Look to Germany for traffic safety ideas

MARLBORO — After four fatal pedestrian accidents in Brattleboro, enough is enough.

While, according to the Dec. 11 Reformer, the Windham Regional Commission has been “trying to address Brattleboro's pedestrian and bicycle safety issues” and the Department of Public Works has been painting crosswalks, this strategy is obviously not working.

As we green up our town and our lives by walking and biking more, and as we socialize with neighbors and build community, we need the support of a safe and accessible environment.

As Brattleboro is the home of the Slow Living, it too can be the home of Slow Traffic, and create spaces that are as safe and accessible to pedestrians as it is for vehicles.

A pedestrian fatality is traumatic for the vehicle driver, too, and can be a horrendous, life-changing event.

Germany has a successful program of verkehrsberuhigung, or “traffic calming.” This system of design and management strategies balances traffic on streets with other uses such as strolling, playing, shopping, walking, biking, and skating.

The traffic calming toolkit comes with many practical solutions, one of which is to build median strips. Besides looking nice and serving as a space to plant trees and flowers, they also cause cars to slow down and provide a safe in-between refuge for pedestrians.

Main Street in Keene, N.H., with its diagonal parking, forested median strips, and tri-color paved crosswalks, is a great example of a local, successful, traffic-calming solution.

New York City's Project for Public Places is a nationwide non-profit that helps people create and sustain public spaces to build stronger communities. The organization trains more than 10,000 people a year to create safe, accessible, and successful public spaces and has worked with municipalities, town planners, and citizens in more than 3,000 communities in 43 countries and all 50 states. Surely, PPP will have a few good tips for us here in Brattleboro.

I remember being a new mom living on Williams Street in Brattleboro six years ago and asking the Department of Public Works to paint a crosswalk at Western Avenue and Crosby Street so I could safely cross my children to the Neighborhood Schoolhouse. I was told that there were “too many crosswalks” on Western Avenue. Now there is a crosswalk, but painting a few white lines that quickly fade with winter salt and snow is not enough.

How many more deaths will it take before those individuals and organizations we pay with our tax dollars and trust for our public safety come up with some meaningful verkehrsberuhigung? A safe-pedestrian solution is real and viable, and the resources and know-how are there. We just need to use them.

Subscribe to the newsletter for weekly updates