Friday, August 29, 2008

Ride on: How to get out of the car and on the road

Times Argus
August 24, 2008

You can spend 20 minutes driving from the center of Montpelier to Barre and at least 15 minutes from Chittenden to Rutland. So why not bypass traffic, get some exercise and even save a few bucks? With gas prices going up, many commuters are downsizing from four wheels to two.

Kelly Odorisio, a physical therapist at Rutland Hospital, bikes 10 miles from her home in Chittenden to the hospital two to three times a week. She has been making the ride for about 10 years.

“People are afraid it’s going to take a lot of time but if you think about the time it takes to drive, biking really adds only a few extra minutes,” explains Odorisio.

Nancy Schultz, of the Vermont Bicycle and Pedestrian Coalition, used to bike the nine miles from her home in Montpelier to her office in Barre. “It felt so good starting my mornings with exercise,” says Schultz who still bikes to work although her commute is now under one mile. “Then I used my commute home as time to decompress.”

Selecting a decent commuting bike

If you're buying a bike from a store, tell the seller what kind of riding you're planning to do. Depending on your needs, a bike shop might suggest a hybrid (half mountain bike and half road bike). According to Bruce Faulkner of the Great Outdoors shop in Rutland, you should expect to spend between $350 and $600 on a decent bike. Keep in mind that you're buying a vehicle: a more economic bike might require some tinkering in the garage. If you don't want to be your own mechanic, splurge and purchase a higher quality bike.

If you are dusting off an old bike or haggling for one at a yard sale, keep in mind that while the price is right you are probably going to have to purchase new parts. Check with a local bike mechanic to discuss what needs to be replaced on your bike. Tires cost about $15 to $40 a piece, depending on the make and model of the bike. A rusted chain and cassette can be replaced starting at $75. Even if your commute is on flat terrain, you'll want a set of brakes that open and close well (replacement starts at about $40). A worn or uncomfortable seat can be swapped for a new one starting at $20.

Most shops offer tune-ups starting at around $35. A mechanic will turn your wheels, lubricate the chain and cassette, test the brakes, make sure the cables are intact and check every moving nut and bolt. If you are not familiar with proper bike care, you should get a tuneup once every year.

Tip: Shops get very busy when the weather is nice. Bring your bike in around February when mechanics aren't as busy.


It's necessary to have a bike helmet (starting around $30) that fits snugly. According to Schultz, the front of the helmet should almost cover your eyebrows. Worn properly, you should only be able to fit two fingers between the strap and your chin. “It should be uncomfortable to eat an apple,” explains Schultz.

Under Vermont law, nighttime bikers must have a front white light that is visible from 500 feet away. A rear red reflector must be visible from 300 feet away. Schultz suggests that bikers also buy a red blinking light for the rear of their bike because it is more visible to drivers. Expect to spend around $15 for reflectors and up to $30 to outfit your bike with lights.

When sharing the road with cars and trucks, it is important to ride in a consistent manner. Stay on either the sidewalk or road and don't weave through traffic. If the road doesn't have a wide shoulder, ride 18 to 24 inches to the right of the white line. Shultz says it is illegal for bikers to ride two-by-two if it impedes the flow of traffic. Bikes are considered vehicles and bicyclists are required to follow driving laws: Stop for pedestrians at crosswalks and obey road signs and traffic lights.


Bicycles are easy to steal, especially in towns without many bike racks. If you can't bring your bike into the office and there are no racks nearby, secure it to a lamp post. Combination locks (around $8) are sturdier than a lock and key. Secure the tires to the frame with a U-lock (starting at $30) or remove both wheels using an Allen wrench. If there's a quick-release mechanism that makes it easy to remove the seat, consider taking it with you into the store or office. Thieves have been known to take those, too.

At the office

No one wants to start the work day looking like they've just biked 10 miles. Even if your office doesn't have showering facilities, it's still possible to look fresh.

“I wash my face, use some deodorant and throw on a little mascara,” says Odorisio, adding “and that's on a heavy duty day.”

Odorisio is lucky: Her 10-mile commute to the Rutland Hospital is mostly downhill, so she doesn't have to worry too much about perspiration.

Even so, she often leaves a set of clothing at the office for a quick change before her work day begins.

Mary Hooper, mayor of Montpelier, jokes about being “properly modest.”

On her 1½ mile ride from her house to the center of Montpelier, she is often spotted wearing a pair of bike shorts under a skirt. In bad weather, she pulls wind pants and a rain jacket over her work clothes.

“You have to get (to work) early and bring a towel” she says.

Since the majority of sweating occurs on the upper body, use a messenger bag instead of a backpack to avoid a sweaty back, or secure your briefcase to the back of your bike.

Hannah Van Susteren is a freelance writer. She lives in Calais.

Bike/pedestrian policy key to campaigns

Times Argus
August 24, 2008
By Jenny Nixon Carter - Correspondent

It is August in an election year – and that means the incumbent office-holders and new candidates will soon be on your doorstep (if they have not been there already).

While you have the candidate's attention, don't forget to remind them that a safe walking and biking system — which includes adequate pedestrian sidewalks and bike lanes – is an important component of our local and statewide transportation infrastructure.

Yes, these are lean times for our local and state government, but that only means that we should focus our transportation funds on projects that: 1) reduce our dependence on expensive foreign oil; 2) limit our environmental impacts; 3) augment our public transportation systems; and 4) enhance the vitality of our downtowns.

Pedestrian and bike projects, of course, do all of these things (and they also have this nice side effect of making our communities healthier). It is important, therefore, that your representatives know that pedestrian and bike projects must remain a part of our transportation mix and be included in any broad transportation plan.

The challenges are big. During the past several years, Transportation Enhancements funding has significantly decreased and the Bicycle and Pedestrian Program is closed to new projects. Many bike and pedestrian projects — and this includes large-scale sidewalk improvements and paving new bike paths and lanes – rely on these programs. State support of these projects is critical if we want our communities to be something other than car- and truck-choked places along a highway. Let your representatives know where you stand on funding for pedestrian and bike infrastructure.

Note too that during the past legislative session the Vermont Senate and House Transportation Committees considered, but did not bring to a vote, a bill to make roads safer for bicyclists. Several states have implemented the so-called 3-foot rule or similar legislation, which mandates that motor vehicles give bicycle riders at least 3 feet of space when passing. Until we actually have designated bike lanes, bikes have to share the road with cars.

The goal of the law is not to give motorists tickets or to encourage reckless and unyielding cyclists. Rather, the evidence suggests that just having a 3-foot law – which could then be included in driver safety courses – increases both motorist and cyclist awareness of their surroundings and decreases potentially harmful interactions.

As I have noted before in this column, providing a minimum passing distance is especially important in places like Rutland County that lack specific biking infrastructure (there is not a designated bike line in the county). In the end, if more people feel safe riding their bike and sharing the road with cars, then more people will actually ride their bikes to work, to school and to the store. Again, let your representatives know where you stand on this issue.

Fall is in the air, and another election is on the way. When they come to your doorstep and ask for your vote, find out where the candidates stand on funding pedestrian and bike projects and the 3-foot rule.

After that, vote accordingly.

Jenny Nixon Carter is the Executive Director of the Rutland Area Physical Activity Coalition. She can be reached at For more information on RAPAC go to

Friday, August 15, 2008

Local Motion Aims To Increase Bike Ferry Hours

Vermont Public Radio

Friday August 15, 2008
Sarah Ashworth
Colchester, VT

(Host) The Colchester Causeway Bike Ferry will run three additional days this summer, and organizers say they have even bigger plans for the future. The pontoon boat transports bikers, runners, and walkers across a 200 foot gap in the causeway that extends between Colchester and South Hero. On August weekends, the Burlington non-profit, Local Motion, operates the 3 minute ferry.

Brian Costello is the Bike Ferry operations manager, and says people sometimes wait an hour to get on the boat.

(Costello) "People are thrilled for the opportunity to get across to Grand Isle, it just opens up another county of bicycling. And, it's just a unique place to be, it's a place generally reserved for boaters, the middle of the lake, so without a boat, you can get on your bike and just be out here in the middle of the lake.

(Host) Local Motion Executive Director Chapin Spencer says he has plans to make the ferry a permanent fixture in the lake:

(Spencer) "The challenge we face now is to amass the resources and to take it to the next level, so it can run daily, so more people, residents and tourists alike can enjoy in this spectacular location."

(Host) Spencer says Local Motion hopes to begin a fundraiser this winter, and have daily service up and running by next year's Lake Champlain Quadricentennial celebration.

The Bike Ferry runs each weekend in August, and also on Labor Day, from 10 to 6, rain or shine. A $5 donation is encouraged.

Colchester Bike Ferry

Seven Days NOW - Notes on the Weekend
Aug 14, 2008
Seven Days

Local Motion's annual August bike ferry is back in business, bridging the gaps in the Colchester causeway. That means you can ride your bike from Burlington to South Hero this weekend on the Island Line Trail. Maybe it won't rain!

Bike Ferry, Saturday & Sunday, August 16 & 17, Colchester Causeway, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. $5.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Audio Postcard: Bike Ferry Transports Riders Across Lake Champlain

Vermont Edition / VPR News
Vermont Public Radio
Sarah Ashworth August 6, 2008
Audio Postcard:
Vermont Edition:

The Colchester-South Hero Causeway is a former railroad track that shoots straight across Lake Champlain. You can bike, walk, or run along its narrow, gravel path, about five miles from either side, but there's a 200-foot gap where the two paths don't quite meet.

At this time of year, though, there's a solution. On August weekends a team of volunteers from the Burlington non-profit group, Local Motion, operates a 3-minute "bike ferry" across the cut. Last weekend, VPR's Sarah Ashworth we rode along with them.

The Bike Ferry runs each weekend in August, and also on Labor Day, from 10 to 6, rain or shine. A $5 dollar donation is encouraged.

Pedestrian Needs on South Burlington's Front Burner

Burlington Free Press
Sara Buscher
August 8, 2008

SOUTH BURLINGTON -- Some city residents are no longer wondering why the chicken crossed the road. They're wondering how she did.

In April, a man was struck by a car while walking in a crosswalk on Farrell Street. The following month, residents of the city's Eastwoods neighborhood lobbied the council with a request to add a three-way stop to the intersection of Eastwood Drive and Farrell Street for the safety of pedestrians and drivers alike. Their request is under review.

Residents in other areas -- especially seniors and those with mobility challenges -- have also expressed concern for their welfare on foot in the increasingly urban city.

South Burlington has grown rapidly over the years -- from 1,736 residents in 1940 to 17,838 today -- in part due to an abundance of open land ready to be developed.

City Manager Chuck Hafter said in May that since the high-density residential development on Farrell Street was built, South Burlington has become more aware of the needs of cyclists and pedestrians.

Following the April incident, police stepped up patrols in the area to raise drivers' awareness of pedes- trians; and Hafter said the Metropolitan Planning Organization would review the potential need for a three-way stop on Farrell Street.

The city is also adding signs -- like the fluorescent green "pedestrian crossing" placards that point into the street -- to make crossings more visible, said Public Works Director Bruce Hoar. Hoar said he's writing a grant in an effort to fund installation of additional mid-block crossing signals in certain areas of the city as well.

Crosswalks are typically located at the end of a block, where drivers are attuned to the approaching intersection. Without a traffic signal, midblock crossings can be less visible to drivers.

The April incident occurred at a midblock crossing.

The Public Works Department set reflective signs in the middle of Farrell Street to make the crosswalks more obvious and added orange posts near the curb cuts where pedestrians enter the street.

Seven crosswalks are marked with fluorescent pedestrian crossing signs along Farrell Street, which passes Grand Way Senior Housing, Eastwood Commons condominiums and O'Dell Apartments as it winds its narrow way between Shelburne Road and Swift Street.

Wider streets present another challenge -- particularly in the designated growth area around Dorset Street, the "backbone" of City Center. Dorset Street's parallel sidewalks and bike paths extend from Williston Road to Kennedy Drive, offering easy access to University Mall, Healthy Living, Hannaford and other restaurants and businesses for those traveling without cars.

However, seniors living at the Pines on Aspen Drive have said they can't get from one side to the other.

Ginny Donner said she no longer drives, but reaching the bus stop across the street from her home can be difficult. In the winter, the long wait for the crossing light is even worse.

Donner worries the light will change before she's reached the other side of the road. Sometimes, the pedestrian signal doesn't seem to work, she said.

"When you're 86 or 87, it's no longer funny. You stand there and try to cross, and you can't."

"It's an issue that's been perplexing for everybody," said Lou Bresee, chairman of the city's recreation path committee. "As soon as you make the streets wider, it's more difficult to get the pedestrians across."

Bresee's committee serves as an adviser to the City Council, recommending ways to make South Burlington's streets more welcoming for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Some Pines residents choose to drive their cars rather than risk the walk across five lanes of traffic to reach the bus stop.

"Even if they're 80 or 90 they drive. And they probably shouldn't," Donner said.

Donner says she understands it's not an easy problem. She said she would like to see a new countdown timer device installed at the corner, so people can see how many seconds they have left to cross.

"It helps people feel safer," Bresee said . He said the recreation committee encouraged the city to install more timers.

Public works has plans to install more of the devices at established crossings, beginning with the intersection of Vermont 116 and Williston Road, Hoar said.

Bresee said the city almost always follows up on the committee's recommendations "in one way or another." In most cases, the big problem is where to find funding for the improvements, he said.

If grant funding for the solar-powered LED midblock crossing signals comes through, the first of the new devices could be in place in about a year, Hoar said.

South Burlington has about two dozen midblock crossings, and Hoar estimates the equipment could cost $12,000 per crossing.

Hoar said some other complaints about the crossing signals might be relieved with a better explanation of how they work. Many people don't understand what the symbols at the intersections mean, he said.
Contact Sara Buscher at 651-4811 or Crossing signal lingo

Bruce Hoar, South Burlington public works director, offers tips on reading a crosswalk signal:

In a traditional "hand-man" signal, pedestrians have 20 seconds to cross before the hand symbol stops flashing. Pedestrians should not start crossing the street if the hand symbol is flashing, and should wait for the next cycle.

Pushing the crosswalk button does not mean traffic will stop immediately; the signal will eventually respond.

Whiz Kid On Wheels

Burlington Free Press
Phyl Newbeck
August 8, 2008

He had arrived home at midnight sporting a golf ball-sized bruise on his elbow from a crash during a race in Connecticut, but Anders Newbury of Fairfield was still itching to get back out on his bicycle for a training ride. After all, the 15-year-old had only a few days to go before heading off to Europe to join the U.S. Junior National training team, an elite squad of six young cyclists, earlier this summer.

Anders got his first taste of serious cycling in 2002 at the age of 10 when he headed out on a quad bike with his parents and his then 8-year-old brother, Eric, for a cross-country tour. In 2005, he decided to try his hand at racing. In his first time trial, Anders rode his mother's old touring bike, finishing with an average speed of 17.41 mph. Three years later, he finished first on that course with an average speed of almost 25 mph.

Through the Green Mountain Bicycle Club's practice criterium series, Anders earned his first racing license, and by 2006, he was traveling out of state for races. When he was 14, he was strong enough to compete in the 15- to 18-year-old category at the Green Mountain Stage Race where, he admits, "I got beat up pretty good."

Anders learned from that experience, and one year later he finished ninth in his age group at that event. At the GMSR, Anders watched members of the Hot Tubes Junior Development Team that he describes as the top team in the country. He decided if he worked hard enough, he might have a chance to ride with a team like that, and by the end of 2007, he was invited to join.

Anders' father, Gil, said being a member of Hot Tubes has made a world of difference, particularly with regard to accommodations at races. Gil recalls one competition where he and Anders stayed in a low-budget motel. Gil went out to get ice and found himself locked out. Anders couldn't open the door from the inside. He tried to call the main office for help, but the phone line was dead. Gil trekked down the road to the motel office, only to find a woman who told him the last time this had happened, she had to kick the door down. In the meantime, Anders had used his bike repair kit to take the door apart and received a lecture from the manager for his troubles. Before another race, Gil and Anders slept in their car in a Wal-Mart parking lot.

His father notes that cycling at Anders' level has a cost in terms of time, money and pain management, but he believes "the benefits far outweigh the costs. You learn to structure your lifestyle," Gil said, "to the things that are important."

Anders has always pushed himself. After only one full year of racing, he went to the Junior Nationals competition in Pennsylvania, finishing seventh in the road race and 11th in the time trial. By the following year, he was second in his age group. Racers start in what is known as Category 5, but at 15, Anders has already worked his way up to Category 2. According to Kevin Bessett, president of the GMBC, such a jump is "unheard of" for his age.

Anders has raced in venues across the country and in Canada. This summer, Anders raced with the U.S. National Team in Belgium for three weeks, coming in second in one race, seventh in another, and assisting teammates in the remaining races. On Monday, he left Vermont yet again, this time to compete in the U.S. Cycling National Championships in California that is under way and continues through this weekend.

Brian King of the New Hampshire Cycling Club is Anders' coach. Mostly through e-mails and phone calls, King plans Anders' training schedule.

"He's got all the talent in the world and all the drive in the world," King said. "If you ever wanted to see anyone achieve, it would be a kid like Anders."

Before heading off to Europe for a month of training, Anders planned a three- to four-hour ride "in an easy gear" on a Monday; four to five hours of more intense riding on a Tuesday; a four-hour ride, including the Appalachian Gap, on a Wednesday; a longer, slower ride on a Thursday followed by a time trial race; and then easy rides on a Friday and a Saturday before flying on a Sunday.

"I don't always enjoying training every day," Anders admitted, "but I'm able to keep with it on bad days and enjoy the good days."