By Olivia Box, a member of 350VT’s Writing for Climate Justice group
Adam Mitchell doesn’t own a car. Partially to reduce his carbon footprint, but also because, simply put, “I love biking. I love the feeling of wind against my skin, it allows me to breathe… to slow down and do things at a slower pace.” Mitchell, known as Phoenix, told me when I asked about how he gets around rural Vermont.
This past winter, he tried his hand at winter commuting, and it wasn’t as easy as he had hoped, despite studded snow tires. It was cold and there wasn’t a good biking shoulder. A friend suggested he try hitchhiking.
Every car that passed him offered him a ride. Soon his 7-mile commute into Montpelier developed into an enjoyable experience. Neighbors turned into friends, his commute got safer, and a new community emerged.
“People are kind and open. I thought, how can I make this a formalized thing, more than just hitchhiking but like informal carpooling,” Phoenix told me.
This informal carpooling is about to get a bit more formal, with a launch event this Saturday, July 27th. Phoenix’s community supported endeavor is called The Hitching Post and is a way for people to get rides in rural places. A hitching post can be a permanent or semi-permanent structure. There will be two permanent posts by at Birchgrove Baking in Montpelier and Post Office Café in Worcester for the first trial. Citizens can wait by a post to indicate they’re ready for a ride. The fixed posts will be known areas to get a ride, but Phoenix hopes people will move posts wherever is convenient, acting like open source technology.
Phoenix likes that there isn’t an app involved, making it accessible to those without smartphones. That way, it allows for, in his words, “spontaneous community” to form.
Pedestrians and visitors are always welcome to Vermont’s capital, but congestion has presented a long-lasting problem. Many people commute to Montpelier from the surrounding areas, and this has been a complicated problem for the city. Phoenix hopes this helps reduce the influx into the city, ultimately hoping Montpelier can become a hub for rural transportation and hitching posts can span beyond the area.
Biking is great, Phoenix remarked, “But Hitching Post is a way to use cars and build community.”
The group is having a launch event Saturday, July 27th at Birchgrove Baking in Montpelier. For more information about the community visit their Facebook page, The Hitching Post VT.