Frequently Asked Questions
“Don’t we need 4 lanes? Won’t the pilot make North Avenue more congested?”
Congestion is usually caused by cars quickly changing speeds, as they do when avoiding a left-turning vehicle on a 4-lane road without turn lanes. In a 3-lane configuration there is always one lane for driving and one lane for turning left. This makes speeds more consistent and keeps vehicles moving without congestion. Not every street is a good candidate for a 3-lane conversion, but the traffic volumes and development along North Avenue indicate a 3-lane road can actually handle the same amount of traffic as a 4-lane road (in some cases, 3 lanes can actually handle more traffic).
“Won’t North Ave become more dangerous?”
With one lane for driving and one lane for turning, North Avenue should see fewer rear-end collisions and sideswipe crashes. The center turn lane will reduce blind spots and unsafe lane changes, and the driving lane will reduce the frequency of people driving more than 5 mph over the speed limit. Data collected on road diets in two very different settings (several small towns in Iowa and a group of larger cities and suburbs in California and Washington state) confirmed that road diets improve safety. The research showed a 47 percent reduction in crashes in the Iowa towns and a 19 percent drop in crashes in the more heavily traveled corridors of California and Washington.1
“How will this make walking safer?”
With only one driving lane in each direction, the blind spot created by a second lane of traffic is removed. People walking will have less exposure to moving vehicles and are more visible to passing cars. Drivers will also be traveling at more consistent speeds with fewer cars traveling more than 5 mph above the speed limit, making it easier for cars to stop or yield for pedestrians.
“Why should bikes use North Avenue when there is a bike path nearby?”
The bike path is most useful for recreational bicyclists, but it isn’t efficient or easy for everyone to get to. If people choose to only bicycle on the bike path, they will not have access to important destinations like schools, the bank, and the grocery store. The bike path is also steeper than North Avenue and farther away for some residents, which makes it inaccessible for many – especially people new to bicycling or our youngest and oldest residents. If people do choose to use the bike path for transportation, they still need a safe way to access it from their neighborhoods, which means bike facilities on New North End streets.12
“Why can’t bikes use the sidewalk?”
The pilot project will help determine the long-term placement of bicycle facilities on North Avenue, ultimately helping us answer this question. If North Avenue is restored to 4-lanes, a bicycle facility adjacent to the sidewalk may be reconsidered. The pilot project includes bike lanes because there is extra roadway width from the 4-3 lane conversion. It is also a low-cost option that doesn’t require any reconstruction.
“How will this make biking safer?”
With the reallocation of driving lanes, bike lanes can be provided in each direction. Without bike lanes, people driving have to navigate around people bicycling in the driving lane, which creates changing speeds and swerving traffic. At the same time, people bicycling are at risk for drivers passing too closely, when there may not be enough room to safely or comfortably pass. Bike lanes will allow drivers to continue driving unimpeded by people bicycling at a slower speed, and people bicycling will have a dedicated space that allows safe passing.
“Will this slow down emergency responders?”
North Avenue with 3-lanes will accommodate emergency vehicles without increasing response times.5 Drivers can pull into bicycle lanes to move out of the way, and the center-turn lane can be used by responders needing to pass other vehicles.6
“Won’t this be bad for businesses?”
Businesses are usually impacted by transportation projects if the majority of drivers begin to use an alternate route. However, North Avenue is a large neighborhood street. The majority of drivers will remain on North Avenue. Instead of redirecting traffic, the pilot project may reduce traffic speeds, making motorists more likely to notice the shops, eateries and businesses they’re driving alongside. Left turns will also be easier, which may encourage more drivers to enter businesses’ driveways.8 The pilot project may also feel more livable, making walking and biking more pleasant. People walking and biking shop more frequently and spend more on average per month than drivers.7
“Why have a few cities reversed 3-lane pilot projects back to 4-lanes?”
Each project, community, and roadway is unique, and the reasons for discontinuing projects usually reflect those unique circumstances. With thousands of 4-3 lane conversions completed nationwide over the last 20 years, the vast majority have proven to be effective, safe and popular and are a primary safety tool recommended by the Federal Highway Administration.9 Of the roads that have been restored back to 4-lanes, some were restored due to concern for misuse of the bike lane, others for citywide concerns over new transportation projects, and others for concerns about traffic delays.14, 15, 16,17 Of the roads that were considered for 3-lanes but weren’t advanced, some were held back based on concerns for traffic impacts and/or community input and concerns.13 There have been two successful road diets in Burlington and South Burlington on Colchester Ave11 and Williston Rd.
“Do people dislike 4-to-3 lane projects?”
Burlington’s Colchester Avenue road diet was completed in August 2012, and, similar to North Avenue, was faced with initial concerns. However, following completion, more than 80% of those surveyed were supportive of the changes. Of those who had concerns, they disliked more congestion and delays at some intersections, confusion in the center turn lane, poor drainage, and narrow bike lanes.11
1 Highway Safety Information System (August 2010), Evaluation of Lane Reduction “Road Diet” Measures on Crashes, http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/research/safety/10053/10053.pdf
2 VTrans crash data 2010-2015, http://apps.vtrans.vermont.gov/CrashPublicQueryTool/home/index
3 Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission, (Summer 2015), Annual Average Daily Traffic & 85th Percentile Speeds,https://www.burlingtonvt.gov/sites/default/files/DPW/TransportationProjects/NorthAveStudy/NorthAve_Summer2015_AADT_Speed s.pdf
4 AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety (September 2011), “Impact Speed and Pedestrian’s Risk of Severe Injury or Death,” https://www.aaafoundation.org/sites/default/files/2011PedestrianRiskVsSpeed.pdf
5 Rosales, J. Parsons Brinckerhoff (July 2009), Road Diet Handbook: Setting Trends for Livable Streets, http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/docs/nickerson/Road%20Diet%20Rosales%20Overview%20.pdf
6 Walkable Streets (August 2003), Economic Merits of Road Diets and Traffic Calming,http://walkablestreets.wordpress.com/2003/08/17/economic-merits-of-road-diets-and-traffic-calming
7 Clifton, K., et al., (2012) – “Consumer Behavior and Travel Mode Choices”http://nacto.org/docs/usdg/consumer_behavior_and_travel_choices_clifton.pdf
8 Tan, C.H. Federal Highway Administration, FHWA-HRT-11-006. Vol. 75, No. 2. (September/October 2011), “Going on a Road Diet”. Public Roads,http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/publicroads/11septoct/05.cfm
9 Federal Highway Administration, (Retrieved November 11, 2015), Road Diet Information Guide,http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/road_diets/info_guide/ch1.cfm#s12
10 VTrans crash data 2010-2015, http://apps.vtrans.vermont.gov/CrashPublicQueryTool/home/index
11 Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission (February 2011), “Colchester Avenue Complete Streets Demonstration Project,” http://www.ccrpcvt.org/library/colchester_ave/Colchester_Ave_CompleteSts_Presentation_20110228.pdf
12 Vermont Department of Health (June 2013), North Avenue Corridor Redesign: Potential Health Impacts, http://www.ccrpcvt.org/corridors/NorthAve/20140606_North_Avenue_Health_Impact_ASESSMENT_FINAL.pdf
13 KQHA Quincy, IL (June 30, 2014), “Road diet failed; roundabout still on the table,” http://khqa.com/news/local/road-diet-failed-roundabout-still-on-the-table?id=1064329
14 Rutland Herald (June 19, 2014), “Despite protest, “road diet” vote stands,” http://www.rutlandherald.com/article/20140619/THISJUSTIN/306199996
15 Brent Kurtis, Rutland Herald staff writer (June 14, 2014), “Woodstock Ave. going back to 4 lanes,” http://astheskiturns.blogspot.com/2014/06/woodstock-ave-going-back-to-4-lanes.html
16 City of Boulder City Council Agenda Item (September 29, 2015), “Update and staff recommendations on Folsom Street pilot project,”
17 WCJB Gainsville, FL (December 5, 2014), “NW 8th Avenue Reverts to 4 Lanes After Holidays,” http://www.wcjb.com/local-news/2014/12/nw-8th-avenue-reverts-4-lanes-after-holidays