Cyclists encouraged to use new parklet

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BRATTLEBORO — About 15 bikes were placed in and around a new bicycle parklet in front of People's United Bank on Main Street on Thursday as business owners and bicyclists celebrated the moment.

"To those of you who are here because you really care about the fact that this is such a demonstrable investment in bicycling in our community, keep using the parklet and encourage your friends to use the parklet because we need to see that in fact this is meeting a need," Town Manager Peter Elwell said during a ceremony. "We believe that need is there. We want to see this as full every day because that will give us the impetus to provide more here in the downtown area that will make it convenient for people to be able to come here on their bikes and be able to enjoy downtown Brattleboro."

Rep. Mollie Burke, P/D, Windham-2-2, was asked to cut a ribbon dangling above the parklet during the ceremony. She serves on the House Committee on Transportation and regularly rides a bicycle.

The town provided $1,000 to buy the bike parklet and the other $1,000 came in more than 100 contributions via a crowdfunding fundraiser. Downtown Brattleboro Alliance Executive Director Stephanie Bonin thanked VBike, Brattleboro Coalition for Active Transportation and Tiny House Fest Vermont for their help in getting the parklet from Montpelier to Brattleboro. Architect Ward Joyce had put it up for sale and Bonin knew residents wanted more support for alternative modes of transportation after seeing a recent parking study done by consultants hired by the town.

Bonin asked ceremony attendees to give cyclists "a gentle tap" if they are locking their bike to a parking meter, a tree or a sign. Instead, they can park at the new parklet or in spaces in front of Brattleboro Bicycle Shop and Twin Flames Taqueria — all Main Street destinations.

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Bonin called any change in the community "a statement of who we are."

"With some creativity and being nimble, we can change that statement whenever we want," she said. "And I think this is one of those moments, where we're making a statement very clear of putting bikes front and center. And the biggest thing for me is this bike parklet shouts, 'Brattleboro loves bicycles.' So whether you're touring through our state, you're using this as transportation or using it as recreation, this is a big green light that we want you here."

Dave Cohen, VBike director and founder, said improvements for cyclists in New York City were "all done on the cheap in the beginning."

"They experimented with really simple ideas that created more space for bikers and now, New York City is becoming one of the most premiere bike cities in the United States," he said. "And it usually starts with small acts like this."

His group looks at ways to get more Vermonters on bikes.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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