Victory for Brattleboro Bike-Ped Activists

Activists in Brattleboro are celebrating a December 15 victory for the rights of pedestrians and bicycle riders. As of 2017, Brattleboro had the nation's highest per capita rate of pedestrian death by car. Five people were killed in the five years that ended in 2017. Brattleboro is home to 12,000 people. In 2021, two pedestrians were hit by cars in Brattleboro and taken to the hospital with major injuries.

On December 15, 2021 the state transportation agency fixed a crosswalk that had given cars the green light even as pedestrians had a “walk” signal and were in the crosswalk. The crosswalk crosses Route 5 between the Hannaford supermarket and the True Value hardware store.

The move came in response to a campaign by activists who have a web site at www.LocalMotion.org.

Initially, a spokesman for the Vermont transportation agency defended the dangerous situation, writing in an email to the Valley Post, the “intersection at US Route 5 & Hannaford Plaza has what is known as a Leading Pedestrian Interval (LPI) for pedestrian signals. With LPI: If a pedestrian wants to cross main line, vehicles are held back on mainline and sideline with a red light, generally for 3 to 7 seconds, however in this case it is programmed for 10 seconds. Pedestrians get a WALK notification during that 10 second delay and they get out into the mainline crosswalk. After the 10 seconds has passed, the sideline vehicles get their green indication, and sideline vehicles proceed.”

Route 5 is very wide at that spot.

Later the agency bowed to pressure from the activists.

In response to the initial email from the agency, an activist with a different group provided a comment to the Valley Post. Christian MilNeil is the editor of https://mass.streetsblog.org. That site's fiscal sponsor is Conservation Law Foundation, which has an office in Vermont. MilNeil said, “I've been to Brattleboro a few times and recall Route 5 as a high-speed strip, and five deaths in five years in such a small town is a huge red flag. Generally speaking, a lot of state highway officials are afraid of inconveniencing drivers, even when they know that their roadway designs will threaten peoples' lives by inviting drivers to engage in dangerous behavior, like letting them drive through a busy crosswalk that has a walk signal on, or spending millions of dollars to build wide, straight, multi-lane roadways that lay out a red carpet for criminal speeding.”

He continued, “A lot of people assume that 'everyone drives' in places like Brattleboro, and that assumption drives a lot of design decisions, but it's just not true: according to the Census, 1 in 10 households in the town don't own a car, and over 50% of households there share just one car for everyone who lives in the household. Of course, a lot of those car-free and car-light households are poorer, or they're older people living alone, and thus they're likely to be disenfranchised in decisions over how infrastructure is designed, even though their lives are most at risk from those decisions.”

Traveling by walking or riding a bicycle, rather than driving a car, reduces obesity and helps with climate change. Around 300,000 people a year die of obesity in the USA. Climate change is a major threat to earth's ability to support human life. For decades, more people have died annually from starvation – exacerbated by climate change – than have ever died of Covid. Droughts and floods make it harder for farmers to grow food.

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In Holyoke, activists are fighting to save the fish in the Connecticut river. In a December 9 mass email they wrote, “From the Connecticut River’s headwaters in northern New Hampshire down to Holyoke, Massachusetts, massive hydro-power dams block the river and create sections that look and function more like reservoirs than a mighty 410-mile-long flowing waterway. New England’s longest river used to flow to Long Island Sound unobstructed, except for natural waterfalls. Migratory species like shad and salmon traveled freely upstream to spawn.” The Greenfield, Massachusetts based activists have a web site at www.CTriver.org.

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