Council Considers Pedestrian Safety

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Thursday February 11, 2016

If you’ve tried to bicycle or travel on foot to your destination in South Burlington, you know that some routes can be more treacherous than others. Concerns have been brought to the council in the past about several particularly dangerous areas for crossing such as the four lanes that separate Twin Oaks residences and the Kennedy Drive bus stop as well as the Staples Plaza on Williston Road, among others. The city council began a conversation February 1 to brainstorm policy ideas to determine where resources could best be allocated to address these safety concerns.

The main objective of the discussion was to generate a list of current issues, then proceed in finding the right people to help tackle them. Chair Pat Nowak said she was concerned about the functionality of the LED powered crossing signals in cold weather. Several councilors concurred. The signals to which they are referring are South Burlington’s thirty-two rectangular rapid flashing beacons (RRFBs) or solar powered LED crosswalk signals at mid-block intersections. Unlike a traditional crossing signal, where there’s a delay once the button is pushed, RRFBs begin flashing immediately when pushed, for a minimum of twelve seconds. They work in pairs so that when one is activated on one side of the street, the other side is immediately activated as well to alert traffic in both directions that an individual is about to cross.

South Burlington was an early adopter of this technology and unfortunately, there have been intermittent issues due to Vermont’s temperature extremes. Even though over the past two years the department has worked closely with the manufacturer to study, identify, and upgrade all units to make them more dependable year round, occasional malfunctions persist.

Shelburne Road was another area of the city cited as a concern. Nowak noted that every other street light has been taken out. Shaw added that lighting issues at bus stops along Rte 7 and 2, Hinesburg Road, and Dorset Street should also be addressed.

Bike and pedestrian committee member Roy Neuer encouraged the council to read the Shelburne Road corridor study, which could offer insight. Neuer said it points out all of the problems as well as potential improvements that could be made. For example, the study notes that Shelburne Road has half as many crosswalks as it should.

Neuer also mentioned the necessity of having a sidewalk on both sides of Hinesburg Road to allow greater access; especially for handicapped individuals who often have to navigate their way on the very dangerous road shoulder.

City Manager Kevin Dorn took notes and said he will be asking the bike and pedestrian committee to weigh in, along with Director of Planning and Zoning Paul Conner and Public Works Director Justin Rabidoux. A public hearing will be held on this issue in the near future.

SOURCE: Corey Burdick, Correspondent