From September 11-13th, the Department of Public Works, Local Motion, and the PlanBTV Walk Bike Team worked with dozens of volunteers to create a series of pop-up “demonstration projects” in Burlington’s streets during Art Hop and Open Streets BTV. The goals of the demonstrations were to:
- Creatively engage a wide audience of people in a conversation about walking and cycling in Burlington;
- Simulate innovative bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure enhancements not presently seen on Burlington streets; and
- Test a proposed city process allowing citizens and other groups (neighborhood, businesses, advocacy groups) to develop neighborhood improvement projects.
A summary of the projects and what we learned from them follows below.
South End Demonstration: Parklet and Pedestrian Safety Upgrades @ Art Hop
This demonstration project illustrated two ways to improve walking conditions on Pine Street at the Kilburn Street intersection. It involved repurposing a small amount of excess asphalt space for a “parklet” – a street-side pedestrian space for sitting and socializing – and a colorfully painted curb extension. The curb extension helped increase the visibility of walkers while also shortening the distance and time required to cross Pine Street. During the two days it was in place, the demonstration project was used by thousands of people and proved that balancing space between people walking and driving need not be a zero sum game.
Old North End Demonstration: Better Bike Lanes @ Open Streets BTV
This demonstration project showcased a number of ways to make bicycling safer, and more comfortable. The effort involved applying a number of different bike lane and intersection designs along several streets adjacent to the Open Streets BTV route. The designs included Burlington’s first parking-protected bike lane along one block of N. Winooski Ave., a Neighborhood Greenway on Grant Street, and a planter-protected bike lane on N. Union St. Again, thousands of people were exposed to a number of options that could make cycling and walking safer while not conflicting with the flow of automobile traffic. Check out the photos and video below, by Julie Campoli!
(1) Parking Protected Bike Lane on N. Winooski Ave.
(Photo right by Julie Campoli)
(2) Neighborhood Greenway on Grant St.
(Photo left by Julie Campoli)
(3) Bike Lane Upgrade on N. Union St. – Just add planters!
(Photo by Julie Campoli)
What we learned
The demonstration projects represented an unprecedented collaboration between Burlington’s government agencies, advocates, local businesses, and residents, and they helped our team gather input for the larger PlanBTV Walk Bike process. They also allowed a broad base of people not normally involved with the technical planning process to experience new and unfamiliar street design types. If this were the only outcome, then the projects could be considered a success!
Yet, beyond raising awareness and gathering input, our team learned what didn’t work. Indeed, it is important to note that some aspects of the designs tested were imperfect. For example, the number of parking spaces moved off the curb on N. Winooski Ave. limited visibility for motorists turning into driveways located along the west side the street. Such “conflict points” between people driving and cycling could be ameliorated through design, which underscores the value of testing design in the first place.
That said, the conversations we had with people during the demonstrations helped us deepen our understanding of what people like about protected bikeways, and what their interests and concerns are for a more permanent installation. Of course, there are many ways to design protected bike lanes besides the parking and planter-protected types shown in the demonstrations. Our draft network plan does not yet propose a specific type of protected bike lane along North Winooski Avenue or North Union Street, but we know integrating such protected facilities into the PlanBTV Walk Bike master plan remains a high priority for the vast majority of citizens we’ve heard from to date.
To view draft maps for the PlanBTV Walk Bike plan, click here.
In addition to sparking important community conversations, the demonstrations allowed our team to gather some hard data. The Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission (CCRPC) collected vehicle speed and volume data on North Winooski Avenue and North Union Street from Friday, September 11 through Wednesday, September 23. This allowed for us to understand how vehicular traffic was affected with and without the demonstration projects. Here is what we learned*:
- Volumes of vehicles did not change significantly; in fact volumes on both Union and Winooski were slightly higher during the pilot than on the following weekend, possibly due to re-routing of traffic during the Open Streets BTV event.
- Vehicle speeds were significantly lower during the demonstrations.
Thus, the two demonstrations showed that each of the primary corridors has additional capacity for motoring, and that redesigning the street with protected bikeways could lead to a much higher percentage of drivers observing the speed limit!*
*Data is limited to between the hours of 10:00 a.m. on Saturday through 4:00 p.m. on Sunday. Demonstration project data was collected during these hours September 12 to 13; Normal Conditions data was collected during these same hours September 19-20.