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Colchester teachers release endorphins, not greenhouse gases

Susan Notes: The writer didn't mention the hills.

For sure these teachers get student attention.

By Matt Sutkoski

The way Will Warren figures it, a gaggle of bicycle-riding Colchester teachers have prevented more than 600 pounds of global-heating carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere since mid-September.

At least a dozen Colchester High School teachers ride their bikes to work, some almost every day. Zack Kramer, 29, peddles more than 20 miles through early morning darkness from his Jonesville home to the school. Warren, 41, a biology teacher, comes in from South Hero, rows a boat across the cut in outer Malletts Bay, then gets back on his bike to travel down the Causeway to school.

The teachers never set out to become a group, or manufacture a teachable moment with their bicycle commutes. English teacher Mike Long, 56, said he's ridden his bike to work since the 1970s. Others said they were on a health kick. Many decided independently to ride rather than drive. Then the bicycling teachers started talking to each other, and the informal group was born.

Since Sept. 15, Warren has meticulously maintained a spreadsheet of how many miles each of the teachers ride, factoring in the mileage ratings of the teachers' cars and calculated emissions. As of Friday, they avoided releasing about 600 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, Warren said. Increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are linked to global warming.

A dozen or so teachers in Colchester will not resolve the earth's global warming problems, Warren said, but it's a chance to set an example.

Husband-and-wife teachers David and Diane Bahrenburg, of Colchester said students see them passing through neighborhood streets. Maybe they'll convince kids that bicycling is healthier and better for the environment than driving, Diane Bahrenburg said.

Not so fast, said Colchester High School senior Hannah McFadden. "I think it's cool, but I wouldn't do it," she said of her bike-riding teachers. It already takes some time to get things together in the morning, without adding bicycles to the equation, she said. Then there's the matter of hauling supplies back and forth, she said.

There's a cachet among teens to driving to school, Diane Bahrenburg concedes. But maybe years later, they'll remember the teachers who rode bicycles. "You're planting that seed," she said. The bicycle commutes have proven addictive. Many of the teachers said they've lost weight, become fitter. The exercise makes them happier and puts them in a better frame of mind when they begin the day teaching. "When you pass up a day to ride in, and it turns out to be a nice day, you get mad at yourself," David Bahrenburg said.

Kramer said on days when he must drive rather than ride to school, he gets antsy, especially on the commute home through thick traffic. "I get annoyed and angry. I'm wasting time," he said.

As fall moves toward winter, the bicycling is getting challenging. Kramer didn't see a dead skunk in the early morning darkness and ran over it. Lately, there have been some days when he left home in the dark and came home in the dark. Frost has covered the lawns he's passed on recent mornings.

All of the bicyclists admit the ardor for their two-wheeled commutes will fade with the winds of November. By Thanksgiving, they'll stow the bikes, but the teachers promise renewed bicycle commutes in the spring.

— Matt Sutkoski
Burlington Free Press


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