healthy foods through:
  • concentrated mixed used development
  • bicycle and pedestrian friendly communities
  • access to parks, recreation facilities and open space
  • access to fresh and healthy foods

It is highly recommended that community teams composed of community advocates, planners, and town officials attend this event together. Please share this announcement with partners in your community and encourage them to register and attend.

For additional information, please contact:
Suzanne Kelley, VDH Physical Activity Coordinator,

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Some more thoughts on Safe Streets and the "Idaho Stop" in Burlington

Recently, according to Local Motion, The Burlington Police Department has "changed their focus from education to enforcement" in regards to cycling in the city.   Apparently the Burlington PD has been a founding member of the Safe Streets Coalition and "for several years", as the article states, they have been working to educate cyclists about the rules of the road.  Well, As some one who cycles everywhere, all the time in Burlington and the surrounding areas I have not seen much from the cops that I would classify as attempts to educate cyclists.  The PD will now be slamming you with a $70 ticket for no lights at night and up $200 for running a stop sign or red light.  Local Motion assures us they are working with the police to "ensure that enforcement is focused on the most serious violations".  I believe in safe streets.  In fact It has taken me a long time to come to terms with my place on the road as a cyclist.  I think this comic from Yehuda Moon sums it up best.
I used to ride as aggresively as I could in the city.  Due largely to the comodification of Bike Messenger culture, "extreme" city riding has become popular anywhere cyclists and motorists share space.  Along with this comes phases 2 and 3 as related by Yehuda Moon.  The Rage comes from motorists treating you like dirt even when you are abiding by every law of the road and the self-righteousness comes from having to defend yourself at every intersection, along any block of parked cars, and any time a motorist passes you.  But lately, perhaps with inspiration from this comic strip, I have decided that slowing down just a little bit, pausing at stop signs, stopping at stop lights, and generally not riding like a jerk is way more fun and enjoyable than trying to break my best time from the Pearl St. to Main St. on S. Winooski Ave. 
Riding with lights is a great idea.  Slowing down and looking both ways, yielding to traffic with the right of way, at intersections is very important.  Riding the wrong way up a one way street (salmoning) is a terrible practice.   After all; cyclists, motorists, and pedestrians all have to do our parts out there in the mayhem of traffic.
However, I think this policy is misdirected.  Furthermore, I am disappointed that Local Motion is spending energy in this capacity.  I agree, there should be reprcusions for violations, but i think we need to rethink what constitutes a violation.  As it stands now, failing to put your foot down at a stop sign could land you a $200 ticket, even if there is no traffic in either direction and you happen to catch a cop having a bad hair day.  The fact is, I will argue that cyclists are a bit different than cars and we should be entitled to certain leniences in the law.  Take for example the law in Idaho.  In Idaho, Cyclists are required to treat stop signs as yield signs and Stop Lights as stop signs.  The exact language can be found here: section 49-720 .  What this means is that cyclists are afforded the right to slow when approaching a stop sign and if there is no traffic that demands the right of way the cyclist may proceed without a complete stop, however if there is traffic that has the right of way the cyclist must stop until it is safe to proceed.  With stop lights a cyclist is required to stop but if there is no traffic that demands the right of way the cyclist may proceed through the intersection without waiting for the light to turn green.  Again, if there is traffic the cyclist must wait until it is safe to proceed.  There are several articles on this law at the website here and here
This is the direction our city should be moving toward.   I believe that Establishing policies like this along with adequate infrastructure and city planning could increase the number of cyclists which will in turn make the streets safer for everyone.  Simply put, safe streets are not enough, we need *sensible* safe streets.   So, I guess what im trying to say is dont ride like a jerk (make sure you are visible, signal your intentions, ride confidantly, and yield the right of way to who rightfully deserves it) but also you are but one piece in a madhouse we know as traffic and by being out there everyday pedaling away you are making the world just a little bit better every second and you deserve all the respect and dignity in the world.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Let's get this started: The "Idaho Stop" for Burlington and Vermont!

With more and more reports on cyclists in Burlington receiving $200+ penalties for 'rolling' through a stop sign (without traffic or late at night with no one else around) it seems necessary to start the discussion on the so-called "Idaho Stop for cyclists" as a law. 
Check out the video animation below created by Portlander Spencer Boomhower (you might remember him from an article he wrote for BikePortland). When he's not thinking or writing about bikes, Spencer is a freelance computer graphics artist. He masterfully put those skills to use in a video he titled, Bicycles, Rolling Stops, and the Idaho Stop.
Watch it below:
Spencer says he hopes the video makes its way to legislators in Salem who are still pondering the Idaho Stop Law.

3rd annual Vermont Bike/Ped Forum Re-cap

From VT Bike/Ped
The VBPC's 3rd Annual Bike/Ped Forum brought together enthusiasts from a variety of sectors including bike shops, advocacy groups, bike clubs, state government, chambers of commerce, and regional planning commissions. In the photo above, participants listen as Deputy Secretary of Transportation, Sue Minter, describes the impacts of Tropical Storm Irene on Vermont's infrastructure. The Forum, through six breakout sessions, provided an important opportunity for individuals with a stake in bike/ped issues to meet one another and explore ways to work together. The Coalition is grateful to the 2011 major sponsors, the Department of Tourism and Marketing, Bike Vermont, Onion River Sports, and the Central Vermont Chamber of Commerce, who made it possible for the Forum to expand to include so many additional voices. Please mark your calendar now for the 2012 Forum which will be held on Wednesday, October 24 and lend your voice to these important discussions. Thank you.

Western New England Greenways Conference Sat Nov. 19th 2011

From Local Motion

Saturday, November 19, 2011, 10:00am - 3:30pm

Register for the
Western New England Greenway Conference
Saturday November 19, 2011 - Bennington Museum
Join the discussion to create a contiguous bike trail from New York City to Montreal. Please join us as we discuss the concept:
What: Western New England Greenway Conference
When: Saturday, November 19th - 10 AM to 3:30 PM
Where: Bennington Museum, Bennington Vermont
The conference is presented free of charge. Please register here or on our website.
Coffee and light refreshments are provided upon arrival, and lunch will be served to all attendees of the conference.
For more information: call 413-394-9773 or e-mail:
Download the conference agenda here. We hope to see you on November 19!

Register Now!
Please register here. All fields are required. We will verify your registration via email and you must confirm receipt of our registration once you receive it.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Heads Up! Burlington Police are Issuing Tickets for Bicycling Violations! Is it time for the 'Idaho Stop' for Cyclists?!

From LocalMotion
More on the Idaho Stop here.

The Burlington Police Department, a founding partner in the Safe Streets Collaborative, has been working with Local Motion for several years to educate bicyclists throughout the city about the rules of the road.  A few weeks ago, the department made a decision to switch from education to enforcement.  They have begun issuing tickets to bicyclists who don't ride by the rules.  And the fees are hefty:  from $70 for riding without lights to over $200 for going through a stop sign or red light!
Local Motion is working with the police to ensure that enforcement is focused on the most serious violations, such as bicyclists who fly through red lights and ride the wrong way on one-way streets. However, bike riders should be aware that -- as when you're driving a car -- a violation is a violation, and discretion is warranted.
Read on for some pointers on a few things you can do to avoid getting a ticket (not to mention help make our streets safer for everyone).
  • Stop for stop signs and red lights
  • Use a front white light and a rear red light from dusk until dawn
  • Walk your bike on sidewalks in the core downtown area
  • Ride with traffic on one-way streets and bike lanes
  • Yield to pedestrians on sidewalks and in crosswalks
Local Motion is continuing our outreach efforts in collaboration with the police.  We firmly support carefully targeted and fairly applied enforcement as an important tool for ensuring that bicyclists do their part to keep our streets safe.  We are also strong advocates for enforcement of traffic laws for motorists, particularly the kinds of infractions -- such as speeding and running red lights -- that are especially dangerous for people on foot and on bike.
For more information about Local Motion's Safe Streets initiative, visit  Many thanks to the Vermont Governor's Highway Safety program for their support for our safe streets work.

    Sunday, November 6, 2011

    Lake Champlain Bridge to open Nov 7th!

    From the DOT NYS

    Lake Champlain Bridge

    The 1929 Bridge Has Been RemovedThe New Bridge Nearing Completion
    New York State Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy and Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin will preside over the ribbon cutting of the brand new Lake Champlain Bridge, which connects Crown Point, N.Y., and Addison, Vt., at 2:30 p.m. this Monday, November 7. The ribbon cutting marks the opening of this bridge, which replaces the former bridge that was closed in October 2009. This project, completed in less than two years, demonstrates the positive power of states, agencies, and the public working together to achieve something remarkable.
    The original Lake Champlain Bridge, which spanned the state line between Crown Point, New York and Chimney Point, Vermont, has been demolished. A project to build a new bridge at the same location will soon be completed by both the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) and the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) as co-lead agencies under an agreement between the states. Under this agreement, NYSDOT is responsible for progression of the project and costs will be shared equally by both states.