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Feb 20, 2003 to Feb 6, 2013

Hit and Run Fatality Friday Western Ave near Union Hill

Brattleboro Police are looking for the driver of the vehicle that struck and killed a pedestrian on Western Avenue near Union Street around 7:00 Friday night. The vehicle involved had left the scene before emergency crews arrived. The name of the victim has not yet been released. Anyone with information is urged to contact police at 257-7950 or the TIPSLINE at 251-8188.


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According to the Reformer, the pedestrian was 64 years old, and was named Eugene Narratt. He was a resident of Maynard, Mass.

Full article at http://www.reformer.com/localnews/ci_24683084/pedestrian-killed-hit-and-run


Thanks for the police reporting, Rolf

Nice to see Rolf taking on the Police beat… keep it up!

I drove by that intersection about a half hour before. Nothing unusual, but the weather was starting to act up.

One thing I do notice is that drivers continue to race around cars that have stopped to turn. When the summer barricades are in place, they have to slow, stop, and wait. Once the barricades come down, the extra space is treated like an extra lane.

It's terribly dangerous. Pedestrians and cars waiting to pull out base their decisions to go partially on whether a vehicle is stopped or moving. If someone stops, it is an opportunity to cross or enter traffic… unless someone breaks the rules and does something unexpected.

It's the only intersection in the world where I've nearly been hit while on the sidewalk.

DPW should be allowed to place giant boulders in the sides of the road there.

Also - note to pedestrians and bikers - where something light colored or reflective. This is the time of year that causes visibility to drop. (I saw someone dressed in black, riding a bike in the middle of Putney Road near the roundabout. Bike had no lights, and it was night. They were in the passing lane going north, then crossed over the passing lane going south, all while riding north. Almost invisible to drivers, too.)


Four-way stop?

Why was a four-way stop at that intersection ruled out?


Make Union HIll One Way?

I don't know if it would have made a difference in this case, but I have thought for a long time that Union Hill should be one way -- only be able to go down it, and not come up and have to fight one's way onto Western Ave. Of course, that would not take care of those turning left to go down it, but would help some of the problem. My ONLY concern would be for those who live on the side streets off Union Hill. Everyone else, I would ask to cope with finding other ways around.


Saving the town some $

Now there's an idea that could save the town some money… just take it a bit further and close upper Union Hill to traffic and save on paving, plowing, etc. Use the lower portion for local traffic access to homes.

Then add the stop signs at Cedar and Western to force all traffic to stop. : )


here's a possibility ...

neighborhood friendly, tourist attraction, traffic calming, business stimulator, pedestrian friendly, environmentally friendly, bitch to plow -



Second the motion

I, too, thought of making Union Hill one way, going down to the five corners. I don't know from the news reports whether that would have prevented this death but it seems like a sensible solution for this tricky juncture. If they made it one way they could also add a sidewalk. I occasionally walk down Union to, say, the Coop but realize it's not really a safe road for pedestrians. As a companion piece, they might consider making Green Street one way up from School.

As to a four-way stop, I wonder if that might not make things worse. Four-way way stops at busy intersections can be very confusing for motorists, and this would be worse because Cedar and Union are not really lined up.


One way up hill

I live right on this corner and was sadly present soon after this latest unnecessary casualty of this accident prone intersection we have petitioned the town over the past 10 years to make safer with bump outs on corners to shorten the shear expansive distance of the Union Hill (street now) cross walk and finally take the urgent measures needed to seriously slow traffic somehow during all hours.

The biggest danger here besides the deadly flaw of this intersection's notoriously hazardous configuration is being that it automatically sets up approaching vehicles for a risky game of chicken combined with the the fact cars/trucks traveling inbound towards town on Western Ave cut the corner going "down" Union Hill at excessive speeds with poor and limited sightlines never giving pedestrian a chance to cross safely without feeling at risk. Add hazardous driving conditions or reduced vision at night fall to the mix and you have another fatality.

I have maintained all along Union Hill should be one way going up hill , right turn only with vehicles less likely to speed going up such a steep hill and not given the opportunity to cris-cross the intersection headed outbound surrounded by and too often at the mercy of multi directional high volume and high speed traffic. The reason the Union Hill one way option up hill hasn't been designated as such is because of snowplowing, eliminating a shortcut to the opposite side of town thus putting pressures on other routes such as Green Street, emergency vehicle access (fire trucks) and lack of funding, which is ironic considering this area is too often is the recipient of these immediate services and will continue to take it's toll of victims.


Wasn't intended for cars, originally

Good points, RR.

Part of the problem is that the hill was never designed for cars. It started as a footpath, and a way for people riding horses to get up and down.

In 1884, the Vermont Phoenix noted that three bicyclists had climbed Union street hill. They may have been the first.

One of the first cars to go up Union Hill was a Hudson Supersix touring car. In October of 1916, the car was driven over from Bennington with it’s shift lever “padlocked into high gear” and was “put through some stunts, including a climb of Union Hill” in Brattleboro.


Thanks for the really

Thanks for the really interesting background and history Chris taking us back to a slower pace and more positive era of yesteryear at the setting of this same intersection early on when I imagine vehicle speeds weren't as deadly, not to say there weren't other complications such as slick Horse manure & solid rigs with few of the modern safety features.
If Union Hill was one way "up" rather than down, part of the former lane downward could at least provide room for a badly needed side walk, in a more perfect world.
With all the side walk improvements around town (Williams Street ect.) I find it difficult to rationalize why the formation of bump outs on sidewalk corners at the very least couldn't receive some kind of due urgency and attention over the past decade, would they be so expensive that it wouldn't be worth saving a few lives over?


Along side the one way route

Along side the one way route up UNION HILL there could be a large two way gravel path headed down for pedestrian use only to discourage recreational wheeled access or run away baby carriages on such a steep hill.


I like it

Also, I wanted to thank you for the addition of a lit Christmas tree at the corner. It gives some light there and maybe drivers will see people on the sidewalks a bit better - even in silhouette. It just looks nice, too. : )


I cringe every time I think

I cringe every time I think if I had only put the lights up a couple days earlier this year that poor man may still be alive unless this was a dui, but I have always refused to start celebrating Christmas before December and don't subject my neighbors to year round decorative lights even though I have no problem with this. As it is, I still have a string that is blowing fuses left and right and had to be bypassed delaying another day of full illumination until I could get at it to fix. However to begin with, I think a better and more permanent solution could be provided by the town.

I also wish I had gone to the window to investigate that Friday Eve when I heard that strange thump below as I usually would when I'm here and there's an incident or collision of some sort, but I had my son's dog on my lap who has been recovering from a recent operation and I figured just another unidentified noise out there of many heard every day and did not react considering he weighs 75 lbs. and didn't want to budge. Maybe I could have id the car and been first responder to yet another accident out here, there have been many too many. If everyone had to see this fatality or the one I witnessed a month earlier up Western Ave, there would be a light up there the next day I bet.
If Union Hill was One Way Up and right turn only and Cedar Street was right turn only, 50% of the overall risk would be removed from this intersection at a cheap cost as well as one more side walk put in completing the square.
But honestly I think a traffic light needs to go in with a four cross walk square that can activate the light to stop with a push button when a pedestrian wants to cross. The push button would also activate more light cast upon each side walk at night or just go on automatically at dusk.

Believe you me, I not thrilled about more blinding lights illuminating my windows and the interior of my house from all sides or a nice fat semi from Cerosimo's idling diesel exhaust out here while waiting for the light to turn, then expelling a black cloud of pure pollution my way when shifting into first gear ( or Jake Brake screeches when coming to a stop for that matter), but if this is the cost to save lives, so be it, I could always paint my house grey, wear shades and buy bottled oxygen I guess! We need to catch up to the traffic increase in this area because of the rt. 30 cut through. It has more than doubled I would say since I first moved here 16 years ago.


Enjoy the lights

It's not your fault. Don't beat yourself up over it. Many of us live near that intersection and have similar thoughts of what if…

(If I were David Gartenstein, I'd take this as an opportunity to remind everyone of the new Traffic Calming Plan and Policies of the Traffic Safety Committee, and that there are new, better ways to make sure things like this get remedies. Anyone can fill out the new form and start the process….)


Thanks & Happy Holidays

I would have created an entire bright Santa's Village if I had known this could have helped. Although a great idea I don't think wearing reflective gear can completely solve the problem of this intersection. I can't even convince my son to wear bright colors when walking his black dog ( who I bought a day glow vest for) at night if this fatality wasn't enough, although I think he is extremely careful when crossing as he can be. You can't leave the situation entirely up to the unpredictable or hasty maneuvers of pedestrians, mainly because they aren't protected by steel frames.



The phrase 'dangerous game of chicken' resonates with me when considering a number of Brattleboro intersections. There seems to be a new style of driving around here where people decide to offer up their own 'right of way' to cars trying to turn left. This creates an interesting psychology of 'I bet that car will stop and let me turn' - even when that may or may not happen. I regularly have people stopping and blocking a main road in order to insist that I make my left turn rather than wait another 7 seconds and take my turn.

These self-appointed traffic directors are often unaware of pedestrians and other cars who pass them because they aren't sure why the flow of traffic has been interrupted. I once had to go pick up a friend's son in NH after he destroyed the family car when someone was pressuring him to turn left while they held up traffic 'for' him. He obliged their insistent 'generosity' and was slammed by another car exercising their rightful right of way.

The top of Union Hill, the bottom of Union Hill, the foot of Guilford Street at Western Avenue, the intersection of Washington/Birge/Canal - just to mention four - are all places where I am amazed at how little the 'rules of the road' are followed. It is a tragedy that our small town has had these pedestrian fatalities on such a regular basis. As long as the general attitude is 'hurry, hurry, hurry' and a disregard for the regular rules and rights of way I am afraid that these sad losses of life will continue in our small town.

We could maybe save a lot of money by removing the large number of stop signs in town that are ignored totally.

Andy Davis


Yes, I don't understand why

Yes, I don't understand why they eliminated the right hand lane that used to let traffic flow coming out of the Creamery Bridge onto Western Ave. toward town. Now what you have is a situation where traffic is piling up coming from Guilford Street when somebody is trying to part the steady stream of traffic in small advancements then dart out on Western Ave (RT. 9) in order to take a Westerly left hand turn. People become impatient waiting and waiting, and this is when risk taking starts escalating. Some people even resort to cutting across the church parking lot to get on Western Ave all the sooner. Again leaving it up to the motorist to play director like you said Andy except there are some really bad drivers out there even though their intentions may be courteous or not.
We need some way of reducing traffic speeds as they approach town into residential areas, even if it means a stop light with four way pedestrian crossing at the top of the Union Hill intersection which I personally wouldn't love living right on this corner having to accept the major inconvenience of trying to get out of my driveway every morning through backed up traffic or even the promise of potentially much more idling exhaust build up flowing in my windows conducive to stop lights environments, but if it saves lives put it in and put it in soon.


Yesterday evening (4:45pmish)

Yesterday evening (4:45pmish) I pulled over on Route 9 headed east right between the Guilford St intersection and the church, to let an ambulance pass by. As I proceeded to pull back into traffic after the ambulance, I was greeted by the front end of a very large truck trying to pass me! People are crazy! I drive carefully because as far as I am concerned my car is always full of precious cargo (Myself, my husand our son and our dog). I am always surprised when people drive as if their cars are not full of the same.



It is good to drive and imagine friends and relatives in the cars around you. Also to keep a car length for every 10mph between you and whomever is ahead.

Here's a video of some bad driving in Wisconsin. Watch all the people driving too fast slam into one another, over and over and over…



Big blunder

The State's crack highway engineers score again. This dysfunctional intersection is a major annoyance from any direction.


OK, I have to admit that

OK, I have to admit that these conversations never cease to amaze me. The utter dominance of the automobile in our lives, our psyches, and on our landscapes has become so completely normalized and rationalized that all we can come up with is a couple of ideas for the treatment of an intersection and wearing reflective clothing. Changing the intersection is important, but when are we ever gonna get a little drop of chutzpah to look with a far broader reach at what the unrestrained use of the automobile is doing to us. When?

Just find a moment to read an article by Paul Salopek that appeared on the front page of the New York Times Sunday Review section a couple of weeks back.


Salopek is a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner who is on a seven year 21,000 mile walk tracing the human path out of Africa. He began noticing something he calls "car brain” as he entered into lands where the car has not only reshaped the land, but also reshaped minds. Car brain might explain why hardly any New Englanders ever, ever question the automobile. Eugene Naratt’s death, Susan Press’ death, the tragedy of global climate change, nature-deficit disorder in our children, or an increasingly robotic landscape won’t break the car lock on our brains. Read the article and get a glimpse into why.

If you want to dig a little deeper and discover how we got to where we are, I suggest looking at Peter Norton's book Fighting Traffic. It radically reinterprets the history of the car during its rise in the first quarter of the 20th century. This book is essential for potentially defogging the amnesia of our “car brains” around just how the automobile marginalized walking, biking and practically every other form of transportation and how it took over the minds of civic engineers and planners.

Norton also points to the incredible history of marches and building of monuments in major cities to remember and protest the unfathomable number of deaths of children, mothers, and the elderly by automobiles. If you want to get a taste of Norton’s work, I absolutely encourage you to listen to this interview with him. His work helps to contextualize us in this moment and this latest tragedy on our streets. Go to -


And if you are interested, below is an article that I wrote for the Commons probing the phenomenon of sensory deprivation within the confines of our automobiles and how that experience is reshaping our individual and collective minds, while profoundly impacting our relationship to the world around us. Basically put, an impoverished experience of the world leads to an impoverished (and dangerous) world. I have a bunch more articles slated for the spring that explores these themes further. Check out the article at -


It’s time to up the level of this conversation. It's time for chutzpah!!! Self-driving cars (or carbots) are on the way and we’ll be like sitting ducks awaiting a completely robotic world and wondering how it got to be that way. Perhaps by that time the Union Street intersection will be better, but there will hardly be anyone to experience that as we will have become completely assimilated into the machines that are coming (if that hasn't already happened).

I might add that even though I didn't know Mr. Naratt at all, I'm holding him in my thoughts. I did know Susan Press and truly miss her presence in this town.


This is all very fine

...to esoterically extrapolate on the matter, but unfortunately in this day and age you just can't trust people to do the right thing and act responsible on such a large scale. We can not control those unfamiliar with Brattleboro briskly traveling through on a time crunch to get to their next weekend ski destination or force unruly drivers to yield to common courtesies putting safety first unless we directly control there actions with conspicuous check points as if corralling rats in a maze. This is why our highway patrol keeps fairly busy and benefits from the traffic violation/citation revenue from those attempting to deliberately and selfishly jeopardize expected safety at the expense of others sharing the road according to their own demented set of standards or rationale.

It's like everything else these days to the point of ridiculous goof proofing all modern modes of transportation imposing every conceivable feature to check our cognizant response including warning alerts and high tech aids of reminders within our vehicles required to take countless safety precautions because we are all so distracted or self absorbed in the perpetual mad rush of today's fastest pace to keep afloat and impressively active.
The Union Hill intersection needs immediate redesign for pedestrian safety in my opinion to calm the sirens and to me that is a no brainer. It has become a place of an accident waiting to happen, again.


Try Both

I feel like what Dave is saying is that we don't even question the fact that we greatly privilege the automobile -- the burden seems placed on pedestrians and cyclists to be wary, not on drivers to avoid hitting them. And while it's true that walking or cycling in traffic without reflective gear is, let's face it, wildly risky, you should not need all that gear to cross a street at a crosswalk. I resent being told that.

As far as Union Hill is concerned, I almost never cross on the side with the long dark scary crosswalk where cars are turning in every direction not to mention lurching to the top of the hill out of the dark recesses of the invisible other side (you can't see them coming as they're both below you and coming around a curve). That means I have to walk down to Spruce St to cross and then walk back to Avenue Grocery, then back to Spruce and back down to Cedar. It's a bit of a roundabout way to go but I tell myself I'm getting exercise. ;) That said, other people do use that crosswalk so I think some safety considerations are required there.

I'd like to see our town more pedestrian friendly but as I recall from the downtown traffic escapades we had recently, VTrans thinks that Main Street would work better if there were no pedestrians, not if there were no cars. The shoe is on the other foot where state road thinking is concerned. Cars first, people second. We would have to fight that mentality to get anywhere near a pedestrian-friendly town, let alone putting pedestrians and cyclists first. And then there would still be some conflict between pedestrians and cyclists, you know there would.

On we go, on feet or wheels or little drony wings... ;)


Stuck in the 1980s

In some ways, it's nice that Brattleboro is a town from yesteryear. But there are things that need to move forward. The balance between motor vehicles and other roadway users (bicyclist and pedestrians) has been improved all over the nation and the world and continues to do so. The changes that have been getting implemented in Boston to make it more bicycle-friendly are amazing.

The key on Western Ave is that cues need to be integrated onto the roadway so that drivers realize that they are entering a pedestrian realm. There are long term and short term techniques for this. Bump outs are highly effective in cuing drivers to slow down, but there are costs that need to be programmed into the budget. Multiple times in recent years, I suggested that yield triangles be painted onto the pavement 20 feet in advance of each crosswalk along Western Ave. This could have been done immediately or at a minimum the next time the Town repaved. Why hasn’t it? Going back to long term goals, numerous times over the last couple years, it been raised at Town Representative Meeting to take some of the repaving $ and putting it into pedestrian improvement. The position from most of the reps was that specifics jobs need to be shown to them before they could vote to allocate the money. Steve Barrett even said that he had projects lined up (Union Hill at Western for instance even though funding has been Selectboard approved for improvements several years ago; the result of citizen driven efforts to participate in improving the quality-of-life here). The 1980’s mentality is that reps can fund repaving projects blindly but need to scrutinize projects for non-motorized users of the road. I’ll never forget the immediate past Chair of the Select Board telling Avenue Grocery to remove the pedestrian cone from the centerline of Western Avenue since it was being perceived as slowing down traffic. , THAT WAS THE EXACT INTENT and MUST be the strategy going forward.



Dear Rootrunner,

You might think it is esoteric to question the our utter assimilation into the automobile, but I certainly don't. Here's a quote from Paul Salopek's New York Times article that has lots of folks talking -

"…even as I adhere strictly to my brand of bipedal journalism, trying as it were to put myself in a Pleistocene state of mind, cars keep roaring into my awareness. They are inescapable. They are without a doubt the defining artifacts of our civilization. They have reshaped our minds in ways that we long ago ceased thinking about."

You might take a moment to read the materials I posted. You may find them interesting. I think that questioning the unrestrained use of automobiles perhaps seems esoteric only because, as Salopek suggests, our perception of the world and our brains has been reshaped by cars to the point where we no longer have questions. That seems dangerous to me.

BTW, you can follow Salopek's amazing journey at http://www.outofedenwalk.com/


David C

I may have overreacted to the somewhat relevant and yet radically inspirational information you supplied last entry I admit I did not fully read through as my concern as it pertains to this particular instance was more specifically about discussing what's problematic with the Union Hill intersection and why lives are still at risk there, not necessarily straying beyond our realistic realm by over complicating this urgent issue at hand that demands urgent and practical action (something within the town's affordability), like now. Thus my frustration and I'm sorry I may have been a little rude as what you have gathered is very important in another context more appreciated in the larger scheme how to address modern societies dependency on motor vehicles and the domineering role they play in an mechanized world and what it may mean for our own future demise of certain qualities if unheeded, but back to the point and concentrating closer to our present reality here in Brattleboro some 8 years overdue where action is needed.

There has to be an "immediate" solution to reduce risks at this intersection, then possibly a long term plan of how to deal with or divert some of the major traffic increases in this general area (which won't go away or miraculously resolve itself anytime soon). As if it were a turbulent river confluence merging, one salt (local) one fresh(tourists/commerce) the funneling daily surge into a settled residential area and school zone subjects pedestrians to an erratic and unpredictable full force current of near misses and conflicting dispersions of a cross rip tide traffic of merciless chaotic allowances. This is not an exaggeration of the situation having been a first hand observer, not by choice, in this same spot of reoccurring accidents for 16 years of more of the same.


Good idea - go big

I agree. Something more radical, like NO CARS ALLOWED in town would increase safety, health, and community. The air would be cleaner.

We'd stop paying for most paving, road repairs, and streetlights. We would have ZERO car accidents.

We'd have a very livable community and could devote resources to helping pedestrians and other self-powered wheels get around.

We'd need to re-do zoning to encourage stores in neighborhoods, which could lead to new businesses.

Tourists would come to see this strange place with no cars, increasing revenues.

We could create a parking lot on the edge of town to generate income for people who kept a car.



We could drive people around town with a mini-train like this:


Kids have done this...

OK Chris, I take the challenge. What you are saying might seem off the wall and downright subversive, but similar things have happened in cities and towns of Europe and in other places like Curitiba in Brazil.

Check out this totally fascinating short documentary about kids in Amsterdam that decided they need more space to play. I know we don't have this type of imagination here, but this might get that ol' "car brain" rattling a bit.


To get more background on this check out http://bicycledutch.wordpress.com/2013/12/12/amsterdam-children-fighting...


Kids have done this... incomplete story

The first link to youtube brings us to a really interesting story, about kids starting a campaign to ban cars from two streets in order to create play streets in an very densely populated section of Amsterdam. This kids' initiated campaign to humanize their neighborhood is amazing and inspiring. But the video ends with the outcome pending, and then we find out that this was from 1972.

The second link, which promises more information, turns out to lead nowhere, so we are left hanging.

This peaceful rebellion to change the existing order began with discussions in school. Considering how our government-run schools in this country have become instruments of conformity (standardization) and social control, I found it remarkable that for these Dutch children the school was a catalyst for positive social change and empowerment of those who had been disempowered.

I really hope that DavidC can put the missing information about how this endeavor played out onto ibrattleboro.


It's kids play

Sorry about that SB-K. It's great that you recognize the importance of this piece and what it says about our schools. It seems to me that our public education system is designed to create meek, pliable consumers. Thankfully not all of them come out that way. But now that so few children are walking or biking to school, they are also taught that their body is not useful for getting around. So we end up having primary hyper-industrial education mixed with fossil fuel addiction and ecological sensory deprivation on their way to and from school. What a sad cocktail.

Perhaps this link will work - http://www.bicycledutch.wordpress.com/2013/12/12/amsterdam-children-figh...

Also Sarah Goodyear reports on this many other transportation issues. You can check out her piece on the Pijp at -


If you are interested in kids and cars check out Goodyear's other great articles, especially -


Love to hear what you think.


In down town Montpelier I recently saw

In downtown Montpelier I recently saw that they had many more pedestrian crosswalks downtown, per given stretch of road.

I am specifically thinking of the area near the New England Culinary Institute.

And the pedestrians don't have to wait for walk signal, the cars have to expect that there WILL be pedestrians at nearly any time. This also how it is in some parts of busy downtown Northampton. Pedestrians need to get across, so, cars have to wait.

Here is a website lauding what has been achieved in Northampton.


There may be logical reasons that this can't happen here, or maybe there is no logical reason that it can't happen here. But if it works there, it MIGHT be possible, and should be looked at.


Near Miss on Elliot

Thursday, around Noon, I was crossing Elliot, near Elm, IN THE CROSSWALK, when a cyclist came barreling down Elliot and scared the bejazus out of me.
She gave me a withering look as if to say WTF are you doing in MY street!

Need I remind people that cyclists are bound by the same rules as automobiles with regards to crosswalks and stop signs?

A few years ago, a close friend was struck by a bicycle on Western. He suffered severe injuries that are permanent.

Bikes can travel as fast as cars on the Brattleboro streets.


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