Monday, April 22, 2019

Yes We Can: Winooski Avenue--Burlington's Greatest Street

The current North and South Winooski Ave corridor study seemed at first a challenging triage of a congested, narrow roadway--now it appears the Winooskis really can reach through flexible and unique design its deserving historic role as Burlington's "Greatest Street."

The Winooski Corridor Study may very well achieve a "yes, we can" outstanding urban pathway:
Yes we can--cut carefully some parking which takes away from green space and safe walking-bicycling accommodation.  Yes, we can--serve the neighborhoods first and through traffic second in providing safe walking and bicycling for all ho can (see photo of sidewalk level cycle track applicable from Riverside to the north to at least Main Street).  Yes we can--employ the core safe best practices on our streets--the "intersection safety belt" roundabout and the safe for all ages and skills cycle track (protected bike lanes).  Yes we can--eliminate parking on at least one side of the street except for the central area (Archibald-North Streets) shifting the space to green and bike space use.  And, yes we can: provide a green strip throughout the corridor.  And, finally, yes we can:  strengthen and rejuvenate both the businesses and residential neighborhoods into a more sustainable and livable context.


Sidewalk level "cycle track" shifts the purpose of bike lanes to serving the needs of the neighborhood cyclists to access nearby businesses services and friends--this leaves the through cyclist to a secondary position, still retaining the skilled rider to the vehicle travelways.    Suddenly, all who can--young, old, and in between regardless of skill can bicycle--now only about 10% of the Burlington population bikes much at all.  This photo from Kyoto taken in October.


The intersections?  Again as in the North Avenue Corridor Plan (2014) the all-modes intersections safety belt, is the obvious choice.  (Recent public opinion surveys show about 75% of Americans favor replacing dangerous intersections with roundabouts--plus this is a priority change for GEICO, AAA, AARP and federal highway officials.)

Here is a 2011AARP Pine Street workshop photo from the report recommending roundabouts from stop to bottom of Pine Street in the South End, this engineering base design at Pine and Maple Streets.


Roundabouts  (all one way) are feasible at all the key intersections--they are not only safe (reduced pedestrian/vehicle injuries by about 90% and reduce bicyclists injuries) but the roundabout also cuts delay for all, cuts green house gas emissions by thousands of gallons of gas at busy intersections each year.  In the case of the Winooskis all intersections adjacent to the Marketplace (Pearl, Cherry, Bank, College and Main) are among the "Dirty 17"  City intersections averaging one injury a year--and add North Street/N. Winooski to that list. 

So, the "Greatest Burlington Street"?  Yes, the sacred Winooskis with the historic library and Fire Station, the main access to the City's shopping street (the Marketplace), location of the highest grossing co-op market in America, and the home to the lowest income Old North End neighborhood, the main avenue for the original trolley line from the waterfront to the Winooski manufacturing complexes--yes, the City's Greatest Street!  YES WE CAN!!




Monday, April 8, 2019

Winooski Corridor Study Thoughts Applicable to Obsolete Parkway Design

There follows a number of concepts, cross section alternatives, and areas to seriously explore based on the Winooski Corridor Study advisory committee meeting last week, some discussions with residents and business owners north of Pearl along the corridor and the comment by a consultant team member regarding sidewalk level cycle track. This thoughts almost all directly apply and show why the Champlain Parkway current design is obsolete and environmental document dating a decade ago is no longer valid.
Some Principles and Thoughts Overall
Some key principles and thoughts in considering roundabouts and sidewalk level cycle track in redesign of any busy, urban, all modes street:
  1. “Equality street” is the fundamental principle to be followed—highest level of safety and service for walk, bike, and vehicle modes.
  2. Parking is the least economic use of the street right-of-way (BTV residential parking study)
  3. If retaining parking in a re-design results in significant extra costs to retain a bicycle facility (cycle track, bikeway, etc.), sidewalk and some green strip, then those costs are ascribable to parking as it is an expenditure required to enable parking, not the bike transportation facility. 
  4. One of the key benefits of a single lane roundabout in a narrow urban intersection (or converting to a roundabout) is the fact that roundabouts on all approaches require no turn lanes and generally move crosswalks about a car length away from the vehicle traffic area—this results in documented gains of considerable space which can be allocated to green space, adjacent business space, pedestrian space, accommodation of bicyclists, and even, yes, parking spaces. (Keck Circle in Montpelier freed up space, once used for a turn lane, on the adjacent Worcester Branch Bridge, allowing 3-4 parking spaces.
  5. VT Complete Streets Law requires not just consideration of walk and bike in any transportation investment, but “safe” accommodation! That one word safe almost orders safety/facility treatments like cycle track and roundabouts which cut serious and fatal injuries for both walk and bike modes by a substantial amount.
  6. Unlike signals and stop signs, a roundabout enables pedestrian movement as a priority with almost no delay and pedestrians deal with traffic traveling in only one direction at a time with the presence of a median treatment.
  7. Green New Deal--Climate change dictates two elements for the Winooski corridor: (a) use of roundabouts which cut climate change emissions about 30% at busy intersections; and (b) provision of active transportation, a must for built up urban areas/corridors.
  8. The Winooski Corridor is not primarily a through-corridor for bicycle and pedestrian transportation, but really a series of sections of street where the predominant role is to serve the trips of the neighborhood to and from substantial trip generators—mostly to, from, and via the Riverside-Marketplace and Pearl-Main related sections. 
  9. Our design work take place in a nation and state which has systematically ignored safety a concern for streets and highways leading to the U.S. sinking from first to 20thsince 1990 with 22,000 excess deaths today compared to the fatality rates achieved by the top four nations including our once co-number one, the UK.
  10. Burlington in 2014 adopted one of the first “equality streets” plan, the North Avenue Corridor Plan, which converts key intersections from unsafe traffic signals to safe roundabout and provides cycle track from end to end. 
  11. Safety achievements of other nations generally has begun through a comprehensive “systematic safety” plan and program ranging from licensing, education, enforcement and street design. Our design must reflect “best practices” for safety. 
Two issues emerged from the March 26 PAC meeting of significance: (1) questioning taking parking away from North Winooski, particularly along the mixed residential/commercial sections Riverside-Decatur/N. Union with its two-way traffic and Decatur/N. Union to North Street now southbound traffic only; and (2) a brief mention of cycle track (protected bike lane) placement at sidewalk level or a level midway between sidewalk and road level.