Winter Commute

Every winter morning I travel from my house in Winooski to the YMCA in Burlington. At the Y I alternate days of swimming with days of riding the stationary bicycle and doing yoga. My friend Stewart has remarked on the irony of riding my bicycle to the Y so I can ride the stationary bike, but that extra half hour of work on the stationary bicycle helps me keep in shape for longer rides when the weather turns warmer. It also gives me a chance to listen to books read aloud. If I went by car to the YMCA, I could do it on automatic pilot. My route would always be the same, and I would not have many decisions to make along the way. As a bike rider, things are different. Every ride presents variables that determine my route.


I live on a street that debouches onto Lafountain Street. My street is often covered with snow, so sometimes I walk my bike to Lafountain. I mount my trusty steed, metaphorically speaking and ride on Lafountain toward Main Street. As I approach Main Street my first choice presents itself. I can get in the middle of the lane to turn left onto Main Street, or ride to the sidewalk on the left side of Lafountain, get off my bike and use the crosswalk to get to the other side of Main Street. If there is not much traffic, I stay on my bike, but after 7:30 AM, when rush hour really gets going, I usually use the crosswalk. Even on the crosswalk, with a high visibility vest and flashing front and back lights, cars do not always stop.

I ride down Main Street to the traffic circle, and then to the bridge over the Winooski River. On weekday mornings, if the sidewalk has been plowed, I ride on the sidewalk to get across the bridge. If the sidewalk is impassible, because of snow, I use the road. On weekends, when there is less traffic, I ride across the bridge on the road and stay on the road as I ride up the hill. The bike lane on Riverside Avenue appears and disappears as I ride into Burlington, according to whether or not there is a turning lane. It can be disconcerting.

On weekdays, I keep to the bike/pedestrian path until I reach the parking lot at Dunkin' Donuts. I circle into the parking lot so that I get a good view of the street before turning onto it. I always get off the bike/pedestrian path at this point, because if I am on the path, vehicles turning onto Intervale Street tend not to see me. In spite of my lights and reflective gear, I was almost hit there on a rainy day by a pickup truck - if I am in the street, a vehicle is less likely to turn into me.

When Riverside Avenue splits into one lane going straight and one lane for left turn only, I stop my bike and look behind me until traffic allows me to get into the left lane. Weekday mornings I always make a sharp left onto Hyde Street so I get into the left side of the left lane. The majority of turning cars are going to take the next left onto South Winooski Avenue.

Just this year I discovered a back route to the YMCA. I take this route when the side streets are mostly clear of snow. Otherwise I ride N. Willard and then S. Willard all the way to College. Willard has more cars, but it is wider than the side streets.

A couple of years ago Hyde Street stopped being a through street between Archibald Street and Riverside Avenue. There is a narrow strip of pavement I can use. That strip is covered in snow during the winter, so I use the sidewalk for a short stretch. I cross Archibald Street and take Hyde Street to a fork where I go left onto School Street. A left onto Loomis is quickly followed by a right onto Greene Street. I ride until I reach Pearl Street, where the traffic can be heavy around rush hour. Sometimes I have to wait for a while to go left on Pearl and then right onto Hungerford Terrace. For some reason Hungerford Terrace is a good place to find things. Recently I found a winter jacket and a couple of weeks later, a pair of pink gloves. It is rare to find a pair of gloves, usually I just see one. A right brings me to College Street and I go down the hill to the YMCA. The entire trip takes about 20 minutes.

I go to the Y early on Saturday and Sunday mornings. When there is snow on the ground in the early morning hours, the road tends to be better than the path. At the top of Riverside Avenue I go to the right side of the left turn lane. Luckily the lights respond to bike riders, so I usually get a green pretty quickly. I take North Winooski Avenue and sometime after passing Cherry Street I go to the left side of the left lane to turn into College Street and ride up the hill to the YMCA.

Although the ride is sometimes challenging, especially in the winter, I am always happy to be riding instead of driving a car. Parking is never a problem, and I have already had a workout even before I enter the Y. Riding is a great way to start my day.