Old North End businesses raise concerns about eliminating parking, adding bike lanes

Published: Feb. 15, 2022 at 6:21 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - A proposed paving project for Burlington’s Old North End would eliminate dozens of parking spaces to make way for bike lanes. But some observers say it unfairly pits bikers against drivers in the Queen City.

The city hopes to eliminate up to 40 parking spaces in order to extend bike panes on the east side of North Winooski Ave. from North Union Street to Riverside Ave.

“We think that we can implement this continuous bike network in a way that works for the Old North End and still provides very significant parking resources,” said Burlington Public WOrks director Chapin Spencer.

But not everyone agrees. Mawuhi African Market just moved to the neighborhood and owner Pat Bannerman can’t believe the plan. She says customers are driving in from as far away as Plattsburgh and Montpelier and need places to park. “My customers will be -- they’re not going to be happy and it’s going to affect my customers and my sales and my business. So, please don’t do that because already they’re complaining they don’t have parking,” Bannerman said.

On the other side of the street sits the Old Spokes Home, a nonprofit bike shop that works to promote biking and has been active in the project. Executive director Jon Copans says they participated in an audit with the University of Vermont that found 30% of Old North End homes do not have a vehicle, so they are excited about the safety that this will provide for bikers.

“I have a sense of confidence and security when I’m in a space that’s designated for bikers. And in my experience, that’s helpful for me as a biker. It’s also helpful for drivers to understand where the cyclists belong on that street,” Copans said.

The push to bike and get rid of parking is also helping the city meet its net-zero energy goals. “Burlington and the state of Vermont continue to fall behind goals related to reducing vehicle miles traveled and we’re running out of time to address the climate crisis and we need bold new strategies to address our carbon impacts,” said Burlington City Council President Max Tracy, P-Ward 2, who represents the area.

Originally the plan called for eliminating 82 spots instead of 40 but the city cut out the Pearl Street to North Street section because they were worried they couldn’t get it approved before the paving deadline. While the scaling back of the project comes as welcome news to some local residents, they worry that the spaces will be taken away later. “I guess it’s good news for the time being for the reprieve but a little bit of distrust as well, given our voices really haven’t been heard up until now,” said Randy Sightler, a North Winooski Ave. resident.

Spencer says they are looking at where in the area they can add parking but there is no comprehensive plan to do that. The city is also trying to help businesses by limiting the time drivers can park in some spots. If a committee on Thursday agrees to the plan, it goes to the full council for a vote.

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Bicyclists in Burlington could get more designated lanes

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