Burlington-based Local Motion and the Vermont Bicycle and Pedestrian Coalition are joining forces. Interest in walking and biking is surging, and, statewide, Vermont is surpassing national trends for the number of people who choose to walk to work, and keeping pace with national trends for biking to work. Commute data is one of the few comparable measures from state to state, but as you know so well, it is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the many reasons and ways in which we enjoy walking and biking whenever we can.
Emily Boedecker, Executive Director of Local Motion and Grant Orenstein, Vermont Bike Ped Coalition Board Chair sign the merger agreement.
In Burlington 6.8 percent of people already choose to bike to work, a higher percentage than Portland OR, and in St. Johnsbury 9.9 percent choose to walk to work exceeding many larger cities nationwide. Many other towns and villages– including Essex Junction, Montpelier, Newport, and Brattleboro — are taking active steps to improve conditions for walking and biking, and to give residents the skills and confidence they need to choose walking and biking for both recreation and transportation.
“Following recent changes at the Coalition, the boards of both organizations evaluated the situation and decided to seize the opportunity to combine forces and create a single, more effective and formidable statewide organization to serve our mutual pedestrian and cycling communities,” said David Ellenbogen, long-time coalition board member. “We are confident this change promises a bright future for biking and walking throughout Vermont.”
“After partnering on many initiatives over the past few years, and even sharing office space in the early years, we are excited to make it official!” said Peter Zamore, Chair of Local Motion’s board of directors. “We look forward to helping more people across Vermont make their communities great places to walk and bike, and to continuing the Coalition’s active voice in the Statehouse.”
Local Motion and the Coalition have a long history of working together. The roots of the Coalition date back to 1991 under the Snelling administration, with a $500,000 investment in bike and pedestrian projects in Essex and Stowe. By 1994, the Coalition had officially formed as a non-profit, and in 2002 the group hired its first paid Executive Director. Nancy Schulz, hired in 2006, stepped down as Executive Director at the end of 2014 after achieving an impressive list of accomplishments, including campaigns leading to passage of the Safe Passing law of 2010 and the Drugged Driving bill of 2014, as well as the launch of the highly popular Tour de Farms in Addison County.
Local Motion was founded in 1999 with the goal of galvanizing community support to restore and extend a recreational path along the Island Line, a former rail line that began in Burlington, and, passing through Colchester and the Islands, ran 41 miles to the Canadian border. Today, riders and walkers can take this award-winning trail up into the Lake Champlain Islands via Local Motion’s seasonal bike ferry service, which carried over 12,000 bikers and walkers last year across the 200-foot gap in the three-and-a-half mile causeway between Colchester and South Hero.
Since 2008, Local Motion has been expanding its work with schools and communities across Vermont to help them become great places to walk and bike. Local Motion runs “Kohls Kids Bike Smart” youth bike skills training program, which reached more than 5,000 students in 23 towns in 2014. The organization also offers free adult and family biking workshops, with more than 650 participants to date in communities across Vermont.
Local Motion works closely with the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) to help communities make their streets safe for everyone. The organization is already working in Brattleboro and Newport, and will expand to three other communities next year. A new training class is also in development with the Vermont Police Academy to improve knowledge and enforcement of laws for all road users.
“From the point of view of VTrans, the merger between Local Motion and the Vermont Bike and Pedestrian Coalition makes perfect sense, and it is very exciting to see the statewide advocacy organization and a very successful regional organization joining forces,” commented Chris Cole, VTrans Deputy Secretary. “Local Motion has been a great regional partner for VTrans and we look forward to continuing to grow this partnership statewide. We share the goal of improving the bicycle and pedestrian experience for all Vermonters and for those that visit our State.”
In addition, Local Motion has been working closely with VTrans and transportation consultants RSG and Alta Planning+Design on a new initiative to map priority bicycle corridors on state roads across Vermont, and to reach out to people who currently bike and those who would like to. In the first phase of the project more than 2,000 people responded with information on where they would like to see conditions improve for biking, and where investments should be prioritized to make Vermont’s state roads safer and easier to bike.
A 2012 report looked at the economic impact of walking and biking in Vermont, evaluating a snapshot of one year, 2009. Commissioned by VTrans and developed by RSG and Local Motion, the report showed that biking and walking created at least 1,400 jobs, $41 million in personal income (wages) and $83 million in revenue. In addition, the report found that the impacts of health improvements and the increase in property values could increase the economic impact of walking and biking by more than $400 million.
As Local Motion officially takes on the statewide role, the organization is looking to connect with local leaders. “The interest and spark for change comes from within a community. The most important thing Local Motion can do is to support local groups and municipalities and connect them with the right tools and resources; together we can expand safe walking and riding opportunities for everyone,” said Emily Boedecker, Executive Director of Local Motion.
“Whether we walk or ride, by choice or need, for recreation or transportation, for health or fun, to save money or reduce our carbon output, we all share a common need,” Boedecker continued. “When we have safe and inviting streets, easy trail connections, and vibrant villages and downtowns, Vermonters of all ages and all abilities will have the choice to make walking and biking a part of their daily lives.”
From left to right: Peter Zamore Local Motion Board President, Emily Boedecker Local Motion Executive Director, Grant Orenstein, Vermont Bicycle Pedestrian Coalition Board Chair
Source: Local Motion. 4.9.2015.