Monday, October 27, 2008

Winooski sidewalk plan moves forward

Burlington Free Press
By Matt Sutkoski
October 27, 2008

WINOOSKI -- A planned sidewalk construction project long under discussion for an area near the Winooski Educational Center has taken a step forward.

The Winooski City Council this month formally adopted the proposal, which involves building sidewalks along Franklin, George and Bellevue streets.

City leaders are not sure how much the work will cost and when it will get under way.

Residential areas around Bellevue and Franklin streets are near Winooski Educational Center athletic fields. Many people use the local streets to reach a parking lot to attend sporting events. Or, they park along the streets and walk to the school.

Children going to and from the school also walk on the streets, and the city wants to provide sidewalks to ensure pedestrians are not too close to traffic.

"There are places in the city that need sidewalks," Mayor Michael O'Brien said. "That one was identified because it was one of the primary routes to school," he said of the Bellevue Street neighborhood.

O'Brien said proposals for sidewalks in the neighborhood have been discussed for years, but coming up with a firm plan has been delayed by disagreements among neighbors over how best to design the sidewalks and neighborhood improvements.

Some residents of the neighborhood remain opposed to the plan, but O'Brien said there appears to be enough consensus to move forward.

O'Brien said he hopes sidewalk construction could begin next year.

The city's schools are beginning to address safety associated with people parking on and near Bellevue Street during sporting events, School Board Chairman Jim Ticehurst said.

"Some people aren't very compassionate about the neighbors. They park right across the driveways," he said.

He said the school is encouraging visitors to use the Main Street entrance to the school property and park in the lot in front of the school whenever possible. The effort could help reduce the number of vehicles on streets where children are walking, he said.

The School Board's facilities subcommittee is also exploring other ways to help reduce traffic congestion and parking in the Bellevue Street neighborhood, Ticehurst said.

Contact Matt Sutkoski at 660-1846 or

One man's story: A car-free year in Stowe

By Eric Law
September 18, 2008

Like all other bets made over the cubicle during the workday, this one was supposed to be forgotten. However, I not only took the bet but clung to it like a squirrel’s nut.

I had gone carless in Boston during college, shared a car with a girlfriend for nearly five years in Missoula, Mont., and even attempted to go carless on Martha’s Vineyard in the dead of winter, so it is evident I was just looking for an excuse to go carless in a new locale.

My work colleagues may have underestimated my predisposition toward car independence, but I in turn greatly underestimated going carless in rural Vermont.

My lifestyle lends itself nicely to such a challenge. First and foremost, I have no kids. I don’t live miles off the beaten path and, logistically speaking, I am perfectly situated in Stowe village. I am also an avid biker and runner, fully willing to travel great lengths. In fact, I can’t imagine anything else I would rather do.

Too cold out? That’s not a problem, considering the Green Mountain Transit Authority’s Route 100 Commuter goes right by my house and drops me off just a few feet from my Waterbury office Monday through Friday.

To hedge my bet even more, I am blessed with many friends who occasionally pass my centrally located home on their way to work, to the mountain, and anywhere else I may need to go.

The cubicle bet didn’t stipulate I couldn’t take motorized travel, or even that I couldn’t drive someone else’s car if the owner was in the passenger seat.

The challenge would be easily met if I could sell my Saab (which I did in a couple of weeks’ time on craigslist) and followed a few simple rules. Since the bet was not about skirting car payments, inconveniencing friends and family, or passing the cost of transportation to others, the following rules were meant to safeguard the original intent of the bet — which was simply to reduce the footprint of one person and ultimately society’s.

The order of preferred transportation was public transportation (bus, train, or subway), commuting by bike, carpooling, and, yes, hitchhiking.

To be sensitive to other people’s schedules and to not put people out, one has to be willing to hitchhike as a last resort. It is inevitable that you find yourself without a car and without an alternative, no matter the planning, and the last thing you want to do is call a friend at home to come to your rescue.

As it is, you are inconveniencing others when they accommodate your schedule without you knowing it. For example, many people will tell a white lie and say they are going your way even if they aren’t if you ask them for help in a tight spot (“The car is in the shop”) or an emergency (“The car is in the shop and my kid is sick”). I came to learn this silent act of kindness only after the fact.

You might have seen me from time to time walking from Stowe’s lower village westward. You might even have contemplated giving me a ride if you hadn’t had a car full of stuff or passengers, been late for work, or been taught by your parents never to pick up hitchhikers (even though they likely came from a generation of hitchhikers). There is no commentary here, other than we live in different times and Vermont folk of a past era never let me walk backward for more than 10 minutes.

Weekends were by far the toughest transition for me. Since I was relatively new to Stowe, most of my social networks were outside town. More often than not, I could not and would not travel outside town borders if I thought I would have to rely on a ride from a friend. I missed many events in a year-plus, but this was only a temporary situation where I could read and write as much as in college, learn every nook and cranny of my adopted town, and for the first time in a long time not rush through life.

I would like to say the lack of ready transportation allowed me to focus on all the important things in life, but I can report with confidence that simplifying alone — that is, going carless — is not the philosophical remedy some people make it out to be.

With that said, it certainly doesn’t impede personal growth.

The most important rule was to understand that my little experiment was not groundbreaking — surely this has been done by many others in Vermont in less convenient situations — and that I was not going to change the world by reducing my carbon footprint by a small fraction.

The best piece of advice came from a dear friend: “This is your selfish pursuit and you aren’t doing this for a prize, so stop talking and just do it.” I may have failed at this level of humility, but in striving toward this goal I became more accessible, and so did my hidden curriculum — that we can all do something in very private ways to reduce our footprints, whether the impetus is to improve our personal finances amid rising energy prices, reducing global emissions, or simply to rid our dependence on foreign oil.

The trials and tribulations of living without a car (and a computer and TV, to pique your interest) for more than a year can’t be summed up in a newspaper column. I saved some money from not having a car payment or insurance, but not as much as one may think, because I always tried to return favors. I’d like to think of myself as a giving person and enjoyable to be around, but the reality is that if you got a ride from someone and you didn’t at the very least attempt to pay your share, the offer may not be repeated. You don’t want to burn bridges and lose friends when you are without a car.

Reactions to my year without a car ranged from intense interest to pure disdain. Most people were somewhere in the middle, intrigued but confused why I wanted to do it and if I was comfortable leaning on others. As much as I tried to limit my reliance on others, I was learning we Americans value independence, not necessarily interdependence.

After a year plus without a car, I took the money I saved and entered the Tour D’Isle in Montreal, an event that celebrates bike commuting. There seemingly couldn’t have been a better event to culminate my experience, but for reasons that became clear to me over time, I didn’t feel like celebrating. I had just bought a new car the previous week, but the purchase was taxing and anticlimactic and now I was celebrating my year without a car with the wrong event.

Something went terribly wrong or right this past year because I won the bet and still feel like I have failed.

Eric Law of Stowe works as an environmental analyst and project development specialist for the Vermont state government.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

MPO- 2010 Campaign for Active Transportation

CCTV Channel 17
October 20, 2008


CCMPO has been participating in a national effort for increased federal funding dedicated to walking and biking projects. This press conference will highlight potential projects and the benefits of more funding to our communities.

Speakers: J. Jeffrey Munger, Senator Bernie Sanders Office; Jeffrey B. Carr, Chair, CCMPO; David Reville, AARP Vermont; Charlene Wallace, Local Motion

Upcoming Airtimes
  • Friday October 24, 2008 at 6:00 PM

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

All Aboard Heel-Toe Express!

WPTZ Channel 5
October 20, 2008

Alternative Transportation Gaining Traction

Chittenden County transportation advocates are looking for some big money to encourage walking and biking.

All Aboard Heel Toe Express!

The Chittenden County Metropolitan Planning Organization (CCMPO) has unveiled a list of 12 projects that it says could both ease traffic congestion and improve the environment.

"There's just a great opportunity for those federal dollars to be spent in a good way," said CCMPO planner Brian Davis.

The list of projects, which would cost about $50 million, comes as part of a larger national effort to encourage federal transportation officials to allocate money for alternative transportation efforts.

They include new bikeways across the Winooski River and around Lake Champlain, improvements to the Route 15 corridor and programs to encourage people to walk and bike.

Advocates say that despite falling gas prices, there is still demand.

"Even at these gas prices--there are a lot more people biking than we had two years ago," said Charlene Wallace, of Local Motion, a nonprofit group that supports alternative transportation efforts.

Campaign targets bicycles, pedestrians

Burlington Free Press
By Matt Sutkoski
October 21, 2008

WINOOSKI -- A county planning group and local advocates are pushing for up to $50 million in pedestrian and bicycle projects across Chittenden County that would help create a seamless nonmotor transportation network.

The 2010 Campaign for Active Transportation seeks to increase federal transportation funding for walking and bicycling in the next federal transportation bill.

Bryan Davis, a transportation planner with the Chittenden County Metropolitan Planning Organization, said he is optimistic federal dollars could flow toward bicycle and pedestrian improvements despite the sour economy.

The planning organization, which establishes transportation priorities in the county, is working with groups such as Local Motion, a pedestrian and bicyclists' advocacy group, to promote the campaign. Members of the groups announced the effort Monday at the traffic circle in Winooski. The location is near the Winooski River bridge between Winooski and Burlington, a spot the planning organization targets as ripe for work that would improve bicycle and pedestrian access.

Other areas that need improvements are Vermont 15 between Winooski and Jericho; U.S. 2 at Interstate 89 exit 14 and U.S. 2 between Burlington and Williston, according to a CCMPO report released Monday. Overall, Davis said the campaign would close gaps and improve unsafe areas in the county's pedestrian and bicycle network.

The report also states the Burlington Bike Path, paths in Charlotte and Shelburne, and the Colchester-South Hero Causeway need upgrades. The campaign also calls for education and enforcement to inform bicyclists and pedestrians of their rights and responsibilities on the trail.

All the improvements envisioned in the campaign would cost about $50 million to complete, according to the CCMPO's report.

Jeff Munger, a transportation policy adviser for Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., said hints are emerging that the federal government will become increasingly responsive to bicycle and pedestrian projects. As an example, he said the $700 billion bailout bill recently adopted by Congress has an interesting, little-known provision. Employees who use a bicycle to commute to and from work are eligible for a $20 tax-free reimbursement for bicycle related expenses, he said.

Metropolitan Planning Organization executive director Michele Boomhower said Chittenden County governments, transportation planners and advocacy groups overwhelmingly support broader pedestrian and bicycle access. She said increased federal funding for bike and pedestrian paths would satisfy these groups.

Contact Matt Sutkoski at 660-1846 or

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Miles of new trails to open

Rutland Herald
By Josh O'Gorman
October 18, 2008

Mountain bikers and horseback riders rejoice — soon you will have more trails to ride, but you're going to have to pitch in and help.

The Green Mountain National Forest is opening up more than 35 miles of trails for equestrian use, while mountain bikers will be able to enjoy about 7 miles of new trails.

The decision to open the trails came after Green Mountain National Forest asked for public comment in March, which drew more than 600 comments and suggestions on which trails should be opened and what they should be used for.

"We had a lot of interest in designating these trails," said Rob Hoelscher, acting district ranger for the Middlebury and Rochester Ranger District. "We felt we needed to designate these trails and include mountain bike and equestrian riders and the first step was designating those trails that best support those uses."

Hoelscher said the trails were originally designed for uses that have heavier impact than either bikes or horses and many are used by snowmobile riders in the winter.

Hoelscher designated a network of trails and forest service roads east of Goshen Road and north of Goshen Dam in Goshen and Ripton that together will compose an approximate 7-mile loop for horseback riders.

Mountain bike riders will be able to enjoy the Oak Ridge Trail, a 1.5-mile ride whose trailhead is on Route 125 in Ripton just west of the Ripton Country Store.

In the southern part of the state, about 26 miles of trails have been designated for equestrian use in Glastenbury, Stratton, Winhall and Woodford, a network of trails that will create an 18-mile loop, said Doug Reeves, recreational planner for the Green Mountain National Forest.

Reeves said two trails — one measuring about 4.5 miles and the other about 1 mile — have been opened up for mountain bike use in the Stratton area.

While forest service officials have designated the trails for these new uses, they are not open yet.

"When the trails open up really depends on when we can form partnerships with equestrian groups and mountain bike groups," Hoelscher said. "They need to make improvements to the trails first before they're opened up."

Hoelscher said the Green Mountain National Forest is teaming with horse and mountain bike groups to assist in trail maintenance. His district has entered into an agreement with the Vermont Mountain Bike Association to improve and maintain the Oak Ridge trail and is in negotiations with an equestrian group to improve the horse trails.

"We're not building new trails. We're opening them up for multiple use," Reeves said. "The more partners we have the more uses we'll have for the trails."

Reeves said he is in negotiations with mountain bike and horse groups and planned to meet with them in November.

"The Vermont Mountain Bike Association is very pleased with our partnership with the forest service," executive director Patrick D. Kell.

The association has 21 chapters from Jay Peak to Putney and also works with the Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation to open up state land to mountain bike riders.

Kell said his association recently received $35,000 in grants — $26,000 from the National Forest Foundation and $9,000 from the Bikes Belong Coalition — to improve the Oak Ridge Trail and other trails in the area. The National Forest Foundation grant will be paid to the Vermont Youth Conservation Corp, which will work on the trails next summer, Kell said.

In the immediate future, the Vermont Mountain Bike Association will work on the Oak Ridge Trail, beginning 9 a.m. Sunday. For more information, visit them on the Web at

Contact Josh O'Gorman at

Monday, October 13, 2008

Bicyclist Injured In Crash With Car

Burlington Free Press
October 13, 2008
News Brief

COLCHESTER -- A woman was treated at Fletcher Allen Health Care after being hit by a car at the intersection of East and West Lakeshore drives in Colchester.

Bonnie Anderson, 23, of Burlington rode against traffic into the intersection and was struck by a 1996 Chevrolet driven by Patrick Duxbury, 38, of Colchester on Saturday morning, Colchester police said. Police are investigating the accident.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Kid Gyms One More Step in De-Evolution of Society

Burlington Free Press
By Cormac Walsh
October 5, 2008

Congratulations to Action Kids Fitness Center for discovering the newest way of ripping off rich, neglectful parents while disrupting childhood development ("Kid gyms offer needed exercise," Sept. 16). The article provides shocking evidence of how the evolution of technology has contributed to the de-evolution of American society.

These glorified day care centers, claiming they are offering children a fun new outlet for exercising, are really taking away from children's opportunities for healthy interaction. Stationary bikes and treadmills hooked up to video games are repulsive. The article states that these devices force the child to keep moving or the game will shut down.

Didn't farmers tie carrots to the end of sticks and dangle them in front of mules to get them to plow their fields? I hope they're at least hooked up to a turbine. There is an idea for alternative energy. Take a hundred kids, lock them in a basement, hook 'em up to these devices and let them generate power for our schools, hospitals and health clubs.

I bet these kiddie gyms won't be so trendy after some kid leans against a hydraulic button and crushes his little sister to death. Maybe the scariest part of the article was the mentioning of "yoga for tots."

Kids are being distracted from human interaction by today's technology. Instead of socializing in a game of tag, kids are hooked up to video machines.

If children have weight problems, regulate their diet and engage in outdoor activities with them, take away their electronics and sign them up for sports .


Human Powered Vehicle Burlington Bikefest

Bridget M. Burns
Seven Days
October 8, 2008
Photo Slideshow:

1st Annual Human Powered Vehicle Bike Fest

Burlington Free Press
Photos by Alison Redlich
October 5, 2008

Scores of bike enthusiasts gather at City Hall Park in Burlington for the 1st Annual Human Powered Vehicle (HPV) Bike Festival on Saturday, October 4, 2008.

Rachel Siegel and her daughter Gertrude 4 1/2, of Burlington
Tom Jannke of Ledyard, CT in his Velomobile
Mike Beganyi of Burlington who pedaled with his daughter Ava, 8 months, of Burlington, in their Bakfiets bicycle which was made in Amsterdam
Event organizer Phil Hammerslough of Burlington
Leonard Krash of Conneaut, OH, who displays his Belokit and answers questions at City Hall Park
Tom Jannke of Ledyard, CT in his Velomobile
Ty Larson, 3 1/2, of Burlington

License and Regulate Bicycle Riders

Burlington Free Press
By Leonard Brown
October 4, 2008

As a motorist I have comments that are related to aggressive cyclists.

All bicycles must be inspected and issued license plates affixed to the bicycle by the inspector. This will give the motorist a method for reporting the aggressive cyclist.

All cyclists young and old must take a written exam and be given a license. A fee will be charged to offset all costs for the above.

There should be insurance to protect the motorist.

Proof of license and insurance must be presented when buying or renting a bicycle.

The bicyclist/driver problem cannot be fully resolved by local rule; it must be addressed at the state level.

South Burlington

Festival Promotes Human Power

Burlington Free Press
By Lauren Ober
October 3, 2008

Phil Hammerslough wants you to stop thinking of bikes as sporting goods and start thinking of them as the most efficient way of getting from here to there.

Hammerslough, 65, began biking year-round about 40 years ago and hasn't looked back. He pedals himself through rain, wind, sleet and snow and looks at his bicycle as a vehicle, one that is human-powered.

Helping people see bikes as a viable transportation option has been Hammerslough's goal for years. This weekend's Human Powered Vehicle Burlington Bikefest is largely a result of Hammerslough's enthusiasm and advocacy.

The festival, which runs today through Sunday at locations around Burlington, seeks to introduce people to human powered vehicles including recumbent bikes, trikes and velomobiles -- a single-passenger bicycle with a full fairing, seen mostly in Europe. There will be demonstrations of human powered vehicles, as well as lectures, bike tours and a trailer pull.

Hammerslough points to the downturn in the economy as a reason for people to start biking rather than driving. Becoming fuel-independent can make a huge difference in people's lives, Hammerslough said.

"From an economic standpoint, biking is a fabulous concept," Hammerslough said.

One of the festival's other organizers, Stu Lindsay, said the event is a way to celebrate human ingenuity while showing people how accessible biking for transportation is. The velomobiles might look space-age with their aerodynamic shells, but they are no more complicated than a regular bicycle and are better for riding year-round.

Lindsay, who builds specialty bikes for people with physical disabilities, thinks it's possible for people to bike year-round, if only cities were more accommodating. Burlington isn't a bad place to commute by bike, Lindsay says, but "we are one of those cities that could do an awful lot more."

Lisa Aultman-Hall, director of the Transportation Research Center at the University of Vermont, agrees that Vermont is doing a pretty good job accommodating people who cycle as a primary means of transportation. Aultman-Hall will speak tonight at City Hall's Contois Auditorium on the 10 biggest transportation myths and the reality behind them.

"Given our constraints like winter and the hills, we're doing pretty well," Aultman-Hall said. "I think it's exciting that our advocates and leaders want more."

From a transportation and congestion standpoint, Aultman-Hall said human powered vehicles should be a big part of the discussion. Not everybody needs to ride a bike, she says, but if some people ride instead of drive, the roads are better for everyone.

That is Hammerslough's overarching goal, to show people the benefits of human powered transportation.

"If I can get people to ride one more week a year, I've accomplished something," Hammerslough said.

Contact Lauren Ober at 660-1868 or