Charting a New Course

By Sarah Illingworth, Local Motion's Communications Coordinator 

I’ve lived in the South End of Burlington for 4 years now. Every second was a blast! I was within walking distance to literally EVERYTHING. Farmer’s Market? Check! Church Street? Check! Waterfront Events? Check! Food Truck Fridays? Check! Shy Guy Gelato? CHECK! Fitness Gym? Check! Having the ability to just lace up my shoes and walk to anywhere my heart desired was a total bulls-eye. It enabled me to move my body, help the environment, become immersed in my community, and be present. So when I got the Communications Coordinator job at Local Motion it was the icing on the cake! Now I didn’t even need to turn my car on ALL week. 

However, as all things do, my time in the South End came to an end when my partner and I decided to move in together. After numerous apartment viewings and online searches, we finally settled on a little place in Winooski. This change meant that everything I was so used to having just steps away is now a hop, skip, and a bound away. But no worries, because it was high time I started taking my foot off the streets and onto the pedals of my “hiding in the shed” bike. This would be a big change, but a pleasant one. 

I grew up riding my bike all over the Quechee, Vermont countryside. Cruising down to the library, to sporting practices, to friend’s houses, and to the convenience store. But those childhood memories were from a distant past because when I headed off to college, I left the bike at home. Now don’t worry! I didn’t convert over to our car-centric world, instead, I used the bus to roll around the school and the city and rode the train on trips home. But still, my bike stayed home. After I graduated and moved to Burlington, I still hadn’t used my bike. This all changed when I got hired at Local Motion and was immersed in a community of people who biked as their primary mode of transportation. Being around people who pedal rain or shine, sleet, and snow, and still come into work with a smile on their faces is truly inspiring and it motivated me to start to think about my bike again. 

So here I am. New apartment. “Far” away from my comfort zone in the South End where I could walk everywhere. And that’s when it hit me, I could bike!

I started my biking transition with a quick jaunt up to the pharmacy. Aside from the difficulty of trying to figure out where to lock my bike, IT WAS AWESOME! I was able to explore my community while also getting a mundane task done. No car required. Next trip, I headed down to Sam Mazza’s to grab something from the bakery. Now, this wasn’t as “easy peasy lemon squeezy” as the pharmacy ride as I had very fast cars passing me with an almost non-existent shoulder to maneuver with, but after calming my nerves down, I actually did fine. The closeness of passing fast cars was definitely an eye-opening experience and I white-knuckled my whole ride there, but after a while, I got used to it and was able to enjoy the ride more on the way back. I stopped to take a picture (off of the road of course) of some beautiful flowers that I wouldn’t have noticed if I was cut-off from my environment in my car. 

It was after this ride, that I got to thinking - could I commute to work via my bike? 

Since I work at Local Motion, I am exposed to a lot of good biking commuting tips and one that really caught my eye was doing a trial ride to work to get a feel for what it would be like on an actual workday (whenever we are allowed to go back). My trial run was an epic and awesome success! My ride took about 15 minutes to get into the office (probably be the same if I tried to drive taking into account all the lights and stop signs plus traffic). I traveled via Riverside Ave. and crossed through the ONE to hop down to the Island Line Trail to arrive at my destination smiling from ear to ear. It was an incredible experience and one I really look forward to doing when we are allowed to work in the office again!

Even though this move was a big change from my normal routine, it opened my eyes to a completely new possibility - riding my bike as transportation!