In the spring 2018 semester, Middlebury College students Connor Pisano, Hunter Joshua Cole, and Maria Celes Abragan conducted a data gathering project with three components:
- Cyclists and Motorists Road Use Attitudes
- Desirable Infrastructure
- Bikeable Roads for Long Distance Cycling
Data was gathered using focus groups and an online survey. GIS (Graphic Information System) analysis was used to determine:
- which Addison County roads are more conducive to cycling,
- which roads are not conducive to cycling, and
- the best cycling routes between the three major Addison County towns.
The focus groups included a group of motorists who do not bicycle and two groups of bicyclists. The motorist-only group had concerns about cyclists:
- not following the rules of road as they are required to do, and
- riding two or more abreast and not “singling up” when a car approaches.
The motorist-only group also differentiated between cyclists commuting to work and recreational cyclists. They have the impression that recreational cyclists behave as if they feel superior motorists, while the commuting cyclists and motorists have more in common.
The cyclist focus groups would like to have wider shoulders, reduced speed limits and better connections for cycling between the three major towns – Middlebury, Vergennes, and Bristol. They also felt, with regard to the specific wording on signage related to bicycles, that “MAY USE FULL LANE” and “SHARED ROAD” would be more effective than “SHARE THE ROAD” commonly used now.
The online survey addressed good and bad attributes of town roads and of state highways. Interestingly, motorists, cyclists and pedestrians had almost identical responses. For example, nearly the same percentage of each group felt that wide shoulders, cyclists practicing good shared road etiquette, and adequate signage are good attributes. Likewise, nearly the same percentage of each group felt that narrow or no shoulders, noncompliance with the laws and etiquette of shared roadways, and inadequate signage are bad attributes.
The survey is still open and can be accessed at the following link: Click here to take the survey
The GIS aspect of the project used the Bike Level Traffic Stress (BLTS) road assessment methodology to determine which Addison County roads are best suited for bicycling. BLTS take into account shoulder width, traffic volume and truck traffic to determine a numerical score from BLTS1 to BLTS4 where BLTS4 is the most desirable for cycling. The methodology does not take into account pavement quality, topography, or actual traffic speeds.
The following link describes the BLTS methodology in more detail: Click to see the methodology
While the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) has implemented BLTS on state roads, local roads have not been included. In determining the best cycling routes to connect Middlebury, Vergennes and Bristol (Tri-town Loop), using local roads are more desirable. The Middlebury College team identified potential cycling routes between the three towns. With little or no BLTS data available, but including distance, topography, and accident history, team determined what the Tri-town Loop would likely be.
Middlebury - Vergennes (approx. 12 miles)
- Weybridge Street
- Pulp Mill Bridge Rd
- Morgan Horse Farm
- Pearson Road
- Green Street
Vergennes - Bristol (approx. 10 miles)
- New Haven Rd
- Route 7
- Plank Rd
- North St
Bristol - Middlebury (approx. 14 miles)
- North St
- Plank Rd
- Sawyer Rd
- East St
- Munger St
- Painter Rd
- Washington St
Although there were not many surprises, the Walk-Bike Council of Addison County now has more empirical data to support its endeavors. Having data on sharing roads among cyclists, walkers and motorists from the focus groups and survey will certainly be helpful to the Walk-Bike Council going forward.
If you'd like to view a Powerpoint presentation as done by the Middlebury students (with tremendous detail as to how they arrived at their conclusions), please: Click to download the presentation.