The noblest invention

Recently, Mathewson's natural inventiveness and social consciousness was put to use in the design of an all-terrain wheelchair, a tricycle of sorts, for the Mobility Foundation. He was proud of being part of an effort to design a practical, low-cost means of transportation for individuals who might not otherwise be mobile.

"It's all about mobility without barriers," Mathewson said.

This same personal philosophy carries over to local efforts, too.

Mathewson was part of the "brain trust" at Bike Recycle Vermont located in Burlington; the organization provides bikes for refugees and homeless people of the surrounding area.

Mathewson is also involved in developing an easy-to-use transportation system of recycled bikes for Third World nations; there, the typical imported econobox automobile is beyond the incomes of most citizens and contributes to pollution. This bicycle passion-and compassion-even helped spur a bike giveaway program in Jamaica.

"The Third World idea is to use the recycled portions of bicycles and provide, over a period of time, more than 100,000 people with cheap transportation," he said. "Simple transportation like this makes sense in the Third World. So, far over 250 of these refurbished bikes have been made. So, by rescuing a discarded bike here in America, we can change a life elsewhere in the world."

In between helping customers, Mathewson has been putting the touches on a high-end bicycle he helped design-the Zize Bike, manufactured in the U.S. by Super Sized Cycles. In addition to being an all-American bike, the Zize has a Vermont touch, too. Danforth Pewter of Middlebury manufactures the elegant pewter head badge on the bikes.

Keeping things local, Mathewson is a vocal champion of bicycle transportation in Vermont for everyday use, not simply for recreation. Despite the state's cold, snowy winters, he still advocates for more use of the bicycle here.

"Dressed properly, there are many times when you can ride a bike a few miles to work on a winter's day," he said. "I'd like to see 20 percent of Vermont's population riding bikes and reducing the use of fossil fuels. And we don't need fancy, trendy fashion bikes to get around either. Basic wheels will get you there just the same."

Check It Out: Little Cycles, 10 N. Main St., Vergennes. Hours: Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Closed Monday and Sunday.

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