Burnside Avenue To Get Safety Review By State DOT

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Hartford Courant

Published: Dec, 31 2011
http://www.courant.com/community/east-hartford/hc-east-hartford-burnside- (...)


By MELISSA TRAYNOR, mtraynor@courant.com
The Hartford Courant

2:10 p.m. EST, December 31, 2011


Burnside Avenue - the scene of crashes that took
the lives of three bicyclists in a recent 18-month period - is up for
review by the state Department of Transportation for possible
infrastructure changes to improve safety.

But the uptick in fatal
crashes could also be attributed to more bicyclists sharing the road
with cars, and the need for greater awareness and better driving habits.

DOT spokesman Kevin Nursick
said a review of the available information on Burnside Avenue, such as
travel speeds, accident patterns and roadway design, should be underway
soon and the department will look for infrastructure improvements.

"Our review of this area is going to be in three main areas:
engineering, education and enforcement," he said. "The DOT is looking
at the engineering side in terms of what we can change there. Exactly
what the changes are, if any, are to be determined."

Nursick said that an education campaign may also be necessary.

to the DOT's data, there were 12 crashes involving bicyclists on
Burnside between 2003 and 2009 - the latest figures available. None was
fatal, Nursick said, but seven of the 12 were attributed to bicyclist

"We need the cooperation of the public that uses the
infrastructure to be safe and the same goes for pedestrians and
bicyclists as well," he said. "Without education, you can't ensure

Any improvements to the road will come from solid
fact-gathering and analysis, Nursick said, along with conceptual designs
that would need public and town input.

Bicyclist and blogger Tony
Cherolis helped install "ghost bikes" in three spots on Burnside
Avenue, marking scenes of the accidents that killed three cyclists:

  • Town resident Daniel Schultz, 40, of East Hartford,
    was pronounced dead shortly after he was hit by a sport utility vehicle
    near 238 Burnside on Nov. 16. Police said he was traveling in the same
    lane, but in the opposite direction as the SUV.
  • On Sept. 1,
    William Laramie was riding his bike near Larrabee and Burnside when he
    was struck and killed. The driver, Paul Bato, has been charged with
    illegally operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol
    or drugs, reckless driving, failure to yield to a pedestrian and
    second-degree manslaughter with a motor vehicle.
  • Manuel Herrera, 52, of Tolland
    Street, was traveling in the westbound lanes near 242 Burnside Ave. on
    May 26, 2010 around 10:45 p.m. when police believe he turned into the
    path of a vehicle and was hit by a first car, landed in the eastbound
    lanes and was hit by two more cars traveling east. Herrera was taken to Hartford Hospital and pronounced dead hours later.

completely white "ghost bikes" are affixed with notes that say "Cyclist
Killed Here" along with the date of the crash and a plea to drive and
ride safely.

Cherolis, who regulary rides in East Hartford, said
that a "road diet" - where lanes are reduced to provide more shoulder
space or separate lanes for bicyclists - is appropriate for Burnside

"It doesn't have enough traffic to warrant the number of
lanes that it has," Cherolis said, but added that a road diet may take

"It's also a traffic-calming measure. It slows traffic and is good for both bikes and pedestrians," he said.

Avenue, a part of Route 44, has four lanes for about 3 miles and is
reduced to two lanes - one in each direction - from Walnut Street
through the Manchester town line. According to average daily traffic
counts by the state Department of Transportation, traffic on the street
has dropped slightly between 2000 and 2009.

"I think the ball's
in the DOT's court. But people can spike it up to their attention,"
Cherolis said. He credited the department for a new commitment to more
pedestrian- and bicyclist-friendly roads.

"Change sooner is better
and breaking out of the standard DOT thought process is important. The
public input is what pushes them to do these studies in the first
place," he added.

Cherolis said he rides Burnside Avenue
occasionally, but noticed at least five or six bicyclists while
installing the ghost bikes at 9 p.m. on a November night - and a general
increase in the amount of riders recently.

"One of my guesses is high gas prices and a bad economy," he said.

Fry, principal transportation planner at the Capitol Region Council of
Governments, agreed and said that the amount of fatal crashes recently
is staggering, especically when compared with the 12 fatal bicylist
crashes between 1995 and 2009 in the 30-town region that makes up the
council of governments.

"That road didn't really change in the
last few years," she said. "A lot more people who are bicyling are
choosing it because it's an inexpensive means of transportation."

Fry said that federal grants have funded educational safety programs in the past through CRCOG, she said.

"The ideal thing is you want to be sure that anybody who gets on a bike has some idea of the rules of the road," she said.

Fry added that last year she visited three South Windsor
elementary schools with a bike safey class for fourth-graders. Bike
Walk Connecticut, an advocacy group, brought kids' bikes for two hours
of instruction on bikes and two in the classroom, she said.