It’s time to address the elephant in the room when it comes to cyclists and cars coexisting in Vermont. I’ve tried to avoid the topic for a while since it enrages me, but after so much talk about the road safety and the North Ave pilot project, I figured I’d weigh in on the subject briefly. As you may know, I no longer live in Vermont but still consider it home. I plan on moving back one day (sooner than later), and the quality of riding is a large factor in my yearning to repatriate to Vermont. While the riding and scenery is amazing, the coexistence between drivers and cyclists as of late both angers and confuses me. Vermont was one of the safest states to ride a bike in until last year…so what exactly happened?
While the number of fatalities due to traffic accidents in Vermont has significantly decreased over the last few years, we sadly cannot say the same when it comes to cyclist and pedestrian fatalities.
Throughout recent years, there has been quite the spike in cyclist/pedestrian deaths due to negligent drivers. In a state known for its beautiful scenery, peaceful roads and an abundance of cyclists, the increase in cyclist deaths recently is extremely alarming, for both cyclists like myself and other road users. From 2011 to 2014, there were ZERO cyclist fatalities among those involved in crashes. In 2015, there were four; in 2015 there were 12 deaths. What the hell is going on Vermont?
Numbers don’t lie, and I don’t like the way they’re looking. Between 2014 and 2015, bicyclists involved in crashes jumped from 77 to 97. This sudden spike in cyclist’s deaths obviously sends a serious message about cars and bicycles co-existing and sharing roads. Aside from the 16 fatalities between 2014 and 2015, dating back to 2005 there was only 1 cyclist fatality in Vermont! This sudden spike is unacceptable.
The part that really irks me about the whole situation is that it’s not like Vermont doesn’t have infrastructure catering to all road users. Sure, there are certainly roads with little shoulder room and some areas need some maintenance or attention (for example, the whole North Ave project); but the infrastructure hasn’t been to blame for any of the recent deaths, it’s driver’s negligence. In just 1 year, Vermont went from being the safest state for cycling to the most dangerous. Of the 4 cyclist deaths last year, 2 were caused by drunk driving and 1 was due to excessive speed. There is absolutely no excuse for this! Driving is a privilege, not a right. And in order keep that privilege you need to take responsibility for yourself, your passengers and other road users every time you get behind the wheel.
Despite these deaths being the caused by the poor judgement of a few drivers, the state of Vermont is still taking steps towards making the roads safer. Take the North Ave project for example. It’s the pilot to the “complete streets” initiative created to improve the safety between bicycles, vehicles and pedestrians that share the same corridors and busy roads. The biggest change this initiative will bring is re-configuring busy 4-lane roads into 2-lane roads with a proper bicycle lane on each side and a turning lane in the center.
If you’re a cyclist in Vermont and can shed some better light on the subject, I’d love to hear from you.
Map provided by Schneider & Palcsik – Vermont Personal Injury Attorneys