The Vermont Bicycle & Pedestrian Coalition is your voice for better bicycling & walking in Vermont. We are active in seeking policies, funding, and programs that support bicycling & walking.
Allow camping to all self-propelled visitors even if campground is full.
Click on this link to sign the petition:
We petition the obama administration to: Require the National Park Service to allow camping to all self-propelled visitors even if campground is full. The National Park Service (NPS) currently do not permit a Park to allow additional overnight visitors if the campground is full.
Self-propelled visitors (SPV), a person arriving by foot, bicycle, canoe, or other mode of movement NOT utilizing a motorized vehicle, frequently arrive after the park campground has sold out. The vast majority of the SPV use a small tent. If a campground is sold out, a SPV may not be able to travel to the next available campground before dark.
Whereas a SPV visitor using a tent takes up very little space and has little environmental impact, we herpetitiontion the Federal Government to require the NPS to always allow SPV a place to legally camp for one night even if the campground is considered full.
Reflections from an Engineer on Advocacy for Transportation Reform
The sentiments expressed in the following message written by an engineer are wise and timely. The importance of treating others--even those who have positions we vehemently oppose--with respect and courtesy can't be overestimated. By trying hard to understand others, we create the atmosphere that allows change to occur.
Click on the link below for the full article:
The Champlain bridge opened on November 7, 2011. Thanks to advocacy from both the New York and Vermont bike/ped communities, the bridge has 5-foot shoulders and 5-foot sidewalks on both sides.
How to Be Heard by Your Legislators
As a citizen of the small state of Vermont, you have more power than you think to influence the course of events in this state. Most citizens don’t speak up to voice their concerns. Therefore, legislators pay attention to those that make the time and effort to do so. You can increase your effectiveness when you communicate your views to a lawmaker by including a few simple things. When writing about a bike/ped issue of concern to you, always provide your full name, the town where you reside, the bill number, and why you, personally, care about the issue. If you have a business or organizational connection to the issue, mention that, also. Use your own words. It’s best to keep your message brief (3 to 5 sentences) and type the bill number in the subject line (if you are sending an email message). Lawmakers may receive thousands of messages during the session but yours will be more likely to have the desired impact if you follow the above recommendations.
VBPC's legislative agenda
In February, the VBPC was invited to the state house to provide updates on our administrative and legislative goals for the 2011 session. The following notes were the basis for testimony provided to the members of the Senate Transportation Committee and, later, the House Transportation Committee:
Support H.198, the “Complete Streets” bill. This legislation requires that the needs of pedestrians, bicyclists, public transit users, and motorists be accommodated when roads are built or reconstructed.
Support H.118, which will permit municipalities to have more discretionary authority over speed limits in school zones on roads within their jurisdiction.
Mandate bike parking at all state facilities. This requirement exists in nine states. The VBPC is working with Rep. Jason Lorber to craft legislation that would increase the availability of bike racks at state office buildings. The city of Burlington has passed some excellent legislation that could serve as a model for the state. The VBPC will be including the need for more bike parking (among other issues) in a formal letter to Secretary Searles.
Increase bike/ped-friendly local transit options. Two examples would be to: 1. Allocate funds for covered, lockable storage for bicycles at park and ride lots and 2. Require bike racks on buses running on local networks (RCT buses in the Northeast Kingdom currently don’t have bike racks.)
Double speeding fines in school speed zones. Vermont children deserve the same level of protection that is offered to workers in road construction zones where speeding fines are doubled. The number one reason stated by 69% of Vermont Safe Routes to School parents for why they don't allow their children to walk/bike to school is "traffic speed along the route to school." Approximately 800 Vermont parents were asked to respond to a survey conducted by the National Center for Safe Routes to School. (Other reasons given for not walking to school include distance, fear of predators, fear of injury due to motor vehicle congestion at school entrances, and parent/child scheduling conflicts.) Arizona and Washington double speeding fines in school zones. New York, Texas, and Virginia are some of the states that increase fines but stop short of doubling.
Include a bike safety question on the VT Commercial Driver’s License exam. Currently, 20 states have a bike safety question on the CDL. From the perspective of those who bicycle in Vermont, having such a question on the test is very reasonable. Note that the regular driver’s test in VT does include such a question, which causes one to wonder: why is it deemed a good idea in one instance but not the other?
Include railroads under landowner liability law. The benefit of such protections is that shared use paths could be co-located in railroad corridors where there is suitable width, making efficient use of existing transportation right of ways. Maine and Virginia have taken this step.
Dedicate the fines collected from violators of Act 114 (“Safe Passing”) to bike/ped safety.
Dedicate 6% of the VTrans Safety & Traffic Operations budget to bike/ped safety. This change makes sense because 6% of all serious motor vehicle crashes reported to VTrans in the past 10 years involved a bicyclist or pedestrian. The total yearly S&TO budget is $12 million, so 6% would be $720,000. Note that the monies would be dedicated to bike/ped safety programs, not to infrastructure. (A proposed budget breakdown has been prepared and is available for review.) Currently, only a couple of projects within the S&TO benefit pedestrians and not one targets bicyclists. Examples of how this money could be spent include:
1. Launching a bike/ped safety education campaign targeting law enforcement. The VBPC presented the first bike/ped safety program to approximately 40 recruits at the Vermont Police Academy on November 5. The second program is scheduled for April 1. The VBPC is rolling out programs to municipal police departments (beginning with those that have bike patrols). St. Johnsbury has expressed interest and is likely to be the first recipient. Good curricula exist (e.g., Massachusetts, Wisconsin, NHTSA) but funding to support this initiative is needed. The VBPC is investigating whether this program and the Driver’s Ed program are candidates for funding through the Governor’s Highway Safety Program.
3. Creating a statewide bike map. Bicycle maps are important economic tools that help draw tourists. Due to the lack of essential data within VTrans (e.g., presence of shoulders and shoulder widths), this is a complex project. Funding could be used to collect this data.
Why the Penalties for Violating VT’s New “Safe Passing” Law Are Stiff by Eva Greene
A waiver penalty is the amount of money a defendant may pay to settle a civil violation without appearing in court. At a waiver penalty hearing held on October 29 concerning Vermont’s “Safe Passing” law (Act 114), several people testified in favor of a high penalty, including VBPC executive director Nancy Schulz, Roger Bombardier, and the family of Dr. Bradford Greene. (To see the judges’ decisions regarding violations of three sections of Act 114, note the column to the far right in the accompanying chart.)
Before the “Safe Passing” law, it was tough to prosecute a negligent driver in Vermont, even if that driver had killed or maimed a cyclist. One case that illustrates this is State v. Carlin. On April 18, 2009, at 2:30 pm in the afternoon, a speeding teenage driver veered off Route 5 near Brattleboro, and struck cyclist Bradford Greene from behind without warning. The cyclist was catapulted backward over the car and slammed onto the road. Among witnesses to the collision was Putney Fire Chief Thomas Goddard, who lived nearby; he raced from his front yard and radioed for a DHART helicopter. Had Tom Goddard not been on scene at that very moment, the cyclist could not have survived.
The 19-year-old driver and her boyfriend were returning to Massachusetts that Saturday afternoon, apparently after a party the night before. In her car were opened bottles of expensive whiskey, rum, tequila, and a case of beer. The driver told police that she was “looking for a restaurant on my Tom- Tom.” Vermont State Police charged her with grossly negligent driving with serious bodily injury resulting. Her family hired a powerful defense lawyer who entered pleas of not guilty to all charges. After months of delay and equivocation, the lawyer convinced a local judge to dismiss the count of grossly negligent driving.
Vermont’s Supreme Court eventually reinstated the charge, returning the case to Windham County for a hearing. Now, nineteen months later, the driver continues to plead innocent to all charges and the case is awaiting trial. Because the driver held title to the car, her parents are not liable for her conduct, despite the fact that she is a dependent with virtually no assets. The driver never made a statement or offered any reparation, and her lawyer has refused two settlement offers. Her auto insurance policy carried the absolute minimum of personal injury coverage that is allowed by Massachusetts law: $20,000. After 18 months of hospital care, surgeries, and rehabilitation, the cyclist’s total medical charges have exceeded half a million dollars. Brad Greene, husband and father, has suffered permanent, crippling injuries and will never be the man he was before.
The Vermont Supreme Court ruling in State v. Carlin changed the future landscape for reckless drivers who maim or kill cyclists. And new Vermont laws that prohibit texting while driving and set standards for sharing the road will offer much greater protection for cyclists and pedestrians. The waiver penalty hearing was important because state police have a lot of discretion in cases of driver negligence, especially if there are few witnesses. It’s very likely that the email messages that were sent to the Judicial Bureau and the in-person testimony resulted in stiffer penalties than would otherwise have been imposed.
Governor-elect Shumlin Comments on Bike/Ped Concerns
In early August, prior to the Democratic primary for governor, Peter Shumlin responded to questions that were submitted to him by the VBPC. The following are the six questions and his unedited answers.
Q: Since 2004, VTrans has refused to accept any new project applications into the state's own bike/ped program. Essentially, this means that no projects will be in the pipeline once the current ones are completed. All current projects are scheduled to be completed by 2014. As the process of creating bike/ped infrastructure requires design, permitting, engineering, etc., applications must be accepted now to avoid a halt in construction. If you are elected, will you remove the freeze and re-open the VTrans bike/ped program to new project applications? (Note: Safe Routes to School funding is now included in this part of the VTrans budget but SRTS funding comes from the federal government, not the state.)
A: My understanding is that no new projects are being accepted because there was such a long waiting list that people were getting frustrated and angry that they were putting in applications in and not being accepted. As governor, I would absolutely put a focus on moving things through the pipeline and would begin to again accept new project applications when the state has the necessary funds to do so.
As governor, my number one priority will be putting Vermonters back to work and getting our economy moving again. This will be the only way to permanently solve out budget problems and ensure that we can put the necessary resources into the bike/ped program. I understand the importance of public transportation and this program and as Governor will focus on moving projects through, eliminating the waiting list and will commit the necessary resources once our economy is back on track.
Q: In 2010, the League of American Bicyclists ranked Vermont #34 (out of 50 states) in "bicycle friendliness." In 2009, it ranked 21. In 2008, it ranked 17. As governor, what concrete actions, if any, will you take to reverse this trend? Please be specific.
A: As governor I would encourage municipalities to install more bike paths. I would also ensure that the safe passage laws that we do have on the books are enforced. One of these important pieces of legislation is the vulnerable user legislation that I helped pass as President of the Senate. Finally, I would bring bike/ped advocates together to ask them what the state could be doing to improve this rating.
Q: The federal Transportation Enhancements grant program provides approximately $3 million dollars to VT each year. This money is designated for spending in 12 different Enhancement categories, two of which are directly related to bike/ped. In FY '10 and FY '11, VTrans will award only $1.5 million of the $3 million. It's unclear what is happening with the other $1.5 million. As governor, will you commit to dedicating all Transportation Enhancement funds for Transportation Enhancement projects and not allow this money to be diverted to fund other areas of the state's transportation budget?
A: The entire $3 million is scheduled to again be directed toward the 12 different Enhancement categories in FY12 and I will absolutely support this restoration of the full allocation.
Q: Road safety requires an educated public, including cyclists, motorists and pedestrians. As governor, would you willing to promote and support appropriate education to ensure a broader understanding of how everyone can share the road? If so, through what agencies or departments do you see this program being implemented?
A: I would support education to ensure that all Vermonters are aware of the advantages and the dangers of bicycling, walking, running and driving on our roads. These education programs would occur collaboratively with the Agency of Transportation, the Department of Health and the Department of Education. These state agencies would also work with community bike organizations like LocalMotion and the Fit and Healthy Coalition.
Q: VT lacks a statewide bicycle map, which would draw tourists and encourage Vermonters to bicycle more by indicating the safest and best routes to take from point A to B. As governor, would you support devoting state funds to pay for the research, design, and production of such a map?
A: Yes, I would also look into possible federal funding sources for this endeavor.
Q: Other states have laws that require every state building to have a bicycle rack. As governor, would you support this requirement in VT? If so, how?
A: I would ask Buildings and Grounds to put together a proposed plan detailing the location of these racks and the associated costs. I would then target the state buildings that would have the highest utilization.
AARP Launches Complete Streets Week
by David Reville, Communications Director, AARP Vermont
Some 50 volunteers and a host of partner organizations turned out in late September as AARP Vermont launched Complete Streets Week across the state to shed light on the dangers pedestrians face as they walk their streets and sidewalks. From September 20 - 24 volunteers and organizations teamed up with AARP Vermont to assess crosswalks and intersections in Burlington, St. Johnsbury, Rutland, and Brattleboro. Volunteers evaluated how these intersections address walkers’ needs, such as whether there are adequate traffic signals, crossing signals and properly marked crosswalks or if there is enough time to cross the street. In many cases, some very glaring deficiencies were identified that directly impact the safety of pedestrians and cyclists alike.
The visibility and results of this weeklong statewide campaign will be used to demonstrate the need for state Complete Streets legislation which would assure that road design incorporates the needs of all people, including cyclists, people with disabilities, and those who travel without a car. AARP will also assist local activists to make needed improvements to the areas that are surveyed. Reports are being drafted for each community surveyed and any resulting recommendations will be forward to appropriate town and/or state officials.
AARP Vermont, in partnership with some 40 organizations across the state, is working to pass Complete Streets legislation to make roads safer and more accessible for all Vermonters -- regardless of age or ability or whether traveling by car, bus, bike or on foot. Complete Streets policies ensure that state and local transportation agencies routinely design and operate the right of way to enable safe access for everyone on the road. Complete Streets guidelines make transportation planners think about how people can access the community without a car. If bikers, walkers and others cannot be adequately accommodated, the agency must provide information to the public on why they could not meet the Complete Streets requirements. The design considerations are meant to apply to new roads and those being redesigned or rebuilt. Exceptions for interstate highways and dirt roads are included.
“AARP is working hard to pass Complete Streets legislation because as people get older they drive less or hang up the keys altogether,” said Jennifer Wallace-Brodeur, AARP Vermont associate state director. “Unless other ways of getting around are readily available, this life change can mean a lower quality of life, less independence, and isolation.” In addition to safety concerns for pedestrians and others, there are a host of other reasons to support Complete Streets including the environmental benefits of fewer cars, health and fitness advantages, and improved land use and public transit considerations.
The statistics paint a compelling picture. A recent AARP report found that 2 in 5 Americans age 50+ say their neighborhood sidewalks are inadequate. Nearly half cannot cross main roads close to their home safely, preventing many from walking, cycling or taking the bus. This is a key reason why 65 percent of non-driving seniors make fewer trips to visit family, friends or go to church.
“It is unacceptable that so many older Vermonters are staying home and forgoing activities that are so vital to mental and physical health due to inadequate pedestrian access or safety concerns,” said Wallace-Brodeur. Incomplete streets include anything from no sidewalks or bike lanes to broken sidewalks and unsafe crosswalks. By 2030, 24% of Vermont’s population will be age 65+, up from 13% in 2006. Yet two thirds of U.S. transportation planners and engineers say they don’t address older people in their street planning.
Complete Streets is a concept that is gaining momentum throughout the country. Connecticut, New Jersey and Hawaii have recently adopted Complete Streets policies, and many more states are considering bills. In Vermont, Burlington and Montpelier are considering local policies. To find out more, go to www.completestreets.org.
VT Scores Poorly in “Bicycle Friendliness”
“Safe Passing” Lobbying Effort Succeeds!
After a three-year lobbying effort, the VBPC succeeded in spearheading the passage of the “Safe Passing” law (Act 114) which took effect on July 1. Rep- resentative Mollie Burke’s early and strong support for the bill combined with the hundreds of messages sent to the House Transportation Committee (HTC) by bike/ped supporters were key elements of this year’s success. The members of the HTC were overwhelmed by the flood of requests to pass the bill into law, triggering a request to the VBPC to stop the letters. Recently, VBPC board president Judy Bond and VBPC executive director Nancy Schulz went to the State House and devoted three hours to reading each message that was sent. It was heartwarming to both of them to read the impassioned words of teachers, physicians, business owners, parents, accident victims, students, senior citizens and many others who care deeply about the safety of Vermont’s vulnerable roadway users. Besides dictating how a motor vehicle passes a vulnerable roadway user, Act 114 prohibits harassment and aggressive driving, allows bicyclists to move to the left, allows bicyclists to signal a right turn with their right arms, and requires bicyclists to display rear reflective material or a light. You can find the full text of the law by going online to the Coalition’s web site: www.vtbikeped.org
At the conclusion of Vermont’s 2010 legislative session, the VBPC presented a toy bike to the House Transportation Committee in recognition of the new “Safe Passing” law. The tiny (4- 1/2” long by 2-1/2 “ high) bike sports a banner that says “VT Bike/Ped says Share the Road.” (Photo courtesy of Anne Ferguson)
Kudos to all who rose extra early to participate in the Earth Day Ride with legislators! Special thanks to Rep. Willem Jewett (Ripton), Rep. Sue Minter (Waterbury Center), and Rep. Jim McCullough (Williston) who rode from their homes to the State House in Montpelier.
VBPC Attends National Bike Summit
by Judy Bond, VBPC board president
Judy Bond, VBPC board president, and Patrick Kell, executive director of the VT Mountain Biking Association, are shown at the National Bike Summit in Washington, DC, organized by the League of American Bicyclists. (Photo courtesy of Judy Bond)
Vermont Bicycle & Pedestrian Coalition board president Judy Bond and Vermont Mountain Biking Association executive director Patrick Kell represented Vermont at the 10th annual National Bike Summit hosted by the League of American Bicyclists. Over 700 bike advocates, retailers and industry members, including over 100 IMBA members, networked, attended educational sessions and met with their congress members and staff. The energy was amazing, especially with Google’s announcement of the new bike map application for Google Maps in response to the many requests for the app from the bike community!
In 2009, more bicycles than automobiles were sold in the United States, and many in the Federal Government are realizing that it is in our national interest to promote increased biking and walking.
Representative Jim Oberstar of Minnesota, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and others in the federal government reconfirmed that bike/ped/transit infrastructure improvements are an important part of transportation policy and are in our national interest. Laws to codify “Livable Communities”and “Complete Streets” so that folks can walk and ride where they live and work for short trips (thus replacing driving just a few blocks), and use public transport for longer trips are a cost effective way to reach their goals of improved health, cleaner air and reduced use of gasoline. Other bills will expand Safe Routes to School to high schools so that students do not have to drive, and fund the Land and Water Fund.
There are also many policy adjustments in the works, including the new Office of Livability in the Transportation Reauthorization Act, being made to ensure that good bike/ped/transit options are permanent and policy is coordinated. Over time, these changes will result in better land use, safer roads and better infrastructure for walking and riding.
Success Is No Accident
“The Boulder Bike Story” is an inspiring and entertaining 10 minute-video that explains how Boulder, Colorado came to be one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the U.S. Bikes Belong provided the funding for the video. It’s well worth watching. Click on the picture below to see the video.
Champlain Bridge: Bike/Ped Success!
by Judy Bond
New York and Vermont hosted a spectacular transportation event on December 28, 2009: the Champlain Bridge between Addison, VT and Crown Point, NY was demolished. The deteriorating condition of the bridge had been well known for several years, and the normal 5-year design, public review and permitting process had already begun. In October, however, the extreme "rubblization" of the cement piers was discovered during an inspection after the encrusting zebra mussels were scraped off. The bridge was immediately closed and the 2 state transportation agencies entered emergency mode.
The bridge was significant for its scenic location between nationally important historic sites, its original design and critical transportation linkage (the detour is 100 miles). The bridge was also notorious for its lack of any pedestrian access and too-narrow shoulders for cyclists.
The Public Advisory Committee (PAC) provides input to the state transportation agencies. Ivan Vamos, representing the NY Bicycle Coalition, and I, as a board member of the VT Bike/Ped Coalition, attended several PAC meetings. PAC members Rick Kehne and Rep. Diane Lanpher have also been very strong advocates for good bike/ped facilities. In December, the PAC reviewed 5 design options presented by Ted Zoli of HNTB, a renowned bridge engineer. After a little feedback from the PAC, one of the original designs was modified and presented to the public the next day. The Modified Network Tiered Arch has been approved as the final design, and will be the first of its kind in the world.
The two 11' vehicle travel lanes, two 5' multi-purpose lanes and two 5' raised sidewalks will be a huge improvement for pedestrians and cyclists. The multi-purpose lane allows room for 17' wide agricultural vehicles, bridge maintenance, and bicycles.
While good bike/ped access was important to PAC members and many within the transportation community, the very strong response by the bike/ped community was key in supporting their position. Thank you for the many email notes, attendance at the public meetings and the survey input.
Ferry service at the old location has begun and will run until the new bridge opens in the summer of 2011.
To view the demolition, go to https://www.nysdot.gov/
To view the designs that were considered, go to https://www.nysdot.gov/
The Better World Club offers bicycle-only and car-and-bike membership, including insurance and free roadside assistance. Better World Club offers VBPC members a 10% discount on new membership. The VBPC receives a donation for every new sign-up.