North Avenue Bike Lane Survey Leads to Controversy

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A bicyclist heading south on North Avenue - MATTHEW THORSEN

  • matthew thorsen
  • A bicyclist heading south on North Avenue

A slim majority of New North End residents favor the controversial North Avenue bike lane configuration, according to results of a survey — but opponents and two city councilors who represent the area claim that it was flawed.

Forty-eight percent of New North End residents reported satisfaction with the pilot project, which changed North Avenue from four lanes to three last year, compared to 45 percent who feel dissatisfied, say the results, released in mid-June.

The citywide results indicate a wider margin of support for the bike lane — 53 to 40 percent.

But the year-long pilot project has sown distrust and frustration over the city process.

“It’s divided the neighborhood,” said Councilor Kurt Wright (R-Ward 4).

On Thursday, opponents of the pilot sent an email to the press with the subject line: “North Ave Pilot Survey was manipulated.”

“It is the opinion of many that the outcome of the survey … was decided before the study was made,” wrote Karen Rowell, an opponent of the project.

The Castleton Polling Institute conducted the survey. The Burlington City Council is set to vote Monday to either make the change permanent or abandon it.

Nicole Losch, a senior planner for the Department of Public Works, said that in spite of the criticism, the department has worked to be fully responsive to citizen concerns. “We’ve done more project modification and more public outreach than we’ve ever done for any other projects,” Losch said.

Overall, 3,336 Burlingtonians completed the survey between May 4 and June 8 — more than three quarters of whom were New North End residents.

The city’s process has been a series of slip-ups and faulty communication, said Dave Hartnett (D-North District). Last fall, Hartnett said, Mayor Miro Weinberger vowed to send all the surveys to residents by mail. Instead, the city sent postcards notifying residents to answer the survey — either online, by phone or by mail.

The initial postcards were nondescript, Hartnett said, and more than 1,300 were incorrectly addressed. Hartnett and Wright used their discretionary council funds…

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