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 jbriggs@bfp.burlingtonfreepress.com.

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 www.vermontrideshare.org/carpooladds.htm.

    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 www.chrisbohjalian.com.