Improvements needed for pedestrian safety
I am encouraged by the sidewalk construction on lower Towers Road, connecting the Meadow’s Edge development with the intersection of Routes 15 and 128. This work will improve pedestrian safety and encourage more walking by residents in that area.
But we shouldn’t stop there. Improvements for pedestrian safety and travel need to be extended along the entire length of Towers Road and between Old Stage Road south to Route 15. I regularly run a loop in the mornings that includes both of these roads. I follow the “rules of the road” for pedestrians by running against traffic and wearing bright colors so I’m clearly visible by drivers along that route. On Monday, July 15 at around 7:15 a.m. I was forced off the road by three different vehicles during my morning run. Two trucks did not yield, forcing me to stop along the shoulder and a car actually swerved in my direction, forcing me to step into the ditch. All three of these vehicles were also driving well above the posted limit.
Having lived in Essex since 2002, I have seen an increase in the number of walkers, cyclists and runners on both Towers and Old Stage Roads. With the expansion of housing development in these areas, the numbers of pedestrians will only increase in the coming years. The Town of Essex needs to immediately address pedestrian safety along this route:
- Speed Limit Enforcement – The Town of Essex could make some easy money by posting a police officer with a radar gun on Old Stage Road weekday mornings. The majority of vehicles I’ve seen drive 10 to 15 miles per hour over the speed limit. An increased police presence would serve as a caution for drivers to slow down.
- Improved Signage – At a minimum, signs should be posted reminding drivers to “share the road” and other messages to encourage safety when pedestrians are present.
- Create a “Pedestrian Lane” – Although the road is narrow, two to three feet of one side could be reserved for bicycles, walkers and runners. Flexible flags or special pavement markings could be used to define the lane.
- “Mind Your Speed” Sign – Old Stage Road could use a sign like the ones posted on Sydney Drive and Sand Hill Road to let drivers know how fast they are traveling compared to the speed limit.
- Build-out Sidewalks – Definitely the most expensive option, but a long-term investment in anticipated growth in housing would be to construct sidewalks and crosswalks along both Towers and Old Stage Roads. This project could be phased and paid for over a three- to five-year period.
According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, 6,227 pedestrians were killed by vehicles in 2018. Pedestrian fatalities in the U.S. have increased 41 percent since 2008 and now account for 16 percent of all traffic fatalities. I worry that without improvements for pedestrian safety, a member of our community could be seriously hurt or killed along this route.
I hope that our police department, working with the Selectboard, will continue efforts to improve pedestrian safety in our community.
TOV needs representation in merger effort
I applaud the efforts toward a single consolidated municipality for all Essex.
The current collaborative process, however, is fundamentally flawed in that it includes the five-person Selectboard (who represent all Essex residents) and the five-person Board of Trustees (who represent only Village residents), and fails to equally represent Town Outside the Village (TOV) residents.
I call for a halt to all discussions until a five-person board who represent only TOV residents be created by vote of TOV residents, and then included in collaborations on an equal footing.
Until that happens, the scales of justice are decidedly tipped against all TOV residents. If you feel the same, be sure to make that point when you complete the Essex Resident Survey (link on the Town’s website).
Plastics bill addresses ‘tip of the iceberg’
Recently the Vermont Legislature passes bill S 113 banning the use of plastic bags in Vermont, along with plastic straws and styrofoam food containers. I applaud this environmental effort from our politicians. Plastic bags have been around for just over 50 years, scientists vary in their predictions as to how long plastic bags, straws and styrofoam will take to biodegrade with many suggesting it might take 500-1000 years or even forever. Some bags that remain in the sun’s path may break down over 10 years into much smaller plastic chips that are taking over our oceans and killing our marine life.
This past academic year many of the students at the Albert D. Lawton School heard from Vermont Representative Dylan Gimbatista and President Pro Temp Tim Ashe about the progress of bill S 113 in Montpelier. As a result students began writing to area businesses who issue plastic bags, straws and styrofoam asking that they discontinue such a practice. Students also wrote to the CEOS of many of the top plastic polluters within the United States suggesting that they too eliminate plastic from their packaging.
As part of the studies many 6th graders took a field trip to the local Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) located on Avenue C in Williston to see just how Chittenden County’s recycling is sorted. The students were alarmed to see that only plastic the size of “a squirrel’s head” can be recycled. All smaller plastics such as bottle caps, bread tabs and even prescription drug bottles cannot be recycled. Instead they are ground up into pieces and shipped to Coventry by 18 wheelers to be buried in the ground of the Northeast Kingdom.
Students are becoming more and more aware about the footprint they are leaving on this earth. Many are alarmed that what they throw away carelessly today may still exist in the ground 1000 years from now. While this new plastics bill may be inconvenient to some Vermonters its really “the tip of the iceberg” regarding what we all need to do right away to keep our earth from being destroyed.