Laura Carlsmith can recount the moment she fell in love with riding a bicycle.
“I started riding the day I picked up my brother’s new 10-speed bike in the 1970s,” she recalled. “It was love at first ride and I bought my own bike the next week.” Carlsmith soon progressed beyond that 10-speed to become a national bike racer.
Now, the Hinesburg resident is helping to promote the joy of life on two wheels as a member of the Board of Directors of Local Motion, a statewide bicycle and pedestrian advocacy group. Carlsmith joined the nonprofit last fall and serves as the board’s secretary.
“As a cyclist I was very aware of what Local Motion was doing,” the 65-year-old said, “but I didn’t realize they had a new strategic plan and when I learned they wanted to take the work they’ve been doing to make it easier to get around by bike and on foot in Burlington and spread it throughout the state I thought that sounded terrific.”
While Local Motion has many goals in their strategic plan, Carlsmith intends to focus her attention on infrastructure such as bike lanes, working with communities to ensure that many more Vermonters can have as much fun on their bikes as she does.
“Local Motion has a goal of making biking and walking part of Vermont’s culture,” she said “and I want to be a part of that.”
Carlsmith and her husband, architect Rob Bast, built their Hinesburg home in 1978. “It’s a great town,” she said. “We have a committee for everything and there is tremendous involvement. It’s easy to find like-minded people.”
Carlsmith’s career has taken many interesting twists and turns. She started in the publishing field and worked at the largest bookstore in Western Massachusetts. A love of adventure led her to employment with the Appalachian Mountain Club before moving to Vermont and settling back into the bookstore world.
A desire to try something new led her to Garden Way Publishing, working in both sales and public relations, and then for the National Gardening Association as part of a team that received a grant from the National Science Foundation for a proposal to use gardening to teach hands-on science.
When Carlsmith’s second child was born, she started Home Town Publishing, creating community directories and local maps.
After an epiphany during a visit to a computer repair shop, she took classes at Champlain College and Vermont Tech where she learned programming, web development and marketing, leading to jobs with Away.com/Adventuroustraveller.com and EatingWell. “Working at EatingWell was the most fun ever,” she recalls. “We had a tiger by the tail.”
Carlsmith spent some time on the board of directors of Vermont Life. She is currently a Trustee of Northfield Savings Bank and about to finish her term on the Board of Hunger Free Vermont.
Carlsmith retired three years ago. She and her husband continue to bicycle recreationally in Vermont and elsewhere. With a preference for mountains, she has cycled in the Alps and the Pyrenees, but also spent three months riding around Great Britain. In addition to road bikes, the couple has cross bikes that they use on gravel roads in the fall.
Carlsmith said she believes Vermont can learn a lot from Europe where there is a culture of motorists giving cyclists plenty of room to ride and the legal systems can be very strict about punishing motorists who injure cyclists or pedestrians.