Welcome to Mobility Matters, an initiative of the Mad River Valley Transportation Advisory Committee to share stories of our local transportation successes, challenges, and opportunities.
Mobility Matters Article Archive
“Safety is a culture that begins with personal responsibility. Most accidents happen because of conscious decisions we make.” - from the Share the Road booklet published by the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans). The introduction begins with: “Vermont’s roadways are used by motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists and others. Our roads provide for transportation as well as recreation and fitness opportunities.” This certainly pertains to the Mad River Valley. Summer is here and everyone is back out on the roadways, including those who are not in a highly engineered 4,000-pound machine designed with a curtain of protection.
Drivers: take note that you are driving the equivalent of a hand grenade in destruction. Metaphorically speaking, you pull the pin when you put it in gear and don’t let go until you put it back in at your destination. Please slow down and pay attention. Bicyclists and pedestrians: please use your ears, eyes and brain. You are not in a curtain of protection. Make eye contact, wear bright clothing, assume you are not seen. Stay on the side of the road that you belong (walkers face traffic). Parents: teach your kids. Be sure to wave and smile, as you are the ambassadors of the non-motorists who also belong on our safe, complete streets.
Certainly, since the beginning of the current Covid pandemic, we have also been particularly keen to the increased activity on our trails and backroads by hikers, bikers, walkers and pets. Last summer there was significant concern in our public forums for safety of walkers interacting with traffic on our rural roads, which shone a light on the need for us to be more conscious of all rural road users. I hope this increase remains a trend this summer, and that we put the effort into make our backroads resilient and welcoming for everyone.
Speaking of everyone, I want to give a shout-out to one of the most poignant comments that I read recently regarding pedestrian safety in our public forum. It was from Woody who opined that we simply need more walkers. I could not agree more! I highly recommend that you choose to use the Waitsfield sidewalk system for at least one of your daily adventure/workouts or social outcomings. You know, it was designed to be 5-feet wide for two to walk comfortably abreast. Become part of a Mad River Valley Walking Brigade – by yourself or with friends. Does anyone remember Betsy Bothers and her walking cohorts, who were out every morning rain or shine? That is my fantasy for a crowd-sourced group of citizens who will take action on their feet, regularly to promote the safety of pedestrians in Waitsfield by making it usual and normal to see people at the crosswalks and along the sidewalks. This will engender respect by motorists along the corridor. Sort of a long-term safety in numbers theory. While you’re out there, look for me waving a friendly hello. And, remember to Share the Road.
-Kevin Russell, Fayston Resident & MRV TAC Member
You’ve likely noticed the sidewalk construction in Waitsfield Village…but how did it come to be?
Waitsfield Village is an incredible place for gathering and connection for everyone from kids on their way to school, to visitors taking a stroll, to folks popping in to run errands. Of course, it also serves as a main corridor for many driving through to different destinations. Daily, Main Street in Waitsfield Village (VT Route 100) sees 6,500 +/- vehicle trips, and has a history of ill-defined bicycle lanes, parking areas, and pedestrian crosswalks - resulting in a challenging environment for pedestrians (especially folks with wheels or otherwise susceptible to uneven surfaces). Over the years, residents voiced safety concerns related to poor and incomplete sidewalks, as well as the lack of crosswalks and visibility for pedestrians needing to cross the street. Sections of the existing sidewalk had not been compliant with state statutes in place to ensure safe conditions for users; in addition, informal parking along sidewalk shoulders resulted in stormwater runoff and erosion issues.
Waitsfield’s Main Street is a state-owned highway, so improvements require permission and cooperation between the town and the Vermont Department of Transportation (VTrans). The creation of sidewalks and crosswalks takes collaboration, coordination, planning, and perseverance. In fact, planning for sidewalk improvements in Waitsfield dates back to 1993. Mad River Valley residents, Waitsfield Elementary School families, local business owners, municipal leaders, VTrans and local entities worked together to envision a safe and accessible future for pedestrians. The first phase of this effort was the Route 100 Transportation Path, a 5’ wide sidewalk connecting Bragg Hill Road to the Waitsfield School. The project, completed in 2014, also included installation of a crosswalk, curbing, drainage, bike lanes and landscaping.
The sidewalk being installed this summer closes out the second phase of this effort. With assistance from the MRV Planning District (MRVPD) and the Central VT Regional Planning Commission (CVRPC), the town, school, and interested parties collaborated on planning improvements for the heart of Waitsfield Village. In 2006, the Waitsfield Village Parking and Pedestrian Circulation Study provided the basis for the improvements that we see being built today, including the new sidewalk and mid-block crosswalks with bump-outs. The 2010 Waitsfield Elementary Safe Routes to School Travel Plan laid out a variety of improvements for those traveling to and from the school. The 2011 Waitsfield Village West Sidewalk Conceptual Alignment Analysis studied the feasibility of constructing a sidewalk along the west side of Route 100 from Farr Lane north to Old County Road.
As a result of these efforts, a variety of pedestrian improvements have been implemented in Waitsfield Village over the past decade, such as: the realignment of the Old County Road and Main Street intersection, including the addition of a crosswalk and sidewalk spur along Old County Road; the West Side Sidewalk Phase I (125’ of sidewalk from Old County Road to Valley Players Theater); and new radar feedback signs to alert drivers to their speed. The current project, West Side Sidewalk Phase II, builds upon previous work and connects Valley Players Theater to Farr Lane with an appropriately designed and ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessible concrete sidewalk (755’), including connections to the east side sidewalk with two new crosswalks. These crosswalks are particularly important safety features for children walking to and from the Waitsfield School; they are being built with “bump-outs,” or crosswalk extensions, which help to make crosswalks safer by shortening the crossing distance and placing the pedestrian in a better line of vision to oncoming drivers. A new bump-out in front of Joslin Memorial Library will also help to make the Bridge Street intersection safer. Parking spaces, curbing, and stormwater enhancements are additional elements of the Phase II project.
As the community continues to discuss ways in which to make the Mad River Valley safer and more welcoming for all users of our village roads, the Waitsfield Village West Sidewalk Project is an exciting development toward this shared goal!
-Kati Gallagher, MRVPD
Photo: Pat Travers