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Burlington City Council Votes To Keep Bike Lanes On North Avenue

The Burlington City Council voted 10-2 Monday night to permanently keep changes made to North Avenue last summer that, according to preliminary data, have reduced crashes and injuries along the avenue.

The busy north-south corridor that connects the largely residential New North End of Burlington to the city’s downtown was previously four lanes, and city officials were looking for ways to make the high-traffic area safer and less accident-prone. In early 2016, city voters approved a ballot-measure to trial a configuration that designates three lanes for automotive traffic and bike lanes in each direction.

At Monday night’s city council meeting, councilors heard from the public, and then cast their votes on whether or not to make the changes permanent. Republican Kurt Wright and Democrat Dave Hartnett opposed keeping the three-lane configuration. The other 10 councilors voted to keep the changes made in 2016.

While data from the Burlington Police Department clearly show a reduction in traffic crashes, and an even larger reduction in crashes that result in injuries, the process that the city used to implement the changes drew heavy criticism from residents and councilors Wright and Hartnett.

Throughout the nearly four-hour discussion on the topic, residents and councilors on both sides of the issue seemed to agree only on the fact that the traffic changes have become an exceptionally divisive issue within the city.

One of the members of the public who commented on the plan was former New North End Councilor Tom Ayres, who left the council earlier this year when he took a new job in Randolph. Ayres said that he regretted voting on the language used in the city-wide vote on the project, which led some people to believe that voters in the New North End could make the city undo the changes.

Taylor was VPR's digital reporter from 2013 until 2017. After growing up in Vermont, he graduated with at BA in Journalism from Northeastern University in 2013.
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