Monday, June 30, 2014

Health Dept Weighs in on Road Diet, and Separated Bike Lanes

Dear [North Avenue Corridor Study Advisory] Committee members:

The Burlington District Office of the Health Department was asked by the Advisory Committee to conduct and submit a desktop Health Impact Assessment (HIA) as part of the North Avenue Corridor Study. This type of HIA draws from existing data such as local reports, public meetings, and published literature about similar scenarios. Garnering and evaluating any new data was beyond the anticipated timeline.

Consideration of the public’s health in the planning process ensures that the potential impacts on the physical and mental well being of residents is evaluated and addressed.

The strategies for making the North Avenue Corridor provide safe, inviting, and convenient travel for all users of all ages and abilities overlap with those that promote health by increasing prospects for safer physical activity and by improving access to services and opportunities for users of all transport modes.

After reviewing the proposed scenarios for each segment of the corridor we have formulated the following conclusions which we submit for the consideration of the Advisory Committee. Further details regarding these conclusions may be found in the complete HIA posted on the CCRPC website.

• Continuous, protected bike facilities, those physically separated from the roadway, (proposed Options D, E and F) would allow a larger number of inexperienced bicyclists to travel North Avenue. These configurations that allow for safer travel may lead to an increase in the number of people making the choice to walk or bicycle. The corollary to this increase is potential improvement in the health of residents.

• Care should be taken in the design of facilities, particularly at intersections, driveways, crossings and transit stops to reduce any potential for increased crashes. Additionally, an array of traffic calming strategies can help reduce the severity of injuries. Both intersection design and traffic calming features may increase residents’ perception of safety and result in a concomitant increase in the number of people willing bike and walk along the corridor.

• Right-sizing can make roadway conditions safer – both for motorists and other users of the roadways – by limiting excessive speed and providing protected center turn lanes.

• Pedestrian-scale details like street trees, green space, and lighting, can contribute to a sense of mental well being, safety and connectedness among residents in addition to amplifying the traffic calming effect.

• Providing multi-modal transportation options increases access and the potential that children, seniors, people with disabilities, and those with limited financial resources can access a range of essential opportunities and services such as grocery stores, pharmacies, parks, and places of employment.

The greatest gains in public health, through improvements in physical activity, social connectivity and equitable access to services and opportunities will be attained through a truly complete street that accommodates people of all ages and abilities.

Heather Danis, M.P.H., R.D., Health Services District Director
State of Vermont Department of Health, Burlington District Office, 108 Cherry Street–PO Box 70, Burlington, VT 05402-0070.  Website:

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