A bicycle lane could soon be added to a portion of Western Avenue on Route 9 in Brattleboro.

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BRATTLEBORO — Residents agree that bicycle lanes will add a much-needed layer of safety along Route 9 on Western Avenue from the Exit 2 interchange toward Main Street.

A scoping study for lanes along the route is underway thanks to a grant the town received from the state last year. The project initially came as a request to the Brattleboro Traffic Safety Committee from the Brattleboro Coalition of Active Transportation.

“Route 9 has historically been focused on vehicle use like most of the roads in Vermont, but as more and more people walk or cycle back and forth downtown for work, school, errands or entertainment, a combination of pedestrian and bicycles becomes more important,” Christina Haskins of Dufresne Group said at a forum held remotely Wednesday to get public input as initial plans are put together.

Both sides of the road have sidewalks but there may be a need for additional crossings, Haskins said. The study is meant to improve accessibility and safety for all users and people of all ages.

A steering committee made up of local officials and residents is informing the effort led by Dufresne Group. And so is public input via forums and surveys.

Other meetings are anticipated in February and June. Haskins said construction isn’t likely to occur for several years.

“I’m really excited about this project,” said Alice Charkes, steering committee member. “I think it would be fabulous for Brattleboro to start connecting the forlorn bike lanes in West Brattleboro. They’ve been hanging out by themselves for years out there, desperately wanting a friend to bring them all the way to downtown.”

Bike lanes would provide safety for cyclists and motorists, Charkes said, “because with a very defined place for bicycles to travel, cars and trucks would know where cyclists are supposed to be and cyclists would know where cyclists are supposed to be.”

Taylor Burt described feeling “least safe” in the project area when commuting by bicycle.

“I feel way more comfortable on Putney Road, which is kind of a nightmare driving,” Burt said. “But on a bike in a bike lane, I feel generally safe.”

Sharon Carlton Newton of Brattleboro wanted to improve safety especially near where vehicles get on or off the highway.

“Anything we can do to improve the safety and perception of safety along the corridor will be much appreciated and I think will be a good investment,” said Doug Cox, a member of the West Brattleboro Association. “There are lots of people who won’t bicycle along that route.”

Dave Cohen, founder and director of VBike, said a lot of trucks travel along Western Avenue.

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“This is absolutely why this is so needed on High Street and Western Avenue,” he said. “There are many squeeze points along the route.”

By creating more room for cyclists, he anticipates there will be more people riding the road.

Lina Menard recently moved to Brattleboro from Portland, Ore.

“There I was primarily a bicycle commuter and have been excited about doing that here, and I’ve already had some great conversations with people about how to bike in colder weather,” Menard said. “You folks are hardy and I’m really impressed and want to be one of you soon.”

Cox and Menard advocated for a design that’s not too complex to understand.

Erin Rodgers of Brattleboro, who uses a cargo bike to bring her children to school, called the bike lanes on Route 5 or Putney Road “amazing.”

“They work wonders and people give me plenty of space, I think partly because I have children on the back of the bike, partly because there are dedicated bike lanes that are telling them they have to give me space,” she said.

Riding Western Avenue is “almost scary,” she said, finding that motorists don’t give her space.

Josh Carnes, who works for the Brattleboro Department of Public Works and serves on the advisory committee, said he agrees that it can be “a pretty precarious road at times.”

“There have been times when I’m in a town car with flashing beacons and people still don’t get over,” he said. “If you won’t get over for that, I really don’t know what else you can do.”

Carnes said the department is eager to see where the project goes and he’s curious to look at design ideas. He runs and bikes.

Haskins said she was happy to see so much participation at the forum. She anticipates a survey on the project, which can be found at surveymonkey.com/r/DW8DBMD, will be concluding in about a week.


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