Bike enthusiast now working for VTrans

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BRATTLEBORO >> Dave Cohen is not really shy about what he is trying to do.

Beyond contributing to global warming, Cohen thinks vehicles also separate us from the environment and from our communities, and he wants to get them off the road.

Cohen has been active around Brattleboro, encouraging local bike stores to carry cargobikes, which are electric assisted commuter bikes. He will talk to anyone who will listen, how the bikes are fully functional in a town like Brattleboro, and how the cargobike can supplant just about any motorized vehicle. Now Cohen is about to spread his message beyond Windham County

The Vermont Agency of Transportation has hired Cohen as the state's first bicycle consultant, and he will lead what VTrans is calling the first statewide program in the nation to more fully integrate bicycle travel into a state's transportation network and priorities.

Cohen, a therapist by trade, said America's relationship with the automobile is so deeply entrenched in our culture and psyche that we have to be weaned from the expectation that motorized vehicles offer the only option to travel.

"We all have car brain," Cohen said. "The automobile has created a mono-culture around transportation and we need to change that. What I am working on is car-reduction therapy."

Cohen, who runs his own consulting organization, VBike, has been hired by Go Vermont, the VTrans initiative to promote ride shares, bus travel and bicycles. He will meet with businesses, individuals and families around the state to go through their day-to-day commuter patterns and try to convince them to invest in a cargobike and leave the car or truck at home.

Cargobikes have a heavy frame and they can carry up to four people. Many cargobikes include an electric motor that the rider can turn on and off with a throttle on the handlebars when the topography demands extra torque to get up a hill.

Cohen said technologies cargobike technologies are improving continually and now is a perfect time for Vermont to work to get more of them on the roads.

"The bicycle industry has promoted bicycles as toys or as high performance exercise objects," he said. "If we really want to respond to climate change we have to change how we move ourselves around."

Cohen met with Rep. Mollie Burke, D/P-Brattleboro, last year and told her about the cargobikes and about the innovations in design and technology that are making them more affordable and accessible.

Burke, a member of the Transportation Committee shared the information with transportation officials in Montpelier who were interested in promoting more bicycle travel as a day-to-day alternative.

"I am thrilled that Go Vermont and VBike are working together to promote a new generation of bike designs and technologies that expand the ability of Vermonters to use bicycles for every-day use," Burke said. "This transportation option offers a low-cost opportunity to help Vermont reduce carbon emissions from motor vehicles, one of my highest legislative priorities."

Ross MacDonald is the Go Vermont program manager, and he said Cohen was hired to help businesses individuals better understand the emerging technologies associated with the cargobikes.

MacDonald said the state is working with manufacturers to get a fleet of sample bikes around the state people can try if they are interested in cargobikes. Over the past few years, he said, Go Vermont has been establishing communication networks for bus routes, carpools and van pools and the organization wants to increase bicycle use as a form of transportation.

"We want to provide the best information and service for each mode," said MacDonald. "Right now bike commuting in Vermont is not a huge piece of the transportation pie and we want to grow that capacity. Dave is enthusiastic and we hope he can help other people make the decision to leave the car at home and consider their bike as the major form of transportation."

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be contacted at 802-254-2311 ext. 279.


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