Tuesday April 19, 2011

PUTNEY -- As spring inches closer, organizers of the Putney Green Bike Project are getting ready to get their bicycles back on the road.

And a recently awarded grant is going to help grease the wheels a little bit.

The bike project, which was started by the Putney Energy Committee, has received a $3,000 grant from the New England Grass Roots Environmental Fund.

The fund was started in 1996 to support small, local groups that are trying to initiate environmentally sustainable projects around New England.

Putney Energy Committee Director Daniel Hoviss said the money will help the group get its bikes back into circulation after taking a year off due to heavy road construction in Putney last year.

He also said the money will be useful as supporters of the Putney Green Bike Project plot their next move to grow and strengthen the organization.

"It’s been a lot of work to keep the bikes on the road and the $3,000 will help," said Hoviss. "It is a nice start."

Hoviss put the fleet of bicycles away last year due to the Main Street repaving project, but there were also issues to address with teenagers abusing the system.

Helmets were being lost, and while not a single bicycle has even been stolen, Hoviss said a few did disappear for a few days from time to time.

It was also taking a lot of work to keep the bikes in road worthy condition and so he said the road construction gave him a good reason to put the project on hold for a season.

Now, with the $3,000 grant in hand, he said the group was ready to starting rolling once again.

Hoviss has been largely responsible for maintaining the bicycles, which first appeared in Putney in the spring of 2007.

Using a few of his own bikes, along with some donated ones, Hoviss painted the bicycles green and distributed them around two different sites in town.

Anyone could jump on a bike and ride it around town for free.

The idea was that if a car was parked downtown, the owner could leave it parked and take care of a few errands without starting the internal combustion engine in the vehicle and spewing greenhouse gases around the village.

The project started with five bicycles at two locations, and before the bikes were put away last year, there were 12 bicycles at three rack locations and one shelter.

Hoviss said part of the grant is going to be used to build a shelter or two for the bicycles, hopefully working with Connecticut River Transit so the shelters can be put up near a bus stop.

He also has been talking with a group of people to help with the project and it might be a stand along committee or a sub committee of the Transition Putney group.

Hoviss has other plans, including working with area schools to increase bicycling and helping the town get its second phase of its sidewalk project going.

The town wants to extend a sidewalk north, up Route 5, toward Landmark College.

While the project is continuing to evolve, Hoviss did promise to distribute the green bikes around the village just as soon as winter finally releases it grip on the weather.

"This grant will allow us to form a task force of people who want to take the green bike project to the next level," he said. "The goal here is to create a green bike project that serves the needs of the community."