Three-foot rather than four-foot shoulders

The long awaited and much needed repaving of Vermont Route 100 from Waitsfield to Warren is slated for next summer. The Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) issued proposed plans to the towns of Warren and Waitsfield last month for comment.


The plans call for three-foot bike lanes/shoulders throughout the route, rather than four feet where possible and three feet when not. In the long run up to planning this project and after a one-year delay to allow Waitsfield to construct its municipal water project, planners, cyclists and members of local boards worked with VTrans to come up with bike lane/shoulder options that worked.

Many advocated for full five-foot bikes lanes, but ultimately participants compromised on four feet where possible and three feet where space was restricted. The plans that VTrans provided were discussed by the Warren Select Board last month and that board has not yet issued any comments to VTrans about the repaving project.

The Waitsfield Select Board received the plans later in November and was asked to comment on them by November 29. The town asked for and received an extension on submitting comments until December 8.

 “Clearly a four-foot-wide bike lane is preferable, but given the current condition of the road, with effectively no shoulder, anything is an improvement. That said, the shoulder on Route 100B between Moretown and Middlesex is a great model for how well a wide bike lane can work.
This repaving project is long overdue, and current road conditions represent a serious danger not only to cyclists but operators of motor vehicles. The widest bike lane possible is obviously best, but timeliness is the most important thing here. If holding out for a wider bike lane would cause further postponement of repaving for a year or more, the net effect would probably be a loss for cyclists,” said Peter Oliver of Warren who is a cyclist himself and is involved with the Mad River Time Trials and the Green Mountain Stage Race.

“I went to a meeting about repaving a few years ago at the chamber of commerce and raised a couple of issues related to shoulder width. A narrower shoulder can work if VTrans is vigilant about keeping it clear of debris, especially winter dirt and salt. A four-foot lane can effectively become a three-foot lane—or narrower—when debris is allowed to accumulate. In addition, a shoulder can have more effective riding room if the shoulder edge is built to and maintained to grade. If a rider sees a sharp drop-off at the edge of the shoulder—even an inch or two can be dangerous—the tendency is to seek leeway and ride toward the left part of the shoulder and toward the travel lane. In short, a three-foot shoulder can work if the full three feet are properly maintained,” he added.

Gary Kessler, director of the Green Mountain Stage Race, said that he felt a four-foot shoulder would be best and more attractive for tourists, kids and casual riders to use the road.

I am personally okay with three feet as that is three feet more than is presently available on many sections of that road.  It is too bad they will not make it four feet as I think that would have a very positive impact on cycle tourism in our area (at least for five years), but I would hate to have this project further delayed.  It is so bad now that I make it a rule not to ride on Route 100 between Waitsfield and Warren and have not done so for several years,” Kessler said.

With Waitsfield given an extension on the deadline to submit comments, town officials will meet with the Mad River Valley Planning District and the Mad River Valley Chamber of Commerce Thursday, December 1, at the Wait House to discuss the plans and proposed comments.