• Capital aims to be ‘walk friendly’
    By Amy Ash Nixon
    Staff Writer | June 03,2014
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    Stefan Hard / Staff Photo

    A pedestrian with dogs uses the crosswalk Monday at the intersection of Main and River streets in Montpelier.
    MONTPELIER — The City Council has put its stamp of approval on the Pedestrian Advisory Committee’s application to the Walk Friendly Communities program, seeking to have the city recognized with the group’s designation.

    Walk Friendly Communities is a national program that encourages cities and towns to create safer walking environments. Communities can earn designations from the group by working to improve such conditions for walkers as safety, mobility, access and comfort, according to the program website.

    The program is sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration and FedEx.

    Chris Andresen, chairman of the advisory committee, along with members Eve Jacobs-Carnahan and Jim McQueston, made a presentation to the council in recent days explaining the committee’s work.

    “The application delves into the quantity and quality of sidewalks and crosswalks, the safety of walking in our city, the enforcement of rules affecting pedestrians, programs to encourage walking, and more,” Andresen said in a memo to the council before the presentation.

    The application asks if the city has a pedestrian advisory committee and if there is an independent pedestrian advocacy organization, which there is in Montpelier — the Vermont Bicycle and Pedestrian Coalition.

    In the application, the committee states, “Montpelier plans on using a Walk Friendly designation to draw attention to pedestrian issues in the city and to initiate a discussion about those issues. Ideally, this will lead to more planning projects that improve conditions for walking.”

    In addressing the council, Andresen used the same word several times during the evening to refer to the city’s many efforts at nurturing a positive image. “‘Vibrant’ seems like it’s the word of the evening,” he began. “I think the pedestrian committee looks at Montpelier as being a vibrant community also.”

    “In the last few decades,” Andresen said, Montpelier has been “pretty car-focused, and we’re wanting to change that. We see Montpelier growing with a number of activities and events that are focused on walking,” such as the annual Corporate Cup Challenge and State Agency Race and the Relay For Life.

    Not many communities in Vermont have the “walk friendly” designation, the council was told. They include Essex Junction and South Burlington.

    Part of the application is a section titled “Status of Walking,” which states that for Montpelier, according to the 2000 census, 15.2 percent of the city’s residents walked to their jobs, while 1 percent bicycled to work. Just 0.7 percent used public transit, 66.7 percent used single-occupant vehicles to get to work, and 11.7 percent carpooled.

    Another detail sought in the application is the number of accidents involving pedestrians and motor vehicles over a five-year period. Montpelier reported four such accidents in 2013, three in 2012, six in 2011, five in 2010 and none in 2009. There were injuries but no fatalities.

    The application asks what long-term trends in walking volume and transit use are seen in the community. The committee said both have increased in the last 10 years.

    The application also asks if the city has a trails plan, which Montpelier does, with 16 miles of trails in the city, including in Hubbard Park.

    The proposed new transit center on Taylor Street is discussed in the application as well. The Pedestrian Advisory Committee noted in its application that the 1 Taylor St. plan also would include completing the east-west multiuse paths across town, which would connect two sections of the Cross Vermont Trail from the Recreational Center to U-32.

    The committee declared in its application, “Montpelier is a city that walks!”

    amy.nixon @timesargus.com
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