SOUTH BURLINGTON -- For those looking to reduce their carbon footprint, here's a step in the right direction.

The Chittenden County Metropolitan Planning Organization is updating its Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan, with an eye toward implementing an interconnected regional bicycle and pedestrian transportation network.

The agency has hired Wilbur Smith Associates to update the plan to link Chittenden County communities and connect with buses and other modes of transportation via sidewalks, bike lanes and shared-use paths. The two groups invited public comment on the effort at South Burlington City Hall on Thursday night.

From the cold, snowy streets, a few residents arrived straight from work, bike helmets in hand.

"A lot of people still think of biking and walking as recreational activity -- not as a transportation mode," said Jim Donovan of Wilbur Smith Associates, who commutes to and from work on his bicycle.

The updated plan will include adding bike and pedestrian facilities built since 2003 to existing maps, based on information gathered from a survey of Chittenden County towns.

"There's actually been quite a lot going on, especially within the more urban core of the community," said Sandra O'Flaherty, also of Wilbur Smith Associates, of the survey results.

The data representing the types of paths built and their frequency of use vary widely among towns, making assessment of networks a challenge, O'Flaherty said.

Estimates suggest 34 miles of on-road facilities and 27 miles of shared-use paths have been added throughout the county in the past five years -- including Riverside Avenue and the Vermont 127 bike path in Burlington, the Champlain Mill River Walkway in Winooski, and bike lanes on Interstate 89 at Exit 14 in Williston.

Another 36 miles of on-road and 46 miles of shared-use paths are proposed to be built in towns around the county.

The plan also will outline education programs that encourage walking and biking as forms of transportation and as recreational activities, and make suggestions for future promotions, such as a "Bike to Work" month versus a single day, and a "Sunday Parkways" program, during which sections of streets would be closed to motor vehicles for exclusive use by pedestrians and bicyclists.

Compared with other communities across the country, O'Flaherty said Chittenden County is "pretty progressive" in its efforts to encourage and facilitate use of alternative modes of transportation.

Cathy Frank of South Burlington said she rides her bike extensively for exercise and to run errands -- but not in the winter. "It's cold," Frank said.

Frank is on the board of Local Motion, a nonprofit group that promotes walking and cycling. She said she'd like to see more emphasis placed on connecting existing trails to South Hero, and along Vermont 15, in the updated plan.

"It's like not having a bridge across the river," she said. Frank also senses a need for better education of drivers and cyclists sharing the road.

"I think most drivers got their licenses long before there were a lot of bikes on the road. Bikers have to be responsible, too."

Several cyclists commented on a need for better signs along road shoulders in transitional areas where bike lanes begin or end, and improved maintenance of roads and trails, particularly at this time of year, with snowbanks and prevalent potholes.

Following the presentation, Peter Keating, CCMPO senior transportation planner, invited those present to comment on existing bike and pedestrian networks by marking maps of shared-use paths and on-road facilities that hung on the wall. Comments from the public will be accepted over the next two weeks.

After reviewing those comments, Wilbur Smith Associates will update the recommended network of facilities and associated construction and maintenance costs, refine implementation strategies, and prepare a draft plan for a second public meeting in June. Donovan said he expects the plan to be completed by early summer.

Contact Sara Buscher at 651-4811 or