By The Charlotte Energy and Trails Committees
An online survey conducted this summer revealed that Charlotters want more access to public transportation and more opportunities to walk and bike to destinations in their communities. The survey was conducted by Local Motion, Vermont’s leading advocate for walking and biking, in partnership with the Town’s Energy and Trails Committees. The survey received responses from nearly 10 percent of the Town’s population—a strong rate for online community surveys—and Local Motion’s expert on policies and infrastructure analyzed the results this fall. The survey asked about what kinds of transportation people use, what they would like to see more of, what barriers exist to additional use, and what policy solutions they would support.
Respondents, who overwhelmingly (97 percent) rely on motor vehicles for transportation, said they would like greater access to public transit. When asked why they do not walk more, Charlotters cited long distances, concern about dangerous drivers, and the lack of sidewalks. With regards to bicycling, the top issues cited were dangerous drivers, not enough bike lanes or paths, and traffic volume. Charlotters said they would engage in these activities more to shop or eat out, run errands, or connect to public transportation if these concerns were addressed.
Some of the most interesting insights from the survey came when respondents noted what policies they support. The walking-related improvements most supported by respondents were more off-road paths (83 percent), more separation on roads from vehicles (79 percent), better education and enforcement for drivers (73 percent), safer intersections (62 percent), and sidewalks (57 percent).
Regarding bicycling improvements, respondents’ top picks were wider shoulders (85 percent), more off-road paths (82 percent), better education and enforcement for drivers (80 percent), bike lanes (79 percent), and better education and enforcement for bikers (72 percent) as their favored initiatives.
Katie Franko told us that she answered the survey “because it was a way to help my town with something I enjoy doing, plus there was a chance of winning a prize!”—a gift certificate to a local business. Rich Ahrens also completed the survey out of a sense of civic duty, and said Charlotte needs to “encourage quaint growth of the west village area to provide a reason for citizens to go there, walk from place to place, and spend their money in our own town.” Another gift certificate winner, Julie Parker-Dickerson, said she is “highly concerned for my safety (and that of others) on our roads” when she walks and bikes. She added that she would “love to see more people out and about in all seasons” if roads were safer.
The Charlotte survey results come at a time of increased national attention to walking and biking. Communities around the United States have reported much greater usage of their parks and trails since the start of the Covid pandemic, and the electric bike revolution has opened up cycling to many who would not have used a bike because of health constraints or long travel distances. This point is particularly relevant to Charlotte, where five percent of survey respondents said they, or a member of their household, have a disability that inhibits their ability to walk and bike.
A White House statement on the new Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act says that Vermont will be eligible for over $1 billion in funding to “repair and rebuild our roads and bridges with a focus on climate change mitigation, resilience, equity, and safety for all users, including cyclists and pedestrians,” and an additional $77 million for public transportation. Taken together, the survey results and the infrastructure act suggest Charlotte has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to improve its off-road paths, on-road facilities for walkers and bikers, and connections to public transit, as well as the experience of drivers. Perhaps gift certificate winners Bill Stuono and Leslie Carew will get their wish: “We would really like to see the town and state promote a safe commuting/recreation path from here to Burlington, resurrect the Champlain Path Feasibility Study, and, of course, allow for more walking trails throughout.”
The Charlotte Energy and Trails Committees, with the vital support of Local Motion