A few words from Local Motion Executive Director, Karen Yacos:
When I look back on the past year, I see a time of challenges large and small, some met and others still looming. Each of these challenges creates opportunities to better our communities, our organizations, and ourselves. Local Motion has heeded that call at every level, with both the adaptability and the limitations that come with being a small nonprofit. Simultaneously, we are supporting and supported by communities, partners, and organizations across the state as we take on this work together. You’ll hear all about it throughout this newsletter.
Let’s take a moment to imagine what's in front of us as our communities open back up. The pandemic has slowed us down, changed our day-to-day priorities, and given us time to reflect on what’s important and what isn’t. What does that mean for Local Motion’s mission to make biking and walking possible for all Vermonters? A lot.
In our lifetimes, I don’t think there has ever been a time where change—positive change— seems so possible.
COVID has reminded us of the value of time and human contact. Many of us will be looking for opportunities to interact with others, on our streets, in our parks, and downtown, having missed those face-to-face connections for so long. Walking and biking can create the context for those interactions.
In 2021, we have an opportunity to rethink our car-oriented places and shift to a future where our transportation systems are designed for, and used by all people, especially those on foot or on bikes. At Local Motion, we head into the new year with determination to help create a transportation system that truly works for all Vermonters as soon as possible. Life is short, and there is no better time to make real change happen than in the wake of a collective experience that has transformed the way we go about our lives.
- Feb 1 - 12 - GoVT Winter Bike/Walk Challenge
- Feb 12 - Winter Bike to Work Day
- May 17-23 - Bike to Work Week
- May 21 - National Bike to Work Day
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Team
Local Motion is engaging in the work of becoming an equitable organization. While we know that becoming a truly equitable organization involves ongoing learning, it is vital to also be doing what we can, at this moment, to move our organization towards greater accessibility and equity.
To that end, all Local Motion staff members are currently identifying actions that we can easily and quickly take to benefit our entire community, such as purchasing locally and from minority-owned businesses as much as possible, reaching out to and partnering with local organizations that can help us better meet the needs of underserved communities, making sure our communications and outreach efforts resonate with and are representative of ALL Vermonters, and more. But beyond that, we are assessing all of our programming to see where we can make equity improvements for the long term.
We plan to have a public-facing document of our roadmap to make our organization inclusive, accessible, and open to all Vermonters within the next couple of months. This will be a living document, which we will update at least once a year, and we welcome your input and insights.
Please email [email protected] if you have any suggestions or questions for us about our process or work.
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Advocacy for Better Streets & Connections
Bright Spots from a Dark Year
We don’t need to tell you about the bad stuff that happened in 2020. But in the Vermont walk/bike advocacy world, a lot of good things happened too. There’s far too much to cover in this newsletter, but here are a few of those things.
The Bike/Walk/Roll Boom
It’s pretty clear that a lot of folks picked up biking this year. In the spring and early summer, bike sales in the U.S. spiked to their highest level since the 1970s oil crisis. It’s harder to know what the impact has been on walking, but anecdotal evidence points to a lot more folks out and about.
Places like Burlington responded by making significant temporary improvements to bike infrastructure that made streets safer for users of all levels, but especially new riders seeking fresh air and an opportunity to wave to a neighbor. Local Motion advocated for and enabled these efforts with volunteer maintenance of over three miles of temporary infrastructure.
Statewide, Local Motion and our partners worked to establish a Better Places pilot program, which will provide funding for downtowns, villages, towns, and neighborhoods responding to COVID by enhancing the vitality of their places through public space revitalization projects. These could include parklets, walk/bike infrastructure, public art, and more!
VTrans’ Guidance for Demonstration Projects on State Highways
In many Vermont towns and villages, Main Street is a state highway. Until recently, demonstration projects like those we’ve supported with our Pop-Up Trailer have not been allowed on these roads. Local Motion has been working with a group of stakeholders to assist VTrans with the creation of a guidance document to allow municipalities to conduct infrastructure demonstration projects on these state roadways, and we’re excited to share that the guidance is now available here. This might sound wonkish, but it’s an important step that will allow communities to advance projects that make state routes safer and more livable.
Safe Routes for All Learning Network Events
Since the spring, we’ve hosted a handful of Learning Network Events. These have ranged from film screenings of Why We Cycle to a talk with nationally recognized Safe Routes advocate Mark Fenton, to closer-to-home discussions with Vermonters like Dave Cohen of VBike and Local Motion’s resident world traveler, Stu Lindsay. We’re looking forward to hosting more of these events over the coming year. You can view the recordings of our Learning Network Events here.
An Honorable Mention for Brattleboro
The Brattleboro Coalition for Active Transportation (BCAT) is making its community a better place to walk, bike, and roll through a slew of advocacy initiatives. All of that hard work earned some recognition this year with an honorable mention in the League of American Bicyclists’ Bicycle Friendly Community Awards. The League’s award puts Brattleboro on the path to bike-friendliness and provides an excellent framework through which to make improvements. Get in touch with [email protected] if you’d like to learn more about becoming a Bicycle Friendly Community.
A (Much) Safer Winooski Ave.
Advocates in Burlington have been pushing for a better Winooski Ave. for a long time. This central downtown corridor was previously a four-lane highway that saw its share of dangerous driving and had no bike infrastructure, despite being only a block away from Church Street. This fall, thanks to coordinated community advocacy, South Winooski Ave. was finally put on a “road diet,” through which it was reconfigured to one car travel lane in each direction with a center turning lane. This configuration significantly calmed traffic and will likely reduce the number of crashes. It also opened up space for bike lanes on both sides, and since there are now fewer lanes, made the street much safer to cross on foot. Winooski Avenue is just one street in one Vermont community, but municipalities around the state need look no further than corridors like Winooski Avenue, North Avenue, and Colchester Avenue, to see how lane reconfiguration can make their dangerous, outdated four-lane roads safer, calmer, and more equitable for all users—including drivers—at a very low cost, especially taking into account the incredible financial and personal impact of crashes on communities.
A Look At Bike Smart
One of the big successes of this year was that we were able to support schools with our Bike Smart trailers and game-rich bike safety curriculum. Despite the many challenges schools are facing, they reached out to request Bike Smart for their students. Many teachers said they felt that Bike Smart would be important to support their students’ emotional wellbeing during the uncertainties and stresses of COVID. We have been constantly inspired by the innovations and hard work that school staff have put into helping students learn, grow, and thrive.
We also had three schools ask us if we could work with them to provide “mini-fleets” for their students, so Bike Smart worked with our Trailside Bike Rental Center to provide 8-10 bikes to those schools. These “atypical” loans created extra logistical work, but they were a huge success, and another example of how Local Motion and schools found ways to be flexible, accommodating, and innovative.
Because most Vermont schools were operating under a hybrid learning schedule, with only half of the students on campus on any given day, we doubled the length of our Bike Smart trailer loans so that all students had time to fully access the program.
Bike Smart didn’t run in spring 2020, so the only numbers we are reporting are those from this fall. Despite this, we were able to serve 19 schools in 18 towns. This season’s Bike Smart program provided over 22,500 hours of on-bike skills and the majority of teachers saw around 75% of their students improve their bike skills.
Bike Smart Kudos
We always get great stories from Bike Smart (kids + bikes = FUN), but this year has been particularly special.
We received some special feedback from Brewster Pierce elementary school in Huntington, where parents and teachers raved about the program:
"I just have to thank you for the bike program that you have been running during P.E. M has LOVED every second of it, and to see his confidence, both on his bike and in general, growth has been amazing for us!"
- A parent from Brewster Pierce
"The biking unit was FABULOUS! Children learned to bike, we saw skills that can translate to classroom success."
- A classroom teacher at Brewster Pierce
Bike Smart makes a difference for Vermont’s children, giving kids the skills to ride a bike, which they can then use to explore their community, visit friends independently, and develop physical confidence. This is incredibly important, particularly now, when kids’ worlds have shrunk due to lockdowns
Way To Go! Update
Way to Go! is a statewide sustainable transportation challenge that is supported by the State of Vermont, and is implemented by a team of experts from Local Motion, NetZero Vermont, Place Creative, and Vermont Energy Education Program (VEEP). In 2020, this team expanded the Way to Go! Challenge to include individuals as well as schools. The Way to Go! Challenge began this fall, and despite the many obstacles, was surprisingly successful. We had 13 schools participate, and over 1,800 green trips taken.
Our Way to Go! Champions have been extremely creative in engaging their communities in sustainable transportation.
- Salisbury school just completed a unit on human body systems and extended it to include the human impact on the environment. Students came up with action steps that included walking or biking when possible. Those action steps will become goals for the students who chose them, and the students will be reflecting on their progress throughout the year.
- Twinfield started an afterschool bike club that encourages students to walk or bike to and from school.
- Lyndon Institute included a sustainable transportation component in their field study field trip where students walked to their research plots instead of driving.
- Barre Town Elementary and Middle School ran a month-long walk, bike, hike challenge in which the entire school participated. You can see some photos of the event here!
- St. Albans City School has had to discontinue their regular Walking Wednesday program (since schools are not open that day), but they continue to celebrate the students and families who continue to walk/bike/roll to school.
In the spring, teachers engaged their students in the school community, kept kids active, and even provided school lunches through sustainable transportation.
First: the free lunch program (which, by the way, is an unsung victory for schools! Even when school was out, they found a way to provide food security to their students). Many schools throughout the state repurposed school buses to provide free lunches to their students, which provided children the opportunity to see their teachers.
- In Westminster, a student utilized his bicycle to pick up his free lunch and it became such a part of his routine, that he affixed a basket to his bicycle to be able to safely transport his lunch.
- Miller’s Run and North Hero school offered virtual Bike & Walk Day events, and children took photos of themselves walking or biking or attended a Zoom class wearing helmets.
A word from our Education and Safety Programs Senior Manager, Mary-Catherine; “Given that I have grown up my entire life around teachers (my mother was an elementary school teacher, and she was my kindergarten teacher!), I might be biased, but teachers’ commitment to their students, their calling to educate, and their communities have always been a bright spot in my life. This year, more than ever, I want to recognize just how important and vital teachers are to our communities, and their dedication, creativity, and resilience has been a gift. Thank you!”
If you would like to get more involved in our school and community work, we are seeking Regional Coordinators to expand our reach throughout the state. The full posting for this position can be found here. Please help us spread the word!
A Touching Way to Go! Story
The Way to Go! program brought me to Twinfield Union School in October. Twinfield had won a bike and helmet for the school. Normally my work consists of mailing out prizes that are won through the mail. I delivered the bike and Alice invited me to come to see their newly built shd where they keep bikes. To my surprise, the shed was more than just the small tool shed I had imagined. Instead, I saw a barn-like structure that was as tall as a two-story house. Inside were two bike racks which they had previously won from Local Motion through their earlier Way to Go! engagement and they began to tell me about their plans, and what they have done in the past. They have done an immense amount of work to start up bike programs for the school. They even planned to start doing bike maintenance
It was reassuring to see the results of how Way To Go! and Bike Smart programs affect communities.
News on the Traveling, Burlington, & Upper Valley E-bike Lending Libraries
Local Motion’s E-bike Lending Library programs provide Vermont residents with an opportunity to try out an e-bike for free. The goal is to help families and individuals discover how an e-bike can fit into their lives and which kind of e-bike might be best for them. In 2020, the E-bike Lending Libraries adapted to COVID safety regulations and reached over 250 people across Vermont! This increase of almost 100 people from the 2019 lending season is due in large part to the addition of a third E-bike Lending Library in the Upper Valley, which helped expand our reach to bring free e-bike trials to five additional towns. This new Upper Valley E-bike Lending Library was possible thanks to a dedicated group of stellar volunteers who coordinated and ran the on-site logistics.
Thank you to our partners at the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission, GoVT!, and the Burlington Electric Department for helping us provide these programs for free.
Look out for even more e-bike opportunities and some new e-bikes to test out in 2021!
An E-Bike Lending Library Story
The e-bikes have shown that there is so much more to getting around town via bike. While there may be some hills or heavier cargo, having the electric backup makes the travel a breeze when combined with pedal assist. But let’s get down to it—they are fast and fun. That’s the best part of getting anywhere—hearing and seeing the world around you.
We used the bikes to take trips around Essex we normally would use a car for. The speed of the bikes to get ice cream with kids was great and I could set the power settings low enough that we could ride as a peloton on the bike paths. Once we got there the kids didn’t want to ride back so we tossed their bikes into the Urban Arrow with them.
Bike Educational Videos
These cold winter months don’t have to be boring! Take the time to brush up on your on-street biking skills and everyday biking basics. We have an excellent collection of bike education videos ranging from “How to fit your bike helmet” to “How to make a left turn while biking in a city.” You can check them all out here.
Pro-Tips for Staying Healthy for Indoor or Outdoor Winter Cycling
Winter biking enthusiast, physical therapist, and yoga instructor Dr. Janet Carscadden shares her top 3 favorite stretches to keep your body on your bike year-round. Check out this video and her winter ride. Evolution’s wide range of online live yoga classes and on-demand video are designed to keep your mind and body in top shape for work and play. Check out more free videos, our class schedule, and workshops here.
Recreation & Fun
The Show Goes On
Not surprisingly, preparations for the Bike Ferry, Trailside Center, and Valet Bike Parking season were completely upended in March. As the impact of the pandemic continued to evolve over the spring, our strategy was to learn, evaluate, and stay nimble. If there was to be a 2020 season at all for our services, the first order of business was to keep customers and staff safe.
News from the Trailside Center Bike Rentals
The pandemic-induced challenges for our Trailside Center bike rental operation were many. Will there be any customers? Will the tourists come back? How do we keep customers and staff safe? How do we go about hiring staff? How do we budget revenue and expenses? Should we even open?
The Trailside Center ramped up over the summer and by the fall operated at close to pre-pandemic levels. By August our fleet of over 100 bikes could be sold out on beautiful weekends. Our newly acquired software allowed our customers to reserve and pay for clean and disinfected rentals when they arrived. We broadened our customer reach by teaming up with the Spirit of Ethan Allen and offering a Bike and Boat promotional package.
The challenges continued when, in early September, the railroad demolished the bike path outside of the Trailside Center door to make way for a railroad construction project. With only a couple of days’ warning, we had already implemented a Plan B and were renting bikes out of a repurposed office on the other side of the Wing Building at 1 Steele Street!
Though 2020 resulted in an expected drop in revenue, the season was far from the disaster we thought possible back in April. In fact, the Trailside Center performed impressively this fall and even surpassed its September 2019 revenue. Supreme gratitude goes to the awesome TC staff: Tanawat Luekr-u-suke, Tom Bennett, Deborah Kraft, Kofi Young, and Nick Koleszar, and our wonderful friend and landlord, Melinda Moulton, for her tremendous flexibility.
AHOY, from The Island Line Bike Ferry
The 2020 Bike Ferry season was one that we’ll remember for a long time! It began with the delayed completion of the Colchester Causeway reconstruction project coupled with the pandemic that turned our Bike Ferry world totally upside down. We remained flexible, managed the season rollout carefully, and developed entirely new ways to operate, keeping our passengers and our staff safe. With the Causeway construction complete, we started our abbreviated season on August 12 (over two months later than normal) and welcomed a quarantine-weary public aboard the Island Line Bike Ferry.
The operational and financial challenges were big, beginning with the implementation of COVID safety protocols that included a limit on our passenger loads, repeated disinfecting of the boat, and eliminating the exchange of cash and tickets. Yet passengers showed up in force. As a testament to the world-class summer experience aboard the Bike Ferry in just 6 weeks, we had over 10,000 passenger boardings!
Success this year can be measured by the incredible dedication of our Ferry staff. Our crew stepped up to the challenge of operating safely in a COVID environment and they committed themselves to staff the boat well beyond their usual hours and responsibilities. They showed enormous flexibility and commitment that really made the 2020 season a reality. Supreme gratitude goes to our captains Ed Champagne, Richard Schattman, and John McHugh; our deckhands Larry Kupferman, Pat Nagy, and Kelsey Colbert; our dockside ambassadors Phyllis Tiffany and Annie Kluetmeier; and to our valued and many volunteers.
Tales from the Ferry
Every year Lindy Millington is the first Bike Ferry passenger of the season. And though our Ferry season was delayed, the tradition continued! On August 12, 2020, Lindy celebrated her 90th birthday with a ride out to the Ferry on opening day with her son Tom. Check out the NBC5 video of the day!
Valet Bike Parking Status
The pandemic took its toll on all outside events in and around Burlington. Typically, our Valet Bike Parking would be keeping bikes safe at over 80 events locally, but all of those were canceled. We are keeping our fingers crossed for a fresh start in 2021, where we’ll see Stu Lindsay back in the saddle!
Donors make it happen!
Did you know that nearly 30% of Local Motion’s annual revenue comes from donations?
In 2020, donor support exceeded our hopes for both the spring and year-end appeals, especially in such an unusual year. In addition to our fundraising appeals, Local Motion offers several giving options like workplace giving and employer matching, donations of stock, remembering Local Motion in your will, tribute gifts, sustaining monthly gifts, and corporate sponsorship opportunities! Learn more here. The 2020 CARES Act provides an “above the line” universal charitable deduction up to $300 made by any taxpayer, which has been extended to 2021. Check with your tax professional for advice. Local Motion is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Contact [email protected] with questions about any of our giving options.
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