Friday, April 25, 2008
By Lauren Ober
Free Press Staff Writer
Nearly every day, an out-of-stater looking to visit Burlington calls one of the local bike shops and ask what trails to ride. The employees are accommodating and send the tourists in the direction of the Waterfront bike path or one of the many mountain bike trials in the county.
But in our digital world, where seemingly everything we need to know is a mouse-click away, directions over the phone just don't seem to cut it. Those looking for information want the one-stop shopping convenience of the Internet.
Local Motion, an area bicycling advocacy group, understood that people needed an up-to-date trail resource. After three years in development, the organization recently launched Trail Finder, a comprehensive Web-based mapping system of all the public recreation trails in Chittenden County. The launch appropriately coincided with Earth Day.
Up until now, no such resource existed on the Web for trails in Chittenden County. There were piecemeal trail guides on various municipal and mountain biking Web sites, but there were no sites that compiled all the trails in the county. A comprehensive Web resource like this was essential for the recreational future of the region, said Chapin Spencer, executive director of Local Motion.
"It seemed from every angle the critical thing to do," Spencer said. "Residents were asking for it and we realized we needed to take the bull by the horns."
The mission of the Trail Finder project is three-fold, Spencer said. This free service makes the community healthier, strengthens the local tourism economy and helps better connect the trails in the county to achieve a true regional network, he said.
To develop such a labor-intensive project, Local Motion needed the services of an Internet-savvy young person, so they hired Todd Taylor fresh out of University of Vermont. Taylor was charged with coordinating the efforts of 50 volunteers and 40 community partners to map the trails and make the site user-friendly.
Over the past three years, bands of volunteers have ridden, walked, cross-country skied and snowshoed every public trail in the county while taking GPS readings, snapping photos and writing down notable features of the trails. Because there is no real county government, the Local Motion folks had to work directly with each individual town to find the trails.
The $25,000 project was funded largely with grants from the Chittenden County Metropolitan Planning Organization, as well as the Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation's Vermont Recreation Trails Program and donations from Local Motion members. Spencer said the price tag was cheap when compared with the $2,500 they spend each year printing just one of the many trail route maps they provide.
The site is about as user-friendly as the Internet can get. Simply type in the name of a town and find out all the trails there. Or click on the drop-down menu to search by trail use.
A quick search of Williston brings up six trails whose uses range from gentle cross-country skiing to strenuous mountain biking. Each of the trail listings comes with directions to the trailhead as well as a description of the terrain. The listings also provide contact information for the trail managers and a place for users to comment on the trails.
The Trail Finder project couldn't have come at a better time, says Tom Torti, president of the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce. With tourism expected to grow substantially this summer, Torti says the Web site will prove invaluable for visitors looking to participate in recreational activities in the area.
"We are very excited about this program. We can promote it and sell it, and it'll be a huge boon for this area," Torti said.
The SkiRack in Burlington, which has underwritten part of the Trail Finder cost, is one of those bike shops where tourists come to get trail information. People are always coming in asking where to ride, says Spike Clayton, one of the co-owners of the shop. Clayton sees the Web site not only as an important community resource, but also as a good investment of their marketing dollars.
"I'm wowed at what's at people's fingertips," Clayton said. "We're totally excited about it."
The maps on the current Trail Finder site (www.localmotion.org/trails) are only the first phase of the project. The organization has recently received funding to start the second phase of the initiative, which will include mapping on-road cycling routes around the county and off-road cycling routes beyond Chittenden County. Taylor, who designed the mapping system, says this resource was totally unique in the state.
"This covers the whole breadth," Taylor said. "We think it will be really popular."
Contact Lauren Ober at 660-1868 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On the Web: www.localmotion.org/trails
Thursday, April 24, 2008
April 24, 2008
By Sarah Hinckley Times Argus Staff
MONTPELIER – Moving at a slow, deliberate speed, the metal crusher evoked groans and high-pitched squeals from the bicycles being tortured and crushed within its jaws.
"This is how bikes sound when they're screaming," said Carrie Baker, an employee of Onion River Sports, photographing the carnage.
She was on hand to capture the "sculptcycle" creation of artists Lochlin Smith and Ward Joyce as it came together – literally. Early Wednesday morning approximately 30 decrepit bikes were crushed into a 600-pound cube at Bolduc Auto Salvage in Middlesex.
Although it sounds like a new flavor of Hood's frozen treats, SculptCycle is a project hosted by the Montpelier Downtown Community Association. Smith and Joyce are two of 20 artists selected to create sculptures using recycled bicycle parts.
They have not come up with a name for their piece, one of two they are crafting, which will be displayed at the Rialto Bridge in downtown Montpelier, next to Capitol Grounds. The men came up with their crushing idea during a brainstorming session and pitched it to the owner of the salvage yard, who was happy to help out.
"We're just imagining a piece that looks like a Jackson Pollack painting in metal," said Smith, as the machine mangled the multi-colored frames. "It's either going to look like a total piece of junk or it's going to be cool."
The crushing machine, usually used to compact aluminum, has the capacity to crunch 2,200 pounds per square inch. It took several crushing sessions to compact all of the bicycles into the cube weighing over a quarter of a ton.
"It's pretty tough steel," Joyce commented, standing in what looked like a bicycle graveyard. "There's something creepy about destroying toys."
An initial SculptCycle unveiling will take place on June 6, with an official tour of all pieces taking place the following day. SculptCycle culminates with an auction for sculptures on Oct 4.
Other related events are scheduled during that time, including a bicycle film series, an environmental lecture series and 'meet the artist' activities. To find out more information about the SculptCycle, go to www.sculptcycle.org.
Rob Hitzig, another artist and chairman of the SculptCycle committee, brought a green frame with him to the salvage yard on Wednesday.
"I've been doing my own sculptcycle and this is a part I had left over," said Hitzig, who has crafted a robot-like man and two dogs, using wood and bicycle parts, called The Dogwalker. "I've gone through several bikes. As the design changed, I had to focus on certain parts."
The Web site for the event highlights the artists' creations and conceptual designs, and gives an idea of what parts of the bike are being employed in the sculptures.
Some of the artists were getting nervous about having to weld their sculptures, said Hitzig. But he and others have proven there are a number of creative methods that do not involve a hot flame. One artist crafted a basket with the frame made from bike wheels, with tires and tubes woven through them.
SculptCycle is a creative way to recycle bicycles that are in need of serious repair or have become defunct. According to Hitzig and wife Mary Jo Krolewski, there are plenty to choose from for creating a sculptcycle.
"We could do this project every year for the next 10 years and not run out of bikes," said Hitzig, who co-owns the Lazy Pear Gallery.
Contact Sarah Hinckley at email@example.com
April 20, 2008
By Mel Huff Staff Writer
MONTPELIER – Bicyclists pedaling on Vermont's roads is a sure a sign of spring. But as more bikers ride, runners jog and motorists jockey for the same space, it becomes crucial that they all play by the same rules: Of the 750 deaths of bicyclists in the United States each year, 96 percent are the result of crashes with motor vehicles.
Saturday, the Vermont Bicycle and Pedestrian Coalition sponsored a nine-hour "Road I" bike education program designed by the League of American Bicyclists to improve riders' knowledge and safety skills. A booklet and video illustrated the steps in crossing multiple lanes, the proper sequence of moves for making turns and the consequences of mistakes such as riding too close to parked cars. (A suddenly opened door can knock a rider into a lane of traffic.)
The most important precaution bikers can take, said Bob Atchinson, who taught the course with Carl Etnier, is to wear a helmet, preferably a hard shell helmet with a polystyrene liner. Atchinson noted that 85 percent of the bikers who died in accidents weren't wearing one. Another safety precaution is mastering bike-handling skills, such as making instant turns to avoid being hit.
More than a third of collisions with vehicles involve turns, Atchinson noted. Another 9 percent involve failure by bicyclists to yield at driveways. Eight percent are the result of bicyclists running stop signs and another eight percent of motorists running stop signs.
There was no disagreement that bicyclists should stop at red lights, but what constitutes running a stop sign was a matter of debate.
Atchinson said whether or not a bicyclist should stop at a stop sign rather than just slow down depends on whether there is likely to be turning traffic at the intersection. If so, the rider should make a "foot-down" stop, he said. "If it's not going to be, if you can come to a stop and balance the bike enough to look left, look right, look back to the left and signal, …I don't particularly think of it as a violation of the law."
Etnier added, "The first message we want to get out is all traffic rules, including stop signs, should be obeyed. (The video) said all cyclists should obey stop signs, but they also said the way you obey a stop sign is not necessarily by stopping completely – the Texas rolling stop, we called it where I grew up."
He noted that because bicyclists are not shut inside a vehicle, they can see and hear what's going on around them much better than drivers. "Coming to a stop sign and going through it really slowly – only a few miles per hour – gives you as much time to judge what's happening in the intersection as a car driver coming and stopping and going."
Under current Vermont law, bicyclists are not allowed to pass other vehicles on their right, although Atchinson admitted, "I might be tempted sometimes to do that. If there's gridlock and the cars are stopped, it's a fine line. A bicycle is a very mobile thing. I'm feeling torn because sometimes I feel like this is good to illustrate to people if you were on a bicycle now you wouldn't be sitting in traffic in single occupancy vehicles."
Etnier noted that the Vermont Bicycle and Pedestrian Coalition is lobbying to change the law. H577, the "vulnerable users" bill coming up for a vote in the Senate, would make it legal for bicyclists to pass cars on the right.
The video provided a dramatic illustration of how bicyclists look to drivers at night. Standard equipment reflectors provided surprisingly little warning that anything was in the road or helped distinguish a bicycle from a mailbox, but headlights and rear amber SAE reflectors made the riders much more visible.
After a lunch of soup and whole-grain bread, the group took off to test their skills turning in traffic, crossing railroad tracks and dodging rocks.
"You think, 'Road I, it's just a real beginner thing,' but there's so much information, there's an awful lot that you learn – there are things that you really don't know," said Chery Cerise, who had come from Winooski to take the course. "If they do Road II, I've already told them I'm coming."
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Aired April 22, 2008
Burlington, Vermont - April 22, 2008
Getting around for people who like to enjoy the outdoors just got a bit easier.
There's a new trail finder. It's a free online resource that lists 77 walking, biking, mountain biking and hiking trails in Chittenden County. People who use the free site can get maps, directions and learn about the trails. There will also be a spot for people to submit comments and photos.
Setting up the system took over two years and dozens of volunteers. The plan is to expand it over time-- eventually making it statewide.
"From residences and actually the Chamber of Commerce and tourism entities had guests saying we want to go out and try biking there, we want to go running, where can we go and they didn't have the maps so it got to be logistically difficult. Now we're putting the maps in the hands of everybody," explains Chapin Spencer of Local Motion.
Kristin Carlson - WCAX News
Joel Banner Baird
Free Press Staff Reporter
Wednesday, April 23 2008
HINESBURG -- Six Hinesburg residents worried about their weight: how to lose it; how to keep it off. They met last week to compare the results of an ambitious diet: to shed 5,000 pounds of carbon from their households' monthly consumption.
...Andrea Morgante, who hosted the Thursday's meeting, said holding herself to account in a group had accelerated her plans to find a fuel efficient car. She also said that, as a member of the Hinesburg Selectboard, she'd given more thought to the group's broader challenge: drawing the wider community into more thoughtful consumption. I'd like to challenge each department in the town to reduce their use of energy in ways that are appropriate for them," she said.
...Frank Twarog, who serves on the town's recreation commission and trails committee, set a "modest goal" to trim the carbon release from his commute: he would bicycle back home from his workplace in Burlington 20 times over the summer.
..."The best antidote for despair is action."
Friday, April 18, 2008
By Joel Banner Baird
Free Press Staff Writer
RICHMOND -- The project requires a calculator and aerial mapping. It requires a truce between trees, pedestrians and parking places.
It requires patience: Construction might not begin until 2010.
Most immediately, the Richmond Village Center Streetscape project needs residents to speak their minds, Town Administrator Ron Rodjenski said this week.
The public is invited to attend and participate in a discussion of what might give the village center a safer and better-looking streetscape at 7 p.m. Monday at the Richmond Town Center meeting room.
"We're still in the stages of defining the scope of the project," Rodjenski said. "Nothing's cast in stone; everything's on the table."
Even the price tag. Rodjenski ballparked the budget around $2 million, but said funding plans varied on different stretches of roads and sidewalks, following several state and federal formulae.
Financial prudence, he said, would likely shorten everyone's wish list. Improved lighting and buried utilities, for instance, would dramatically drive up the price -- as would the purchase of additional rights of way.
Historically, pedestrians and horses shaped Richmond's major thoroughfares: Main Street was laid out to be 3 rods (49 and a half feet) wide in order to accommodate 18th-century militia drills.
Gradually, much of the village's major thoroughfares became dominated by the automobile. Business owners and their customers have lobbied for years for more on-street parking.
"We have some competing interests," Rodjenski said. "But the final emphasis is on safety."
Some of the project's funding on Jericho Road will come from the federal Safe Routes to Schools program, which aims to take the guesswork out of routes most frequented by pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.
Rodjenski said piggy-backing those improvements with scheduled water, sewer and stormwater upgrades might help keep costs down.
Richmond resident Erik Sandblom, who leads the design team, said he welcomed public comments in narrowing the options -- but cautioned that the outcome must align itself with federal and state design, environmental and funding criteria.
Some of his plans and those of his colleague, Burlington-based landscape architect Kathleen Ryan, revolve around one question: How far will someone be willing to walk to a business from a parking spot?
"I ran some errands in Burlington this morning," Sandblom said Monday. "I parked in a garage and walked two blocks on Church Street. You don't think anything of that in Burlington. In Richmond there have been different patterns."
Sandblom said new parking spots are not part of the plan, but easier pedestrian access to more parts of the village might be the next best thing.
"We can simplify entrances and exits for cars, help pedestrians anticipate traffic, and make better use of green space," he said. "Businesses will benefit from more pleasing streetscape.
Contact Joel Banner Baird at 660-1843 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
By Sarah Tuff
Published: April 16, 2008
Fifteen years ago, University of Vermont computer-science lecturer Robert Erickson hiked the 270-mile Long Trail end to end. He’s backpacked through Alaska, paddled much of Lake Champlain, and climbed to the summit of Camel’s Hump in the winter. Now that Erickson has two preschool-aged girls, however, he’s more likely to be found tramping the trails around his Essex home. And it’s more difficult than you might imagine.
While entire books track the Long Trail, printed info on smaller, neighborhood byways tends to be scarce. “I can look at a town map or pick up little trail guides,” says Erickson. “But how do I actually get there?”
Starting next Tuesday, April 22, Erickson and thousands of other trail users in northern Vermont will be able to get there from here — or anywhere. They’ll also be able to zoom in on satellite photos of scores of Chittenden County trails and identify overlooks, beaches and restrooms. Hikers, walkers, in-line skaters and bikers (and, when the snow flies again, cross-country skiers) will be able to check mileages, plan their parking and determine if a trail is Fido- or fat-tire friendly. And they can do this long before lacing up their shoes and heading out the door — from their own computers.
All these features are part of Local Motion’s new online Trail Finder, which the Burlington-based nonprofit plans to unveil on Earth Day. Two years in the making, the free website contains dozens of downloadable and printable maps and directions to nearly 80 different trails, from Milton’s Eagle Moun-tain to the Williams Woods in Charlotte.
“We’ve dreamt about this for a long time now,” says Local Motion marketing manager and former Erickson student Todd Taylor. He points out that, while his organization’s Trailside Center on the Burlington Bike Path has a wall covered with maps, there’s been no single resource for outdoor enthusiasts who want the dirt on Vermont trails.
Over the past two years, Taylor says, Local Motion recruited more than 50 volunteers to contribute their trail and technology smarts to the Trail Finder site. Erickson was one: As a member of the Essex Trails Committee, he helped upload his community’s trails into the database. Now, if you search by town and select “Essex,” you come up with a Google map on which a bunch of squiggly purple lines designate unpaved, shared-use trails, while red lines represent paved, shared-use ones. (Green lines signify “walking and hiking only.”)
Clicking on one of the purple trails produces a Google Earth satellite image of Indian Brook Park, along with a lively description of its loops, mountain-biking terrain and boat-launch area. The nonprofit organization Fellowship of the Wheel supplies regular info on mountain-biking trails and conditions.
To pinpoint the exact locations of many trails, Local Motion relied on Vermonters with savvy in the field of geographic information systems (GIS), such as Pam Brangan, the GIS Services/IT Systems administrator for the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission. After helping Local Motion find dependable global-positioning-system (GPS) handheld devices to map out trails, Brangan explains, she used digital aerial photos and other GIS data to correct the GPS data, which can go askew in heavily wooded areas.
Taylor says the combination of this technological sophistication with input from passionate local outdoors-people is what makes Trail Finder unique. And, unlike international sites such as Trails.com, which charges $49.95 a year to access information on 40,000 trails in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean, Local Motion’s Trail Finder is free.
“We’re all about getting people the information they need in order to have a healthy lifestyle, so from the start it’s been a free concept,” says Taylor. He notes that ads may help support the website, along with membership funds and grant money.
Fulfilling that broader mission may involve connecting with other databases, such as an inventory of Vermont playgrounds, parks and pedestrian paths that local trails volunteer Fred Schmidt helped develop in 2005 at the Center for Rural Studies. Down the road, Trail Finder will also expand beyond Chittenden County, says Taylor. “The scale of it makes more sense for regional information,” he explains.
As for the Burlington area, there’s just one problem, says Erickson: “We’d like to connect the dots more. Had people thought about trails 100 years ago when divvying up the land, it would be a piece of cake.” Instead, Erickson says, trail advocates are trying to figure out a way to connect all those squiggly lines across railroads, highways, shopping developments and private land.Maybe, he adds, the new Trail Finder will help private landowners contemplate how they can contribute to the movement. After all, “Trails are great for connecting communities together.”
Info: Local Motion’s Trail Finder launches on Earth Day, April 22. For more information, visit www.LocalMotion.org/trails or call 652-2453.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
Letter to the Editor
Burlington Free Press
April 13, 2007
In a recent letter ("Voice comments on bike plan," Feb. 3), I mentioned that the proposed Vermont transportation budget for the upcoming fiscal year cuts bike/ped funding 9 percent while increasing funding for aviation over 30 percent. It has been pointed out to me that this comparison is an unfair one because the huge increase for aviation primarily represents a one-time allocation from the federal government for the Burlington airport.
It wasn't my intention to single out aviation. I could have mentioned the 9 percent increase for safety and traffic or the 9 percent increase for transportation buildings. I simply wanted to question the decision to cut an appropriation for bike/ped when the administration claims that it is concerned about obesity, global warming, the cost of health care and the rising prices of fuel. Monies allocated to the state's bike/ped program pay for a variety of infrastructure improvements, including sidewalk installation and repair and bike path construction.
If the administration truly cares about the health of Vermonters, it should not be persisting with its plan to phase out funding for the state's bike/ped program. If you want the opportunity to walk on sidewalks that are in good shape and bicycle and run on dedicated bike paths, now is the time to contact your senators and representatives to tell them to restore the proposed bike/ped cuts. For updates on what's happening in the bike/ped community in Vermont, please visit www.vtbike ped.org.
The writer is executive director of Vermont Bicycle & Pedestrian Coalition.
Published: Wednesday, March 26, 2008
By Phyl Newbeck
Burlington Free Press Correspondent
JERICHO -- The road to school might now be a little safer in Jericho.
Nearly a dozen parents, some of whom were accompanied by their children, went to the Jericho Elementary School gym last week for the first "Walk Safe, Bike Safe Workshop" hosted by the Jericho Elementary School Safe Routes to Schools program.
The presentations were designed to help adults guide children on safe and healthy behavior while walking or biking to school. Jesse Pelton, coordinator of the school's Safe Routes to Schools program, said the goal of the program is to change attitudes about walking and biking to school.
"Children are not the problem; they love to do this stuff," he said. His goal is to ensure that parents are comfortable allowing their children to walk or bicycle to school by educating them about safe ways to travel and behave.
Mary Kintner, a chiropractor, provided a workshop on the proper use of backpacks. Kintner said textbooks are heavier than they used to be because they are reinforced better. She counsels against allowing children to carry backpacks weighing more than 10 percent to 15 percent of their body weight, and suggested that parents check their children's backpacks on a weekly basis to make sure they aren't carrying more than they need.
Kintner opened one student's backpack to determine what items were not really needed. The pack weighed 19 pounds while the student tipped the scales at 65 pounds, meaning her pack was about 30 percent of her body weight.
Cpl. Robert Halpin of the Vermont State Police provided tips for drivers sharing the road with pedestrians and cyclists. His specialty is traffic safety, and he is a driver education instructor.
He said drivers tend to lose their skills and/or become lazy as they become more relaxed at the wheel. He cautioned against losing that extra vigilance, particularly in school zones. Halpin recommended that students and parents walking along the road wear safety vests.
Rosemary Wooden Webb of the organization Child Lures Prevention conducted a workshop on how to protect children from sexual predators. She said there are more than 600,000 registered sex offenders in the United States, and provided guidelines for parents and teachers on preventive measures to teach children.
Webb said the age-old warning for children not to talk to strangers is not necessarily good advice, particularly because many abusers are people whom children know. However, she said predators in vehicles can be dangerous and children should be taught not to get close to drivers and to run in the opposite direction of a car if approached.
Paul Sulva is the parent of an elementary school student. He said he believes that the workshops provided parents with a greater awareness of the need for a safe environment for children to travel to and from school.
Sulva was somewhat bothered by the low attendance but hoped that the word would spread that Jericho is a community where children and adults like to be outside and need to be able to walk, run and bicycle in a safe environment.