Favorite Upper Valley Bicycle Rides

For Get Out & Bike” Week we asked the Vital Communities network to submit their favorite hometown bike rides, ideally 10 miles and under. Here are some of the submissions!

ENFIELD: Around Mascoma Lake (7 miles)

Start in downtown Enfield, ride south on Main Street and take a left on Route 4A. Follow Route 4A along the shore of Mascoma Lake, then take a left on Shaker Boulevard. Shaker Boulevard winds around the north shore of Mascoma Lake until it hits Livingstone Lodge Road, which will take you back to Main Street. If you are concerned about traffic on Route 4A, riding out-and-back on Shaker Boulevard is a nice alternative to doing the full loop. With either option you’ll be treated to many views of the lake.

– Submitted by Alex Belensz

 

CORNISH TO PLAINFIELD: Wide shoulder, fairly flat, some rolling hills and picturesque Connecticut River Valley (up to 10 miles)

Start in Cornish NH on Route 12A just north of the Windsor/Cornish cover bridge. There is a place to pull over and park. If you prefer, you can park at the boat landing further up the road on the opposite (river) side.

Head North to Plainfield, passing turn off for Saint-Gaudens and Blow-Me-Down Grange. When you get to the town line of Plainfield you will be at 5 miles, and return for 10 miles. You may shorten the route by turning around at any point in the ride. Almost any time of day is good with the wide shoulders, lunch time is a good time during the week, the speed limit zones range from 35 to 50 MPH. Beautiful views of the Connecticut River and Mount Ascutney.

– Submitted by Alex Coombs

 

PLAINFIELD TO CORNISH: Cornish Loop or Cornish Out-and-Back (9.5 miles)

Here’s a great ride that’s under 10 miles, has two options, and works for both experienced and newer riders alike.

Unless you live in Meriden or Plainfield, you’ll need to drive your bikes to the start. There is easy parking at the start. Just come to the Plainfield School on Bonner Road in Meriden. (Bonus tip: There’s a great mountain bike trail that starts from here, too.)

Take a right out of the school back onto Bonner Road. At the stop sign, take a right onto Route 120 South. You’ll only be on Rt. 120 for about 100 feet, as your next turn is another right onto Stage Road. As of May 2020, Stage road received new coat of asphalt, so it is super smooth.  There is some traffic on this road, but visibility for drivers and riders is generally good.

Ride 1.7 miles, then take a left onto Penniman Road (at municipal town sheds). Penniman Road is quieter and winds along past meadows, bogs, and farm fields.

As you ride along, you will cross over the Cornish town line, and Penniman Road becomes Cornish’s Stage Road.  Along the latter half of Penniman and onto Cornish’s Stage Road, you’ll be biking up a few hills that rise gently (for the most part). At the top of the rise in Cornish, you’ll be rewarded with a nice view overlooking farmland and the distant ridge of Corbin Park (aka Blue Mountain Game Reserve). Continuing southward on Stage Road, a swift downhill leads to a long coast into the village of Cornish Flat, and meets up again with Route 120. Riders experienced at riding with fast moving traffic (some sections of Route 120 posted at 50 mph) can head north on Route 120 and back to Bonner Road and the Plainfield School. The pavement and “shoulder” along this section of Route 120 is about as good as it gets…for Rt. 120.

For those wanting a more relaxed ride, just turn around and return the way you came; new views await heading in reverse. No matter if you ride the loop or go out-and-back, the ride is about 9.5 miles. After leaving the Plainfield School, there are only three turns between there and Cornish Flat.

– Submitted by Allan Reetz

HANOVER: Trail riding on Trescott Water Supply Lands 

My favorite local mountain biking destination; it has only been open for recreation the last couple of years, and is becoming ever more popular. I like the Dogford Road entrance; starting from there, take the right fork onto the porcupine trail, which will eventually bring you to a major intersection with Knapp road. From here I like to head north on Knapp and do the Paige Hill loop, bringing you back to the same intersection, but this time head across and let it go for a grassy and scenic downhill, which will eventually bring you to the Stone Hill loop. Right now only the southern trail is open, due to extensive recent logging, but no complaints, it is a delightful woods single track that pops out into an open slope with a sinuous dirt track. At the bottom, take a left on the 1772 trail to Mason’s four corners and follow that to the Mason trail and Poor Farm back to parking. Its is very important to observe the rules here, i.e. no unleashed dog, in order to maintain recreational access. I particularly like that every time I go here, I see a hunter, hikers, birdwatchers, runners, and mountain bikers in roughly equally proportions. Also, great views to Mount Ascutney and beyond.

– Submitted by Gretchen Stokes

 

HANOVER: BONUS LONG RIDE to Hanover Center (15 miles)

Starting anywhere in Hanover, the route starts at the turn off 120 onto Greensboro Road (note this light does not change for cyclists, unlike the ones in town). Head out to Hanover Center Road, and from there to the first left on Dogford Road, which you follow in a clockwise direction to make a loop back to Hanover Center and then to the start. Most of the 15 mile ride is a gentle undulating uphill, meaning you don’t realize how much elevation is sneaking in. Lovely views here and there, nice gardens and flowers, a couple farms, as well as the Hanover Center parade grounds and “downtown” Etna. Very popular with bikers, and although there can be a moderate amount of car traffic, it tends to share the road quite politely if you return the favor.

– Submitted by Gretchen Stokes

 

HARTLAND TO WINDSOR: Windsor-Cornish Covered Bridge (8.2 miles or 10.4 miles)

Start from Hartland Three Corners (Damon Hall) down Route 5, across I-91, past the brewery and Artisans Park, down into Windsor. Turn left in front of the Armory and cross the amazingly long covered bridge to New Hampshire, then return. The ride is only 8.2 miles if you start from the Hartland park and ride at Exit 9 on I-91.

– Vital Communities Staff

 

HARTLAND: BONUS LONG RIDE Clay Hill Loop (15 miles)

Start in downtown Hartland, go up the Hartland Quechee Road to Clay Hill Road, then turn right and follow Clay Hill to Route 5. Turn right on Route 5 S and bike back to downtown. There are rolling hills, the cars are driving fast on parts of it, so this is a great ride for experienced road cyclists, first thing in the morning on a weekend, when there are no commuters or dump runs.

– Vital Communities Staff

 

LEBANON: Mascoma River Greenway and the Northern Rail Trail 

The Mascoma River Greenway is a paved multi-use path from downtown Lebanon extending along the old railroad bed toward West Lebanon. It crosses the Mascoma River several times and goes through open and forested areas. It’s often busy, especially on nice days, so please follow appropriate physical distancing measures. You can access the trail at several locations:

  • near the intersection of Mascoma and High Streets
  • across from Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital
  • at a gravel pull-off on Glen Road

The Northern Rail Trail spans 57.6 miles from Lebanon to Boscawen. It’s a wide gravel multi-use path, and like the Mascoma River Greenway, it can be busy especially on nice days, so please follow appropriate physical distancing measures. You can access the trail from near the CCBA in Lebanon and by Mascoma Lake in Enfield.

– Vital Communities Staff

LEBANON: Sunset Rock (8 miles)

From downtown Lebanon, head east on the Northern Rail to Bank Street Extension. Turn left on Bank Street Extension, follow road uphill. Cross under interstate and keep climbing Hardy Hill all the way to Sunset Rock Road. Turn right on Sunset Rock and follow it all the way down to its end at Route 4. Turn right on Route 4 (wide shoulder here), then right at Mill Road where you can hop on the rail trail and head west back into town.

It’s a great loop with a good hill climb and wonderful views. Includes gravel / hard pack road descent and flat trail. Be cautious on the uphill section, very narrow shoulder, best during lighter traffic times of day.

– Submitted by Marie McCormick

 

PLAINFIELD: River Road (up to 14 miles)

River Road is a quiet and scenic local road that runs along the Connecticut River. The road is mostly flat with a few short hills. The road can be ridden as an out-and-back (up to 6 miles one way) or as part of 14-mile loop using NH Route 12A. Route 12A is popular with more experienced cyclists, while families will likely want to stick to River Road. There are no formal parking areas on River Road, but there are some informal pull-offs. Please respect local traffic regulations and landowners when parking.

– Submitted by Alex Belensz

 

STRAFFORD: Strafford Loop (10 miles)

This route combines paved and unpaved roads, but the steep stretches are mostly paved, which helps a lot! Start at the Strafford Green (and admire the Town House, one of Vermont’s most photographed buildings!). Take the Brook Road, which climbs steeply at first and then levels out. Take a left onto the Cross Road and ride until its junction with 132. Go left and climb a bit then ride a long descent into South Strafford. At the T, go left on Justin Morrill Highway (or go right if you want to get a snack from Coburns’ General Store), and ride back to the Strafford Green. On really warm days, you might want to take a footpath along the river to this bridge over a swimming hole. The water stays cool all summer.

– Submitted by Becky Bailey

Donuts & Hogwarts: A Transit Travel Training Case Study

One thing a group of Millennial cartoonists doesn’t need is help using a smartphone app – especially an intuitive one that shows the real-time location of buses in the rural transit system, Advance Transit. No, a lack of tech savvy is not the barrier keeping these students off the bus. It’s more like,

“Cool, there’s an app, but how do I know the name of the bus stop out front?”
“Does the bus go to the theater where Black Panther is playing?”
“I’m just nervous to try the bus—what if it doesn’t show up?” 

Over Vital Communities’ two-year partnership with Advance Transit to promote their real-time bus system, we’ve learned that it often takes a little extra to get people confidently riding transit. “Travel training,” which traditionally only serves people who need special assistance, can be valuable to almost anyone.

Car ownership is low among the several dozen students at the Center for Cartoon Studies (CCS) in downtown White River Junction—a Master of Fine Arts program in sequential art. The school has consistently promoted Advance Transit as a way to explore the Upper Valley. But in talking to several alums, we discovered that many CCS students were hesitant to try the free bus, and tended to stay close to campus.

We decided to change this by partnering with a recent graduate now employed by the school –who had never been on Advance Transit either but was eager to help. He distributed a simple graphic flyer (right and below) to students that promised a Friday afternoon bus trip to neighboring Hanover to get donuts from famed Lou’s Restaurant & Bakery and visit Dartmouth’s “Hogwarts-esque” Baker Library.

On a sunny February day, I met a dozen students and alums in the school’s lobby. I prompted them to download Advance Transit’s real-time app and gave them a bus system overview—how to find the bus stops, which routes run where, etc. Then we walked around the block to the bus stop and took the 15 minute trip from White River Junction to Hanover, New Hampshire.

Once in Hanover, we picked up an overstuffed bakery box of assorted donuts from Lou’s and walked across the Green to Baker Library. The students had a great time

digging into the comics and graphic novel section of the library “stacks” and then tiptoeing through the ornate Tower Room.

Many had never been to Baker before—even though CCS maintains a library card there for its students. But now this vast resource is only a short bus ride away.

Aside from giving a few pointers, I didn’t have to do much after the students boarded the bus in White River. That’s just it. Simply getting them on the bus that first time undid the majority of their concerns about the bus. After all, they had watched the bus’s movement on the real-time app while they waited at the bus stop, and then a knowledgeable and friendly driver picked them up on time and took them to Hanover, as promised. Sure, they still had to learn their way around town and get on the right bus, but the bus was now a known and trusted entity. Perhaps Robyn, an alum, put it best: “I just needed someone who knew the system to go with me the first time.” And remembering the impact of a coworker first taking me on Advance Transit almost two decades ago, I think she’s right.

– Bethany Fleishman, Transportation Program Manager at Vital Communities/Upper Valley Transportation Management Association

Let’s get together to make something good happen

Re-making our transportation system will shift us toward better, cleaner, and more equitable living.

Imagine useful, affordable, and accessible village centers and downtowns with a variety of services, housing, and jobs. Where many people of all ages, socio-economic classes, and backgrounds could live and work, without needing frequent trips to a commercial strip or school complex accessible only by car and flanked by vast parking lots.

Imagine if cars weren’t king of our downtown streets. Instead, streets were a true common space, where kids could walk or bike to school or sports practice, people could engage with neighbors and nature on foot or human-powered wheels, and where transit, car-share and ride-share would foster strong social ties.

For people who live outside of town, imagine a robust public transit system where vanpools, buses, and trains bring elders, workers, and school kids in and out of village and downtown hubs, reducing our need for parking lots, highway expansion, and fossil fuels.

If that doesn’t sound like a future worth working for, here’s a reminder of what we have now—a system that gives people tough choices with their limited money, time, and mental energy, all causing a vicious cycle of physical and emotional stress and degradation of our Earth.

Our car-dominated transportation system is hard on our wallets. Vermonters collectively spend $1.38 billion on fuel every year – and most of those dollars leave the state. Add car payments, insurance, maintenance, and snow tires to the cost of gas, and how much of your pay goes to your commute, especially if you can’t or don’t live close to town?

Policy makers say there’s not enough funding for a region-wide transit system, but it’s worth looking into how much taxpayers spend on parking lots, highways, and subsidies to the automobile and petroleum industries.

Our car-dominated transportation system degrades our health and wellbeing. Many of us spend an hour or more driving to work plus more time running errands and shuttling kids. Many kids spend an hour on the school bus each way. Time sitting in a motor vehicle is inactive, cloistered, and adds to stress, plus drains time from exercise, healthy eating, and community engagement.

Also, the Upper Valley’s population is getting older. Soon, a large cohort of elders will stop driving. They will need affordable places to live and rides to critical services and social events so they aren’t isolated at home. How will we make this happen?

We hear that bike/pedestrian infrastructure and more efficient land use is too hard and expensive, yet how much money and energy do we spend on fitness regimes, health care, and sub-standard elder care?

Our car-dominated transportation system fuels climate change. Fifty-five percent of household carbon dioxide emissions are from transportation. And worsening climate change will likely contribute to a less stable economy, more volatile gasoline prices, and increased storm damage, exacerbating all the other issues we face.

Some see electric vehicles as a silver bullet for halting greenhouse gases from transportation, but will a new kind of car operating in the same old system just provide a stop-gap while maintaining other deep problems in our society?

So what are we waiting for? Let’s get together to change the future. We frugal people of New England specialize in people-sized solutions, simple, ingenious, and on a shoestring. Let’s get to work to combat climate change using those local values and make our community healthier, more vibrant, more prosperous, and more resilient for everyone. Get started today by checking out these resources:

Vital Communities “Commuter Calculator”
vBike
Advance Transit
Stagecoach
Connecticut River Transit (“The Current”)
Go! Vermont
New Hampshire Rideshare 

Then contact the Vital Communities Transportation Team to learn more!

– Bethany Fleishman, Transportation Program Manager

New Study on Funding Local Transportation

Vital Communities is pleased to release a new study that examines an optional vehicle registration fee used by over a dozen New Hampshire municipalities. The fee, authorized under RSA 261:153 VI, allows municipalities to collect up to $5 per registration to establish local transportation improvement funds for projects as diverse as basic road maintenance, sidewalk construction, and public transit.

Vital Communities Transportation Program Manager Aaron Brown, the report’s author, concludes that a growing number of communities are interested in the fee and that towns and cities have benefited greatly from their local transportation funds.

“The municipalities that collect the fee range in population from under 2,000 to more than 100,000, but they share a common theme: the revenue collected under this program is essential for maintaining good local transportation options.” —Transportation Program Manager Aaron Brown

Representative Patricia Higgins, a Democrat who represents Hanover and Lyme, recently introduced a bill that would raise the maximum amount that a municipality may add to their vehicle registration fee from $5 to $10, but only if the voters of that municipality decide they want to raise more revenue.

“Towns and cities can no longer rely on state funds to meet their important transportation needs, be it repairing a bridge so goods can reach a market, funding public transportation so commuters can get to work, or making a bike route safer for students to get to school. This fee, totally optional, allows localities to identify and solve their own problems. I’m grateful for the work of Vital Communities in educating towns and cities all over the state of the existence of this enabling legislation, and I hope my bill will allow local residents more flexibility to arrive at local solutions.”

Read the full report: A Look at the Municipal Vehicle Registration Fee

And the Winners Are…

Caption: Paul Coats, director of Recreation and Parks for the City of Lebanon, discusses the Mascoma River Greenway at the TMA 13th Annual Meeting.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock, Resource Systems Group, Advance Transit, and a Hartland bicycle commuter were honored at the 13th annual meeting of the Upper Valley Transportation Management Association (TMA), a program of Vital Communities. The annual awards recognize organizations and individuals making it easier to bike, walk, carpool, and ride the bus in the Upper Valley.

“This year’s award winners demonstrate our region’s commitment to healthy, affordable, and sustainable transportation options,” said Aaron Brown, Vital Communities’ transportation program manager. “Though we live in a rural region, the Upper Valley serves as a model for providing access to good transportation in small-town America.”

The TMA honored one individual and three organizations:

  • Commuter of the Year: Bicycle commuter Jesse Hills of Hartland was honored for his commitment to biking year-round to his job at Mt. Ascutney Hospital.
  • Large Workplace of the Year: Dartmouth-Hitchcock was recognized for its years of support for public transit and its new sustainability council, which features a transportation team.
  • Small Workplace of the Year: Resource Systems Group was honored for innovative programs including co-locating near transit and offering subsidies to employees who purchase homes close to the workplace.
  • Project of the Year: Advance Transit’s Green Route expansion, which improved service to every 30 minutes and increased the route’s ridership 50 percent.

Keynote speaker Paul Coats, director of Recreation and Parks for the City of Lebanon, discussed the unique fundraising success that will make the Mascoma River Greenway a reality in the coming years.

The Upper Valley TMA is a program of Vital Communities that works to reduce reliance on driving alone. The TMA’s members include local municipalities, transit agencies, major employers, and three regional planning commissions.