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Amtrak offers free bike travel for test day

In mid-July, Amtrak is inviting 44 bicyclists to roll their bikes on and travel at no charge northbound on Amtrak's Vermonter. The train will be the normally scheduled Vermonter, but it will be equipped with one car that has rack space for four bicycles. The exact date will either be July 16, 17 or 18.

Here's how it will work: Each bicyclist will sign up to board the train at a particular stop and will get off the train at the next stop. Because there are a total of 11 possible boarding stops (including two in Massachusetts and one in New Hampshire), a maximum of 44 bicyclists can be accommodated on the test run.

"Having Amtrak once again allow bicycles to be rolled onto trains in Vermont has been a long-time advocacy goal of many in the bike/ped community," said Nancy Schultz of the Vermont Bicycle and Pedestrian Coalition. "This is a special and historic opportunity to personally participate in this test run, a demonstration project that may result in the change many in the state have been seeking."

Schultz asked those interested in the test ride to pay close attention to the details and don't sign up if participants may not be able to fill the limited number of seats.

"To demonstrate that the bike/ped community in Vermont truly wants to see this change implemented," Schultz said, "it would be great to have the enthusiastic participation of 44 individuals."

Below are the proposed stops:

Four bicyclists may get on at Springfield, MA and get off at Amherst, MA;
Four bicyclists may get on at Amherst, MA and get off at Brattleboro, VT;
Four bicyclists may get on at Brattleboro, VT and get off at Bellows Falls, VT;
Four bicyclists may get on at Bellows Falls, VT and get off at Claremont, NH;
Four bicyclists may get on at Claremont, NH and get off at Windsor, VT;
Four bicyclists may get on at Windsor, VT and get off at White River Junction, VT;
Four bicyclists may get on at White River Junction and get off at Randolph, VT;
Four bicyclists may get on at Randolph, VT and get off at Montpelier, VT;
Four bicyclists may get on at Montpelier, VT and get off at Waterbury, VT;
Four bicyclists may get on at Waterbury and get off at Essex Junction, VT;
Four bicyclists may get on at Essex Junction and get off at St. Albans, VT;

The ride is free, Schultz said, but Amtrak can't provide transportation back to your starting point. You will need to bicycle back or make other arrangements to return. Amtrak will provide a survey to each participant so you can record your experiences getting aboard, securing your bike, riding the train and getting off the train. Clear and thoughtful survey responses are essential to assist

Amtrak in determining what needs to happen if this service is to be reinstated, Schultz said.

There may be an opportunity to roll your bike onto the Ethan Allen train traveling northbound from Castleton to Rutland during the week of July 22.  If that opportunity materializes, details will be forthcoming.

The exact date of the Vermonter test should be determined next week. If you'd like to reserve a spot for yourself, based on the information now available, you can do so by contacting VBPC at info@vtbikeped.org with your name and the stop at which you want to board the train with your bike.  Reservations will be taken on a first come, first served basis.