Avon to test ‘road diet’ pattern
Below is an excerpt from Blue Zones’ 2015 audit of Avon, entitled “Creating a Vision Toward a More Prosperous Future Through Healthier Built Environments.”
Avon is taking the steps to re-frame land use and transportation decisions centered on a “people-first approach.” To this end, the Town also has progressive language within their “Mobility and Connectivity” section of the code, including:
• Reduce dependency on the automobile;
• Reduce the number of daily trips by a single-occupancy vehicle and preserve the capacity of the existing roadways;
• Support the creation of highly connected transportation system with the Town in order to provide choices for drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians;
• Promote walking and bicycling, and connect neighborhoods to each other and to local destinations such as employment, schools, parks and shopping centers;
• Reduce vehicle miles of travel and travel times; improving air quality; and reducing emergency response times.
The move to put a cap on the growth of Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) places Avon as a top national leader for future transportation, health, sustainability, resiliency and quality of life.
By investing in and incentivizing the designs and places that make a visit or a lifetime in Avon pleasant, healthy and special, it is possible to imagine a more vibrant, relaxed, resilient and prosperous Town center. Avon is ready to build upon past successes, and to set a trend toward values driven, walkable placemaking.”
AVON — Can this town exhibit the characteristics of a blue zone?
Blue Zones thinks it can.
Defined as parts of the world where people live the longest, the term “blue zones” has also created a company by the same name, in which the goal is to implement blue zone traits in cities and towns here in the U.S.
Blue zone studies have taken place in the areas of the world where people are “reaching age 100 at extraordinary rates, have the highest life expectancy, or the lowest rate of middle age mortality,” Dan Buettner told National Geographic in 2015.
Buettner is the author of the best-selling book “The Blue Zones,” and conducted his research on blue zones along with National Geographic and handful of the world’s top longevity experts. His Blue Zones company was hired by the town of Avon to examine walkability. In July 2015, Blue Zones representatives enjoyed a short visit to town and produced a $15,000 report detailing their experts’ observations and opinions.
On the first page of the 25-page walkability audit, Blue Zones issues their key recommendations — the top recommendation is to integrate best practices and tools of complete streets, walkability, bikability and placemaking into the redesign of West Beaver Creek Boulevard.
Town staff has acted on that recommendation, and next week, residents and visitors will see that action take place, as test striping and road treatments will be laid down in what the town is calling a “road diet,” or test traffic pattern.
“We would like to test some of the proposals this summer, see how they work and see if they are effective,” said Justin Hildreth, Avon town engineer. “It’s kind of more of a trial-and-error process.”
THIS IS A TEST
The road diet test will consist of many parts. One of the primary components of the test will be a louder definition of the fact that — despite its two-lane width — West Beaver Creek Boulevard is a one-lane road, as far as motorists are concerned. The travel lanes will narrow from 12 feet to 11 feet.
“We felt it should still be just as safe, wide enough to accommodate buses and everything,” Hildreth said.
The bicycle lanes will be striped along the curb, Hildreth said, and then there will be a 2- to 3-foot buffer for bicyclists.
“It will be striped with a hash pattern or something, so people know it’s an area not to drive on,” Hildreth said. “Then we’ll have on-street parking, then we’ll have the vehicle travel lanes, so in that instance, people in the bike lanes will feel safer, because they’ll be protected from the on-street cars.”
WELCOMING TO ALL USERS
The trial will also close the Beaver Creek Boulevard entrance to the post office, which will now only be accessible from Sun Road.
“Probably when it first gets done it will cause a little confusion,” Hildreth said. However “that takes off those conflicts between the driveway and people biking or walking on the sidewalk so they get clearer, longer distances before they have other intersections or conflicts.”
Town Council member Megan Burch said the changes are being tested as part of an effort to ensure the road is safe and welcoming to all users.
“Currently, the street doesn’t have enough crosswalks or clear and sufficient demarcations between the sidewalk, parking spots, bike lane and road,” she said.
The test will last approximately three months. The project’s final design is scheduled to take place this fall, with construction planned for spring of next year.