Friday, September 28, 2012

Why can't Vermonters get four-way stops right?

From SevendaysVT
Talk to enough Burlington-area drivers about their pet peeves, and a common complaint emerges: Many Vermonters — whether out of politeness or ignorance of the rules — areterrible at negotiating four-way-stop intersections.
So first, let’s clear up the rules.
In general, it’s first come, first served: Drivers should proceed through the intersection in the order in which they arrived. When two vehiclesapproach a four-way stop at the same time, the driver on the left should yield the right-of-way to the driver on the right. Bicyclists and skateboarders, take note: The rules apply to you, too.
“Remembering all those little rules can be challenging,” concedes Andi Higbee, deputy chief of the Burlington Police Department. “Certain people do not wait as they should, and that’s where the aggravation occurs.”
For whatever reason, these rules seem difficult for the average driver to follow. WTF? Perhaps it’s because many Vermonters are accustomed to dirt roads and uncongested rural highways where urban traffic patterns may not apply. Or maybe the problem is that, for many of us, driver’s ed is a distant memory. Richard Ritter, owner of Burlington-based Vermont Green Driving School, says his students know the rules; other drivers are the problem. (Still, one of my coworkers, a recent transplant to Vermont from the Midwest and a passionate advocate of four-way-stop etiquette, asks bluntly, “Do Vermonters even take driver’s ed?”)
Or maybe the problem is just good ol’ Yankee manners. In an August blog post titled “Why I Love Vermont,” writer and healer Raven Mardirosian proclaims, “At a 4-way stop, be prepared to wait even longer, simply because everyone waves at other drivers to go first.”
In a phone interview, Rutland-area resident Mardirosian elaborates that, after living in many other places — including New York City, Cape Cod and Portland, Ore. — she feels qualified to pronounce Vermonters “the most polite drivers that I’ve known,” a trait she feels is positive — “except when you’re in a rush.”
In fact, this excessive courtesy is widespread enough to warrant mention in comedian Jason Lorber’s repertoire of wisecracks about Vermont. “Vermont drivers are very polite — like, at four-way stops. Have you noticed?” he riffs in one clip from his standup routine. He adds that it’s more of a “passive-aggressive polite” — a driver might wave another ahead, only to flip off Lorber after a confusing “No, you go ahead” standoff at the intersection.
Furthermore, what may seem like good manners to one person is heel-dragging inefficiency to another. When I put the question to my coworkers, I discover that four-way stops engender heated passion in drivers. Their reactions may have something to do with the location of the Seven Days office on South Champlain Street, just around the corner from one of the most notoriously congested intersections in Burlington: that of Maple and Pine streets.
Complains one interviewee, “If you are that person [with the right-of-way], well, get your ass in gear! … I have more problems with people being too polite, rather than selfish. That’s what really holds up the works.” Another describes four-way stops more simply: “They’re a clusterfuck.”
The consensus is that traffic is at its safest and most efficient when drivers “go with the flow.”
But at least one traffic analyst thinks the four-way-stop problem is bigger than just drivers’ behavior. Tony Redington is a former policy analyst for Vermont’s public service and transportation departments. He’s a passionate advocate of roundabouts — and, he’s quick to add, “passionately against four-way stops.” In a letter dated August 22 to the Burlington Department of Public Works, Redington advocates for roundabouts as a replacement for the “four-way-stop intersections which infect Burlington.” Roundabouts, he says, reduce congestion, enable denser land use, and cut down on serious and fatal injuries.
But Bruce Nyquist, manager of the traffic, safety and pavement section of the Vermont Agency of Transportation, points out that roundabouts have their downsides: They’re more expensive to install than traffic signals or stop signs, and they require more space. VTrans considered replacing a congested four-way stop in Williston with a roundabout, but the community didn’t like the idea. All-way stops may be inefficient in congested areas, Nyquist concedes, but they have their merits: They can improve safety at dangerous intersections.
Meanwhile, the abundance of four-way stops in Burlington isn’t going anywhere any time soon. That leaves Higbee to remind drivers that the rules of the road were adopted for a reason. Disregarding them at four-way stops is technically a traffic violation, and police could ticket violators. If it’s an egregious violation, they will. Luckily, Higbee says, most of the accidents that the police department sees at these intersections occur at low speeds, so they’re rarely serious.
More dangerous are the collisions that happen when bicyclists or skateboarders “plow right through intersections,” Higbee says. “I don’t know what people are thinking … As you know, a human being versus a 2000-pound piece of metal — you know who wins that race.”
Outraged, or merely curious, about something? Send your burning question

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Burlington woman makes extraordinary cycling trek in promoting social responsibility

From Burlington Free Press

After bicycling 4,009 miles and taking part in 17 days worth of construction projects, Alicia Marvin is back home in Burlington. The 25-year-old mixed fitness with social responsibility, completing a three-month trek with the Bike and Build program.
Bike and Build raises awareness and money for affordable housing projects. Bicyclists also take part in the building process along their trek.
Marvin’s group of 27 cyclists rode from Florida to California, stopping to do construction work for five days in New Orleans, and two days each in Mobile, Ala., and Dallas. The group also made several single-day stops of volunteer work.
Their efforts included building a playground and clearing a dry river bed in New Mexico, doing landscape work in Deep South communities and taking on finishing work like painting and trim.
The most rewarding day, Marvin said, came when the group framed a house in Dallas. “When we got there,” Marvin said, “it was a blank concrete slab, but when we left it looked like a house.”
For many Vermonters, fitness and social responsibility go hand-in-hand. There are numerous charity walks on the annual calendar, and other events such as the recent Kelly Brush Foundation’s Century Ride that drew hundreds of participants.
Some fitness enthusiasts, such as Marvin, take their commitment to both exercise and good works to a remarkably high level.
Before embarking on her cross-country journey, Marvin raised more than $4,500 for the program. She said she found the trip so rewarding she might do another trek in a few years, this time as a group leader. The high point was riding through New Mexico on the Fourth of July. One of her fellow cyclists attached a 10-foot pole to his bike to hold a five-by-eight foot American flag which he carried for 115 hilly miles. Numerous cars honked as they drove by or shouted encouragement out their windows. One woman stopped to thank him for his patriotism and to tell him her son had just been awarded a Purple Heart for his service in Afghanistan.
Alicia Marvin of Burlington celebrates at the Pacific Ocean the completion of her cross-country Bike and Build charity trek. The group began in Florida and worked its way across the Southern United States, stopping frequently to help with home-building and maintenance projects.
Alicia Marvin of Burlington rides her bicycle on a fog-enshrouded road as part of her cross-country Bike and Build charity trek this year.Alicia Marvin of Burlington celebrates at the Pacific Ocean the completion of her cross-country Bike and Build charity trek. The group began in Florida and worked its way across the Southern United States, stopping frequently to help with home-building and maintenance projects. / Courtesy photo

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Bikes will reshape American cities

Hundreds of kids bike to school in Medina for Bike to School Challenge
Pedaling Revolution author Jeff Mapes is seeing firsthand how cycling has shaped his hometown of Portland, Oregon. The 58-year-old journalist and late comer to biking shared some insights last Friday at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.
“In Holland, they don’t have school buses,” he said, because 27% of all trips are made on a bike. (It's 40% in their major city of Amsterdam).
Imagine how that would shape cities (and school kids) in the U.S.? What if we could use funds meant for buses instead to purchase fresh, local food for school cafeterias?
“Fifteen to twenty thousand lives could be saved in the U.S. with the same traffic safety laws they have in Europe,” he added. Imagine how many other lives are impacted by those traffic deaths? Bike fatalities actually decrease as the number of cyclists on the road increase, he said.
What momentum cities had for bike and pedestrian improvements came when Congress in 1991 approved ISTEA, Mapes said. “Bike trips more than doubled.” Contrast that with the transportation bill in Congress today which strips out funding for bikes.
“That’s about the same cost as a mile of highway.”
Portland isn’t satisfied with its 6% of all trips made by bike. “It’s led to a discussion of, ‘what’s next?’ Do we need more protected bike paths that (repurpose a car lane)?” The city is considering more cycle tracks with signals for bikes.
Bike share, which has grown from 15 to 40 cities, “can really change the culture of a city,” he said, citing D.C.’s Capital Bike Share (which has paid for itself). It opened the way for a bike lane up Pennsylvania Avenue, the Presidential Inauguration route.
“Bikes can be mobile traffic calming devices,” Mapes concludes. When it comes to America’s obesity problem, he says, bikes will tap “our strategic calorie reserve.”

Electric cars promoted this weekend

From WCAX Montpelier, Vt. -

Many car dealerships around the state are spending the weekend promoting electric cars.
Governor Shumlin declared this weekend Vermont Plug-In Weekend as part of a national effort to get people to learn more about electric cars.
More than 50 communities in the state already have registered electric vehicles.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Austrian Gas Station has it right!

Just a quick picture from an Austrian gas station. . .

Got $70 Burning a Hole in Your Pocket?

From Local Motion

HEADS UP:  the Burlington Police Department is stepping up enforcement of all traffic laws for bicyclists!  You could get a $70 ticket if (among other things) you:
  • Go through a red light or stop sign
  • Travel the wrong way on a one-way street
  • Ride at night without lights (front and back)
    During a recent multimodal outreach and enforcement detail, the Burlington police talked with lots of people who were walking (23) and biking (25) about the rules of the road. They only issued one ticket, though: to a motorist who went through a red light. Over the next few weeks, they will add more tickets to the mix.
The police are also stepping up enforcement for motorists, with a focus on things that could get walkers and bicyclists hurt:  speeding, running red lights, failure to yield, and so on.  They are alsoissuing more tickets to pedestrians who cross against the light.  Their goal is to reduce crashes and injuries for people on foot and on bike.
Why is Local Motion on board with more tickets for walkers and bicyclists?  Two reasons:
  1. FAIRNESS.  The police are focusing on the serious stuff -and they’re being evenhanded about it.  Whether you’re walking, biking, or driving, if you do something stupid and dangerous, they’ll give you a ticket.
  2. RESPECT.  If we in the bike community want Burlington to make a serious investmentin more bike lanes and other infrastructure, we’re going to have to earn the support (and the respect) of the non-bicycling residents of our city.  Riding by the rules is one of the best things we can do to build momentum towards a transformation of our streets.
So riding right not only could save you $70 — it could also get you a better city for bicycling.

Cycle the City Refresh

From LocalMotion

We have embarked upon a process for refreshing the entire Cycle the City route with the support of JDKLocal MotionBWBC, DPW and Parks and Rec.  This refresh involves having JDK update the identity (logo, font, colors etc), the online presence through the Cycle the City page on Local Motions Website (, new brochure/guide, map and rack card and new physical signs and stencil.  All very exciting stuff.  Essentially a total refresh of every aspect.
At present the Cycle the City route is not well known, although Chapin, Luis and others have been taking tours on it for years, and this is the opportunity to try and bring it to the forefront as one of our great cycling routes around Burlington!!!  It is an amazing 10mile route that sees some of the best parts of Burlington…downtown, waterfront, New North End, Ethan Allen Park and Homestead, The Intervale, Historic UVM, the Hill Section, worker homes of the South End and the Arts District….awesome.
Today we received the first design plan back.  JDK did a cool presentation and we dialed it down to our favorite with a little sign demonstration out front (as one part of the project).
Little sample to see how the signs ‘might’ look from afar
I have attached the Cycle the City Presentation (edited).  At this time we are looking for feedback on the identity.  How the signs etc will look in terms of the way-finding details will come later but at this time we want to move forward on the identity bones…namely the logo, font style, icons etc.  Color can and will be changed.
This is where you come in…if you are an avid designer or just think there are some things we should think about, please provide comments to me directly at if you have any within the next few days.  Remembering that the only thing we are trying tofocus on right now is the logo, font, icon, color etc (Here is a cut out version of theCTCLogoOption, right click to rotate).  Any suggestions, improvements, criticism etc is what we desire.  If we hear an overwhelming reaction either positive or negative then we can always go back to the drawing board.
Thanks in advance for your comments.  Our hope is to have the refresh in place by the end of October for some fall riding and maybe a big launch party and ride…fingers crossed!!  Watch this space.   We hope that we can refresh the route and help make it the most ridden route in Burlington (after up and down the Waterfront Path that is!!)

New Parking for VT State workers in Montpelier


State workers in Montpelier will soon have access to more parking in the Capital City.
The Carr Lot, named after Allen Carr, which is empty now, is being leased by the state for up to three years.
The city of Montpelier does have a plan to develop the lot as a possible transit center or office building. By leasing out the lot, the state gets needed parking while the city moves forward on plans on the development.
"When the Legislature is in session there is always a need for more parking, and it's being exacerbated this year by Irene. So even greater than usual there is a parking crunch," Montpelier City Manager Bill Fraser said.
The lot, which is located on the east side of Taylor Street, is approximately an acre large and can fit around 100vehicles.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Taking Sides | How Vermont Motorists and Cyclists Are Sharing the Road—Or Are They?

From Vermont Sports Magazine

You’ve heard the stories. Or maybe you’ve experienced them firsthand. Flipped birds, coffee cups, beer cans. Drivers pulling alongside to say something clever, or something dumb. A pickup truck clipping your shoulder with the side mirror.
But wait, what’s that Lycra-clad twosome on their $1,000 bikes doing hogging the road? Running a stop sign? Failing to signal before turning? Some town police, you hear, are doling out $200 fines and license points to bad-behaving cyclists: good.
Whichever you are—bicyclist, motorist, probably both—you know that things can get nasty out on the streets, even streets as bucolic as those in a state known for its bicycle tours. Vermont is still divided when it comes to “Share the Road” initiatives and the subject of cyclist safety. While the crash statistics have remained steady in the past decade, according to JonKaplan, the bicycle and pedestrian program manager for the Vermont Agency of Transportation, the tension seems to be rising steeper than a Green Mountain grade for plenty of two-wheelers and four-wheelers alike.
“Riding this morning,” one friend told me, “I wished I had a sign on my back that said: ‘My life is as precious as your time. Please don’t hit me.’”
Nationally, the numbers point to better awareness between motorists and bicyclists: according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the University of North Carolina–based Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center, there were 52,000 bicyclist injuries in 2010, compared with 61,000 in 1995. In Vermont, Kaplan reports that there have been about 250 crashes between cars and bicyclists or cars and pedestrians each year since 2003. But researchers also reveal that the vast majority of injury-causing bicycle crashes—as much as 90 percent—aren’t recorded by police.
Eliminating those crashes altogether, and keeping motorists and bicyclists equally happy, requires a multipronged approach of education, awareness, and road improvements. “It’s a constant ebb and flow of good news and not-so-good news,” Nancy Schulz, the executive director for the Vermont Bicycle & Pedestrian Coalition, “and you just keep hoping that the balance is going to shift.”
Among the good news that Schulz cites is the work of Local Motion to improve the Burlington Bike Path and provide regular bike-ferry service connecting the Lake Champlain Islands. Among the not-so-good news: not only “stasis,” such as with the bike routes around Montpelier and Barre, but also Tropical Storm Irene, which screwed up efforts to make Vermont streets safe for all users, as dictated by the Complete Streets bill signed by Gov. Peter Shumlin in May 2011. “The need was to get the roads open, to get the bridges back as soon as possible,” says Schulz, “so Complete Streets wasn’t followed.”
Even if every road had a two-foot paved shoulder (“We would be in cycling heaven,” says Schulz), something else is now sharing the road with drivers and cyclists: technology and myriad other distractions made possible by the car-as-second-home culture. Eric Darling, who commutes from Shelburne to work in Colchester, has noticed that whenever he has a near-miss with a motorist, more often than not the driver is using a cell phone. He’s seen drivers holding the phone with one hand while gesturing, smoking, or brushing their hair with the other; one motorist was holding a plate of food up to his face with one hand while shoveling the food into his mouth with the other hand. “There seems to be more awareness of cyclists on the road, but I’m not sure that has translated into safer riding,” he says. “If anything, I feel less safe riding my bike each year.”
For their part, some cyclists are using technology to fight back, recording driver infractions with cell-phone videos or helmet cams. As The New York Times reported in July, these videos are now becoming crucial pieces of evidence in police investigations and lawsuits.
Of course, whipping out your iPhone while riding may not be the safest choice either, and there are plenty of infractions by cyclists too. “I know there are behavioral problems,” says Schulz, adding that her coalition created a “bad bicycle behavior report” to handle complaints from drivers.
From analyzing six years’ worth of bicycle crash data, Kaplan says that the top things that bicyclists do wrong are “improper crossing and darting,” riding the wrong way on the road, and failing to yield the right of way.
You can talk about right and wrong, and you can talk to Rose Long, a former University of Vermont cyclist who suffered facial trauma, dental trauma, a broken thumb, and a collapsed lung when she was hit by a Jeep in Burlington in September 2008. “Cyclists always lose when it comes to bike versus car,” says Long, who says that while she felt very supported by the people of Burlington and Vermont, she has since left the state and views the Queen City as a place that remains dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians. “We lose when a car wants more of the road and bullies us by driving close by. We lose when a driver wants to curse or flip us off. Our margins for error are very small.”
Moving forward, the Vermont Bicycle & Pedestrian Coalition is working to have Complete Streets followed in more communities, even in places where Irene-wrecked roads were rushed to reconstruction. Advocacy-sharing efforts, say Schulz and Kaplan, are helping bike clubs and city and town officials alike create consistent messaging. “We’re also putting the message out in as many ways as we can,” says Schulz, “that it never, ever, is a good idea to respond to an offense with a heated gesture.
But maybe, say some experts, we need to step backward, to a time when riding a bike was no big deal. Kaplan points to European cities such as Copenhagen, where people don’t get dressed up in fancy jerseys and padded shorts to run errands. Then there’s Tristan Von Duntz, who commutes 12 miles to work at Onion River Sports and has seen his fair share of close calls, heard his fair share of four-letter words.
“But I like to think of a three-letter word: fun,” he says. “I just love to ride a bike.”

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Vermont wins National Bike Challenge - overall ends with 12,094,591 miles

Period :  updated: Saturday at 06:01   

unit: points/1000 persons






12 million total miles were achieved on the final day of the 2012 National Bike Challenge. What an exciting way to end what has been a great effort by a community of over 30,000 riders!

Bike Revolution Vermont - on VPR

From VPR

Martin: Bike Revolution

Friday, 08/31/12 7:55am
(Host) With so many cities around the world creating new bikeshare programs and bike lanes, Commentator Mike Martin has been wondering if the tension between drivers and bikers reflects a cultural change on the road.

(Martin) Back in the 70's and 80's, my dad was a pretty serious cyclist when few people in Vermont had ever heard of Campagnolo, Greg Lemond, or the Tour de France. It's easy to forget that bikes on the road were relatively rare back then. After all, this was before the popularity of mountain bikes, hybrids, and triathlons. Back then, most bikes were toys for kids, not a means of transportation or athletic gear. So my dad and his friends in the Green Mountain Bike Club really made up a small, somewhat specialized group with a peculiar interest: they liked to ride their bikes on the main road. Many drivers just didn't know what to make of men in tight black shorts, funny hats, and short-sleeved bright wool jerseys with lettering. With his big dome of a white Bell helmet, my dad probably looked like an alien to many drivers - which explains, in part, why they would sometimes throw cigarettes, beer bottles, and curses at him as they drove past.

Obviously, things are totally different now, and the tension on the roadways seems to come not from the fact that bikers are so rare, but rather that they seem to be everywhere. Since they don't pollute, bikers sometimes act a little superior when pedaling alongside automobilists. Sometimes they seem a little militant about sharing the road, like the skit on the show Portlandia where a fixed gear biker seems to bully the whole city, weaving through traffic, tooting his whistle at drivers, and yelling, "10 feet!" "This is a bike lane here!" "Bicycle Rights!"

Of course many drivers do a poor job of sharing the road too. Many casually run bikers into the curb as they pull up to an intersection, or forget to signal before turning abruptly in front of a biker, or fling their car doors open without looking in the rearview, or even use the bike lane to pass cars on the right. Sometimes these drivers are phoning, texting, eating, or GPSing, but sometimes they're just oblivious to how lethal they can potentially be to a biker with their multi-ton vehicle.

But cars are just going to have to get used to bicycles. At present, there are more than 165 cities around the world with bikeshare programs, which reflects a new vision for urban space. Bike lanes offer an alternative to traffic jams and gridlock, but perhaps more importantly, they offer a way for modern society to combat obesity, pollution, and global warming all at the same time. The biggest bikeshare programs are in Huangzou , China and Paris , France . And starting next spring, New York City will finally follow in the wake of Portland and Chattanooga with its own bikeshare program . It'll be great to finally have Gotham join the pack .

It's been a long time coming, but perhaps the bicycle has become the revolutionary symbol of our times. Changing our dominant car culture may take time, but the beauty and simplicity of bike culture make it inevitable.

You know, burn calories, not gas.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Bike Highways in Copenhagen, Denmark - listen to the NPR story

From NPR

Many Copenhagen residents already travel by bike, and now the city is building high-speed routes designed to encourage commuters even in the outlying suburbs.
Slim Allagui/AFP/Getty Images
Many Copenhagen residents already travel by bike, and now the city is building high-speed routes designed to encourage commuters even in the outlying suburbs.
text size A A A
September 1, 2012
Every day, one-third of the people of Copenhagen ride their bikes to work or school. Collectively, they cycle more than 750,000 miles daily, enough to make it to the moon and back. And city officials want even more people to commute, and over longer distances.
So a network of 26 new bike routes, dubbed "the cycling superhighway," is being built to link the surrounding suburbs to Copenhagen.
Lars Gaardhoj, an official with the Copenhagen capital region, says the routes will be straight and direct.
"It will be very fast for people who use their bike," he says. "This is new because traditionally cycle paths have been placed where there is space for them and the cars didn't run. So now the bike is going to challenge the car."
The first highway, to the busy suburb of Albertslund some 10 miles outside the city, was completed in April.
To test it, I got a rental bike and went out for a ride.
No Place For Slowpokes
One of the first things you learn about these bike lanes is that you have to move in fast. This is not leisurely biking — this is serious stuff in Copenhagen.
It's a parallel world of transportation: You've got the cars on the roads and the people on their bikes. There are thousands and thousands of people on their bikes here in this city.
NPR reporter Eleanor Beardsley rides in one of the new bike lanes in Copenhagen. The city is building more than two dozen lanes from the suburbs into the city. They cater to cyclists by including such things as rails and footrests at stoplights.
EnlargeCourtesy of Eleanor Beardsley for NPR
NPR reporter Eleanor Beardsley rides in one of the new bike lanes in Copenhagen. The city is building more than two dozen lanes from the suburbs into the city. They cater to cyclists by including such things as rails and footrests at stoplights.
As commuters pour into Copenhaghen on the new highway, I stop biker Cona Endelgo at a red light. Endelgo says he used to drive his car towork, but biking is better.
"It gives you more exercise and motion, and it's more free, and it's quicker. When I pass the harbor, I wave to the cars," he says.
Each mile of bike highway will cost about $1 million. The project is to be financed by the city of Copenhagen and 21 local governments. And in a country where both right- and left-leaning politicians regularly ride bikes to work, it has bilateral support.
Addressing The Needs Of Bikers
Several innovations are being tested, like "green wave" technology, which times traffic lights to suit bikers. If you maintain a certain pace, you can ride all the way through into the city without stopping. There are also footrests with bars to lean on at traffic lights, and a bike pump every mile in case you have a flat.
Outside the city, the pace is slower and people talk to each other as they ride. Jacob Messen, 33, is on his way to a water park with his kids. He says support for the project runs deep.
"Bicycles are a very essential element in most people's lives in Denmark," he says. "We have them as small infants and all the way up through the ages."
He's not kidding. Another rider, 83-year-old Soulva Jensen, is using the highway to visit her daughter in a neighboring town.
"The trains are too much trouble at the moment, so I thought it was easier to take the bike," she says.
Once the highway network is completed, an estimated 15,000 additional people will switch from driving to biking. And that, say officials, will have a direct impact on the environment, public health and finances. The bike highway alone is expected to save Copenhagen's health care system some $60 million a year.