I just got back from a three-day wedding in Burlington, VT and, while I really enjoyed the people and sights of this neat city, I was a little disappointed in what I thought was going to be an advanced, well-organized bicycling network. From the downtown area to the Lake Champlain Bikeway, things seemed fragmented and not so well thought-out.
Did I miss something, or is this typical of the Burlington area? Before the trip, I was bummed that I would not have an opportunity to ride, but now I'm not so sure it would have been a great experience.
Any comments? Should I go back there and look for a different city to ride?
Depending on which direction you're going, it can be hard to get out of the city if you don't know your way. It only takes 20 minutes or so to be in some prime riding areas though so don't give up. All of the cyclists up here can't be that wrong............ There's a previous post here about Burlington, check it out for some resources.
I lived in Vermont for half a decade, and in my experience, the bike network in Vermont is called the roads. They're in good shape, and drivers are in general more attentive and courteous than anywhere else I've lived in the US (SW Michigan, Chicago, SW Ohio, and western Massachusetts). Heck, if a pedestrian looks as if he or she is about to cross the road, drivers will slow. Even major roads such as Route 7 are generally fine to cycle on.
I don't have a lot of experience riding in Burlington proper, but just a few miles in any direction (well, except due west) and you're in prime cycling country.
I should mention that I took a detour onto Grand Isle, where the Lake Champlain Bikeway seemed to be way too narrow and without proper cuts and crossovers at many points. Vermonters: Please don't take this as an attack on your state or anything other than the bike network! It appears (to me) that someone tried to do the right thing, but it feels as if the project got abandoned just a little too early.
In 2010 I did ACA's Cycle Vermont, which started and ended in Burlington. We camped at the park on the north end of town and headed north on the bike path. It was quite nice. Once we got off the trail we were in very nice riding country. Gettng back into the city at the end was also not a problem. Most of the roads we used during the trip were quite nice and traffic free or lite.
As Champs notes, all the cyclists up there can't be wrong. In fact, I once heard a claim that VT makes more from cycling than it does from maple syrup.
I think that you can classify the whole "bike network" idea around Burlington as a work in progress. Assuming that by "bike network" you are referring to the Burlington/Lake Champlain bike path. You probably guessed that it started out as a rails to trail path in the late 80's early 90's when there was literally nothing but industrial ruins on the Burlington waterfront. And it has grown over the years in length and amenities like signage at road crossing and bridges. The City of Burlington and the state funds a lot of the work along with local organizations that help out as well. The iron bridge over the Winooski to Colchester was major money for a bike path. The work on the causeway in Mallets Bay was major money as well. But, I don't think that initially there was any inkling to how popular the path would get. There was no master plan initially. It has grown as usage grows and money becomes available. As for Grand Isle, I suspect that once the bike ferry closes for the season the bike path on the island sees bike traffic drop dramatically. And for that reason, it probably is a little less looked after.
And as other people have posted, the real bike network in VT are the roads. County roads with not a lot of traffic and great scenery.
Knowing Papa over the years of your posts, I'm aware that you are a big fan of dedicated bike paths, which as a result of living in a congested and not particularly bike friendly area (Nassau County, NY) is very understanding, I'm certain it comes as a bit of a shock to learn that the roads of Vermont could almost be described as one big bike path.
Originally Posted by Lexlut
Seriously though, there's a truth in this. I can certainly see where the locals might not quite grasp the need for turning all those defunct railroad lines into MUP's, when there are so many back roads that essentially serve the same purpose.
I pondered this as I prepare for a camping trip to the backwoods of Maine, as I always take my bike. I debate removing the front white and rear red flashing lights , something that I regularly use here on Long Island, but might be a waste of time on the roads I will be riding that may see a car every 15 minutes. If that.
Different mind set in places like upstate NY, Vermont, some sections of Maine, etc... where the need for separation of the scores of cyclists from the hoards of automobiles, is less pressing.
This is the kind of stuff I was hoping to hear! So I guess I should give it another try? When does it start to get cold up there? The weather was beautiful over Labor Day weekend.
PS: I never would have thought (being from New York) that I would have one of the best bagels of my life at a shop in Burlington, VT!
PSS: I read Steve's post after composing the original version of this one. I think I just happened to see the wrong roads in Burlington. The wedding we attended involved a lot of back-and -orth along Williston Rd, Main Street, etc., which are busy turnpikes, much like the ones we avoid here on Long Island. And many of the people who WERE riding the green bike lanes were riding like typical Long Island fools, going the wrong way, crossing pedestrian-style rather than as moving vehicles, etc. This was pretty much the extent of my exposure to Burlington's roads until we drove through Grand Isle on the last day. I must have also seen a lousy part of the Lake Champlain Bikeway there, too, because it seemed very narrow and not too well maintained.
Believe me, I want Vermont to be everything I've always heard for bicycling, so keep the reassurances coming!
Oh, well on Grand Isle, the main road (rt 2) funnels the cars. I was biking through there from the Grand Isle ferry from NY not too long ago and there are ways of course around Rt 2 and some of it is now signed as "LC Bikeways". Rt 2 is busy and somewhat narrow and has a drawbridge for sailboats, etc, but there are prettier ways once you get through the bottlenecks.
Having said that, the 2 minor incidents I have had when touring were in VT and in Kittery Maine, consisting of undecipherable obscenties yelled out of windows by drunk(?) passengers.. Having said that, VT is the perfect place for a cross bike or something like a Salsa Vaya or a Warbird or any gravel friendly road/touring bike because there are a lot of nice dirt roads to explore in the Greens, some of the "gaps" and in between the major metropolitan areas.