June 7, 2014
About 20 residents, officials and other volunteers turned out on June 6 for a “walk audit” of Bennington’s downtown. Armed with clipboards, stopwatches, cameras and a speed gun, volunteers teamed up with AARP Vermont, the Vermont Center for Independent Living, and the local Bennington ADA sidewalk workgroup to survey crosswalks and intersections on Main Street, North Street, Pleasant Street and elsewhere to answer the following questions:
• Are there appropriate traffic signals for cars and walkers?
• Are sidewalks accessible for everyone, including wheelchairs?
• Are crosswalks properly marked and at convenient locations?
• Are there safety hazards along these roadways?
• Is there enough time to cross streets?
VCIL Peer Advocate Counselor Charlie Murphy said, “The sidewalk audit is the result of our ADA accessibility workgroup which brought people with disabilities and our partners together to tell community leaders what is needed from our point of view to have a truly walkable Bennington.”
Two audit groups fanned out in downtown and recorded observations and took photos and traffic data to be compiled into a report with recommendations.
Among the concerns voiced was as one of the groups approached the intersection of Pleasant and Main streets. Darcy Oakes of Bennington said, “Look at this, there is no sidewalk on either side of Pleasant Street. This is not a safe area for school bus riders to walk to the Tutorial Center from the available school bus stop. I will not allow my children to walk this path —no way.”
Tracy Dorman, a peer advocate counselor at VCIL, said, “I find the sidewalks downtown difficult to walk using a cane. Now that I participated in the audit using a wheelchair I have a greater understanding of just how difficult it is to navigate the sidewalks for persons using a wheelchair.”
The data collected by the audit groups will be compiled into a report that will be presented to the select board in the weeks to come.
“Walkable Bennington for All Generations” is part of AARP’s effort to make communities across Vermont safe for people of all ages. In sharing findings with city and state leaders, AARP hopes to ensure that the needs of all Vermont families, including pedestrians, cyclists, people with disabilities, and those who travel without a car, are being met.