Wednesday, September 24, 2008

What Goes Around Comes Around

Seven Days
Photo by Jack Rowell
September 24, 2008

Science-fiction novelist H.G. Wells once wrote, “Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.” That quote could sum up the old-spokes saviors at Bike Recycle Vermont. Since 2004, BRV has provided hundreds of donated-and-refurbished cycles to low-income folks in need of two-wheeled transportation. The organization also trains disabled and disadvantaged Vermonters to be bike mechanics. A partner of cycling-advocacy nonprofit Local Motion, BRV supports its pedal-powered mission with a fundraising party this Saturday. Bid on silent auction items and bake-sale goodies at 6 p.m., or get your toes tapping at a 7 p.m. hoedown featuring high-toned honky-tonk from the Starline Rhythm Boys (pictured). Bring the family: Kids 15 and younger and seniors 65 and older join the gyrations for half-price.

Bike Recycle Vermont Benefit

Saturday, September 27, 6PM at Shelburne Town Hall in Shelburne. $20-25.

Contact Info:
Seven Days Says:

The Starline Rhythm Boys get rowdy with original rockabilly numbers at a wheel-friendly fundraiser. Silent auction and bake sale, 6 p.m., dance concert 7 p.m.

Biking Advocates Push Five-Point Safety Plan

Seven Days
By Kevin J. Kelley
Photos by Matthew Thorsen
September 24, 2008

Only 1 percent of the state’s highway-safety budget goes to help protect walkers and cyclists, even though they have accounted for nearly 6 percent of Vermont’s road fatalities since 2001.

Moreover, just two of the 1400 jobs at the Vermont Agency of Transportation are centered on pedestrian and biking projects, according to the department. And one of the two positions — a staffer for the Safe Routes to School Program — is currently vacant.

In the wake of last week’s rally in Burlington to support two cyclists injured in hit-and-run collisions with motorists, Vermont biking advocates hope to implement a five-point plan that includes a “fair share” of funding for safety initiatives.

Chapin Spencer, director of Local Motion, a Burlington group that promotes human-powered transportation, said concern engendered by the two accidents offers an opportunity to convince lawmakers to take bike and pedestrian safety issues seriously.

In addition to increased funding for safety education, the group urges reduced speed limits in downtown areas, targeted police enforcement and establishment of a reporting system for drivers who endanger bikers and walkers.

A greater degree of personal responsibility is the fifth piece in the group’s package. Acknowledging that some bikers are themselves reckless, Spencer said, “We’re willing to have enforcement against us in return for increased safety.”

Even prior to the September 17 show of strength by more than 100 bikers in City Hall Park, the balance of power had already begun to shift, Spencer suggested. He notes that voters in both Shelburne and Williston approved bonds earlier this year to build non-vehicular paths. And the state Legislature appropriated $50,000 last year for the purchase of five “shoulder sweepers” — machines that regularly clear away rocks and debris that can cause bikers to wipe out or to swerve into traffic.

But lawmakers and the governor did little for pedestrians and cyclists last session, despite the growing public interest in alternate forms of transportation. The only major bike-related bill, which would have required motorists to give cyclists and walkers more room, died in the House after passage by the Senate.

Nancy Schulz, head of the statewide Bicycle and Pedestrian Coalition, expressed hope that the uptick in gas prices over the summer will “grease the skids” for legislative action in the coming session. However, she added, it could prove more difficult to persuade Gov. James Douglas to take action.

“We hear a lot from Gov. Douglas about how important it is to be physically active,” Schulz said. “But I’d say the biking and pedestrian community is disappointed by his response to our concerns.”

State Sen. Phil Scott, who rides 100 recreational miles per week in the summer, said most lawmakers don’t understand the importance of bike safety.

“It’s hard for them to know how vulnerable you are when they’re not out on a bike on the road,” he noted.

Jon Kaplan, VTrans’ sole biking specialist, said that, despite the perception that the state favors automotive interests, “For a small state, we actually do quite a lot for bikers and pedestrians. We could do more, but we do a lot.”

A former city councilor, Spencer said biking is generally perceived as a “fringe issue.” Advocates hope to broaden support for their plan by trying to appeal to motorists’ shared interests in safety. Drivers are also pedestrians some of the time, Spencer points out, and can therefore be encouraged to look at transportation issues from perspectives other than behind the wheel.

“In promoting our vision of alternatives, if we vilify people who drive in a rural state with bad weather,” he said, “we’re never going to become mainstream.”

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

100+ Rally for Bike Safety at Burlington City Hall

Seven Days
By Mike Ives
September 16, 2008

At 12:15 p.m. today, more than 100 people gathered in Burlington's City Hall Park to rally for "Safe Streets." The event was organized by the local nonprofit Local Motion in response to two recent hit-and-run incidents in which bicyclists were injured.

"This is fabulous," Judy Bond, the newly elected president of the Vermont Bicycle & Pedestrian Coalition, said after assessing the size of the crowd. But it's "really unfortunate," she added, that the event had been precipitated by two tragedies.

The first hit-and-run victim, according to the Burlington Free Press, was Rose Long, a 20-year-old University of Vermont student. Long was struck by a red Jeep last Monday while riding down Pearl Street in Burlington. After being transported to Fletcher Allen Health Care, she was treated for "multiple fractures, severe facial lacerations and a collapsed lung." The second bicyclist was hit last Tuesday while riding down Patchen Road in South Burlington and suffered minor injuries, the Free Press reported last week.

Today in City Hall Park, after Mayor Bob Kiss pledged to "do all I can to move forward" on bike-safety issues, Burlington Police Department Chief Michael Schirling said he will work with Local Motion, the Burlington Bicycle Council and the Burlington Walking Work Group to "craft meaningful and new strategies to keep our streets safe" through "engineering, education and enforcement."

During his speech, Local Motion Executive Director Chapin Spencer outlined a Five Point Platform for Safe Streets. The platform calls for "bike/pedestrian safety education," "reporting aggressive driving," lowering speed limits, "targeted" traffic enforcement, and "personal responsibility" on the part of both bikers and motorists.

According to a rep from the UVM Cycling Club who spoke at today's event, Rose Long, the student who was injured last Monday on Pearl Street, is now walking. But, since Long's insurance plan doesn't cover oral surgery, her family and friends are soliciting donations at a website they created.

Cyclists rally for safe streets

Burlington Free Press
By Lauren Ober
Photos by Alison Redlich
September 17, 2008

A cyclist waved a poster at Tuesday’s Rally for Safe Streets that read “I learned to share in first grade.” The sign was meant to convey the message that cyclists and drivers need to learn how to peacefully coexist on Vermont’s roads.

That message was echoed throughout a impromptu lunchtime rally at Burlington’s City Hall Park, prompted in large part by two recent hit-and-run accidents in Chittenden County involving cyclists and cars. While many attendees were angry about the recent hit-and-runs, most agreed that cyclists and motor vehicle operators bear equal responsibility when it comes to road safety.

The rally was organized by Local Motion, a Burlington bicycle/pedestrian advocacy organization. Representatives from the Burlington Police Department, the Green Mountain Bicycle Club, the Vermont Bike/Ped Coalition and the University of Vermont Cycling team spoke at the event. Burlington Mayor Bob Kiss also lent his support, saying that with more people walking and riding bikes, the city needs to find ways to accommodate them all safely.

“Clearly, we can all share the road,” Kiss said.

Chapin Spencer, executive director of Local Motion, spearheaded the rally after two cyclists in a week were struck by motorists who then drove off. Rose Long, a junior at UVM and a member of the cycling team, was hit Sept. 8 while riding with a friend in downtown Burlington. Another young cyclist, whose name was not released by police, was hit a day later on Patchen Road in South Burlington.

•Laws for bicyclists

•Rose Long Fund

Long sustained serious injuries that required 15 hours of reconstructive surgery. Adam Desjardin, 22, of Vergennes has been charged in connection with that incident.

Spencer was adamant that roads are not just for cars.

"The days when we plan for just cars are over," Spencer said. "We've talked about sharing the road. Let's do it."

Spencer detailed a five-point plan aimed at making Vermont's roads safer for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers. The first part of the Local Motion initiative is to secure more bike/pedestrian education funding from the Vermont Governor's Highway Safety Program.

According to recent state statistics, cyclists and pedestrians make up 5.8 percent of traffic fatalities. Of the Governor's Highway Safety Program's discretionary funds, 1 percent is allotted to bicycle/pedestrian safety funding.

Spencer also advocated for an aggressive-driver reporting initiative; lower speed limits in Burlington's downtown and in neighborhoods with no posted speed limit; targeted enforcement, including ticketing rule-breaking cyclists or crosswalk stings; and personal responsibility.

"If we all do these five pieces, our community will be a better place," Spencer said.

Local Motion plans to work with a number of city agencies and nonprofits to get its message out. The Burlington Police Department is working to establish an aggressive-driver reporting initiative, Burlington POlice Chief Mike Schirling said.

The program, which Schirling says he hopes to have up and running by spring, will allow cyclists or pedestrians to report an aggressive driver. If callers have sufficient identifying information on the vehicles, the police will be able to follow up on the report with a call to the drivers, telling them they are on notice.

The police can't issue tickets from the callers' claims, but they can hope to influence drivers' behavior. Schirling says it's about providing education in a neutral middle ground.

"We do traffic enforcement now, but it's very one-dimensional," Schirling said. "We need to change the standard."

Schirling talked extensively about the need to be courteous on the road and the benefits of good behavior. Kim Lang, a bicyclist at the rally, said she appreciated Schirling's message. She said she also agreed with one of the main messages of the rally -- "Give Respect, Get Respect."

"I liked the respect aspect going back and forth," Lang said. "How do we spread that into the greater community?"

One of the main pillars of the rally was the need for more education, both for cyclists and motorists. Ron Manganiello, a local cyclist who volunteers with Bike Recycle Vermont, said he'd like to see people approach road safety education the way seat belt use was promoted. The key, he said, is to make road safety automatic for children, just like buckling a seat belt.

Spencer ended the rally by asking the approximately 100 people in front of City Hall to take a pledge promising to do their share to "create a safe street environment" whether biking, walking or driving.

"We all here stand for safe streets," Spencer said. "We must all share our roadways."

Contact Lauren Ober at 660-1868 or

Five Point Safety Plan: Local Motion’s 5-point platform for safe streets

1. Fair share for bike/pedestrian safety education
Since 2001, pedestrians and cyclists have accounted for 5.8 percent of all roadway fatalities. Local Motion calls for the Governor’s Highway Safety Program to minimally dedicate a proportional 5.8 percent of its safety budget to bike-pedestrian safety efforts.

2. Aggressive driver reporting initiative
Our communities need a system, developed in partnership with law enforcement agencies, that follows up on reports of aggressive driving. The simple act of having law enforcement contact vehicle owners of cars that have been reported and inform the owners of Vermont law can address the most dangerous behaviors on our roadways.

3. Lower speed limits
The Burlington Public Works Commission recently adopted the Burlington Transportation Plan, which states: “The City will pursue several policy initiatives including: Changing speed limits to 20 mph in the downtown Slow Streets zone and to 25 mph on neighborhood streets without posted speed limits.” We want to see this enacted. Slow streets are safe streets.

4. Targeted enforcement
Targeted and high-profile enforcement efforts provide great returns. Word travels fast and the news that the police are conducting crosswalk stings or handing tickets to cyclists who ignore the laws will get around. A few well-publicized days of traffic enforcement can be very effective.

5. Personal responsibility
We are all responsible for our actions. We must recognize this responsibility no matter how we travel on Vermont’s roads — whether on bike, on foot or behind the wheel. In the end, there is nothing more effective than modeling good behavior.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Montpelier Bicyclist Injured In Accident

Burlington Free Press
News Brief
September 16, 2008

WILLIAMSTOWN -- A bicyclist was injured when a trailer pulled by a passing vehicle knocked him off his bike.

Kurt A. LaPrairie, 57, of Montpelier was taken to the hospital with cuts to his shoulder, elbows and legs. LaPrairie was riding north Saturday on Vermont 14 when a GMC Yukon towing a 30-foot camper attempted to pass him, according to police.

As the driver, Christopher Bartlett, 38, of Barre, was passing, LaPrairie collided with the trailer and was knocked to the ground, police said.

Bartlett reported the incident, as did LaPrairie when he arrived home.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Vermont State Police Middlesex barracks.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Hit-and-run suspect pleads not guilty

Burlington Free Press
September 12, 2008
By Lauren Ober

A Vergennes man whose license had been suspended pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges stemming from a hit-and-run accident in Burlington that left a local college student badly injured.

Adam Desjardin, 22, was arraigned on one felony count of leaving the scene of an accident and one misdemeanor count of negligent vehicle operation for allegedly hitting and injuring University of Vermont junior Rose Long with his SUV. Desjardin turned himself in to Burlington police Wednesday once he became aware that authorities were looking for him, said Lt. Bill Ward of the Burlington Police Department.

Long, 20, and a friend, James Patterson, were cycling in downtown Burlington on Monday night when Desjardin allegedly struck Long with his vehicle at the intersection of Pearl and North Union streets. Witnesses said Desjardin stepped out of the car briefly and then left the scene.

Long, who is a member of the UVM cycling team, sustained severe facial lacerations, a collapsed lung, a broken wrist and a broken jaw, nose and pallet. She also shattered bones in her forehead and lost a number of teeth in the accident. Her injuries required reconstructive surgery Thursday.

Desjardin was released on his own recognizance on the condition that he will turn in his license plates and car keys to police and have no contact with the victim. He is next scheduled to be in court Oct. 8.

Long, originally from Sutton, is an accomplished road cyclist who captured the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference overall championship this year. Recently, she worked on the race committee for the Burlington Criterium, the hallmark event of the Green Mountain Stage Race. Long, a mechanical engineering major, was selected for an internship in the orthopedics department at Fletcher Allen Health Care just days before the accident.

More than 30 cyclists from around Burlington showed up for Thursday's arraignment. Many said they were there as a show of solidarity for cyclists who have been hit by cars.

"I think it shows that cyclists don't like to be hit by cars," said Tom Dinunzio, a member of the UVM cycling team.

Many people in the courtroom were collegiate cyclists who said community awareness of cyclists on the road is an important issue for them.

"A lot of people don't realize it's their responsibility to avoid anything in front of them -- a pedestrian, a cyclist, a guy in a wheelchair," said Dan Benson, also a member of the UVM cycling team.

According to the Vermont Governor's Highway Safety Program, bicyclists and pedestrians make up 7 percent of traffic fatalities. Of the program's discretionary funds, just 1 percent is allotted to bicycle/pedes- trian safety funding.

Chapin Spencer, executive director of Local Motion, a bicycle and pedestrian advocacy organization, says the amount the state spends on bike/pedestrian education should be at least proportionate to the percentage of fatalities.

This most recent accident should be a signal to lawmakers that something needs to change with regard to road safety, Spencer said.

"There have been three serious bike accidents in the past week. It's about time that the state step up and invest in traffic safety to stop the carnage," Spencer said.

Contact Lauren Ober at 660-1868 or

Residents' opportunity to comment on bike/ped path will be Sept. 15

Shelburne News
September 12, 2008

Shelburne residents and property owners are encouraged to meet on Monday, Sept. 15 to discuss alternative alignments relating to a segment of the Longmeadow-Webster Road Bicycle and Pedestrian Path. The segment undergoing evaluation would link the Harbor Road section of Shelburne Village with the western end of Webster Road.

Jim Donavon, a consultant who helped prepare a feasibility study for the path, completed in April of 2004, will moderate the meeting, which will start at 7 p.m. and take place in Shelburne's municipal complex. Donovan will report on his renewed efforts to identify and evaluate alignment alternatives and understand issues associated with construction of this portion of the pedestrian/bicycle path. The presentation will be followed by a public comment period.

The original feasibility study for the project was accepted by the Shelburne Selectboard in April of 2004. Following release of the study, Vermont Railway, Inc., and the Rail Division of the Vermont Agency of Transportation felt conditions had changed since the completion of the study and expressed new opposition to portions of the proposed route located within the railroad corridor right-of-way. Funding to reexamine those sections of the path was obtained from the State of Vermont through the Transportation Enhancement Grant Program.

According to Bike and Pedestrian Paths Committee Chairmen Rob Donahue, the alternatives analysis is an important stage of the study. "Alternatives must be fully investigated before a preferred route can be identified," said Donahue. "Impacts on natural resources need to be well-understood, so we don't expend effort pursuing ideas that couldn't, for example, receive environmental permits."

Town Planner Dean Pierce points out that the upcoming meeting will be the second time that alternatives for the path segment are discussed. "A change in land ownership along the previously selected preferred route after the initial alternatives analysis was done convinced us it would be good to revisit some of our options," said Pierce.

The Town plans to have this feasibility report completed by the end of December. The outcome of the report will say whether the path alignments are physically and technically possible. It will then be determined whether or not the alignments will be economically possible. Provided both of these issues are passed, the Selectboard will then discuss how the town will go about financing the reasonable changes.

Individuals with questions about the meeting are encouraged to contact the Shelburne Planning Office by calling 985-5118 or by sending an e-mail to

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Police investigate car-bike collision

Burlington Free Press
News Brief
September 11, 2008

South Burlington police are seeking information on an accident that occurred on Patchen Road and White Street about 5:20 p.m. Tuesday, when an unknown motorist struck a bicyclist.

According to police, the motorist was driving southbound on Patchen Road and attempted to cut through a parking lot to avoid a traffic light. In making an abrupt right turn, the vehicle struck a bicyclist riding on the sidewalk. The driver picked up the bike and helped up the cyclist from in front of the vehicle, then fled the scene, police said.

Police described the vehicle as a green minivan with Vermont registration that included FFY or FFI. The driver was described as a white male in his late 60s or early 70s, with gray hair, bald on top. The cyclist was taken to Fletcher Allen Health Care, treated for minor injuries, and released.

Witnesses are asked to call the South Burlingotn olice at 846-4111 or Champlain Valley Crime Stoppers at 864-6666.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Bicyclist will need more surgery after hit-and-run

Burlington Free Press
News Brief
September 10, 2008

BURLINGTON -- Rose Long, a University of Vermont student who was struck while riding her bicycle on Pearl Street on Monday, will undergo reconstructive surgery on her face later this week, according to Long's sister.

Burlington police today are still looking for the driver of a red Jeep Cherokee-style vehicle that hit Long and fled the scene on Pearl Street.

According to police reports, Long, a member of UVM's cycling team, was on a group bicycle ride when she was hit while riding westbound into the intersection of Pearl and Union streets. The vehicle allegedly pulled in front of Long, 20, as if it intended to turn onto North Union Street, police said.

Long was transported to Fletcher Allen Health Care for treatment for multiple fractures, severe facial lacerations and a collapsed lung. The victim's sister, Amie Long, said her sister will undergo reconstructive surgery on her face later this week. Long is originally from Sutton.

The vehicle is described as a red, Cherokee-style Jeep that was likely manufactured in the mid- to late-1990s, with a large dent in the rear passenger side door. The vehicle bears green registration plates with possible registration number of DME 977.

The operator was described as a white male with dark hair wearing a white T-shirt, khaki shorts and white sneakers. He is estimated to be in his early- to mid-20s and is between 5-feet-8 and 5-feet-10 inches tall.