Thursday, January 31, 2013

CNN’s Vermont rail story went way on the wrong track

Amtrak train

Thanks to CNN, Vermont got a journalism lesson this week as the cable network devoted eight minutes and 38 seconds to a special report on the state’s stimulus-funded rail improvement project, one of the regular “keeping them honest” features on the “Anderson Cooper 360” program.
Alas, it was a very bad journalism lesson because it was very bad journalism presented by people apparently unaware of the irony of claiming to be “keeping them honest” dishonestly.
Which is not to say that its point of view was incorrect. Points of view may be wise or unwise, but almost by definition they are not incorrect. The segment’s bias was obvious, but biased journalism can be defended. Its advocates prefer to call it “advocacy journalism,” and there is a place for it.
CNN has not generally been considered one of those places, but that’s the network’s business. It if wants to undertake an ideological crusade – in this case arguing that the $10 billion spent nationally (about $52 million in Vermont) to improve passenger rail service is a boondoggle – more power to it. In this case, a responsible, accurate, honest report might have been persuasive. But a responsible, accurate, honest report was nowhere to be found.
As a public service, then, and because they obviously need it, herewith a basic primer in journalistic practice and ethics for Cooper, investigative reporter Drew Griffin, and their bosses:
Lesson 1 — No cheap shots. Reporting from the Essex Junction Amtrak station, which he called “the busiest station in all of Vermont,” (which it may not be), Griffin noted that “11 people got off (and) no one got on.”
Well of course no one got on. That train just chugs a few miles up to St. Albans where it spends the night. Nobody takes the train from Essex to St. Albans. If Griffin knew that he was being devious. And he had no excuse not knowing it.
In fact, almost nobody takes the train from any Vermont station to another. Vermonters take the train to New York. So Griffin’s “revelation” that the project chopped only 28 minutes off the train’s voyage through the state was another cheap shot. If CNN had chosen to report out the entire story (see below), it would have figured out that the work is likely to save two hours for travelers heading to New York.
Lesson 2 – Don’t be cute. There is Griffin standing on the trainless track. “I could stand here all day long,” he says. “I could jog on the tracks,” and there he is, jogging on the tracks, and standing there as the sun set, still without seeing a train.
Forget for a moment that jogging along the tracks is illegal (criminal trespass) and dangerously stupid, thus prompting Joyce Rose, the president of Operation Lifesaver, to send Griffin a sharply worded letter reminding him that “more people are killed each year trespassing on train tracks than in vehicle-train collisions at crossings.”
More to the point here is that the rail improvement project neither envisioned nor promised oodles of trains. Its purpose was to improve the tracks so both passenger and freight trains could go faster and haul heavier loads.
Lesson 3 – Put all dollar figures in context. Yes, $52 million sounds like a lot of money. The average guy could probably live on it for a year or two. But just providing the figure and leaving it out there is meaningless.
Minimal context would note that the U.S. government spends some $69.5 billion a year on transportation, or more than six times the entire nationwide stimulus-financed rail improvement project, more than 100 times Vermont’s share. More than half of all those federal expenditures, about $41.5 billion, is spent on highways. Does this prove that the $52 million was money well spent? Not at all. But it is essential information.
Lesson 4 – Provide at least a little balance. To answer why this little state got all that federal money, Griffin relied on one authority, policy analyst Randal O’Toole. Properly, Griffin said O’Toole was associated with the “libertarian-leaning Cato Institute.” He did not point out that O’Toole has also been associated with the Thoreau Institute, which has been funded over the years by foundations with close ties to the petroleum industry.
O’Toole began inauspiciously. The Vermont project got the money, he said, because, “the federal government has one criteria when it comes to handing out high speed rail funds. And that was, had states done an environmental impact statement so they were shovel ready.”
There is no such thing as “one criteria.” There can be two criteria or 20 million. One of them is a criterion.
And according to some people, including Vermont Agency of Transportation Secretary Brian Searles, the state had to satisfy several of them before federal authorities approved the grant in an intensely competitive process.
“The real reason that we qualified was that it was one of the eight designated corridors in the country,” Searle said.
It’s entirely possible that O’Toole’s explanation would withstand scrutiny better than Searles’. What real journalists do in these cases, though, is talk to folks on both sides, then apply the scrutiny. It wasn’t as though Searles was unavailable. He said he “had extensive conversations (with CNN staff) over time and on that day. They came here with an agenda to attack the high speed rail program.”
Lesson 5 – Tell the whole story. Had Griffin put Searles on camera, he might have explained that the Vermont work did not stand alone. It was part of a regional project which included rail improvements in Massachusetts and Connecticut. That explains the projected two-hour reduction in the Vermont-to-New York trip.
But this project is not really limited to the U.S. Both the province of Quebec and the Canadian government are improving their rail lines in coordination with the U.S. effort. Both countries believe they have a significant economic interest in better rail links between the Montreal area, home to some 3.9 million people, and U.S. destinations.
Nor is it just passengers. The rail line improvements mean heavier loads can go over the bridges and overpasses. When completed, it will ease freight transportation between Montreal and the Connecticut shipping ports on the north shore of Long Island Sound. The potential economic development impact for the entire region could be substantial.
That’s why New England Central Railroad put up the state’s $18 million match for the project. Griffin did note that a private firm put up the money. He didn’t mention that it had a vested interest in doing so, meaning the possible economic impact here is far greater than cutting a couple of hours off the trip to Penn Station.
Jerry Vest, the vice president for governmental and industrial affairs for the Genesee and Wyoming, Inc., which now owns New England Central, said the rail improvement “will be a big plus for Vermont,” making it easier for the state to attract new business.
“Freight rail is undergoing a renaissance, Vest said, “and companies want to have access to high-quality rail service.”
Does this make the $52 million –plus some $140 million in the other states – worthwhile? Like any public policy decision, that’s open to debate. What is not open to debate is that it all should have been in the story.
In fairness to CNN, Griffin did acknowledge that the Vermont share of the work came in “on time and on budget,” and that it created some jobs. More specifically, Searles said (but CNN did not) it created 246 direct jobs and another 319 “indirect and induced.” Most of them were temporary jobs, but at the peak of the recession, even temporary jobs were useful, both to the people who got them and to the regional economy.
The CNN report did make one good point: at least in New England, these “high speed” rail projects will not bring real high-speed rail as found in Europe and Japan. Vermont’s stations are too close to one another, and the state wants to provide service to all those towns. Even Ross Capon, the head of the National Association of Railroad Passengers, agreed that the Obama administration was guilty of “hyperbole” in selling its program.
But that was the segment’s only valid point, which perhaps explains why Griffin and Cooper, in their post-tape chit-chat, kept belaboring it, thereby violating the immortal advice to writers from professor Lee Youngdahl: “Once something has been said, it no longer has to be said.”
But one more thing has to be said here. Every news story about public funding of transportation should remember – and should explain – that all forms of transportation are and always have been publicly subsidized. The Founders put it right in the Constitution, authorizing Congress to establish a system of “Post roads.” As America gets bigger and richer, more people will be doing more traveling. The alternatives to better rail service are more highways and/or more airports, all of which are expensive and all of which will be subsidized.
And both of which will put more goop in the air than trains do.
That has to be part of the story, too. Until CNN figures that out, others will have to keep them honest.

A Guide to Complete Streets in your Town

From AARP/Local Motion
Complete Streets Cover 200pxWant to make your town's streets better for walking and biking?
Check out AARP Vermont's new Complete Streets A Guide for Vermont Communities.
This guidance document provides information on the requirements of VT’s Complete Streets legislation. 
With the support of many Vermont organizations, Complete Streets legislation was passed in 2011 and requires that the needs of all users of all ages (drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists and public transit) be considered in all transportation projects and project phases. 
By educating Vermont community leaders and providing examples of Complete Streets treatments we hope this document will serve as an important resource for implementation of the act.
This guide was made possible with funding from the Vermont Department of Health’s Fit and Healthy Vermonters Program. Technical expertise and oversight was provided by AARP Vermont, Vtrans, Vermont Department of Economic, Housing and Community Development, Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission, and the Vermont League of Cities and Towns.
A limited number of printed copies are available at AARP. Please contact me or 802-951-1313 to request a hard copy.

WENTS Transportation Study meeting Feb 5th

From Local Motion

wents map 500You're invited to the next and final public meeting of the Williston-Essex Network's Transportation study.
When: Tuesday, February 5th, 7:30pm - 9:00pm
Where: Williston Town Hall, 7900 Williston Road
The goal of WENTS was to develop a multi-modal transportation improvement plan for major roadways in the study area (see map) to address mobility, connectivity, and safety. The final Plan will include a comprehensive and coordinated list of highway, transit, bicycle, pedestrian, and land use recommendations.
Come hear about the study results and next steps to improve travel for all modes in Williston, Essex and Essex Junction! This meeting will include a presentation of the findings of the study, and preliminary recommendations on how to move forward. Refreshments will be served.

Join the 'Vermont Bicycle Commuter" Group

Here's a nice little Facebook group called the "Vermont Bicycle Commuters". Stay updated on commuter issues aournd the state of Vermont. Many of us commute by bike every day of the year, year round. This is a great way to stay in touch and motivated by others who do the same.

Here's the Link to the Group on Facebook,

Monday, January 28, 2013

Commuting 40 miles to work on a bike, with Thermals and Fleece

From the NYTimes

At 4:40 on a 28-degree January morning, Christian Edstrom readied for his commute from Chappaqua, N.Y., to downtown Manhattan.
Metropolitan | The New York Times
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The Ridgewood Commuter Group, a band of cyclists living in and around Ridgewood, N.J., leaves at 5:30 a.m.
Having sheathed his legs in NASA-worthy Capo bib shorts — woven from high-tech fibers that compress leg muscles to minimize fatigue — he pulled on a pair of winter cycling tights lined with fleece from the waist to the thighs. Next came over-the-calf Smartwool ski socks under Sidi Genius 5.5 shoes strategically packed with chemical toe warmers. To shield his torso, he wore a wool base layer under an Italian long-sleeve racing jersey, and a windproof vest reinforced in front to block freezing gusts and meshed in the back to vent excess heat. On his head, an Assos Fuguhelm racing cap with vents on top to minimize sweating, and a pair of Oakley Jawbones sunglasses. The final touch: a pair of $19 insulated work gloves, coated with beeswax to make them water resistant.
Fastening his helmet, Mr. Edstrom stepped outside and into early-morning indigo. In a minute he was rolling down the driveway of his snow-covered Cape-style house, his headlights aglow, on a 40-mile journey to his workplace, JPMorgan, at One Chase Manhattan Plaza, a trip he would make entirely on a Zanconato cyclocross bicycle.
Mr. Edstrom, who works in JPMorgan’s operations division, bicycles round trip to work at least twice a week, logging approximately 600 miles a month. He averages 17 miles an hour and arrives at work by about 7 a.m. “The traffic in Lower Manhattan kills my time,” he said. When he doesn’t ride, he passes for an ordinary commuter, and takes Metro-North into Grand Central Terminal.
As he spun his wheels down South Bedford Avenue, ghostly at this hour, he reflected on his reasons for riding. “Mainly, I don’t want to take away family time to cycle. I leave when my wife and kids are sleeping, and I get home in time to have dinner,” he said.
Mr. Edstrom usually commutes alone (not counting the coyote family that regularly greets him near the town of Hawthorne and trots alongside his bike), but he is one of a growing number of people who commute by bike from far-flung suburbs in Westchester County, New Jersey and Long Island, many of them riding year round even as temperatures drop well below freezing.
“It’s clear from the number of phone calls we are receiving year round inquiring about how best to travel into the city, that there are more people cycling in from the suburbs,” said Caroline Sampanaro, director of campaigns and organizing at Transportation Alternatives, a cycling and pedestrian advocacy group.
Though no one has a hard number for how many people are commuting by bike, one measure in the growth of arctic-temperature cycling is the hyperkinetic message board of the Westchester Cycle Club Web site, which buzzed with activity on a recent morning.
“I live in Sleepy Hollow and work all the way downtown — is there a route on the East Side?” one cyclist asked via iPhone.
Another wanted to know: “Anyone interested in a commute ride to the city? I leave from the Tarrytown area between 5 and 5:30 a.m. Recently, I have been doing the ride 2-3 days weekly.”
The second query was from Scott Bernstein, an electrophysiologist and assistant professor at New York University School of Medicine, who commutes 30 miles on a collapsible bike from his home in Tarrytown to his office at NYU Langone Medical Center at First Avenue and 34th Street.
“As long as it’s at least 10 degrees, I ride,” Dr. Bernstein said.
Cyclists coming from the north can ride off-road from as far away as Brewster by following the Putnam, North County and South County Trailways, bike paths laid over former railroad beds. The last crosses into the Bronx at Van Cortlandt Park. There, the parks department is creating easier access into the city by upgrading the last bit of trailway. The improved trail is going to be 15 feet wide — with a 10-foot-wide paved path, 3-foot earthen jogging path and 2-foot buffer/drainage area.
“We’ve gotten tremendous support from many individual cyclists and bike groups who just can’t wait for this project to happen,” said Margot Perron, Van Cortlandt Park administrator and president of the Van Cortlandt Park Conservancy
After leaving the park, cyclists navigate two miles on urban streets through the Bronx, cross the Broadway Bridge and ride into Upper Manhattan, where they can access the Hudson River Greenway at Dyckman Street. The parks department is revamping the northern entrance to the Greenway, which now has stairs, installing a ramp to make it more accessible. The project is expected to be completed in 2014.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Winter Riding in Burlington VT

Colder than walking? The science isn’t in yet on bicycling in Burlington’s sub-zero windchill.
Old North End resident Hannah Ohlson, 23, adheres to old-school precepts: layer-up, expose as little skin as possible and pedal energetically to generate on-board heat.
Suiting up for a deep-winter midday errand really isn’t much different than preparing for a ski run, she said.
By design, Ohlson seeks out gear that is supremely practical and dead cheap: she subscribes to a bell, but no whistles.
Ohlson, a program manager at local nonprofit Bike Recycle Vermont, helps low-income Vermonters — many of them year-round riders like herself — cobble together cheap, reliable transportation.
Her preferences for mobility derive directly from work. She salvaged a decrepit steel-frame rig to serve as a “pretty bomb-proof” winter ride.
She retained the fenders to ward off slush, and decked it out with studded tires for added traction.
“I like it because if it breaks or gets nasty, it’s not worth a ton,” Ohlson said. But she still keeps it locked up.
A 10-minute ride Thursday yielded a short-term “ice-cream headache,” Ohlson said. Longer errands can be downright toasty.
Ohlson’s colleague at Bike Recycle, Dan Hock, 26, likened the phenomenon to the workings of a diesel engine.
“You turn it on, you run it for a few minutes and pretty soon the whole engine block warms up,” Hock said. “You generate your own heat.”
Contact Joel Banner Baird at 660-1843 Read his blog at and follow him on Twitter
Hannah Ohlson is into bikes, so much so that below-zero temps don't deter her from riding to work at Bike Recycle Vermont on Riverside Avenue or to the store or anywhere else in Burlington she needs to go. The key, she says, is dressing like you are going skiing. / RYAN MERCER/FREE PRESS
Watch the VIDEO after the break.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Busy Winter for the Island Line & Bike Ferry

From Local Motion

2012 SH Causeway Repair 2All signs point to 2013 being a huge year for the Island Line Trail.
Local Motion and our many trail partners are working dilligently to have the entire trail repaired from the 2011 flood damage and have our Bike Ferry running daily through the summer!  Here's the latest news:
The South Hero causeway section is under repair thanks to VT Fish & Wildlife and Munson Earth Moving (pictured on left) -- more pictures here
The Colchester causeway section repairs were completed in October 2013 thanks to Colchester and SD Ireland -- pictures here
The Burlington bike path repairs are completed except for spring repaving thanks to Burlington and ECI --pictures here
The new Bike Ferry vessel and the infrastructure to expand service should be out to bid in a few weeks
Thanks again to the 500+ donors to The Big Fix and theFriends of the Island Line as well as the State of Vermont and FEMA.  Together, we're restoring and reconnecting this historic corridor!

Local Motion operated a demonstration Bike Ferry across the 200' water gap in the Colchester - South Hero Causeway for 10 years (2000-2010).
It proved the viability of the connection, but it also showed that service could not be dependable or sustainable without improved infrastructure (studier and bigger boat, wave protection, better ramps and docks). LM staff and consultants developed a plan to improve the ferry crossing.
Bike Ferry Improvements 510px
The Local Motion Board worked with our trail partners to launch The Big Fix -- a campaign to raise $1.5M for ferry expansion and trail repairs in April 2012.  Thanks to the 500+ residents and businesses, the goal was reached in October 2012.
In the past few months, we've been busy behind the scenes:
  • Finalizing the legal documents to allow Local Motion to operate the ferry on Town of Colchester and VT Fish & Wildlife Department property
  • Finalizing the designs for the new ferry vessel and the causeway / ramp / dock improvements
  • Drafting the bid documents to put these improvements out to bid according to all State and Federal requirements
  • We expect to have the request for bids out in early February 2013
The goal has been to initiate ferry service in June 2013, but based on timelines, it might be pushed back a month or so.  We'll certainly keep you posted!  For more info, contact Brian Costello.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Improving Transportation Efficiency in Central Vermont

On Thursday, January 31st at 5:30 p.m. GoVT presents
"Improving Transportation Efficiency in Central Vermont" a presentation and
dialogue on how to improve transportation in the greater Central VT region.
Those interested in advancing actions to improve mobility and travel choices
resulting in greater efficiency are encouraged to participate.  Join us at
5:30 p.m. in the National Life Cafeteria, National Life Drive, Montpelier.

Business and municipal leaders, state officials, parking and facility
managers and representatives of industry/manufacturing, medical and
hospitals, retail, schools (including small to medium-sized businesses) are
encouraged to participate.  The program is designed to highlight business
success stories as well as inform you about incentives and free resources to
reduce the cost and environmental impacts of transportation. Go Vermont and
its partners will be on hand to provide information and services that
promote efficient transportation options.  Business leaders, Tim Shea and
David Blittersdorf will highlight how they are succeeding to advance
sustainable workplace values through creative employee incentives.

Please help spread the word!

The workshop planning team proposes a workshop logistics planning call (to
refine the program) on--Tuesday, Jan 15 at 3:00 p.m. Join us if you can for
this brief call at the below number. Those planning to contribute/speak are
encouraged to join us for a 20-30 minute conference call on Tuesday, January
15th at 3:00 pm.  Conference Call Number: (605) 475-4000 Access code :

Thank you very much for your assistance.

Debra Sachs, Coordinator, Direct Business Outreach
66 Pine Tree Terrace |South Burlington, VT 05403 | D 802.658.8487 | C
802.238.9807 |

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Biking and Walking Supports 1,400 Jobs in Vermont

From Local Motion

We intuitively know that walking and bicycling are good for Vermont's economy, health and quality of life -- but now we have more data to back up this assertion.  In 2012, the State of Vermont completed an economic impact study of walking and bicycling.  
Key findings from 2009 include:
  • Liz Robert QuoteBuilding Pedestrian & Bike Facilities Creates Jobs:  The State, Towns and others spend $9.8M / year on bicycle & pedestrian infrastructure and programs -- generating a statewide employment of 233 direct and indirect workers with a payroll of 9.9M.

  • Running & Biking Events Bring Attract 16,000 Participants:The 40 major running and bicycling events attracted over 16,000 participants.  Combined with family and friends, they spent over $6M in Vermont.  This spending supports 160 workers with $4.7M in labor earnings.

  • Outdoor Businesses Have Sales Over $37M:  Bicycle and pedestrian oriented businesses generated $37.8 million in output and directly employed 820 workers with $18.0 million in labor earnings. These bicycle/pedestrian businesses further generate $18.5 million in output and support another 205 jobs with $8.3 million in payroll.

  • Pat MacDonald QuoteWalking & Biking Support 1,400 Jobs in VT: Combining the three categories above results in a total 2009 economic contribution of $82.7 million in output, and over 1,400 jobs with $40.9 million in labor earnings (wages and salaries plus proprietor income).

  • Walking and Biking Save People & the State Money:Preliminary results suggest that avoided consumer costs (saving gas, wear and tear on vehicles, etc) are approximately $43 million and avoided public costs (reducing need to build wider roads, etc) are approximately $42 million.

  • Walkable Neighborhoods = Higher Home Values: In the more urban parts of Vermont, homes located in a walkable neighborhoods adds $6,500 to the value of a home compared to one in a car-dependent area, suggesting a statewide increase of approximately $350 million to home values attributable to walkability.
 Final Report Cover
Thank you to the Vermont Agency of Transportationfor initiating and funding this study.
The consultant team on the project included Resource Systems GroupEconomic and Policy Resources,Local Motion and Peregrine Productions.

For more information, contact:
Jon Kaplan, Bicycle & Pedestrian Program Mgr.
Vermont Agency of Transportation
Telephone: (802) 828-0059
Fax: (802) 828-5712
E-mail address:

Travel Talks: Cycling in Post-Oil Cuba

From Local Motion

Join us this Tuesday, January 8th, for the re-launch of our popular Travel Talks series!Cuba
What: Travel Talks
When: Tuesday, 1/8 from 7pm - 9pm
Where: Maglianero, 47 Maple St. BTV
In this first of four monthly events, Glenn Eames of the Old Spokes Home will recount his experiences cycling in Cuba:
In 1992, a small group of "Cyclepaths" traveled to Havana, Cuba to attend a conference titled "Cycling, an option for the 21st Century." Here they discovered Cuba -- a country that had suddenly found itself with limited petroleum resources at the height of the Special Period. Their solution? Import 750,000 Chinese Roadster Bicycles and convert to a pedal-powered society.You won't want to miss Glenn's photos and commentary! Limited light fare will be available for purchase.
And, don't forget to mark your calendars for the continuing series!
February 12th: Cycling in South America with Dan Hock
March 12th: Trekking through the Bernese Oberland with Phyl Newbeck and Bryan Harrington
April 9th: Walking Distance with Robert and Martha Manning

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Little lesson on Bike lanes, Sharrows, and the like

From Montpelier Bikes
What are they?  
Collectively known as bikeways, each of these terms refers to a different type of facility.  Bicyclists should educate ourselves about these terms and use them correctly to ask for what we want.  They are not interchangeable!  

You wouldn't ask for a chocolate chip cookie if you actually want an ice cream cone! (or vice versa)  Let's speak carefully, toward a common vocabulary.  It is up to us to educate ourselves, traffic engineers, and decision makers.  Here's a primer:

  • Bike lanes are areas of a roadway, set off by a stripe, that are stenciled with a bicycle image, and signed for preferential use by bicycles.  Parking is not permitted in bike lanes.  A bike lane is generally not used by pedestrians.  Bike lanes striping stops before an intersection, and continues on the other side, creating the illusion of continuity.  Bicyclists are not required to ride in a bicycle lane - you may wish to leave the lane to turn or avoid road debris.  This is a photo of a bike lane in Olympia, WA.  Note the pavement stencil and sign. 

  • Bike paths are separate tr
     ails, usually 8-14 feet wide.  Bike paths are often shared with walkers, runners, inline skate rs, and horses -- and thus are more properly called "Shared-Use Paths."  The photo shows Montpelier's Winooski River Path, a shared-use path.
  • Paved shoulders are areas at the edge of the roadway, set off by a striped line.  While paved shoulders do create space that may be used by bicyclists, they do not send a message to either bicyclists or motorists that bikes have a space on the road.  They are not not stenciled or signed for bicycle use.  Parking may be permitted, and the shoulder stripes - unlike bike lanes - bend around the corner at an intersection.  
  • Sharrows (share + arrow) are more properly called shared lane markings.  Sharrows are placed to indicate bicyclists' right to the road where there is not enough space for a bike lane.  The arrow indicates t he d
     irection of travel.  Sharrows are well-suited to Mont pelier's na rrow streets.  These are soon to be in cluded in the national standards for roadways in the U.S.  In the meantime, over 50 local municipalities are already using them - including Burlington, VT.

Winter bike racers will help girls ride

From the Times Argus

MONTPELIER — An annual cycling race happening Sunday at Hubbard Park will benefit a new program that buys mountain bikes for at-risk girls and provides mentoring.

Now in its fourth year, the Frozen Onion Winter Bike Race is expanding to a series of three competitions beginning with Sunday’s. Organizers say all the proceeds from the series will help support Moxie Sparks, a program that began last year and provided two 11-year-old girls with Specialized mountain bikes.

“We’d go for an hour-and-a-half- to two-hour ride with them and just help them improve their skills and talk with them and see how they were doing,” said Nina Otter, whose women’s mountain biking team — Mountain Moxie — helped launch the outreach. “Neither of them had really been on a bike before.”

About 40 people attended last winter’s race, some donning costumes with wigs or Mardi Gras beads, said Onion River Sports events director Matt Williams. The registration fee covers a raffle ticket and chili afterward.

The mentoring program had pairs of Mountain Moxie team members riding on Wednesday nights at the Catamount Outdoor Family Center in Williston with two Williston Central School students. The program helps girls who might not otherwise have the chance to experience mountain biking.

At the Catamount center, some of the hills proved difficult for the girls at the start. Eventually, though, they had the skills and confidence to complete the route and also to ride longer distances within the same amount of time, Otter said. 

One girl also competed in races staged by Catamount, placing first several times in co-ed races that that included some older competitors in her age group.

As part of the program, the girls were also involved in Little Bellas, a mountain biking and mentoring organization based at the Catamount center whose Sunday program drew scores of girls aged 7 to 14 this summer. 

Otter said the team hopes to expand the program to four or five girls.

In the past, the Hubbard Park winter race has included some expert riders, but many people go just for the fun, showing up with clunker bikes. 

Registration begins at 9:30 a.m. at the New Shelter, and the race begins at 11 a.m. 

The race loop will be a mile or so, and racers can choose to ride between one and three loops. The cost is $25 on race day; preregistration at costs $20.

In previous years, there was one race, but the level of interest led to the expanded schedule of three races this winter. The next will be Feb. 3, and a third could happen March 3 if there’s enough snow cover in the park.

“People afterward would always ask, ‘When’s the next one?’” Williams said.