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