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July 2012

Active Heroes Team to Walk from Calais, ME to West Palm Beach, FL starting September 8

By | Events, Travel

Active Heroes is a volunteer led organization focused on helping Veterans, Active Duty Military and their families.  Starting in September of 2012, the Hike for Heroes team will set out to hike across the east coast on foot from Maine to Florida. Their journey will span nearly 3000 miles across the East Coast Greenway trail to inspire people they meet to help military families in need with the message that anyone can step up to help.

The tentative schedule for the hike through Maine is below.  Any support in this effort is welcome!  Please contact Mike Bowman for more information

Mike Bowman
Active Heroes – Lead Volunteer

9/8/2012    Calias, ME
9/11/2012    Machias, ME
9/12/2012    Columbia Hills, ME
9/13/2012    Milbridge, ME
9/15/2012    Ellsworth, ME
9/19/2012    Bangor, ME
9/20/2012    Hermon Ski area
9/22/2012    Unity, ME
9/24/2012    Albion, ME
9/25/2012    Waterville, ME
9/26/2012    Augusta, ME
9/29/2012    Lewiston, ME
10/1/2012    Lisbon, ME
10/2/2012    Brunswick, ME
10/3/2012    Freeport, ME
10/4/2012    Portland, ME
10/5/2012    Biddford, ME
10/6/2012    Kennebunk, ME
10/8/2012    Berwick, NE
10/9/2012    Portsmith, NH

The Importance of Sharing the Road

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

An article in the Bangor Daily News about the importance of bicyclists and motorists sharing the road.

We all need to share the road

By Julia Bayly, BDN Staff
Posted July 26, 2012, at 1:08 p.m.

FORT KENT, Maine — Those of us who enjoy being active in the outdoors know that with that joy can come great risk.

Last Sunday’s horrific bicycle-vehicle collision in the middle of the Presque Isle Time Trials was a pretty good reminder of that fact.

Thad LaVallee, one of the top time trialists in New England, continues to recover at The Aroostook Medical Center where friends say he has undergone surgery for multiple broken bones, fractures and a deep laceration to his thigh.

Time trials are shorter-distance races — the one in Presque Isle was 14 miles long — during which the riders go as hard and as fast as they can, leaving the start in 30-second intervals.

A friend of mine decided to participate and before I quite knew what was happening, I’d entered along with him.

An aside — averaging just under 16 mph over the 14-mile course, I surprised myself and won my age division. OK, so maybe it should not have come as such a surprise given I was the only one in my age division, but why focus on details? I did get a shiny medal for my efforts.

I’m not sure if LaVallee rode out ahead or behind me, but either way he was in front of me by several minutes (as were most of the riders) when the accident occurred around Mile Six of the race along the Parsons Road.

The incident remains under investigation by the Washburn Police Department, as we had crossed that town line by that time, but what seemed pretty clear to those of us who saw the aftermath is somehow LaVallee came into head-on contact with a pickup truck facing the wrong way in the right-hand lane.

Fellow teammates of his say it’s quite likely he was traveling close to 30 mph at the time.

The impact tossed LaVallee — and his high-end carbon bike — onto the opposite side of the road. There is no need to go into details except to say the result was not pretty.

However, what is even less pretty has been the reaction among some drivers around the state who have seen fit to use this accident as a springboard to condemn our sport.

As cyclists — especially those of us who ride on the roads — we are well aware of the risks that come with sharing space with 5,000-pound machines that average speeds in the high double digits.

We mitigate those risks as best we can by always being aware of our surroundings, riding as far to the right as we can, wearing helmets and — this is key — riding defensively.

“Cars and bicycles are supposed to share the road and cars are legally required to give all cyclists three feet of space,” Nancy Grant, executive director of the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, said this week. “For their part, cyclists are supposed to stay as far to the right as is practicable — and this is different from ‘practical.’”

Maine roads often lack wide, paved shoulders, especially the farther north you go, so riders can’t always hug that right hand side as much as some motorists feel we should, thus, Grant said, we try to stay as far over as is safe.

The tires on my road bike are race-thin and, like my fellow road cyclists around the state, if I am forced off the tar and onto a soft shoulder, I’m looking at a pretty good fall.

Though not legally required to do so, my cycling friends and I keep to a single file as we pedal along the paved highways and byways of northern Maine.

“No law says you can’t ride two or more abreast,” Grant said. “But a lot of motorists and police think it’s against the law to ride more than single file.”

Likewise, many motorists believe we cyclists should be off the road altogether and up on sidewalks.

“That is against the law,” Grant said. “Sidewalks are for pedestrians.”

As cyclists, we are bound to the same rules of the road as motorists and Grant said getting that message out — especially to newcomers to the sport — can be a challenge and remains one of the coalition’s primary missions.

“At the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, we have tons of printed and online materials to teach Maine bike laws and how to ride safely,” she said. “Right now there are so many new cyclists and an explosion of new learners.”

Grant asks motorists to be as patient with new cyclists learning the rules of the road, as they would be fellow new drivers.

“When you have 5,000 pounds of steel up against a biker, it will often be a fatality,” she said. “Drivers need to understand that.”

Recently a cyclist was struck by a car on Union Street in Bangor, and just this past week a top runner and road cyclist in Colorado was killed when a car turned in front of him.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Just ask Mark Rossignol, a longtime Aroostook County cyclist who has logged thousands of miles across two continents.

“In Italy and around Europe, they expect to see cyclists on the road,” he said. “They have respect for the cyclists and treat them like another automobile.”

I got to see that firsthand last fall when riding with Mark and his Freshtrails Adventure group around Tuscany.

No matter how slowly I was pushing my way up the hills — and let me say, it got pretty darn slow at times — never once did a driver crowd me, honk at me or otherwise invade my cycling space.

Rather, they slowed and waited for a mutually safe time and place to pass, often with a wave and smile of encouragement.

“I don’t know why people in this country resent waiting for five or so seconds to pass us,” Rossignol said. “Especially in northern Maine there is not that much traffic [and] they can wait and go around us.”

That being said, Rossignol agrees with Grant that cyclists must take responsibility for their safety.

“Cyclists should use every precaution,” he said. “Pay attention, don’t use iPods while riding, have a helmet and be aware of traffic.”

In the event of an accident, as became clear last Sunday, cyclists should carry some form of identification and emergency contact information.

A contact number for LaVallee’s family was found only after friends went through his cellphone — which was in his car back at race registration.

To get a decent workout on our bikes, we need to be on the roads. Bike paths or parks simply don’t offer the miles needed for those of us looking to log 20, 30 or even 100 miles in a day.

“Following the same rules as motorists will cover 90 percent of the issues between cyclists and drivers,” Grant said, and encourages drivers who may have lost touch with the joys of two wheels to get back out there.

“Jump on a bike,” she said. “It’s all kinds of fun and you can see things from the perspective of a cyclist [and] please give us room. It’s very scary when a car gets too close, or a driver throws something or yells at us.”

Biking is fun, but as cyclists like LaVallee know all too well, not without its dangers.

From all of us: Please share the road.

Julia Bayly of Fort Kent is an award-winning writer and photographer who writes part time for Bangor Daily News. Her column appears here every other Friday. She can be reached by email at

PPH Reports Portland Leads Decline in Car Ownership

By | Coalition News, Speak up for Biking


Portland at forefront of decline in car ownership

Many do it out of necessity, others by choice, but the trend is steady.

By Tom
Staff Writer

PORTLAND – Three years ago, Janet Burgess was several months behind in the car payments for her Ford Taurus when it was totaled in a collision. She decided to use her insurance settlement to become debt-free rather than buy another car.

Burgess, 55, said she misses the convenience her car provided but not the bills that came along with it.

“It’s time-consuming getting around, but I don’t have to spend that money,” she said while riding a bus from the Hannaford supermarket on Forest Avenue to her apartment in the Portland’s West End. “Knowing that it’s good for the environment makes it easier to accept.”

After steadily increasing every year since the end of WWII, car ownership in the United States declined for the first time in 2009 and again in 2010, the most recent year for which federal data is available. In Maine, the number of passenger vehicles has declined slightly each year since 2009.

The trend is more pronounced in Portland, one of the few communities in the state where it’s feasible to live without an automobile.

From 2004 to 2011, the number of registered passenger vehicles in the city plummeted from 49,900 to 38,200, a 23 percent drop. Traffic congestion has also declined, reversing an upward climb that had been the norm for generations.

From 2005 to 2011, the number of vehicle miles traveled annually on Maine roads and highways declined by more than 600 million miles, a decline of 4 percent, according to an estimate based on Maine Department of Transportation traffic surveys. In the Greater Portland area, excluding the interstate highways, the number of vehicle miles traveled annually declined by 79 million miles a year, a 7 percent decline during the same period.

At the same time, Portland’s Metro bus system, which now has a ridership of about 1.4 million passenger trips annually, has seen its ridership grow 3.55 percent in the first six months of 2012. The service has seen steady but modest ridership growth since 2000.

The statistics reflect two apparent trends: Families hit hard by the Great Recession and higher gas prices have cut back on spending by driving less or not at all. Selling a car brings in immediate cash, lowers debt and cuts monthly expenses. It costs nearly $9,000 per year to own a car, including monthly payments, fuel, maintenance and insurance, according to a study by the American Automobile Association.

In addition, the lure of the automobile as a symbol of freedom appears to have faded for many young people, according to national surveys. A growing number of young adults who could afford to own a car don’t want to and are moving to cities that offer other options.

“You are seeing two trends: One of necessity and one of choice,” said Nancy Smith, executive director of GrowSmart Maine, an anti-sprawl advocacy group based in Portland.

Young adults in America are driving a lot less than they did a decade ago.

For the nation’s 16- to 34-year-olds, the total amount of miles traveled declined by 23 percent from 2002 to 2009, according to a U.S. Department of Transportation survey of household travel patterns.

Nearly half of 18- to 24-year-olds would pick Internet access over having their own car, according to a survey released earlier this year by the Lempert Report, a marketing trend newsletter. The study speculates that the availability of virtual contact reduces the need for actual contact.

The decline in car ownership — particularly in new car purchases, which fell 33 percent in Portland from 2004 to 2011 — cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars annually in lost excise tax revenues during the recesssion.

But the decline of car ownership presents opportunities for the city’s economy. Its high population density, mix of services and retail stores, access to public transportation, car sharing services and extensive bicycle network have made it not only possible to live without a car but made the city a magnet for those who want to.

In Bangor, a person without a car is a “bum or something,” but the car-free lifestyle in Portland is embraced by the environmentally conscious middle class, said Jessie Lacey, 30, who grew up in Piscataquis County town of Brownville Junction and later lived in Bangor. She moved to Portland six years ago.

Her daily commute consists of a 10-minute walk from her Grant Street apartment to her job as creative director of a Web marketing firm on Exchange Street, and she usually brings her dog to work.

Three years ago, she sold her Chevrolet Cavalier because she was tired of keeping up with the paperwork that went along with owning car, such as registration and insurance. She shops for groceries at the farmer’s market and Public Market House on Monument Square and sometimes takes a cab to Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s for bigger shopping trips.

“I could never have imagined not owning car until I was in Portland,” she said.

Eric Blumrich moved to Portland from New Jersey in 2010 after his research on the Internet led him to conclude that he could live in Portland without a car. An animator for a multimedia firm in New Jersey, he works at home and could live anywhere in the country.

He said it was difficult to live in New Jersey without a car because public transportation was so poor and services were so spread out. Staying there and buying a car would have amounted to a 20 percent cut in pay, he said. Moving to Portland, where the cost of living is lower and it’s easier to get around on foot, amounted to a 10 percent pay increase.

Blumrich, 42, who lives in the Parkside neighborhood, said Portland has a variety of interesting neighborhoods, small businesses and a bus system that is better than any system in New Jersey. For relaxation, he rides the ferry to Peaks Island and walks to the undeveloped side of the island.

Tim Schneider, 31, a Portland attorney, keeps a log of his transportation expenses.

He bikes to work most days, and uses a car-share service occasionally. Last year, he spent $600 on his bicycle, bus fare and car rental payments. That’s a big savings compared to what he would have spent on a car, he said.

The trends in car ownership have implications on city land use and transportation policy, said City Councilor David Marshall, who last week proposed that the city examine the feasibility of a streetcar or light rail system that would run through downtown.

Marshall, the only city councilor who does not own a car, noted that the council’s decision in 2008 to reduce from two spaces to one the number of parking spaces required for each new housing unit on the peninsula appears to be paying off. It has lowered development costs, and developers are now doing planning work for projects that will bring more than 700 units of housing on the peninsula, he said.

Marshall noted that Portland apartments are in high demand. In February, the city’s apartment vacancy rate of 2.5 percent was tied with Minneapolis as the nation’s second lowest, behind only New York City, according to a survey by the National Association of Realtors.

While the millennium generation is now flocking to cities like Portland, the baby boomers will also gravitate to cities like Portland as they downsize from their suburban houses and seek neighborhoods where can live without driving a car, he said.

“Take these two gigantic generations, and you will see both are heading to urbanized areas,” he said. “Portland is in a strong position to capitalize on this trend.” 

Staff Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at:

Twitter: TomBellPortland

Be a Ride Leader at the MS 2012 Great Maine Getaway Bike Ride

By | Coalition News, Events

The MS 2012 Great Maine Getaway on August 4-5 (previously known by many riders as the MS 150) is looking for a few riders who would be willing to participate as so called “Ride Leaders”‘.  Ride Leaders should be familiar with the ride and be able to model safe group riding. If you are riding the MS Ride and are interested in being a Ride Leader, please contact Ken Bell at 207-215-7821 or

Volunteer for Valet Bicycle Parking at Mumford & Sons Concert on August 4th

By | Coalition News, Events

The Bicycle Coalition is providing valet bicycle parking for the huge outdoor concert of Mumford & Sons in Portland on Saturday, August 4th! This is going to be loads of fun!! There will be food and breaks provided. Setup will start at 10:30 AM, and we should be done by 10:30 PM. Come help as long as you can, especially for the last hour, when everyone will pick up their bikes at once. Please contact John Brooking ( for more details. if you can help. You must reply by Tuesday 7/31 to get a wristband!

Rolling Thunder: Bicyclists Swarm Midcoast for Maine Lobster Ride

By | Coalition News, Events, Featured Posts

Rolling thunder: Bicyclists swarm Midcoast for Maine Lobster Ride

Record participation of about 1,000 bicyclists make popular event a success

By Holly Vanorse Spicer | Jul 23, 2012

Photo by: Holly Vanorse Spicer Riders of the 100-mile route, or Century, head out early on July 21 for the 11th annual Maine Lobster Ride.

Rockland —

The Midcoast was abuzz with activity July 21 as bicyclists from across the country swarmed area roads for the 11th annual Maine Lobster Ride. With clear, sunny summer skies, the rides, which started and ended at Oceanside High School on Broadway, went off without a hitch and saw record registration numbers of about 1,000.

The ride, hosted by The Bicycle Coalition of Maine, was a little different this year. The 50-mile ride was split into North and South sections. It also was the first year cyclists could participate in teams.

Members of the Yellow Jersey Club led each group of riders for the different 100-, 50-, 30- and 16-mile rides. Each distance set off from the Oceanside West campus at different times to avoid congestion on the roads.

Austin Watts of Bowdoin, part of the Yellow Jersey Club, has ridden in all 11 of the lobster rides. Saturday’s event marked the ninth time he did the century trek. “I’m one of three or four that has done all of them,” Watts said of the rides. When asked why he rides the 100-mile route, his answer was only: “It’s what I do.”

Watts also said that route also goes by where he grew up in St. George. He added that there was nothing like seeing the bike odometer turn up to 100. Watts is an avid cyclist. Before heading off on Saturday morning, he already had logged 2,000 bicycle miles this summer.

Before 9 a.m., Jim Tasse, coalition education director, said the event’s registration numbers topped 800. At that time, people were still pouring into the parking lot of Oceanside and the upper parking lot at J.C. Penney was starting to fill with riders as well.

Single cyclists, groups, pairs and families turned out for the event. A walk through the school parking lot showed cars from New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Georgia, Alabama and even as far away as Arizona and California. The most distance riders made a more than 4,500-mile trek from Alaska. A few riders from the Ontario area of Canada came out for the ride.

Part of this year’s popularity in the ride can be attributed to the nationwide notoriety that the 100-mile ride gained after being named as one of the Top Ten Century Rides in the United States by Bicycling Magazine. The ride earned the No. 2 spot behind the Tour de Corn in East Prairie, Missouri.

The Maine Lobster Ride, founded in 2001 by Joel Fishman of Rockland, has seen its popularity grow over the years. The Maine Lobster Ride raises money for the bicycle coalition, a statewide organization that teaches bicycle safety and works to improve bicycling conditions. The bicycle coalition has helped Maine become the second most bicycle-friendly state in the country, according to the League of American Bicyclists. Maine also has won national recognition for its Safe Routes to School program, run by the Bicycle Coalition and Maine Department of Transportation.

Courier Publications editorial assistant Holly Vanorse Spicer can be reached by phone at 207-594-4401 or by email at

PPH Article About BikeMaine

By | Coalition News, Events, Travel

Pedal On: Bicycle coalition planning cross-state ride for next fall

By Karen Beaudoin

Seven days on a bike seat isn’t for everyone. The thought of pedaling 400 miles can be a turnoff for some.

But cycling enthusiasts on the Bicycle Coalition of Maine’s BikeMaine Ride Committee are betting that a week-long journey through the Pine Tree State will be appealing to plenty. And the odds seem to be pretty well stacked in their favor.

“Virtually every single person we’ve talked to about it has been incredibly enthusiastic,” said Nancy Grant, BCM’s executive director.

The coalition plans to offer the first BikeMaine ride from Sept. 7-14, 2013. The hype has already started, as committee members have communicated with cities and towns, cyclists, legislators, the Maine Office of Tourism and others who may have a hand in making the event a success.

BikeMaine is modeled after CycleOregon, now in its 25th year. Its 2013 ride, from Sept. 8-15, sold out all 2,200 spots in 45 minutes and has 800 potential riders on a waiting list. Several Mainers have ridden CycleOregon (some 10 times), including ride committee chair Mark Ishkanian.

“I was just amazed at how well it was organized and how much fun it was to cycle around a different state for seven days,” said Ishkanian, a public relations consultant from Readfield. He’ll ride his fifth CycleOregon this year.

“Every time I came back I kept asking ‘Why can’t we have a ride like this in Maine?”‘

Ishkanian answered his own question by taking the lead on organizing the Maine event. His research revealed that no New England states are among the 14 currently offering a mass ride.

The location of the inaugural ride will be announced early next winner with registration immediately following. The location is “top secret,” but sample rides offered in BikeMaine’s planning packet include “Bangor to the Coast,” which includes Belfast, Stonington, Bar Harbor, Machias and Aurora (349 miles, plus a day on the Acadia National Park carriage trails), and “Mountains, Lakes and Rivers,” which includes Fryeburg, Upton, Madison, Bingham, Wellington, Winthrop and Bridgton (409 miles). According to Grant, the group “is really committed to getting to parts of the state that are off the beaten path.”

Ride organizers will work with towns along the route to provide nightly entertainment, local food and additional activities for riders. Ishkanian said one of his favorite things about Cycle-Oregon is mingling with local people and exploring the towns.

“We’d go past a school where kids were selling lemonade and cookies,” he said, “and I can’t ride past kids selling lemonade and cookies, I have to stop and talk to them.” The children offered a map and pushpins that riders could place to show where they came from. As the kids realized, Maine is far, far away from Oregon, but that could be a big draw for the newest cross-state ride.

“The ride is a lot about exploring Maine,” said Grant, who calls her CycleOregon experience incredibly memorable. “We might go places where participants can rent canoes and go into the ocean.” Some stops may be near off-road trails cyclists can try.

The goal is to recruit half the riders for the first event from in-state and half from away. Visitors will see Maine’s main attractions and local riders will likely see parts of their state they’ve never encountered. All riders will benefit from the huge physical challenge and the training needed to undertake such an adventure.

“Part of it is the challenge of having that kind of a goal,” Ishkanian said of his Cycle Oregon experience. “Having an event at the end of the summer, I had to continually train for helped me get out more.”

BCM is working with grants from the Betterment Fund, Horizon Foundation, the Elmina B. Sewall Foundation and the Maine Office of Tourism to get the event rolling. The goal for year one is 350 riders, and neither Grant nor Ishkanian think that will be difficult to reach.

The toughest part will be the next 14 months of organizing. Beyond the route and registration, there is also the logistics of transporting luggage for 350 riders, camping areas, volunteers, food and much more to think about. CycleOregon has matured to a level where it gets 400 volunteers, communities open up their football fields for camping, four tractor trailer trucks are used to transport gear, high school students schlepp luggage for tips, and the organization provides tents for half of its riders.

BikeMaine riders will have to provide their own tents and gear, at least for the first two years. By Year 3, the hope is that upping the number to 750 participants will allow the ride to be self-supporting and for BCM to split excess revenues with host communities for local pedestrian and bicycle projects.

“It will be our biggest event,” Grant said, “and we hope to make it absolutely a signature event.”

And when they finally see BikeMaine become a reality, with hundreds of cyclists pedaling away from the start on Day 1, members of the ride committee will likely feel much the way Ishkanian describes the end of a perfect ride in Oregon: “It’s a sense of accomplishment, it’s fun to do, and it’s fun to be with a group of people at a table in the beer tent talking about the ride.”

Karen Beaudoin can be contacted at 791-6296 or at:

Coalition's Editorial on Federal Transportation Bill

By | Coalition News

Transportation bill cuts funding for bike paths

Last month, Congress passed the Federal Transportation Act of 2012.

The legislation was touted as a “jobs bill” because it includes funding for transportation infrastructure projects.

The bill, however, cut funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects by 33 percent nationally, reversing years of progress on biking and walking policy.

The Bicycle Coalition of Maine is especially distressed by these cuts because they come at a time when the public’s demand for biking and walking projects is increasing.

A survey conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International shows that the vast majority of Americans want federal funding for biking and walking. Eighty-three percent of those surveyed supported maintaining or growing federal funding for sidewalks, bikeways and bike paths.

Indeed, it is worth noting the bill was passed the day after the opening of the Veterans Memorial Bridge in Portland, which now includes a 12-foot-wide walkway for pedestrians and bicyclists.

This spring, 92 communities across the state applied for the Maine Department of Transportation‘s Quality Community Grants to fund projects to improve transportation and safety. Typical projects include sidewalks, crossing improvements, multi-use paths and bike lanes. These requests totaled $45 million; $7 million was available.

These federal cuts mean even less money to meet the communities’ needs.

With demand for bike/pedestrian-friendly projects clearly growing in Maine and around the country, this significant cut in federal funding is especially disappointing.

The coalition is concerned that Maine’s strong tradition of commitment to bicycling and walking is threatened.

This federal transportation bill is a wake-up call that a great deal of work must be done to convince legislators that the American public wants more alternative transportation options — not less.

Larry Rubinstein, Chairman, Board of Directors
Bicycle Coalition of Maine

Cycling Savvy will be empowering Maine bicyclists with classes in July and September

By | Coalition News, Events, Stay Safe

CyclingSavvy is a new traffic cycling curriculum from Florida Bicycle Association (FBA). It was developed by former League Cycling Instructors Keri Caffrey and Mighk Wilson.  The class inevitably teaches some of the same essential traffic cycling principles and skills as other cycling courses but it was not based on any existing curriculum. It is built upon an understanding of the needs of adult learners and the challenges of changing behavior that is strongly rooted in our traffic culture. Much of the content in the CyclingSavvy curriculum is completely original. Traditional content is framed and delivered in unique ways to maximize the learning process.

It is a modular course, consisting of three 3-hour classes:

  • The Truth and Techniques of Traffic Cycling – a 3-hour classroom session on traffic laws, crash prevention, bicycle driving principles, and unique traffic management strategies developed for this course
  • Train Your Bike – a 3-hour on-bike skill-building session held in a parking lot
  • Tour of the City – a 3½ hour experiential, on-road learning experience

Registration is now open for the July and September sessions.