BikeMaine 2014 generated $395,000 for local communities (Lewiston Sun Journal)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

PORTLAND —  The second annual BikeMaine seven-day bicycle ride contributed an estimated $395,000 in direct economic benefits to the communities along its route.

The ride, produced by the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, attracted 258 participants from more than 38 states, provinces and countries. Cyclists pedaled 350 miles from September 7 to 13 and stayed overnight in the communities of Westbrook, Norway, Winthrop, Gardiner, Boothbay Harbor and Bath before returning to finish with a farewell luncheon on the IDEXX campus in Westbrook.

“Having 300 BikeMaine riders and volunteers in town provided a tremendous financial boost to our shops, restaurants and inns during what’s normally a quiet weekday in September,” said Boothbay Harbor’s town manager, Tom Woodin. “The event provided numerous opportunities for Boothbay Harbor’s merchants. Local service organizations were able to raise much needed funds as well. It was a big win for the community.”

After completing each day’s ride, cyclists camped in a mobile BikeMaine village, erected in community parks or athletic fields, and enjoyed meals featuring local foods provided by area service organizations.

Entertainment was provided each evening, featuring some of Maine’s best bands and comedy performers. Whenever possible, ride organizers bought food from Maine farms and lobstermen, highlighted Maine products, and secured local services.

In addition to the products and services procured by BikeMaine in each community, participants spent, on average, more than $1,000 per rider during the week on food, lodging, shopping and transportation. More than 63 percent of riders were from out of state.

The ride also generated funds for local nonprofit organizations. Riders and volunteers contributed over $2,500 to benefit groups like the Westbrook Community Center, the YMCA Camp of Maine, and The Nature Conservancy, and BikeMaine donated unused food supplies to the Good Shepherd Food Bank.

“Our goal this year was to build on the incredible success of our inaugural ride,” said Nancy Grant, Bicycle Coalition executive director. “Through BikeMaine, we give back to local communities, bringing bicycle tourism to parts of the state that don’t often see many cyclists.”

Along with the 258 riders, 48 weeklong volunteers, more than 250 local community day volunteers, and seven Bicycle Coalition of Maine staff members participated in the event.

Planning for the 2015 BikeMaine ride, which is slated for September 12-19, is already underway. The 2015 route will be announced on Feb. 4. Registration for BikeMaine 2015 is open at


Maine Supreme Court upholds $750K award to victim of bicycle accident (BDN)

This article was originally posted on

By Christopher Cousins, BDN Staff
Posted Dec. 17, 2014, at 12:19 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Supreme Judicial Court on Tuesday upheld a $750,000 award to the victim of a 2010 bicycle accident and in the process clarified motorists in Maine are liable for cyclists’ safety.

Monica Semian, a Romanian exchange student, was living and working in Ogunquit during the summer of 2010. On Sept. 9 of that year, Semian, who was then 20 years old, was riding her bicycle when she collided with a school bus owned by Ledgemere Transportation that was making a right-hand turn at an intersection on Route 1. Semian, who was riding alongside the bus through the intersection, was run over and severely injured, resulting in a number of surgeries and medical bills topping $200,000, according to a press release from her attorneys.

According to Maine law, motorists passing bicyclists or roller skiers “shall exercise due care by leaving a distance between the motor vehicle and the bicycle or roller skier of not less than three feet” and “may pass a bicycle or roller skier traveling in the same direction in a no-passing zone only when it is safe to do so.”

The case was the subject of a five-day trial in September and October of 2013. A York County Superior Court Jury awarded Semian $750,000 after having reduced the plaintiff’s request from $1 million because she admitted some wrongdoing in the accident, but the bus company appealed the decision. Ledgemere, citing another lawthat says bicyclists can proceed to the right of traffic except “when proceeding straight in a place where right turns are permitted,” argued Semian assumed liability and risk when she passed the bus on the right at an intersection. The trial court concluded the statute was inapplicable, according to the Supreme Court’s ruling.

“We conclude that [state law] by itself does not insulate a motorist from liability under these circumstances,” wrote Justice Jeffrey Hjelm, who also stated the portion of law in question is “ambiguous” because it addresses cyclists’ conduct and not liability issues.

David Kreisler, one of Semian’s attorneys, said that in addition to securing just compensation for his client, the Supreme Court decision was a win for bicyclists in Maine.

“Today’s decision is a victory for my client and for bicyclists throughout Maine,” said Kreisler in a written statement. “Sharing the road means paying attention to bicyclists.”

The Bicycle Coalition of Maine participated in the case by filing a statement in support of Semian. James Tasse, the coalition’s assistant director, praised the court’s decision.

“This decision clarifies bicyclists’ and motorists’ rights and duties and should improve road safety,” he said in a written statement.

Watch for updates.


Paving plan well received (Times Record)

MDOT officials attend meeting in Woolwich
BY DARCIE MOORE Times Record Staff

After hearing a presentation Monday night on the Maine Department of Transportation’s plans to mill and pave a section of Route 1 next summer, town officials — and bicycle and pedestrian advocates — expressed their overall satisfaction with the plan.

In particular, Woolwich selectmen were reassured the MDOT had scheduled time to monitor a new striping configuration that would merge northbound traffic into a single lane near the Route 127 intersection. That way, if there are problems, the striping can be adjusted when the final layer of pavement goes down.

The MDOT plans to mill, fill and pave a 0.71-mile section of Route 1 in Woolwich from the Route 127intersection north to the bridge over Back River Creek. Woolwich selectmen sent a letter to MDOT asking them to do an analysis of whether restriping could improve bicyclist safety and calm traffic. MDOT also received a petition with more than 75 signatures asking MDOT to look at increasing pedestrian and bicyclist safety as well as calming traffic.

Shawn Smith, project manager with MDOT’s Highway Program, said the railroad crossing beneath the Arrowsic ramps needs to be rebuilt, which will probably involve a five-day shutdown.

There are 24,940 vehicles on an annual average daily basis coming off the Sagadahoc Bridge into Woolwich; that number drops to 18,380 north of the Route 127 and Hall Road intersection.

Smith said the MDOT’s best option right now is to extend the one-lane section of the northbound travel lane to just south of the Hall Road, “so essentially what we are gong to do is merge two into one, prior to where (Route) 127 breaks off and heads toward Dresden. So we’re going to try to use coming off the bridge, down the hill, as our merge area into one lane, have everybody into one lane through the intersection as you head north on Route 1.”

The MDOT wants to give drivers enough time and signage to understand as they come over the bridge, past the Dairy Queen and down the hill that the lanes drop from two to one, so they can safely merge.

“That allows us to have a 4-foot shoulder all the way through until the end of the project just beyond the Taste of Maine, at least,” Smith said.

The shoulders may be 5 feet in some areas.

Where MDOT has clocked vehicles leaving the Sagadahoc Bridge driving an average of 44 miles per hour, the merge is also expected to slow traffic. Whether the traffic change can accommodate the Bath Iron Works “race” of drivers at certain times of the day was also discussed, and the impact of vehicles exiting the BIW parking lot by Taste of Maine.

The other option Smith noted is to place the merge on the north side of Route 127. However, the goal is to evaluate how the first option works.

The MDOT also plans to enhance the island where Route 127 comes out onto Route 1, which makes traffic there stay in its lane and provide more protection as vehicles merge onto Route 1. There would be a new crossing for pedestrians and bicyclists which would put bicyclists back onto the paved shoulder on the inside of the merge.

The anticipated timeline currently is to advertise for bids in late February or early March. The railroad crossing work on the ramps is hoped to be done by Memorial Day. The rest of the work is weather dependent and will be done at night, from 6 or 7 p.m. to around 6 a.m. Everything to the shim course should be done by mid-June — and would be striped with the new merge configuration. The rest of June, until August, MDOT would monitor the striping change. The final layer of pavement is expected after Labor Day.

Sagadahoc County Sheriff Joel Merry said signs will be the educational component of the project, noting the diagram-style signs showing lanes work well, and urged MDOT use more than a small yellow merge sign to alert drivers. Merry said he hopes the department will get feedback on its signage.

“I am excited that we are going to do this on a trial period basis,” said Woolwich Selectman Jason Shaw said, adding it gives him some reassurance.

He expressed a major concern about the extra width on the bridge beyond the Taste of Maine, the last point where drivers try to get ahead of other vehicles. That is something Smith said his team will look at.

Abby King from the Bicycle Coalition of Maine commended the MDOT for using this project as an opportunity to implement its Complete Streets policy; and the community for coming together and participating in the transportation planning process.

Smith said he would expect to attend a Woolwich Board of Selectmen meeting with updates at some point after crews start the work.


Maine high court upholds $750,000 award to bicyclist hit by school bus (PPH)

The Supreme Judicial Court rejected an appeal by the bus company seeking to overturn last year’s jury verdict in favor of Romanian student Monica Semian.

BY SCOTT DOLAN STAFF WRITER | @scottddolan | 207-791-6304

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court has upheld a $750,000 judgment awarded to a Romanian college student who was run over by a school bus in 2010 while riding a bicycle in Ogunquit.

The state’s high court, in a 7-0 decision Tuesday, rejected an appeal by Ledgemere Transportation Inc. arguing that the bicyclist should be considered liable because she rode past the bus on the right.

Click here to read more.


Complete Streets: Maine Seeks to Make Roadways More People-Friendly (MPBN)

Complete Streets: Maine Seeks to Make Roadways More People-Friendly

By IRWIN GRATZ • DEC 10, 2014

When Main Street in Bangor was last re-built it wasn’t a “Complete Street.” Who says so? State Transportation Commissioner David Bernhardt. And he ought to know. “I designed that many years ago. Parts of that are 72 feet wide, no sidewalks.”

Another prime example is Franklin Street in Portland. Until a few years ago, it was called Franklin Arterial because it was designed to funnel vehicle traffic quickly from I-295 to downtown. To accomplish that, most of the cross-street intersections were eliminated – and, no, there were no sidewalks on it either.

Bernhardt says the Complete Streets policy sends a different message to traffic engineers: “Not only are we talking about the movement of cars; we are also talking about the movement of pedestrians, we’re talking about the movement of bicycles,” he says. “We’re talking about we’re going to have bus facilities.”

Bernhardt says, in many cases, this street re-engineering will be playing catch up. He says Mainers are already bicycling and walking more. In some cases, they’re also putting themselves at risk.

“Franklin Street, for instance,” he says. “People – all you got to do is look at the little trails that go across the street and they are crossing in an unsafe manner. And the idea is to make that safe. And that’s what ‘Complete Streets’ is all about.”


For many travelers, eco-tourism is giving way to ‘altru-tourism’

GARDINER, Maine — Paul Guthrie had spent some previous vacations on a medical mission to Africa and providing relief in Honduras after Hurricane Mitch.

So before he joined a seven-day, 410-mile bike ride through inland and coastal Maine, he made sure the money he paid for it would benefit the towns along the route.

If eco-tourism means doing no harm, the next step for Guthrie and a surge of vacationers like him is to do some good. And while there’s no consensus about what catchy name to give it — “Voluntourism”? “Altru-tourism”? — the idea is taking off with families and baby boomers who have free time and disposable income.

“They’re more independent, they can book their own travel much more easily, and they’re looking for different types of experiences,” said Jan Louise Jones, a professor of travel and tourism at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven, who studies this phenomenon. “And they’re becoming hyper-aware of where their money is going.”

Guthrie and about 260 other mostly 50-something cyclists from 34 states and five countries paid $875 apiece to ride and camp through Maine as part of BikeMaine, organized by the Bicycle Coalition of Maine. The proceeds are split between the nonprofit coalition’s advocacy work and civic groups in the towns along the route.

Food for the meals largely comes from local farms, and the travelers spread their wealth at farmers’ markets and small-town shops. They stop at elementary schools to speak with students, some of whom also follow the ride on social media to learn about the state’s geography. Still other students from an alternative-education program come along to learn about and provide bicycle repairs and tuneups.

But a principal purpose is to provide a boost to the economy, especially in hard-up inland towns, said Nancy Grant, the cycling coalition’s executive director.

“It’s sort of that value-added piece, that you get to take a bike ride in a beautiful place but you’re part of this bigger thing, which is trying to help the state,” Grant said at a lunch break on the ride. “It makes you feel like you’re not just being self-indulgent.”

In few places was that as clear as in Gardiner, a onetime mill town of about 5,800 on the Kennebec River on the outskirts of Augusta that is struggling to revitalize a historic main street whose red brick buildings are as vacant as they are picturesque.

“This will have a great effect on our economy,” said Thom Harnett, Gardiner’s mayor, as the riders settled into their tent city in a newly redeveloped park beside the river and as local volunteers set up tables to serve them dinner down the middle of Water Street. “There’s a lot of eyeballs seeing our beautiful city that may not have seen it.”

The flutter of welcoming banners and the bustle of the BikeMaine camp brought the sleepy neighborhood to life as Harnett pointed to a stately but abandoned 19th-century riverside brick building he said the city hopes to someday convert into a boutique hotel — perhaps, he said, only half joking, where some of the cyclists might stay on a return visit.

“This type of tourism, if done well, really helps communities,” Jones said. “It’s not only a better experience for the tourists, but for the communities themselves.”

The people who do it, however, insist the pleasure is all theirs.

The Bicycle Coaltion of Maine organized Bike Maine’s ride, including a stop in Gardiner and a big spread by local cooks.


The Bicycle Coaltion of Maine organized Bike Maine’s ride, including a stop in Gardiner and a big spread by local cooks.

“You come away feeling more fulfilled, and so blessed,” said Karen Knuepfer of York, Pa., as she hung some clothes out to dry on the Gardiner riverfront after a hard day’s ride. “You can really make a difference,” said Michelle Manion, another rider and an environmental consultant who lives in Arlington. “You also roll into these tiny towns and you get to chat with people you wouldn’t encounter in a million years.”

Ray Watkins and his wife, Helga, of North Weymouth, have volunteered to clean up national parks and wildlife areas on their vacations — in one instance, helping clear a 3-mile stretch of trail in Arizona by moving giant boulders with a rudimentary winch.

“The payback is that we’ve already enjoyed the parks and here’s an opportunity for us to give back without committing to a 40-hour week,” Watkins said.

More than 246,000 people like the Watkinses last year donated a record 6.7 million hours to the National Park Service, spokeswoman Kathy Kupper said.

“Every one of them pretty much says they get more out of it than they give,” Kupper said. “They love that they can match their talents to the parks, and feel useful.”

It’s not only parks that are taking advantage of this unbridled enthusiasm. So are other nonprofits and private companies that are promoting “giving back” vacations.

Vacationers who book with Seattle-based African Safari Co., for instance, help researchers implant locator devices in the horns of rare black rhinoceroses to track poachers who kill the rhinos for the valuable material, and some of the money they spend on their trips helps pay for medical clinics and schools near the lodges where they stay.

“You do it because you realize how fortunate you are to be able to afford vacations like this, and the least you can do is give a little back,” said Lois Friedland, who traveled with the company to the Tongabezi Lodge in Zambia and gathered more than 100 flash drives when she got home to donate to a school she visited that had 300 students but only three computers. “It gives you a more in-depth idea of what people need. It’s richer. We spent three hours going through the schools, talking to the teachers.”

Watertown-based Thomson Safaris gives back, too, co-owner Judi Wineland said, by hiring locals for its African trips and supporting schools and other local causes.

“If you look at what’s happening with mantras out there right now like ‘buy local,’ people are becoming much more sophisticated about where and how they’re investing their money” — including when they’re on vacation — Wineland said.

The Sierra and Appalachian Mountain clubs also offer the chance for travelers to help maintain their trails and wilderness lands while they’re on vacation in New England, Hawaii, St. John, and other places; so popular has this become that the Boston-based Appalachian Mountain Club now has a waiting list for it, spokesman Rob Burbank said.

Even the Ritz-Carlton hotels now have “give-back getaways” for guests: In Boston, they can help out at a soup kitchen at the Arlington Street Church, in Washington they can spruce up the grounds around the Lincoln Memorial, and in Grand Cayman they can work with an organization trying to preserve the endangered blue iguana.

“We’re definitely seeing the millennial generation — not just from a traveler standpoint, but from an employee standpoint — wanting to be a force for good,” said Sue Stephenson, who runs the hotels’ program. “Even if guests can’t participate, they like to know about these opportunities, and maybe think about helping the next time they visit.”

Jon Marcus can be reached at


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Despite rain, city’s big weekend deemed successful

WESTBROOK – The city and its event organizers and volunteers are decompressing this week following a flurry of weekend events that brought thousands of people to Westbrook. And while rain did dampen turnout for the city’s first open-street event, organizers of both BikeMaine and Mudderella, a sister to Tough Mudder, say they were pleased with how things went.

Abby King, the advocacy coordinator for the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, the organization behind BikeMaine and the open-streets event, said Saturday afternoon during a lull in activity that the idea proved a success for families taking advantage of the Main Street closure.

“We were definitely really busy,” she said, adding that a lot of kids used the “rodeo course,” decorated their bikes, and participated in dance and yoga classes.

While King said it was hard to say how many people came through, she was confident that it was least a couple hundred.

“For this being the first year, I think we had a great turnout,” she said. “I talked to a lot of people who were really excited to be able to walk and bike through the streets on a Saturday.”
Continue reading


Portland Celebrates PARK(ing) Day 2014 (Press Release)


Portland Celebrates PARK(ing) Day 2014
Parking spaces around the globe to be temporarily reclaimed as public space

September 17, 2014, Portland, ME — On Friday, Portland artists, businesses, activists, and citizens will participate in an international event called “PARK(ing) Day,” temporarily transforming more than ten downtown parking spaces into public parks and social spaces.

Originally invented in 2005 by a San Francisco art and design studio, PARK(ing) Day challenges people to rethink the public spaces of our streets, and reinforces the need for broad-based changes to urban infrastructure.

“PARK(ing) Day is about showing people what can happen if we start thinking about streets as public spaces for people, not just cars,” says Abby King, Advocacy Coordinator at the Bicycle Coalition of Maine. “Today we are transforming parking spots into fun, safe, community-oriented parks because we’re able to take cars out of the equation for just a little while.” Continue reading


Westbrook Hosts First Open Streets Event (Press Release)



Media Contact:

Abby King – Bicycle Coalition of Maine – 207-740-8753 –

Westbrook Hosts First Open Streets Event

A Car-Free Community Celebration in the Street

WESTBROOK, Maine. The first “Open Streets Westbrook” Event is planned for Saturday in the heart of downtown. The City of Westbrook will close a quarter mile of Main Street to car traffic on Saturday September 6th from 12pm – 5pm on Main Street between Bridge Street and Pleasant Street.

For five hours this Saturday, Westbrook’s Main Street will become a safe, open area that will allow adults and their children to walk, bike, run, dance, skateboard, roller-blade, and otherwise meet and engage actively with their friends and neighbors  – without worrying about traffic. Similar events have taken place in over 100 cities and towns across the country, including Portland, with great success. Continue reading