If you live in or around Burlington, chances are you have driven North Avenue. This important street is the backbone of the New North End as well as a key connection between the New North End and the Waterfront and Downtown. What is less likely is that you have biked North Avenue, or walked along it for any distance.
Over the last year or so, a group of citizens and municipal staff have been working hard on the “North Avenue Corridor Study,” with a focus on making North Avenue good for biking and walking as well as for driving. The good news is that the Advisory Committee has issued a set of recommendations for changes that will dramatically improve North Avenue for everyone in the next couple of years. The picture above shows a street much like North Avenue that has been rethought to make it work for walking, biking, and driving. Read on to learn more about how this will happen!
The Advisory Committee’s work builds on North Avenue’s 2011 designation as a “Complete Street” in Burlington’s Transportation Plan. A “Complete Street” is a major gateway street that has no parallel routes, and that therefore has to work for everyone: pedestrians, bicyclists, cars, transit, emergency services, and more. The North Avenue Corridor Study is of citywide significance, as many of Burlington’s most important destinations — Burlington High School, Leddy Park, North Beach, the Miller Center, and more — are on or near North Avenue.
As a member of the project advisory committee, Local Motion’s unwavering focus has been on identifying and advancing changes that will make it easier and safer for all the city’s residents and workers to reach these and other important destinations, whether they are traveling by foot, by bike, by car, or by bus. At the same time, our advocacy team has been organizing people who live, work, and visit destinations in the New North End to attend public meetings and weigh in about its future — particularly with regard to addressing the dangerous conditions for bikes that currently exist on North Avenue. As the chart below shows, biking is growing very rapidly in Burlington, and our streets need to change in response.
In early July, the North Avenue Corridor Study advisory committee voted to recommended a set of changes that, taken together, will significantly improve conditions for everyone on North Avenue in the next 1 to 3 years. (Click here to view the notes from that meeting.) Some of the highlights of their recommendations include:
Bike lanes on both sides of the street from Washington Street to Plattsburgh Avenue
A 4-to-3 lane conversion (“road diet”) from 127 to Shore Road
A protected bike lane pilot from Institute Road (BHS) to 127
A consistent 25 mph speed limit (currently a portion of the street is 30 mph)
Improvements to crosswalks and addition of new crossings
Intersection improvements to reduce dangerous, high-speed turns
Implementing these recommendations will do much more than move traffic more smoothly and safely. They will also bring more business to shops and restaurants along the street. Part of the benefit comes from how much easier and safer it is for cars to turn into and out of businesses when there is a center turn lane to wait in and only one travel lane to cross. Another major benefit, though, comes from increased bike traffic. National studies have shown that, while shoppers who arrive by bike spend less per trip than those who arrive by car, they spend more more overall because they shop more frequently.