Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Bicyclist rides the path to wellness

By ZENDA FARRELL | Milton (VT) Independent Sports Editor

August 2, 2007

The first time I saw the bicycle man, it was winter, cold, windy, sleeting winter. I was in my car with the heat on and the windshield wipers swiping madly. He was on his bicycle, pedaling towards Burlington, equipped with helmet, goggles and gloves, seemingly oblivious to the climate. I cranked my head around like I had just seen an apparition and thought, wow…

I saw him several times over the next months, always on his bicycle and pedaling hard. Then one day in the spring, while I was walking my dogs in a wooded area close to home, I ran into him, the bicycle man as I had come to call him, in person. Yes, he was on his bike, taking a shortcut from Route 7 through the woods to Red Clover Way. Naturally, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to strike up a conversation because I had some questions for this guy, first and foremost, where’s your car?

Bicycle man is Doug Cavett. He doesn’t have a car. His primary source of transportation is his bicycle. Turns out when I fi rst encountered him many months ago, he was on his way to work, in Burlington, on his bicycle, in the icy, freezing winter. Doug Cavett is a 41-year-old Milton resident with a 7-yearold son named Trevor and a 7-month-old yellow lab named Smuggs. Blessed with a quick, easy smile and patient nature, his life story is nothing short of amazing.

A native of Greenwich, CT Doug has the wanderlust. “I spent 20 years trying to get to as many places as I could. I have seen 48 of the 50 states, been all through Central America, South America, Canada east to west, Africa, Italy, Spain, France, Portugal, I spent a month in the Rockies, hiked the Inca Trail in Peru, camped on volcanoes and glaciers all with a backpack. I am just waiting for Trevor to get a little older so we can travel together. He already can’t wait to see what’s around the next corner and he doesn’t want to just get around it… he’s a poker, he likes to examine everything.”

But, let’s back up to the bicycle thing and why would anybody want to ride a bicycle as much as he does?

Turns out Doug gave up his car completely three winters ago. “I’d been kind of half and half; car and bike, for transportation for many years but the fi nal blow came when I divorced. I weighed out what was important to me and what wasn’t. I didn’t need the Tahoe’s $30,000 worth of metal parts. It represented exactly the opposite of what I was looking for. I knew I could do this 100% so I gave up the car and doing so paid for my house.”

Well, wait a minute, what about when you have to take your son, who lives in Waterville, VT, that’s a mere 22 miles one way, somewhere? “I used to pick him up from daycare and put him in the bike seat but now I have a tag-along bike for him. He’s almost outgrown it then he will be able to ride his own.” And how does Trevor feel about long bike rides behind dad? “It’s really cool!” he says.

A typical day with Doug and Trevor begins with working in their organic garden. “We have an awesome organic garden down by the river. It’s not producing much yet but we spend time working in it daily.” When I went to the Cavett home to take some photos, I got a guided tour of Wonderland, the storybook tree house, the winding paths through the woods that lead to the river, the raspberry bushes, the beaver dam, the secluded fi shing spot and the sinking boats.

Their plans for the rest of the day included a trip to Racquet’s Edge for a swim with pit stops at Land-Air and countless other interesting locales. Then back to the garden or another favorite spot in Wonderland. One would think that with the bike being the primary means of transportation, it would be a real humdinger. Not so, although it is completely equipped with absolutely anything he may need, including fenders and a bell, it’s really nothing special.

“Let’s face it. The bike takes abuse. My investment in it is about $100 a year. It failed me last winter and I had to put in some extra parts. I use crossroad tires because I find them to be perfect year round. Winter is hard but not as bad as you might think. I am completely encapsulated in weatherproof gear, polypropylene, long underwear top to bottom – I dress for it. It needs to be about 30 below for me to even question not riding.”

Doug is also an avid skier and rides his bike 15-20 times a season up to Smuggler’s Notch, where he rents equipment, skis all day, then you guessed it… bikes home in the dark.

Biking isn’t the only thing he does to extreme; Doug ran in the Burlington Marathon last May. It was his fi rst marathon ever. His specific training consisted of one 12-mile run prior to the big day. “It was just something I decided I wanted to try and it was awesome to see 26 miles of people pouring out love for humanity. I got the gift of love and it was such a great feeling. I am so grateful for having the good health to be able to do things like this.”

Not only did he complete the marathon, he ran it in 3 hours and 59 minutes. “The next day was painful but I’ve already started training to do another. I have the urge to do the Boston Marathon and the qualifying time is 3:10. I have no idea if I can actually do this or not and I keep having to remind myself that I barely fi nished last time and asking what makes me feel like I can do it so much better but I want to try. My favorite run is up Arrowhead Mountain and back, the whole thing takes me about an hour and a half from my front door. My training approach is really just being in harmony with nature. Being active, running, biking is such an exponential kind of gift. Each one of the things you do gives you a gift to do the next thing. It just keeps on giving and giving and the body is energized to do more and more. I can’t tell you how many gorgeous sunsets I have seen because I am out on the bike or hiking a trail.”

What kind of a diet must this guy have to keep up the pace? “I eat everything and I eat a ton but I do try to eat healthfully - fruits, vegetables, fi sh. But, it’s not one apple, it’s four or it’s not one banana, it’s two or three.”

Doug is currently doing an independent study to contribute to the Milton Parks and Recreation committee.

“I am on an independent surge right now. I have been examining the 20 year master plan that was developed over the last year with assistance from Parks and Leisure. It is a concentration of efforts for the upcoming years, for example a bike path, a municipal swimming pool, irrigation of the athletic fields, anything that will help put Milton on an equal level with other towns. We have until the 27th of July to add input and sadly very few people have helped out. I have been through all the hiking trails, up Arrowhead Mountain, investigated cracks at the tennis courts, checked out the boat accesses at Sandbar, visited with the elderly and I have found some disappointments but I hope to put positive momentum into the 20 year plan. I want to see the rubber hit the road. Let’s not talk about wellness, let’s be well. If I can be well, I can help other people be well.”

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

My Turn: Make city friendlier to cyclists, pedestrians

Burlington Free Press
Published: Sunday, December 16, 2007
By Michael Hechmer

Thank you for the article about the college and hospital shuttle buses ("Shuttle space," Dec. 13). It is indeed a complex issue and I can empathize with those who would like to see more of these people walking around town and up and down the hill to Winooski, and also with those who want to encourage more Vermonters to use mass transit systems. The problem seems to be how do we encourage those who can walk to do so, while still providing safe, environmentally acceptable alternatives to those who can't, and the possibility of rides for all during genuinely bad weather.

I am one of the people who regularly bicycles to the hospital about seven months of the year, but drives to Winooski and walks to the hospital most other days. The major obstacle to either of these activities is safety. Vermont cities and towns aren't doing nearly enough to make either walking or riding in them safe. I'm certain a lot more people would walk and bike if they didn't perceive it as so dangerous.

To walk from Winooski to the hospital I either have to traverse a lengthy section of Colchester Avenue without any sidewalks, or I must take on the fairly difficult task of getting across that road at a very busy intersection at the bottom of the hill and then back again at the top.

In the winter, Burlington makes a concerted effort to keep the roads free of snow and ice, but the sidewalks are an afterthought. By the time they get cleaned the snow has been packed into ice, and the corners are piled with snow. Last winter I watched a small city snowblower, probably purchased to clear walkways, drive down the shoulder of Colchester Avenue and blow the remaining snow onto the sidewalk. We can't expect a great many people to walk under these conditions.

Burlington prides itself on being one of America's "livable" cities, but it would be a lot more livable if it had more bike lanes, better-maintained walkways and express buses to bring people into town from outlying areas.

Michael Hechmer lives in Westford.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Hot On The Trail

Published: Monday, December 3, 2007
By Joel Banner Baird
Free Press Staff Writer

Peter Vollers isn't the only Vermonter who prefers the path less taken. Even as the engine block on his Jeep cools, the quest to rediscover Vermont's ancient roads has never been warmer.

Hikers, bikers, snowmobilers, birders and botanists; historians, equestrians and devotees of four-wheel drive machines have taken to the state's neglected network of highways and trails with a renewed sense of purpose: they want to save them.

Vermonters have until February 2009 to authenticate the legality of town-owned roads, hundreds of which have reverted back to game trails. The only trace some have left can be found in quaint, cursive descriptions in town archives.

In early November, Vollers, a Woodstock resident, led a slow caravan of 10 Jeeps and Land Rovers from the Canadian border at Newport to Halifax, Mass. For the most part, the Vermont Expedition Society stuck to what state highway maps call Class IV roads, byways that never graduated into the automobile age.

"Our expeditions have a purpose," Vollers said recently. "We're telling people to get acquainted with these roads. Our goal is to preserve a network of well-marked corridors that will foster more diverse use. People tend to be at their best when there are multiple user groups out there."

The expedition society has an engines-off when horses approach policy. They tote chain saws and other trail-maintenance tools. When maps -- and even GPS devices -- steer them into what looks like private property, they'll detour around the landowner. Vollers said club members take pains to distance themselves from the hell-bent-for-leather tribes of ATV riders who sometimes churn through the back country.

"You can overturn months of good will by going through a shut gate or ignoring a sign," Vollers said. "Jeeping is a viable, healthy activity that's been going on since the 50s and 60s. But it's been tainted by bad apples who think of the TV commercials, people railing around at breakneck speeds; marauding.

"We'd like to think of ourselves as doing a service," he continued. "We buy meals at local restaurants; we support local hotels and businesses. We hope it adds up to increasing a town's willingness to keep these roads and not throw them up."

Other Vermonters worry that such advocacy efforts are premature.

George Mincar, who serves on Huntington's nine-member ancient road committee, said for now lobbying should take a back seat to painstaking scholarship -- finding and verifying the legality of right-of-ways.

"We're not trying to take a position," he said. "That's up to the Selectboard, and they'll hold public hearings to get all the input they desire."

Surveyor and Calais Selectboard member Paul Hannan agrees.

"As I work with groups to train them in the task, I've been vocal in my admonitions to stick to the fact-finding mission of the endeavor to avoid having lines drawn among townsfolk until the information has been gathered," he said.

"I ask researchers to set agendas aside," he continued. "It's like what I tell my clients: 'You're going to get the same answer whether you pay me or your neighbor pays me.' The object of a surveyor is to benefit your client without subtracting from the rights of others."

For Victoria Weber of Bethel, the "others" include Vermont's populations of wildlife. The former environmental law librarian said a new wave of trail-bound humans could accelerate the fragmentation of forest habitat through erosion and the introduction of new, unwelcome plants.

"Roads and trails are vectors that take invasive, non-native species right into the interior," she said. "Seeds ride in on pant cuffs, dog hair and wheel treads. When they become established, they disrupt feeding patterns that have co-evolved between native fauna and flora. They create edge habitat for animals like raccoons and starlings."

Weber suggests that, while new trails could enhance a broader appreciation of nature, their recreational use needs to be balanced with other concerns such as conservation, privacy and even future development.

"Almost everyone has a very short list of things they want to look at with these roads," she said. "We need to build criteria why we might want them, and why we might not want them. Maybe we need to weigh those criteria with numerical points. I think we need to have all the issues out there."

Individual property rights should be near the top of the list, said Bob Hill, an executive vice president of the Vermont Association of Realtors. Although ancient road advocates might be racing the clock to complete their surveys, Hill sees mounting possibilities for boundary disputes.

"We're not completely wild about the length of time towns have to certify their roads," he said. "The more you try to find something, the more you're going to find."

Contact Joel Banner Baird at 660-1843 or

Pedestrian Remains in Critical Condition

Burlington Free Press
News Brief
December 3, 2007

A pedestrian who was hit by care at the intersection of South Winooski Avenue and Cherry Street in Burlington on Saturday remains in critical condition at Fletcher Allen Health Care, according to police.

The name of the 54 year-old woman from out of town is being withheld until family members can be contacted, police said. The driver, Kristin Fleming, 21 of Burlington was interviewed and released. Police said neither speed nor alcohol were factors.

Police are asking witnesses to contact Corporal Peter Chapman at 658-2704 ext 254.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Witnesses To Pedestrian Accident Sought

Burlington Free Press
News Brief
December 2, 2007

Burlington Police are investigating an accident in which a motor vehicle hit a pedestrian at the intersection of South Winooski Avenue and Cherry Street at 1:15pm Saturday.

The pedestrian, a 54-year-old woman from out of town was transported to Fletcher Allen Health Care with head and other possible injuries, police said. The woman's name is being withheld.

The driver, Kristin Fleming, 21, of Burlington, was interviewed and released. Police said neither speed nor alcohol were factors.

Police are asking witnesses to contact Corporal Peter Chapman at 658-2704 ext 254.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Driver Continues on after Hitting Pedestrian

Burlington Free Press
News Brief
November 27, 2007

WILLISTON -- A 46- year old man was hit by a care while trying to cross St. George Road near the intersection of Marshall Avenue in Williston on Monday evening, police said.

When police arrived at the scene, the car was gone. A witness described the vehicle as a smaller SUV with damage to the right front fender, and said it might have pulled into the Hanaford's parking lot shortly after the incedent.

Anyone with information regarding the incident is asked to call Williston police at 878-6611.

Beltline improvements much appreciated

Letter to the Editor
Burlington Free Press
November 27, 2007

Three cheers for rerouting Beltline traffic. (“City reroutes Beltline traffic,” Nov. 7). Several times a week I am coming from downtown and I have to turn onto the first street past the slip ramp, Saratoga Avenue. Every time I feel my life is in jeopardy since I never know whether someone coming off the slip ramp will slow down or speed up when they see my right turn signal.

When I slow up to let someone speeding off the slip ramp ahead of me, I am always wondering if the car behind me is going to hit me. For the first time in years I made my first non-stress filled turn from the left lane, to the right lane, to Saratoga Avenue. It was wonderful. Thank you, Burlington, for putting safety first.


Friday, November 23, 2007

VBT called top cycling vacation outfitter

Published: Friday, November 23, 2007
Bristol By Dorothy Pellett

VBT Bicycling Vacations of Bristol earned the top spot in the biking category when National Geographic Adventure Magazine conducted its first worldwide rating of adventure tour operators this year.

The magazine's November issue profiled 10 leaders in each of five categories -- biking, hiking and trekking, safari, river and sea and do-it-all, identifying them as "Best Outfitters on Earth" -- and ranked VBT highest among biking tours.

The honor was unsolicited, said Gregg Marston of Charlotte who owns VBT Bicycling Vacations with his wife, Caroline Marston. National Geographic Adventure sent comprehensive questionnaires to more than 200 outfitters across the globe.

Companies that responded were scored from 1 to 100 on four aspects of their services. Researchers then contacted client references and interviewed business owners.

A team of Natonal Geographic Adventure editors and travel writers narrowed the field, based on scores for educational and interpretive information about history, culture and geology of sites visited; sustainable tourism practices; quality of service, gear and amenities; and ways a company brings the spirit of adventure to each trip.

Marston returned Tuesday from meeting with VBT's tour leaders in Croatia, Italy and France. It's important to him to meet people with whom tour participants will interact, he said.

"Wherever we take them, we introduce them to the local culture and let them experience life through the eyes of local people, usually staying in small inns where the innkeeper is present. I truly believe a travel experience can impact your life," Marston said.

VBT Bicycling Vacations offers 24 tours in 16 countries, each with multiple departure dates. Although all tours include bicycling from town to town, it's not the only way to go.

There is, for example, a Holland and Belgium bike-and-barge trip with daytime cycling and nights on a spacious private canal barge, with local food and wine.

All tours provide van support for anyone who would like a lift to the next town. "It's not a race. It's your vacation," says VBT's catalog.

Weeklong tours travel the Maine Coast, the Champlain Valley, Costa Rica or California wine country. Ten- or 12-day tours take tourists to Italy's Tuscan coast, France's Loire valley, New Zealand or South Africa; and 14 days is enough for a tour in Vietnam.

VBT was started in Vermont in 1971 as Vermont Bicycle Touring. Gregg and Caroline Marston purchased the company in 2005 after he served as its president for six years.

Burlington Free Press

Monday, November 19, 2007

Thanks for rerouting Beltline traffic

Letter to the Editor

Published: Friday, November 16, 2007

Finally! The Department of Public Works should be commended for taking a step toward making the intersection of Vermont 127 and North Avenue safer for all! ("City reroutes Beltline traffic," Nov. 7) I am impressed that we are fixing this dangerous intersection without wasting a lot of taxpayer money. Since we can take right turns on red in this state, I believe everyone wins with this solution. Kids can walk to school without risking their lives crossing that slip ramp. It was very empowering to be at the meeting where everyone in the room agreed to try closing the slip ramp. It is rare in this city for everyone to agree on anything. I am so glad we are putting safety first in this instance! Thank you!


America's Energy Policy Comic

Monday, November 12, 2007

City Reroutes Beltline Ramp

Published: Wednesday, November 7, 2007
By John Briggs
Free Press Staff Writer

Motorists leaving downtown who normally take the ramp from Vermont 127 onto North Avenue in the New North End will find themselves facing a traffic light today.

The entrance lane -- or "slip ramp" -- onto North Avenue will be blocked for at least six to eight weeks as the city studies a partial fix to a longtime problem. Northbound drivers will be diverted to the traffic light at North Avenue, then will be able to turn right.

The diversion, Public Works Assistant Director Norm Baldwin acknowledged, might create "some measure of delay."

The busy intersection has long bedeviled nearby residents. "I've had a lot of complaints from residents who live adjacent to that road," said Councilor Russ Ellis, D-Ward 4. "The slip ramp was designed at a time when they didn't really consider they were running that road into a residential neighborhood."

Ellis said narrow sidewalks and no greenbelt leave the city with no place to push snow after a storm. He said he supports the Department of Public Works experiment.

Baldwin said the road design at the intersection with North Avenue dates to the early 1970s and, with its expanse of concrete, features "a lot of wasted space. It's a highway design," he said, "trying to fit with an urban environment."

The fast-moving traffic on Vermont 127, despite the 25 mph speed limit, scarcely slows as it pours off the Beltline, up the hill and onto North Avenue. Ellis said the problems posed by speeding are compounded by design of the ramp. The ramp is steep-pitched and curved, which makes it hard to see whether the way is clear to cross the ramp or pull out of adjacent streets and driveways on North Avenue.

In 2003, the city put a traffic light at the intersection, and that slowed traffic moving north from the downtown on North Avenue. Still, the ramp problem persisted, leading to a study that recommended straightening the ramp and slowing cars to 15 mph as they approached North Avenue.

That solution, Department of Public Works staff felt, would also give pedestrians a better look at the traffic coming up the ramp and create room to push snow out of the way. Also, it was a "moderately priced project," the department told residents at a meeting at the end of July, which increased the odds of gaining state and federal dollars to help pay for it.

That money, Baldwin said, has not come through, and it's not likely to appear soon.

Baldwin said the city plans to repave that section of North Avenue next summer and wants to see how this traffic light alternative works "and get the issue resolved before then."

"We don't know exactly how long we'll do it," he said of the ramp closure. "If it turns out to be a hazard, the director could pull the plug. We want to have a solid sense of how traffic has responded."

Then, he said, the city can decide whether to reopen the ramp and leave the intersection as it has been, keep plugging away to find money for the preferred design, or keep the ramp closed.

Contact John Briggs at 660-1863 or

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Area Schools Win Safety Grants

October 30, 2007
Rutland Herald

MONTPELIER — The Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) announced Monday that 22 schools received a total of $1.6 million in Infrastructure Awards through the Agency's Safe Routes to School program, including a school in Fair Haven.

Safe Routes to School is a federally funded safety program that is administered through VTrans. The program, which supplies money for bicycle and pedestrian improvements, has a goal of increasing the number of students who can safely walk or ride bikes to school.

"Safe Routes to School is about kids walking and biking to school regularly, routinely, and safely," VTrans Secretary Neale Lunderville said in a news release. "The program is an opportunity to have schools and communities work together to solve some of their pressing safety, environmental and health challenges."

VTrans received 26 applications for a total request of $3.8 million. Awards were granted to safety projects that include sidewalks, improved crossings, school zone signs and traffic calming.

Thirty schools across the state have participated in the program since the 200-6/2007 school year.

A complete list of schools and awards is provided below:

  • Beeman Elementary School, New Haven: Construction of 160 feet of new sidewalk from North Street to school entrance — $42,773.

  • BFA Fairfax, Fairfax: Feasibility study for improvements to non-motorized travel within 1/4 mile of school — $30,000.

  • Bristol Elementary and Middle Schools, Bristol: Feasibility study of Pine Street bike/ped improvements, school traffic circulation and Lovers Lane path. Construction of 425 feet of sidewalk along West Pleasant Street — $67,000.

  • Camels Hump Middle School/Richmond Elementary School, Richmond: Construction of pavement marking and sign upgrades at School Street/Jericho Road intersection including a radar speed feedback sign for traffic approaching from the north — $25,000.

  • CP Smith School/JJ Flynn Elementary School, Burlington: Construction of improved pedestrian signals across North Avenue, adding pedestrian countdown indications at Shore Road, Woodbury Road and Ethan Allen Center. Construction of signalized pedestrian crossing at North Avenue/Plattsburg Avenue intersection — $48,503.

  • Dothan Brook School, Hartford: Construction of two school crosswalks across US Route 5 in Wilder village with related signs and short sidewalk connections to existing walks on Depot Street and Gillette Street. Installation of two radar speed feedback signs along US Route 5 — $51,900.

  • Fair Haven Grade School, Fair Haven: Feasibility study of new sidewalk on Cottage Street from school to River Street. Construction of bulb outs on North Main Street (VT Route 4A) and installation of flashing beacon school speed-zone signs on North Main Street and North Park Place — $69,300.

  • Franklin Central School, Franklin: Construction of 1305 feet of sidewalk on Square Road — $250,000.

  • Frederic Duclos Barstow Memorial School, Chittenden: Feasibility study of shared-use path/sidewalk along Chittenden Road — $20,000.

  • Hinesburg Community School, Hinesburg: Construction of 1000 feet of sidewalk along VT Route 116 from intersection with Charlotte Road to the school — $200,000.

  • Hyde Park Elementary School, Hyde Park: Installation of upgraded school area signs and pavement markings — $6,550.

  • Jericho Elementary School, Jericho: Construction of crosswalk enhancements and installation of radar speed feedback signs on VT Route 15. Construction of 1000 feet of sidewalk along VT Route 15 from school to Griswold Street — $148,300.

  • Main Street Middle School/Union Elementary School, Montpelier: Construction of curb extensions at intersections of Main/Franklin streets and Main/North streets. Installation of sign packages including radar speed feedback signs and school speed-zone flashing beacons at Main Street Middle School, and upgraded school zone signs. Provision of 10 in-street pedestrian signs for school crosswalks used by both schools — $101,696.

  • Marion Cross School, Norwich: Construction of 1000 feet of sidewalk along Church Street (US Route 5) connecting to the school. Installation of two radar speed feedback signs on Church Street — $164,749.

  • Mary Hogan Elementary School, Middlebury: Feasibility study of pedestrian and bicycle access within two-mile radius of schools — $10,700.

  • Northfield Elementary School, Northfield: Installation of upgraded school-area signs and pavement markings in the vicinity of the school — $7,000.

  • Orleans Elementary School, Orleans: Installation of upgraded school-area signs along School Street — $7,000.

  • Putney Central School, Putney: Construction of 385 feet of new sidewalks from existing crosswalk across Westminster Road to the school entrance. Installation of radar speed feedback signs on both approaches to existing crosswalk — $75,135.

  • Readsboro Central School, Readsboro: Feasibility study of Phelps Lane sidewalk. Construction of bulb out to improve existing Route 100 crosswalk and radar speed cart for use at various locations in village — $33,420.

  • St. Johnsbury School, St. Johnsbury: Construction of 215 feet of new sidewalk on Barker Avenue with a direct connection to the school. Installation of upgraded school signs and two radar speed feedback signs along Western Avenue (US Route 2) — $81,500.

  • State Street School, Windsor: Construction of 190 feet of relocated sidewalk and retaining wall near Kennedy pond. Construction of 150 feet of new sidewalk along eastern school driveway. Installation of 6 radar speed feedback signs — $200,398.

  • Williamstown Elementary School, Williamstown: Installation of upgraded school signs and radar speed feedback sign along Brush Hill Road and Brook Street (VT Route 64) — $17,000.
  • Regional marketing program to highlight biking

    October 18, 2007
    Times Argus, Montpelier VT

    Biking has been an integral component the region's marketing effort for nearly two decades, but there will be special emphasis on the self-propelled recreation mode in the coming year.

    Vermont's regional marketing program has made a provisional funding award for marketing Central Vermont's biking assets to visitors and residents. These include recreation paths, bike trails, bike touring, and cycling events.

    Approved promotional vehicles include ad placement, welcome center displays and web enhancement.

    The Central Vermont grant award was announced by Susan Zeller, deputy commissioner of the Vermont Department of Finance & Management after review of application from the Central Vermont Chamber of Commerce. The review committee included the state's chief marketing officer, the regional marketing grant manager and the assistant state curator.

    One of the initial objectives will be to assemble a comprehensive list of biking-related opportunities, guides, services, events, and attractions.

    The Central Vermont Chamber began marketing biking in a joint venture with the Central Vermont Regional Planning Commission in the early 1990s. The commission provided descriptions of a number of off-road bike tours and the Chamber compiled and published them. Several years ago, the commission added a number of new tours, and the Chamber – with the assistance of Onion River Sports – produced an expanded guide that has proven to be extremely popular.

    The last remaining copies were distributed at the Big E exposition in Massachusetts last month. The grant will provide funding to add graphic enhancements and reprint the guide in the spring.

    Chamber President Bill Cody said the modest state investment in regional marketing grants provides a vital boost to private-sector travel marketing efforts. "The state's continued commitment to regional marketing is deeply appreciated."

    (George Malek is executive director of the Central Vermont Chamber of Commerce.)

    Monday, November 5, 2007

    The Green Road To Work

    Published: Monday, November 5, 2007
    By Dorothy Pellett
    Burlington Free Press Correspondent

    Incentives for transportation alternatives can be subtle or as direct as payments applied to the cost of hybrid cars. Increasingly, Vermont businesses are developing plans to encourage employees to adopt greener transportation.

    "Because of its size, Vermont has the potential to be the leader in innovative and creative solutions. Businesses have the opportunity to get together to share ideas," said Andrea Cohen, public policy coordinator for Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility. "They are talking with their employees about their needs."

    Last month, Green Mountain Power began an incentive program that offers employees $1,500 toward the purchase of a new car that is within the EPA's Smart Way Elite category of hybrids, or $750 toward a used car in that category. Included are the Toyota Prius, Honda Civic Hybrid, Nissan Altima Hybrid and Toyota Camry Hybrid. The EPA Smart Way Elite designation is based on mileage per gallon and on emission of gases that scientists say contribute to global warming.

    Dorothy Schnure, Green Mountain Power manager of corporate communications, said no employees have taken advantage of the program in the short time it has been offered.

    "People put a lot of thought into what kind of car they buy," she said. "A lot of employees have inquired."

    Schnure said nine company cars, used by meter readers and others, are hybrid vehicles.

    "We encourage employees to use one of the company hybrids for business trips," she said, adding that GMP's fleet has used biodiesel fuel for two years.

    Recent additions to company vehicles are two GEMs (Global Electric Motorcars), bubble-top minis that employees will use for errands on streets with speed limits under 40 mph. Ben & Jerry's Homemade is among Vermont businesses offering hybrid car incentives, paying $1,000 toward purchase of any hybrid car.

    "Incentives encourage employees to make right decisions about environmental choices. It is part of the social mission of our business," said Andrea Asch, Ben & Jerry's manager of natural resources. "On their own, many employees are car pooling," she said.

    Bicycle racks and showers are available for employees who ride to work, and the company headquarters in South Burlington is located on the bus line. Ben & Jerry's participates in the annual Vermont Drive Out Day, Asch said, raising awareness of public transportation, car pooling and bicycle riding.

    When Jan Blittersdorf, CEO and president of NRG Systems in Hinesburg, was asked what the company gains by providing incentives for hybrid car purchases and home energy efficiency, she said, "It's an easy question to answer. There are intangible and real benefits. It is really gratifying to me to see other people embracing the technology. Morale is higher -- people appreciate this. There has been philosophical encouragement for a long time; we needed to put something financial underneath. Many say they have thought about it but wouldn't have taken the step without the incentives."

    Out of 80 employees at NRG, 19 have purchased a Toyota Prius or Honda Insight, the two vehicles offered.

    Electrical engineer Chris Tall of Essex chose the Prius after gettingbecoming acquainted with cars driven by others. "The vehicle has been fantastic," he said, "and the incentive makes it worthwhile. Every year they pay $1,000 until the payments equal the price of the car."

    Unlike other companies questionedinterviewed, NRG's payments are adjusted so employees receive $1,000 after income tax. Blittersdorf said NRG encourages bicycling and walking to work, and showers are provided. The company is building a path connecting to Commerce Street in Hinesburg with an elevated walkway over Patrick Brook.

    "A committee is actively working on plans for car pooling," she said.

    Tim Shea, second vice president for facilities, purchasing and contracting at National Life Group in Montpelier, said he created an alternate transportation program in May. "I am trying to bring awareness to our employees about environmental consciousness and carbon footprint impacts," Shea said. "We fund the incentives with money received from our recycling program of paper, aluminum and plastic products."

    More than 140 employees have registered for the program, with at least 100 participating each month. The goal is serious, but the implementation has an element of fun. Employees complete a monthly scorecard, track points and draw for prizes.

    They also receive benefits for consistency in smart commuting. Commuting to work by bicycle six times a month earns a free tune-up. Drivers of car pools that make at least one trip a week will be are eligible for a $25 gas card. Walking or running to work an average of once a week earns a $25 gift certificate for shoes; and riding the bus once a week snags a 10-ride punch card. Shea also suggests The Vermont RideShare program -- found at

    Some benefits of alternate transportation accrue not from cash in hand, but from enjoyment of quiet surroundings and concern for the global environment. Melinda Moulton is CEO and re-developer of Main Street Landing on the Burlington waterfront, the renovated Union Station, CornerStone building, Wing building, Lake and College building, and 102 Lake St. Moulton said the buildings and the landscaping were designed to support pedestrian movement.

    "Pedestrians can access the lake through the buildings, and the art gallery makes it a pleasurable experience to be on foot." she said. "I'm very committed to getting people out of their cars and into public transportation. Cars are a large piece of energy use.

    "The big thing we did was redeveloping the Union Station. We have a train canopy and a handicap lift, waiting for the return of passenger rail when Burlington and Vermont realize it is a very important transit mode. It would be a huge benefit for the employees of our tenants."

    Moulton said the project was built next to the bike path, with bicycle racks and lockers and a covered bus stop.

    "The benefit (of public transportation) is the protection of our earth and keeping the sense of localism. We don't have to build as much parking. When developers have to build parking, rental rates must be higher; small businesses can't afford them."

    Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility hosts networking events and forums where businesses can share ideas. It will hold its fall conference in Brattleboro on Nov. 13.

    NRG Systems Inc. employee Chris Tall of Essex and his new Toyota Prius hybrid. The Hinesburg company helped him purchase the car as part of its program to encourage staff to invest in fuel-efficient vehicles.
    MYESHA GOSSELIN, for the Free Press

    The bicycle chain saw massacre

    Idyll Banter: The bicycle chain saw massacre

    Published: Sunday, November 4, 2007
    By Chris Bohjalian
    Free Press Columnist

    The other day I ran over a snake. On my bike.

    Wait, it gets worse. I didn't exactly run it over. I sort of turned it into a snake salad in the chain and the gears.

    For those of you who are eating breakfast or brunch, I will spare you the recipe. And given that last week I shared with you more details than some of you needed to know about the relationship that my cats have with the moles in my yard, I also want to stress that my wife and I support PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), and we're vegetarians. I like animals. Really, I do!

    I certainly didn't set out to run over a snake midway up the Lincoln Gap. Nor was it my plan to scare off a couple of extremely nice leaf peepers from New Jersey (more on that below).

    What happened, essentially, was this. I was passing a pond about a mile below the western summit of the Lincoln Gap on a lovely weekend last month, and I was vaguely aware that there was a car behind me. This meant that I had to stay to the side of the dirt road. But then I saw the snake: a small, olive green garter snake. It darted out into the road from the brush on my right. Because I couldn't swerve to my left, I zipped to my right -- just enough that I bounced into a rut. Apparently, the snake saw the car, too, and so it zoomed back toward the pond as well. Unfortunately, my wheels were now lower than the road, and when the snake bolted, it went directly into the Snake Sausage Grinder that doubles as my bicycle crankset. It was a million to one shot, I think.

    Immediately I climbed off my bike, if only because I didn't think it would be safe to continue riding if I started to vomit. Then, when I saw the condition of the chain and the gears, I walked the bicycle about a tenth of a mile farther up the mountain, where there is a sweeping left-hand turn and a spot where I could assess the situation. The bike was fine. Messy. But in far better health than the snake.

    I was staring in disbelief when a very nice couple in a car with New Jersey license plates pulled over.

    "Are you all right?" the fellow asked. He and his wife were a casually elegant, sporty pair in their mid-60ss. They could have modeled for LL Bean.

    "Oh, I'm fine," I answered. "It's the snake that's seen better days."

    And that was when they saw the snake dangling off the bicycle chain. Instantly the color drained from the woman's face. Of course, it might also have been the smell. The snake -- not me, honest -- smelled like feet. According to Joseph Schall, a professor in the biology department at the University of Vermont, this is an "anti-predator tactic." It is also, apparently, a tactic that is more effective against bigger snakes and hawks than it is against bicycles.

    "That's a snake?" the woman asked.

    "Well, part of one, anyway," I answered. "The rest ... never mind."

    They couldn't get up and over that mountain fast enough. It's not often that experienced drivers burn serious rubber on the Lincoln Gap, but they sure did.

    A number of years ago I had a dead bat in my woodstove, and I thought that was the most disgusting thing that I would ever have to clean up. Wrong. I was able to dispose of the bat with a spatula. The reptile? It took the garden hose.

    Consequently, I'm a little relieved that the bicycle season is drawing to a close in Vermont. I hate to think how long it would take me to clean up the crankset if I happened to run over a moose.

    Write to Chris Bohjalian care of the Free Press, P.O. Box 10, Burlington, Vt. 05402, or visit him at

    Monday, September 24, 2007

    Bicyclist, 11, Injured In Crash

    Bicyclist, 11, Injured In Crash

    Burlington Free Press
    Thursday, September 20, 2007

    COLCHESTER -- An 11-year-old boy was critically injured after he was hit by a truck while bicycling Wednesday afternoon in Colchester, according to police.

    The boy, whose name was not released, was not wearing a helmet as he pedaled north at about 4:15pm on Prim Road near the Bean Road intersection, according to police. The truck, a Ford F350 dump body, was headed in the same direction as the child when the boy cut in front of the vehicle, driver Emmett L. Parker, 50, of Fairfax told Police. The truck dragged the bicycle about 100 feet according to authorities. Emergency crews found the boy lying in the middle of the road, and he was taken to Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington. The crash remained under investigation Wednesday night.

    Surplus Bikes Find New Life in Developing Countries

    Surplus bikes find new life in developing countries

    Published: Sunday, September 23, 2007
    By Tim Johnson
    Free Press Staff Writer

    An unwanted bike cluttering up a Vermont garage can have a useful new life -- even a transformative one -- in El Salvador, Ghana, or other developing countries.

    That's the premise of Pedals for Progress, a national program started by returned Peace Corps volunteers that ships surplus bicycles overseas and promotes bike-repair enterprises and training to maintain them. Working with partner organizations in each recipient country, Pedals bills itself as an economic-development organization, not just a charity.

    Saturday marked the 10th autumnal Pedals collection in Chittenden County. Business was brisk during the 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. event in the parking lot of the Lake Champlain Chocolates warehouse on Pine Street. Sixty-eight bikes, about one a minute, were donated in the first hour. Donors were asked to pay $10 per bike to cover a portion of the shipping costs, estimated at $30 per bike on average.

    About two dozen volunteers -- students, bike mechanics, activists and Peace Corps alumni -- greeted the donors and took care of the merchandise. They passed out tax-deduction receipts, prepared the bikes for storage and packed them in a 53-foot container, donated by the local FedEx office, that will be trucked free-of-charge to a port in New Jersey.

    Dismantling the donations was Mark Rowell, who manages a similar bike project in Burlington's Old North End. Bike Recycle Vermont, which operates in the basement of the Good News Garage on North Winooski Avenue, accepts donations, fixes them up, and gives them to people who otherwise couldn't afford them. It has distributed 2,000 bikes in the last three years.

    Saturday morning, Rowell was working on the bikes headed overseas, removing the pedals and rotating the handle bars to make optimal use of the shipping space. Across the lot, Peace Corps veterans Bob Thompson and Jose Torres were loading the trailer.

    Thompson volunteered in Kenya, Torres in Ghana. They had both seen the value of bicycles first hand. Pedals for Progress shipped 1,442 bikes to Ghana in 2006-07, and 403 to Kenya in 2003, according to the organization's Web site.

    "Bikes are how people get around there," Thompson said. "We look at it as a form of recreation. There, it's a vital form of transportation. It frees up doctors so they can make more appointments, literacy teachers so they can see more students."

    "A lot of children live too far from villages, and bikes allow them the opportunity to get to school," Torres said.

    Then there's the surge in income a bike can bring for a worker. "It's unbelievable how much people can carry on their bikes -- sugarcane, huge gunny sacks of charcoal," Torres recalled.

    Pat Goyne of St. Albans, who volunteered in the Republic of Kiribati, a group of island in the Pacific, remembers that bikes there were in short supply. She had one, though -- a bike is standard issue for many Peace Corps volunteers.

    "We had a family of five that shared one bike," she said. "They'd come knocking on my hut, 'Can we borrow your bike?' Or I'd see a girl riding to church on a bike, with one brother on her shoulders and another brother riding on this part," she said, pointing to the rear wheel of a donated bike.

    Cherita Swearingen, who just moved to Burlington, was among the volunteers. She said she spent her first six years in Daouada, Algeria, where there were no buses, no roads even, and walked 10 miles to school one way. "I've been on the other end," she said. "I lived in the middle of nowhere. I wish someone had given me a bike, even if I had to work for it."

    Bob Guthrie of Burlington donated three bikes -- two of which his kids had outgrown. "It's the right thing to do," he said. "It's a neat program."

    Ray Mainer of Hinesburg brought four. "Got to make room in the garage," he said.

    One of his bikes was the Vermont program's 2,000th, according Joanne Heidkamp, who has been volunteering at Pedals collections since the first one in 1998. A volunteer took Mainer's picture.

    Previously, the biggest local collection brought in 250 bikes, Heidkamp said. At 1 p.m., with dozens of bikes still waiting to be loaded, Heidkamp announced the day's take: 276, a record.
    Contact Tim Johnson at 660-1808 or

    To find out more, go to the Pedals for Progress Web site:, or call Joanne Heidkamp at 660-0971.

    Milton Bike Path Meeting Gets Heated

    Milton bike path meeting gets heated

    Published: Thursday, September 20, 2007
    By Lauren Ober
    Free Press Staff Writer

    MILTON -- Many people claim to want a bike path in their town, but, as is the common refrain, "not in my back yard." Recreation path proponents go head-to-head with abutting property owners concerned about an increase in crime and traffic in their neighborhoods. Often neighbors are pitted against neighbors.

    So it is in Milton, where a discussion Wednesday night of the pros and cons of a multi-use recreational path in the southern part of town became spirited as residents debated one potential route drafted by a local business owner.

    The meeting, originally designed to be a workshop to gather public comments about ancient roads, future roadways and a possible bike path, drew dozens of residents, most of whom were interested in discussing the recreational path. While the town did receive some comments on ancient and future roads, which will help in the drafting of an official town map for the comprehensive plan, much of the discussion focused on the positive and negative aspects of a bike path, Planning Director Regina Mahony said.

    Before the meeting, Colchester resident Rick Sharp, who formed the Milton/Colchester Bicycle Path Group a little more than a year ago and has since spearheaded efforts to draft a bike path route, sent out 1,000 maps by mail to residents in the southern part of town. This map, which outlined a route that cut behind the Andrea Estates neighborhood and included a spur into that neighborhood, set off sparks among many of the residents in that region.

    "I live on Andrea Lane, and my main concern is the risk versus the gain. My concern is crime," Milton resident Brian Labarge said. "With the bike path comes increased routes for criminals."

    Another Andrea Estates resident worried about people hanging out in the woods behind his property if there were a bike path there.

    "How do you not make it party central?" Peter Jensen asked.

    Sharp, who worked on getting the Burlington bike path built in the 1980s, dismissed residents' fears about increased crime and loitering, saying there was no evidence of crime's spiking once the bike path was built.

    "Criminals do not ride bicycles. That's what they found out in Burlington," Sharp said. "They're not going to take your TV away on their bike."

    Charlene Wallace, the operations and trail development director for Local Motion, a bicycle advocacy group based in Burlington, attended the meeting to gauge where Milton was in the process. While the residents seemed interested in a bike path, there were some misconceptions about crime around bike paths elsewhere, Wallace said.

    "There has been no significant crime issue around the bike path in Burlington or Colchester," Wallace said.

    For years after the Burlington bike path was built, Local Motion tracked police records for the neighborhoods abutting the path and found that most of the residents' fears of crime were unfounded. Wallace says neighbor opposition is normal and the concerns raised in Milton were nothing out of the ordinary.

    Because the process of creating a bike path takes at least three years, Wallace said it's unlikely that lines will be put on town maps any time soon. Instead, it is likely that the Selectboard will create a committee to look into the best possible routes and the potential funding sources for the project, Mahony said. As for the meeting, Mahony said she was pleased at the level of public involvement.

    "I think it went well as a first step of the process. We've got enough to know that it's something the town wants," Mahony said. "We'll definitely put it in as a recommendation in the town plan."

    Contact Lauren Ober at 660-1868 or

    Tuesday, September 11, 2007

    Border Crossings: Pedal Power to Montreal

    Border Crossings
    Vermont two-wheelers take pedal power to Montréal
    Seven Days

    by Kevin J. Kelley (06/06/07).

    One hundred-plus Vermont cyclists, their helmets festooned with gauzy green ribbons, composed a colorful contingent pedaling along car-free Montréal streets in the annual Tour de l’Ile last Sunday.

    “It was so cool to ride on four-lane roads and feel we’re just taking over,” said Patty Hallam of Middlebury. “Bikes ruled that day!”

    For Hallam and the other participants in this year’s VerMontréal bike tour, the ramble round a celebrating city marked the last leg of a three-day ride that pushed off from Snow Farm Winery in South Hero. The 99 registered riders and about a dozen volunteers rolled toward Montréal on rural roads in the Champlain Islands and on a north-south network of bike paths, foot bridges and a ferry in Québec. The tour was organized by Local Motion, a Burlington-based bicycling advocacy group.

    “This thing is really growing,” Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell said the day after completing the 100-mile ride to Montréal and the 30-mile Tour de l’Ile. Sorrell noted he had just emailed that same message to Tom Torti, head of the Vermont Chamber of Commerce. “I told him the chamber needs to get involved. There are huge possibilities because of Vermonters’ concerns about global warming and the chamber’s concerns about tourism and economic development. Biking is good for you, good for the environment, good for the economy,” Sorrell said.

    Less than half as many bikers took part in the first VerMontréal excursion three years ago. And the ride could reach “major and special” dimensions two years hence as a centerpiece of the 400th-anniversary celebrations of the European discovery of Lake Champlain, says Local Motion director Chapin Spencer.

    By then, communities all around the lake will have become more aware of the Champlain region’s biking opportunities, Spencer predicts. Local Motion sponsors the VerMontréal tour mainly to “ignite the imaginations of Vermonters regarding long-distance cycling,” he says.

    The Québec portion of the tour, including the mass ride through Montréal, “shows Vermont has a lot to learn” from its bike-friendly neighbor to the north, Hallam suggests. The 3000-mile cycling route criss-crossing Québec “really does make it possible to get around exclusively on your bike,” she observes.

    Sorrell offers a similar assessment. “You can see that biking is much more part of their culture than ours,” he says. “The Tour de l’Ile is such a great event, but Montréal is always a good place for biking, and many people in the city take advantage of that.”

    While Local Motion and similar groups have greatly improved cycling experiences in parts of Vermont, riders in the Burlington area must still pedal uncomfortably close to cars on shoulder-less stretches of Spear and Dorset streets and on Williston Road. In-town biking can be treacherous elsewhere in the Champlain Valley, too. “Middlebury’s not a big place, but the traffic pattern makes it kind of intense for bikers,” Hallam notes. “Riding on Main Street can be a little tricky.”

    Last weekend, however, the riding was free and easy on the pancake-flat route from South Hero to downtown Montréal. Mild temperatures and mostly sunny skies provided the riders — many of them second- or third-timers — with an enjoyable contrast to the raw wind and driving rain on the second day of last year’s event.

    Cyclists moving at various speeds were led and tailed by Local Motion volunteers and accompanied by a motorized “sag wagon” as they covered Friday’s 65-mile section of the tour. After crossing into Canada at the sleepy Alburg border station, the tour followed Velo Québec’s Route Verte bike trail to what Spencer describes as “the unrecognized and wonderful city of St. Jean sur Richelieu.” Riders who never get enough could bike along St. Jean’s canal path to historic forts and center-city restaurants. The $329 price of this year’s VerMontréal tour included an overnight stay at Auberge Harris, a riverbank inn catering to bike tourists.

    The second day consisted of a 35-mile ride through more densely populated areas along the well-protected Route Verte, culminating in a bike-ferry crossing of the St. Lawrence River. Cyclists generally completed this leg of the tour by early afternoon, allowing time for lunch at Atwater Market and additional pedaling on Montréal’s extensive bike-path system. After dining at one of the city’s French, Asian, Caribbean, Middle Eastern, African or North American-style restaurants, the Vermonters spent Saturday night at the luxury-class Plaza Hotel on Rue Sherbrooke.

    Sunday morning, the festive group assembled at the starting point of the Tour de l’Ile near the forlornly soaring tower of Olympic Stadium, former home of the Montréal Expos. About 30,000 other riders also traversed the shoreline loop around Montréal’s eastern perimeter, rolling through neighborhoods seldom visited by U.S. tourists and stopping at parks stocked with refreshments and staffed by bike mechanics. Volunteers posted near sharp turns shouted warnings in French, while costumed performers along the route drummed, juggled and strutted on stilts. Spectators on balconies and sidewalks yelled encouragement to riders of all ages and many colors.

    The Vermont delegation was actually more homogeneous, age-wise, than was the Tour de l’Ile as a whole. Spencer notes that the 99 riders ranged in age from mid-twenties to late seventies, but averaged somewhere in the mid-fifties.

    Why so gray?

    One reason, Spencer suggests, is that “baby boomers enjoy the active-vacation concept.” And those who seek to combine exercise with sight-seeing are more likely to take part in a low-impact sport like biking, rather than running or climbing, as their knees get wobbly and their backs cramp up.

    Sorrell, for example, was a regular runner until he underwent hip-replacement surgery a few years ago. At age 60, he now bikes at least 50 miles a week in good weather and completes two or three century (100-mile) rides each summer.

    “People love the VerMontréal tour,” Spencer adds, “because it’s got the right amount of socializing, riding and scenic-cultural attractions.”

    Bikers typically ride in small groups, chatting as they pedal along at an undemanding pace of about 10 miles an hour. “I rode with a few people for a while, then maybe by myself for a couple of miles, then with another group of people,” recounts Greg Gerdel, research chief for the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing.

    Despite the generational uniformity, Gerdel, 60, views the tour as “quite a mélange.” Riders who aren’t retired hold a variety of jobs — mostly as professionals — and exhibit “a variety of body types,” he remarks.

    Other riders describe the VerMontréal tour in terms of what it is not.

    To Sorrell, the “very eclectic crowd isn’t a bunch of hippies out on their bikes.” A few moments later, he says of the tour, “It’s not just an elitist thing with people in Lycra riding $3000 bikes.”

    Pat Murtagh, Chittenden Bank’s South Burlington branch manager, offers yet another perspective, saying the 100-mile ride shows “there’s a lot more to this sport than the Mary Poppins thing, with a basket on the front of your bike.”

    The Tour de l’Ile completed, the Vermonters pedaled from the Parc Maisonneuve finishing point back to their hotel roughly 3 miles to the west. Those who had looped the loop in three or four hours had time to shower before boarding buses (biodiesel, of course) for the return journey to South Hero.

    Back home, most of the riders will probably act as unofficial public-relations agents for Local Motion, the VerMontréal tour and biking as a form of transportation. Which is just what Spencer intends.

    “The more Vermonters take part in long-distance biking, the more we’ll be able to build a network of trails in the northwestern part of the state,” he says. The area’s existing network includes the Champlain Bikeway, a 360-mile on-road loop around the lake; the 93-mile Lamoille Valley Rail-Trail; and the Burlington bikeway now extending through Colchester and onward by ferry to the Champlain Islands. These trails “all show what has been done and what can be done,” Spencer declares. “What we’ve got here for biking is a diamond in the rough that’s about to glisten.”


    Rickshaw Drivers Tackle City's Hills

    Rickshaw drivers tackle city's hills
    Burlington Free Press

    Published: Saturday, August 18, 2007
    By Lauren Ober

    Hills, shmills. What's a couple of steep streets to a pair of young entrepreneurs with boundless energy and wide-eyed optimism?

    Nick Lockwood and Jon Summerville, proprietors of the new SummerWood Rickshaw service, are hoping the west-east inclines heading from Lake Champlain into downtown Burlington don't pose too much of a challenge to their fledgling business. But history has shown that operating a pedicab service in Burlington is certainly an, um, uphill battle.

    The 22-year-old Burlington residents won't be deterred by the topography, though they will admit that some city hills have them soaked with sweat, lungs and legs on fire by the time they crest the top.

    The pair said the idea for the pedicabs -- a bicycle-like vehicle that carries one or two passengers -- was the product of too much free time last spring. They thought it would be fun to try and build their own pedicab from plans culled from the Internet. It took most of April to weld the contraption together. High school metal shop classes finally came in handy, said Lockwood, who is working this summer in the marketing department of Ben & Jerry's.

    With the homemade pedicab ready to roll, Summerville, a cook at Tilley's Cafe, began taking friends for rides. Soon, a business plan was born. The two would take passengers around the waterfront on scenic tours, as well as provide an alternative transportation service around town. Summerville bought another bicycle rickshaw on eBay to begin their fleet.

    The Internet pedicab wasn't exactly what they expected.

    "It came in a million pieces and almost no directions. There was just a picture of what it should look like," Summerville said.

    The first day out on the eBay pedicab, the pedal fell off. The two say they'll never buy a bicycle rickshaw kit off the Internet again.

    "The craftsmanship isn't there," Lockwood said, chuckling.

    With the mechanical snags out of the way, the pair hit the streets a couple of weeks ago after a test run in the Harpoon Point-to-Point charity bike ride. They made it 12 miles, taking turns pedaling, before they were curbed by exhaustion.

    Recently, Summerville gave two customers a ride up Maple Street from the waterfront and made it as far as Pine Street "before I was seeing stars," he said. But they won't be discouraged.

    "I feel like if we don't give up and keep working on a way, it'll work," Summerville said.

    The two are toying with a geared pedicab that would make hauling human cargo up Burlington's hills a little easier. Plans for an electric pedicab have also been tossed around.

    They'll have to come up with some kind of creative solution to the city's tricky topography if they want to make their endeavor a success. The last pedicab service in Burlington ran for six weeks in 1997 before the hills killed it.

    Peter Duval, who ran Vermont Pedicabs as an experiment in alternative transportation, says not only is the city's layout a challenge, but so is its relatively small population.

    "Burlington is a tough place because it doesn't have the population base and it's got a heck of a hill," Duval said.

    Local bicycling advocate Chapin Spencer, executive director of Local Motion, said he welcomes the pedicab business and said in a number of American cities, pedicabs are a vibrant part of the public transportation system.

    "It's an easy, care-free way to get around," Spencer said.

    Despite SummerWood Rickshaw's quasi-novelty status, the pair say they're getting customers and enjoying the challenge.

    "We've never had someone get on and not have fun," Summerville said.
    Contact Lauren Ober at 660-1868 or

    COST: Tour of the bike path, $20/hr for one person, $35 for two people. Prices are negotiable for shorter trips.
    HOURS: Weekends. Weekdays by appointment.
    LOCATION: Outside of the ECHO Center on Burlington's Waterfront.
    CONTACT: Jon Summerville, 310-4112,


    Burlington Criterium

    Burlington Criterium
    Burlington Free Press

    Published: Tuesday, September 4, 2007
    Mark Pozniak and Nichole Wangsgard pedaled to victories in the top pro division of the Burlington Criterium on Monday afternoon.

    Hundreds of cyclists flooded downtown Burlington for the annual Labor Day event, which capped the four-day Green Mountain Stage race. The Criterium consists of short laps, starting and finishing on Main Street.

    Pozniak, from Ontario, won the Pro 1/2 men's race, completing 31 miles in 1 hour, 8 minutes and 29 seconds. Lisban Quintero of Maspeth, N.Y., finished in second place while Jake Hollenbach of Shelburne took third.

    Wangsgard, who is from Utah, navigated the 18.6-mile women's Pro 1/2/3 race in 46:33, edging Megan Guarnier of Queesbury and Amanda Shaw of Ontario. Amy Dombroski of Jericho followed in fourth place.

    Trevor Connor was the overall Green Mountain Stage winner on the men's side. The Victoria, British Columbia rider prevailed in two stages in the mountains of central Vermont and amassed 345 points for the competition, well ahead of a pair of Quebec competitors, Mathieu Toulouse (319) and Dominique Perras (304).

    Josh Dillon of Essex Junction picked up a sixth-place finish and was the only male Vermonter to crack the top 10.

    Kristen Lasasso of La Canada, Calif., was the women's overall winner with 387 points, edging Amy Dombroski of Jericho by two points.

    Dombroski wheeled to a fourth-place finish in the Criterium.

    Milton Bike Path Back On Table

    Milton Bike Path Back On Table
    Burlington Free Press
    September 10, 2007

    By Lauren Ober
    Free Press Staff Writer

    MILTON -- Rick Sharp is a man undeterred by red tape or the march of time.

    For years, the Colchester resident and local businessman has been trumpeting the need for a bicycle path in Milton. Not coincidentally, the proposed bike path would run by Sharp's Cobble Hill property were he sells Christmas trees, runs a paragliding company and allows snowtubing and mountain biking.

    But he genuinely believes in the value of a recreational path in Milton. He's been a bike-path proponent since the early 1980s when he helped spur the development of the Burlington recreational path. Despite some setbacks, he's not willing to give up on the idea that a bike path in Milton will happen in the near future.

    For years, people in Milton have talked about the possibility of a bike path running through the southern section of town. Maps have been drafted, routes proposed, but so far, the path is just an idea.

    That is likely to change when the Planning Commission drafts its five-year master plan, which should be finished by the end of October. In that master plan will be an official map establishing all future rights-of-way for recreational paths or other public utilities, said Regina Mahony, Milton planning director.

    "They're hoping they can adopt a map with the new comprehensive plan," Mahony said.

    On Sept. 18, the Planning Commission will begin taking input from town residents about the creation of the map, specifically with an eye on where the future bike path might go. After many tries, Sharp said he thinks he's drafted a route that should satisfy all previous concerns about the bike path.

    Sharp's proposed route, plotted with the help of the Milton/Colchester Bicycle Path Group, would go from the town offices on Bombardier Road slightly northwest through Bud McCormick's property on U.S. 7 and then head south near Racine Road. The path would cut through a 53-acre parcel behind Andrea Estates that was designated as open space, Sharp said. Beyond that parcel, the path would head south behind the Petty Brook development, running parallel to U.S. 7. It would pass through the area referred to as the Punch Bowl just west of Cobble Hill before spilling out at the Colchester Park and Ride on U.S. 7.

    While this particular route has yet to be presented to the Planning Commission, others have been, and residents whose properties abutted the proposed routes were opposed. A year and a half ago, the town received state grant money to draft a workable route, but Mahony said, "nothing was presented that was viable."

    Many residents in the developments off U.S. 7 South said the bike path was just too close to their houses. They didn't want a path in their backyard, and after months of digging through land records, Sharp discovered a potential solution in that 53-acre parcel.

    Sharp's idea is to use the 53 acres as a starting point for the path and then work from there.

    "That starts the ball rolling. We'll do it piece by piece. That's how the Burlington bike path came together," Sharp said. "Once you get the momentum going, voila! A bike path comes about."

    John Gordon, who lives on Racine Road close to where Sharp's proposed route would pass, said Sharp's work is essential to getting a bike path in Milton.

    "Unless someone did something, the whole thing would shrivel up and people would move on," Gordon said.

    Gordon sees the path as a boon to the town. Not only would the bike path provide recreational opportunities and promote healthy habits, but it would also have a positive impact on abutting landowners.

    "Living next to the bike path would increase the value of my home, not decrease it," Gordon said.

    Contact Lauren Ober at 660-1868 or