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Rutland Looks To Improve Pedestrian Safety With Pilot Study, Survey

Nina Keck
William Notte, president of the Rutland City Board of Aldermen, left, Susan Schreibman, assistant director of the Rutland Regional Planning Commission and Rutland Mayor Christopher Louras, far right, tour the city Monday to assess pedestrian safety.

The hit and run death of Mary Jane Oatslay in Rutland two years ago, along with several other highly publicized pedestrian related traffic accidents, has brought the issue of pedestrian safety to the forefront in Rutland. And now the city is undertaking a pilot study to help make streets safer.

It’s lunch time, and about a dozen people armed with clipboards follow Rutland transportation planner Susan Schreibman on a walking tour along West street.

“Something to just look at is crosswalks,” Schreibman says. “How visible they are, how comfortable you feel; as you’re crossing the driveways, if vehicles can see you."

The group, which is made up of local officials, state and federal transportation experts and interested residents, takes note of potholes and other obstacles on the sidewalk. They pay attention to crossing signals and handicap accessibility.

William Notte, president of the Rutland City Board of Alderman, notices driver behavior.

“I crossed here to meet up with everyone and I counted four cars before someone waited for me. So I think a lot of it is, what can we do to make people kinder drivers?” Notte says.

From 2009 to 2014, there were four fatal traffic accidents involving pedestrians in Rutland, and 73 incidents involving injuries.

Susan Schreibman nods. From 2009 to 2014, she says there were four fatal traffic accidents involving pedestrians in Rutland, and 73 incidents involving injuries.

“I don’t think we are higher than other areas in the state, but any injury or fatality is a tragedy that we would like to work on preventing,” she says.  

Assessing the entire city would be difficult, admits Schreibman, so this pilot study is focusing on a three-block section of West Street, between Wales and Pine, that’s prone to accidents.

Kimberly Griffin coordinates the Rutland Area Physical Activity Coalition, which advocates for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Credit Vermont Agency of Transportation
Vermont Agency of Transportation
A thumbnail of a VTrans map shows pedestrian crashes from 2009 to 2014 that were fatal (red), resulted in injury (yellow) and caused property damage only (green). To view this full map and others, see the links below.


“This is not only a local conversation, this is a federal conversation, a national conversation,” Griffin says. [U.S. Transportation] Secretary [Anthony] Foxx put out in January a mayoral challenge to challenge mayors in every city in the U.S. to make pedestrians a priority for the next 12 months.
Griffin says she’s thrilled Rutland jumped on board and says there are a number of ways city streets can be made safer – like reducing the speed limit on all city streets to 25 miles per hour.

Credit Nina Keck / VPR
Assessing the entire city would be difficult, so officials are focusing their pilot study on a three-block section of roadway that's prone to accidents.

Routes 4 and 7 wouldn’t be affected, she says, because they’re state highways.

Griffin says signs with flashing lights at dangerous mid-block crosswalks would also help.

But pedestrians also need to do their part, she says, by avoiding texting when walking, using crosswalks, and wearing brighter clothing or carrying a light when walking after dark.

City officials admit it’s too early to say which ideas will be implemented and what they might cost. But Alderman William Notte says the additional data and expertise from the study will help city officials find the best fixes.

“We have to be willing to perhaps spend a little extra money,” Notte says, “and give a little extra attention to getting drivers to slow down, to making it a more comfortable pedestrian downtown.”

An online survey that’s part of the pilot study has already gotten more than 450 responses and will remain online through April.

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