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April 2012

The Coalition's Annual Pizza Party at Flatbread is Tuesday May 8

By | Coalition News, Events

Join us at our annual pizza party at Flatbread Pizza Co., 72 Commercial St., Portland on May 8 from 5 to 9 p.m. This popular event is the unbeatable combination of pizza, beer, bicyclists and raising money for a great organization! You can catch flatbread party logoup with friends and plan summer bicycling adventures, or perhaps even find some new biking partners. Flatbread will donate a portion of the proceeds from every pizza sold during the evening (including takeout orders) to the Coalition. Shipyard Brewing Co. will donate $1 for every Shipyard beer sold. Please share this event with all your friends and help support the Coalition’s work to improve bicycling in Maine.

Governor LePage Proclaims May as Bicycle and Pedestrian Month

By | Coalition News, Speak up for Biking, Stay Safe

Governor Paul R. LePage proclaimed the month of May as Bicycle and Pedestrian Month in Maine, and urged all citizens to recognize this observance.  This official proclamation signed by the governor recognizes that bicycling and walking are key components of economically vibrant communities; they are safe, healthy and enjoyable forms of exercise; bicycling and walking are low cost and accessible forms of transportation; and we are working to make our communities safe places that encourage bicycling and walking to improve our quality of life. The proclamation also recognizes that Maine is considered one of the most bicycle and pedestrian friendly states in the nation – last year, the League of American Bicyclists ranked Maine second in the nation for bike friendliness.

Students in over 40 schools from Fort Kent to York and from Sebago to Houlton will be celebrating Maine Bicycle and Pedestrian Month as they commute on foot or by bicycle.

Parents, teachers, students, and volunteers at each school have organized events such as “walking school buses” (children walking with adult supervision) and walking field trips, “bike trains” and “bike trek” field trips (groups bicycling with adult supervision), as well as bike safety rodeos and after-school bike clubs.  May is also National Bike Month and a number of schools will hold bike to school events to celebrate the first-ever National Bike to School Day on May 9.

Throughout the year, Maine’s federally funded Safe Routes to School Program — a program of the Maine Department of Transportation, the Bicycle Coalition of Maine and communities throughout the state — supports local efforts to improve safety and increase walking and bicycling to school and after-school activities. Two of the major goals of the Safe Routes to School Program are improved safety, including building life-long transportation skills, and increased physical activity to fight childhood obesity.  Emerging brain science demonstrates the benefits to children who walk and bike before the beginning of the school day.  “There’s a big boost in academic performance and improved classroom behavior.  So this program is very much a win-win for students, families and school staff,” said Nancy Grant, executive director of the Bicycle Coalition of Maine.

Since Maine’s program began in 2001, more than 150 schools have become involved.  Using federal funds, more than 50 communities have been approved for infrastructure improvements to make walking and biking safer near schools.  “These federally funded safety improvements have been extremely helpful in creating safer pedestrian and bicycle travel and reducing traffic congestion around schools in communities throughout the state,” said Sarah Cushman, Southern Maine Planner for the Maine Safe Routes to School program.


Communities already registered to participate in walk and bike activities this spring include Augusta, Bath, Biddeford, Buckfield, Buxton, Byron, Camden, Canton, Carthage, Dixfield, Fort Kent, Freeport, Greenville, Hanover, Hartford, Houlton, Kennebunk, Limestone, Lincolnville, Madison, Mexico, Monmouth, Naples, North Berwick, Norway, Oakland, Peru, Pittsfield, Portland, Raymond, Richmond, Roxbury, Rumford, Scarborough, Sebago, South Portland, Strong, Sumner, Topsham, Westbrook, Windham, Woolwich, and York.  It is likely that additional schools also will participate.

Bicycle Coalition of Maine highlighted in a Bangor Daily News column

By | Coalition News, Featured Posts, Speak up for Biking

A fun column from the Bangor Daily News referencing the great work of the Coalition:

Cycling equals freedom and an excuse to dine well

There are many things, people say, that are “just like riding a bicycle.” Among them, happily, is riding a bicycle.

Who among us does not remember that first bike of our youth? Or that feeling of independence that came when our worlds expanded to include everything within pedaling distance from home?

I’ve been riding bikes off and on for close to four decades now and I have to say, with the coming of spring, the anticipation of exploring northern Maine’s highways and byways on two wheels is as high as it ever was.

These days I alternate between a nice carbon-fiber road bike on tires that always look as thin as dimes and a rugged mountain bike, depending on my cycling mood on any given day.

Do I want to head into town for a cup of coffee in the morning? Or maybe a ride around Long Lake? If so, out comes the road bike, a model far more suited to pavement and tar than the dirt and gravel of the St. John Valley’s back settlements.

When it’s dirt I desire, the mountain bike rolls out and I’ll spend hours cruising past the ponds, potato fields and old farms of the settlements.

It wasn’t always like this. Back when I learned how to ride, the notion of having one bike for every type of riding conditions was unheard of.

Instead, I and my friends cruised around on Schwinn or Huffy bikes tricked out with banana seats and “sissy-bars” — those high rising, metal loops attached to the seat or rear fender.

Really cool kids had three-speed bikes, though most of us had what my mother referred to as a multispeed — as many speeds as you could pedal.

Brakes were certainly never on the handlebar — they were part of the pedals and stopping was achieved by backpedaling, which locked the back tire. Really good backpedalers could brake and lay down an impressive skid mark at the same time.

My first bike was a beast of a machine. A green Schwinn at least three sizes too big for me with a metal basket on the front, massive balloon tires and a bell.

It cost $10, weighed a ton, had the turning radius of an aircraft carrier and I loved it from the moment the older brother of one of my friends taught me how to ride one summer day.

I’ll never forget hearing Tony running along beside me, assuring me he was holding on to the bike and all I had to do was pedal.

After a moment, I could no longer hear his footfalls, so — still pedaling for all I was worth — I turned my head and saw him standing back in the road, arms crossed and grinning ear to ear as I accomplished my first ever unassisted bike ride — directly into a tree.

Eventually over that summer the elements of balance, momentum, turning and braking all came together and a cyclist was born.

About 10 years ago I got back into cycling with serious commitment and — as happens with so many activities — discovered there are a number of like-minded people.

These are folks who agree a bad day on a bicycle is better than the best day at work.

(It should be noted that, while I agree with that premise, in the winter months I swap out “dog sled” for “bicycle.”)

There are no official records on how many bicyclists there are in Maine, but according to Nancy Grant, executive director of the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, 6,000 of them are registered with her group.

“We feel that number is way lower than the actual number of people who enjoy bicycling in Maine,” Grant said.

As a card-carrying BCM member, I look forward to the annual sign of the start of the cycling season — the arrival of the coalition’s rides and events calendar in the mail.

From Portland to Fort Kent and all points in between, organizations and clubs sponsor fun rides, charity rides and races throughout the summer and fall.

Since I tend to be a somewhat goal-oriented individual, I’ve found signing up for one or more of those rides is the kick in the bike shorts needed to keep focused on training rides.

This year the goals include the 62-mile Tour de la Vallee Ride in Fort Kent, benefiting the local Edgar J. Paradis Cancer Fund; and the 70-mile Dempsey Challenge, benefiting the Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer, Hope & Healing.

Cycling can be a solitary endeavor, but sharing the road with fellow two-wheelers has afforded me the opportunity to meet some of the most inspirational people I know.

There’s Penny McHatten, a longtime cyclist from Presque Isle who puts more than 1,000 miles on her bike every summer.

Though Penny suffers from asthma and other health concerns that would keep a lesser woman home and sedentary, the only thing that keeps her beloved bright pink Trek road bike in the garage is heavy rain.

“Rain,” she will tell you, “is what you get caught in, not what you ride in.”

Every August, Penny marks her birthday with a special ride covering one mile for each year. Last year she turned 65 — it’s pretty easy and pretty impressive math to do.

I’ve had some great rides with Penny who not only knows some of the best routes in central Aroostook County, but also the best places to grab lunch.

“Ride to eat” is her oft-spoke motto.

Of course, that does not always play out so well.

Several years ago Penny, I and another friend planned a 50-mile ride in the St. John Valley.

Halfway through we stopped for what we considered a well-earned breakfast.

OK, so no one forced us to pile on the omelets made-to-order, home fries or French toast, but man oh man was it ever tasty!

Ever ridden 25 miles on a full-to-bursting stomach? It’s not pretty.

Now we gorge at the end of the rides.

Through Penny I’ve met the members of Spokes for Hope, a collection of cyclists from around northern Maine who, each Labor Day Weekend, pedal from Fort Kent to Kittery to bring attention to cancer and support for finding a cure.

Grant feels cycling is growing in popularity around Maine and said the activity is exploding in southern Maine.

The Bicycle Coalition of Maine annually works to provide education and resources for riders and drivers reminding people that the roads are there for motorized and nonmotorized travel.

This week I was reminded how simple and deep the joy of cycling is when a friend bought a new bike — her first in many, many years.

Coming in from taking one on a test drive outside the shop, she beamed and announced, “Wow, that was really fun.”

Who knows, maybe the Bicycle Coalition of Maine’s membership just jumped to 6,001.

This year I have a bit of a learning curve ahead of me as I finally bowed to peer pressure and put new pedals on my bike — the kind you “clip” into and thus become one with the bike.

Of course, if you don’t clip out in time, there is the danger of tipping over and being one with the bike in a heap on the ground.

Everyone who already has them tells me how simple they are to use.

Apparently, it’s just like riding a bike.

Information on the Bicycle Coalition of Maine is available on its website at

Julia Bayly of Fort Kent is an award-winning writer and photographer who frequently submits articles to the Bangor Daily News. Her column appears here every other Friday. She can be reached by email at

Twenty-One Maine Communities Awarded Mini-Grants for Building Safer & Stronger Walk & Bike to School Programs

By | Coalition News, Safe Biking at School, Stay Safe

The Maine Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Program announced the selection of its 2012 mini-grant recipients last week — a program made possible through the federal Safe Routes to School program with the assistance of several local Healthy Maine Partnerships. Twenty-one schools, municipalities and organizations from across the state will receive $250-$500 to support projects designed to encourage students and their families to safely walk and bicycle to school. The mini-grant activities, some led by students, will occur this spring and, for some communities, continue through Fall 2012.

“We continue to be impressed with how communities can leverage a very small amount of funding and a lot of commitment to develop new programs and to build upon strategies that may already be working well,” said Dan Stewart, the State Safe Routes to School Coordinator at MaineDOT.  “We received three times the number of applications as last year’s process, which is a great sign of the activity and interest in walking and biking for young people around the state – as well as the desire communities have for a variety of transportation options.”

SRTS programs are sustained efforts by schools, parents, schoolchildren, community leaders and local, state, federal and tribal governments to improve safety and enable and encourage more children to walk and bicycle to school.  The Maine Safe Routes to School Program, which serves the state for the federal SRTS program, originally planned to be able to fund up to ten projects. However, due to the generous assistance of several local Healthy Maine Partnerships, as well as the Maine Bicycle and Pedestrian Education Program, Maine SRTS was able to award 21 qualified applicants for their community projects.  Funds will be used for everything from student and volunteer safety vests to bicycle helmets to walk and bike-related safety incentives.

All mini-grant projects include at least one safe walking or biking experience for local students and one activity that improves safety and promotes safe walking and bicycling.  Proposed mini-grant activities include bicycle and pedestrian safety education through the school’s physical education curriculum, bike safety rodeos, and after-school bike clubs; school travel planning to evaluate barriers to walking and bicycling, including infrastructure assessments, parent surveys, student travel mode surveys, and safe routes mapping; student-led walk and/or bike safety patrols; walking and bicycling field trips; walk and bike to school events; creation of school bicycle fleets;and work on safety enforcement with local police.

“These mini-grant projects represent a collection of great ideas and great need,” said Nancy Grant, executive director of the Bicycle Coalition of Maine.  “Maine communities demonstrate tremendous flexibility and creativity in their strategies to improve safety for students walking and biking to school and after-school activities – and that’s what makes the Maine SRTS mini-grant program work so well.”

The 21 selected Maine SRTS Mini-grant recipient program locations and schools are: (for more information on specific planned activities, go to )

  • Bath, Brunswick, Freeport & Topsham – The Merrymeeting Wheelers Bicycle Club working with area elementary and middle schools
  • Bath – Bath Middle School
  • Buxton – Bonny Eagle Middle School – with Coastal Healthy Communities partnering on funding
  • Freeport – Freeport Middle and Mast Landing Elementary Schools
  • Greenville – Nickerson Elementary School
  • Kennebunk – Kennebunk Elementary School, with Coastal Healthy Communities partnering on funding
  • Limestone – Limestone Recreation Center working with Limestone Community School
  • Monmouth – Henry L. Cottrell School
  • Naples – Songo Locks School – with Healthy Lakes Region (CPHC) partnering on funding
  • North Berwick – North Berwick Police & North Berwick and Mary Hurd Schools – with Choose To Be Healthy partnering on funding
  • Norway – Rowe Elementary School
  • Oakland – Atwood Primary School
  • Pittsfield – Vickery Elementary & Warsaw Middle Schools
  • Portland – Longfellow Elementary
  • Richmond – Marcia Buker Elementary School
  • Scarborough – Pleasant Hill Primary School – with Healthy Rivers Region (CPHC) partnering on funding
  • Sebago – Sebago Elementary School – with Healthy Lakes Region (CPHC) partnering on funding
  • Topsham – Mt. Ararat Middle School – with ACCESS Health partnering on funding
  • Westbrook – Canal, Congin, and Saccarappa Elementary Schools – with Healthy Rivers Region (CPHC) partnering on funding
  • Woolwich – Woolwich Central School
  • York – York Police Department & York Middle, Coastal Ridge Elementary, & Village Elementary Schools – with Choose To Be Healthy partnering on funding

Bath Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee are helping people Rediscover Cycling

By | Coalition News, Speak up for Biking, Stay Safe

A great article from The Midcoast Forecaster about the work the Bath Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee is doing to encourage more cycling in the Bath area.  The ‘Rediscover Cycling’ class mentioned in this article now has a waiting list!

Bath group encourages adults to return to bicycling

BATH — Your destination is a mile away; should you get in your car or hop on your bike?

The people behind an upcoming six-week “Rediscover Cycling” course hope you’ll choose the latter, given strides to make Bath more bicycle friendly.

“One of the things I hope people will get out of it is a sense of the utility of the bicycle as a means of transportation, not just as recreation,” Robert McChesney, chairman of the Bath Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee, said Tuesday.

Often, he added, the cyclist is portrayed as someone young, wearing spandex, racing along the road. But McChesney’s committee and other groups are trying to convey that cycling can be a cost-saving tool if substituted for driving a motor vehicle on errands within a mile or two away.

The Bath Parks & Recreation Department is working with the Bath Area Family YMCA and Bicycle Coalition of Maine to offer the course, which will run from 6-7:30 p.m. on Wednesdays, April 25 to May 30. The $20 registration fee includes a tool kit; call the YMCA at 443-4112 or the Parks & Recreation Department at 443-8360 to register.

The course is geared toward adults who can ride a bike, but haven’t been on one in a while. It covers areas such as rules of the road as they pertain to bicycles, safe riding strategies and bike repair and maintenance. The class wraps up with two on-the-road lessons.

“We think the city is perfectly set up for more bike transportation, with secure bike racks and all retail and service facilities from soup to nuts concentrated in one small area,” McChesney said earlier this month in a press release.

He noted that the East Coast Greenway, a trail system planned to span nearly 3,000 miles from Calais south to Key West, Fla., runs through the city:

Coming from Woolwich on the Sagadahoc Bridge, a bicyclist would take the off-ramp into Bath and turn right onto Front Street, then right onto Lambard Street, left onto Commercial Street, right again onto Front, left onto North Street to the “five corners” area, right onto Oak Grove Avenue and then left onto Old Brunswick Road, leading to Brunswick.

“Given rising gas prices and the fact that 40 percent of all destinations are less than two miles from home, which is a very bike-able distance and can often be done faster on a bike than by car, we think this course comes at a very good time for people who are looking for ways to beat the gas prices and maybe get some health benefit in the process,” McChesney said.

Need to learn to ride a bike? Ask Fred Robie!

By | Coalition News, Stay Safe, Travel

Portlander, Marissa Simoes is off to Armenia, where she will spend the next 27 months as part of the Peace Corps.  In Armenia, a bicycle will be her primary mode of transportation.  She hadn’t ridden a bike since she was young and needed a lesson.  Who best to teach her?  Fred Robie, Bicycle Coalition of Maine board member, Bike Swap leader and veteran bike safety instructor.

Watch this movie, “Before you pedal off, how to be safe on your bicycle”, where Fred teaches Marissa to ride again.