By Michael Green
Photo by Israelzin Oliveira
Imagine a future Woodstock where cycling is not just a recreational activity but a part of daily life. This is already a reality for a brave few; however, with minimal local infrastructure, safety remains a main impediment. With smart planning and by mobilizing some of Woodstock’s unique local resources, we can change this. Safer bicycle infrastructure, like bike lanes, safety boxes at stop signs, and better signage could make journeys through the village safer and enable far more residents and visitors to choose to bike rather than drive. These investments would help solve problems around congestion and parking constraints.
More importantly, by connecting destinations across the village and the surrounding area with a safer travel option, we support an alternative mode of transportation to the single-occupancy vehicle trips that are all too common in Vermont. Transportation is the second largest source of carbon pollution in the state. Woodstock is a unique small town in that it offers everything residents need – schools, workplaces, shopping, dining, recreational activities – all within a small radius. With the right bicycle infrastructure investments, residents and visitors can access all they need within a short bike ride. By providing a safe form of emissions-free transportation, the town can further its own climate goals and help the state meet its greenhouse gas emission reduction requirements.
Beyond the environmental benefits, biking offers significant health benefits to residents as well. Even relatively short trips are a way to increase physical activity and get outside. Physical activity, like biking, improves mental health by reducing stress. Still, anyone who has ever ridden a bike on Route 4 knows that biking can be very stressful without proper infrastructure. And because of the lack of investment in appropriate cycling infrastructure, many residents and visitors are forced to forgo the benefits of biking and take the car instead.
Beyond the public health and environmental benefits, bicycle lanes can also provide a boost to the local economy. Tourism is a significant driver of revenue in Woodstock, and cycling is quickly becoming a larger piece of the pie. Dedicated bicycle lanes can help Woodstock attract tourists seeking cycling adventures, and those just looking for a leisurely ride.
With over 90 miles of dirt roads in town, Woodstock is ideally located to tap into the burgeoning popularity of gravel cycling and mountain biking. Events such as the Vermont 50 this fall at Mount Ascutney continue to highlight the amazing potential the area has as a cycling hub. At the start of October, investments into Woodstock’s mountain biking infrastructure were on full display as it hosted the Eastern States Cup Race on October 1st. It’s not just competitors who flocked to the region this fall. The scenic rural roads and picturesque trails in the area have already attracted enthusiasts, and investing in cycling infrastructure will only encourage this trend.
Luckily, the town does not have to embark on this journey alone. VTrans offers a host of resources and even goes as far as assisting towns through planning grants and supporting feasibility studies. If Woodstock were to apply for such funding, we could work with our regional planning commission and the community to put cycling infrastructure where it is needed most.
Woodstock can become a community where cycling is safe and accessible for everyone, from children riding to school to seasoned cyclists exploring our scenic rural roads. Investing in bicycle lanes is an investment in our collective future. It’s about improving our daily lives, protecting our environment, promoting economic growth, and embracing a healthier, more sustainable way of living. As we look ahead, let’s remember that the journey toward a more bike-friendly Woodstock starts with a single pedal stroke, and it leads us toward a brighter, more prosperous future for all.