Celebrating Cycling, the City and Spring | Off Message

Celebrating Cycling, the City and Spring

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A cycling celebration tour on a gorgeous spring Sunday attracted 150 bikers who pedaled a 10-mile loop linking some of Burlington’s most scenic spots. The riders also heard about the history of those places as part of the relaunch of the Cycle the City route.

It’s been 15 years since the loop was blazed as one of the first projects undertaken by Local Motion, the Burlington-based cycling and walking advocacy group. To mark the anniversary, the route has been equipped with new smartphone-readable sign posts that direct bikers and pedestrians to sights along the lake, in the Intervale and Old North End, at the University of Vermont and around downtown.

A walking tour was also organized on Sunday. This 3.5-mile route was guided by Barbara Mines of the Montpelier-based Vermont Bicycle & Pedestrian Coalition.

“My goal is to get people off the Burlington bike path and onto other cycling and walking routes in the city,” said Local Motion director Chapin Spencer, who addressed the cyclists behind Maglianero Café, on lower Maple Street, prior to the ride.

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Sure enough, some tour participants were seeing the Ethan Allen Tower for the first time. This castle-like lookout offering views of Lake Champlain and the New North End thrusts up from a hill just a few yards off the bike path that rolls through Ethan Allen Park.

Bikers also put questions to Spencer and tour co-leader Charlene Wallace of the Burlington Walk/Bike Council regarding the former city landfill adjacent to the section of the route that parallels the Route 127 Beltline.

From the old landfill’s methane collector, the cyclists chugged up a hill en route to the Old Spokes Home on North Winooski Avenue. There, shop owner and bicycle historian Glenn Eames showed off his upstairs museum that features at least 50 stylish relics from the early decades of biking.

At least one local celebrity came along for the ride: former Burlington Mayor Bob Kiss. Teens pedaled alongside seniors and families.

Nine-year-old Maia Franchetti was riding a mountain bike alongside her parents, Kristeen Eliason and Keith Franchetti (pictured above). They had pedaled part of the way from their home in Colchester to the starting point of the tour at Maglianero, near the bike path.

“We’re here to support Local Motion because we want more bike-accessible routes into Burlington,” Eliason said. She noted that Route 15 near St. Michael’s College ranks as one of Chittenden County’s most treacherous stretches of roads for cyclists.

The Cycle the City route itself falls short of being a bikers’ utopia.

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A 200-yard stretch of the Route 127 path remains unrepaired from damage incurred during spring flooding two years ago. Scatterings of garbage can be seen from the same route as it passes the former landfill (photo right). And once it leaves the lakefront bike path and the Intervale, the route traverses some heavily trafficked streets, not all of which are marked with bike lanes.

But, as Local Motion volunteer Conni Pressman pointed out, the Sunday ride was not conducive to complaints about what Burlington lacks. The perfect spring morning was instead an occasion for celebrating all that has been achieved for cyclists and pedestrians during the past 15 years.

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