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August 2014

Be our guest – Westbrook welcomes BikeMaine with park festivities (Westbrook American Journal)

By | BikeMaine, Featured Posts

This article originally appeared on KeepMECurrent.com

Posted: Thursday, August 21, 2014

WESTBROOK – For Westbrook, chosen as this year’s host city for BikeMaine 2014, a weeklong trek around the state, the event is another chance to bring in people who are largely unfamiliar with the city and display what it has to offer.
City officials haven’t shied away from the opportunity. On Saturday, Sept. 6, some 300 cyclists will descend upon Riverbank Park, where they will camp for the night, to prepare for “Pedaling the Waterways,” which will take riders a minimum of 348 miles past notable bodies of water such as Sebago Lake, Great Pond in the Belgrade Lakes region, and, of course, the Atlantic Ocean.
Since it was announced in February that Westbrook would act as host community, meaning the trek will also end in the city on Sept. 13, City Clerk Lynda Adams has been preparing for the event, which includes organizing meals and entertainment for the large crowd. One activity, however, has some people worried – closing a portion of Main Street for five hours Saturday afternoon.
The City Council voted unanimously Monday to approve the closure of Main Street between Bridge and Pleasant streets. The closing, not often popular with downtown merchants, will take place from noon-5:30 p.m., and was requested by event organizers, the Bike Coalition of Maine.
BikeMaine comes just two weeks after an outdoor obstacle course event known as Tough Mudder, which is expected to bring some 15,000 people into Westbrook. That event, to be held this weekend at Sunset Ridge Golf Links, will also attract a crowd largely unfamiliar with Westbrook.
During the council meeting Monday, Adams said the road closure coinciding with the BikeMaine event is a way to increase awareness of the “walkability and bikeability of our city.”
Known as “open street” events, which have become popular in municipalities both on a local and national level, Adams said, coalition members came to the city with the idea.
Abby King, of the Bike Coalition of Maine, said Monday that the open street event, especially intertwined with an already high-profile athletic event, can bring promotion to streets “as a place that can invite and encourage people to use them for biking and walking and not just driving their cars.”
“This open streets idea really came about because of the power of active transportation, to engage community members with each other and expose them to local businesses that are within biking or walking distance of their house,” she said, adding that it also promotes healthy exercise.
King said that the coalition, along with partners in a group known as Public Health in Transportation, will handle all logistical aspects of the event, except for the street closure itself.
“We’ll be doing all the promotion, newsletters, and programming along the event,” she said.
She said that along Main Street there will be a range of physical activities for all ages, including hula-hooping, a bike safety rodeo, and Zumba and yoga classes.
“Everything and anything you can think of that you could do in that type of street space if there weren’t cars blocking your way,” she said.
King gave councilors Monday a list of 38 downtown businesses that she had asked to support the event. Of the 38, 20 gave a notice of support, but many of those businesses are closed Saturdays.
Andrew Warren and his wife Corey DiGirolamo, the owners of Catbird Creamery on Main Street, said Wednesday that they’re looking forward to a different type of event downtown, but said they’re a little concerned for new customers finding their store on a day that is normally busy. However, the couple said they hope that the event will attract enough people to Main Street that it won’t matter.
James Tranchemontagne, the owner of Frog & Turtle restaurant, said in his response that he “was not against it,” but was concerned a poor turnout could look bad for Westbrook events in general.
Jaime Parker, director of Portland Trails, said Monday that the open-street event would be another way Westbrook can display the downtown area as a “hub” for active living and recreation.
“We think it can let people see the downtown in a different way, and sort of celebrate the community,” he said.
Portland Trails will be on hand during the event to promote its work in the city, where the organization is working to extend two separate river trails from Portland into Westbrook, eventually to connect to the riverwalk.
Bruce Wallingford, owner of Ernie’s Cycle Shop on Conant Street, also spoke at the meeting Monday to express his strong support.
Adams said Monday that Saturday’s festivities will include a parade down Main Street, traveling from Vallee Square to Riverbank Park at 5 p.m.
“The park will be closed to the public during the day of Sept. 6 to set up for Bike Maine, but they are welcome to come to the park after the parade,” Adams said, referring to Westbrook residents.
She added that the evening will include food vendors and some additional vendors from the park’s Maine Market, and will be headlined with a performance by the band North of Nashville, which will perform from 7:30-9 p.m. Adams said the event is open to the public.
Sunday at 8 a.m., the official start of BikeMaine begins for the riders with a ribbon cutting. According to Adams, the public is welcome and encouraged to attend. She said the riders will travel down Main Street toward Gorham and will be led by a police escort. The road will only be closed temporarily while the riders go along the route.
Adams added that at least half of the riders participating are from out of state, with some traveling from as far away as Japan and Australia.
She said BikeMaine organizers “want to leave a lasting impression with people who have never been to Maine before,” and that Westbrook wants to accomplish that same goal.
Cyclists will return the following Saturday, when there will be a traditional barbecue for the returning bikers, marking the end of the event.

BikeMaine returns to pedal the state’s waterways (KeepMECurrent.com)

By | BikeMaine, Featured Posts

Posted: Thursday, August 21, 2014 9:49 am

BikeMaine 2014 – a weeklong tour that’ll take riders roughly 350 miles – kicks off on Sept. 6 in Westbrook, heading northwest.
The 275-strong group will cover 59 miles their first day, swinging up the west side of Sebago Lake, through Standish, Naples and Casco before stopping off for the night in Norway. From there, they’ll turn east, take a northward loop, then dive south again, traveling along the coast before ultimately returning to their start point.
Chris and Dave Beneman, of Scarborough, took part in BikeMaine last year and will do so again this year. “We’ve been on a variety of bike trips, and were excited about a weeklong trip here in Maine. Early September is such a beautiful time of year,” Chris Beneman says.
Kim True, ride director for the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, which orchestrates the event, worked with an event coordinator and a volunteer committee composed of 10 additional coalition members to hash out all the details.
The committee begins by picking a region of the state to explore. They next select a layover community – where the group will stay for two nights, not just one, and have an unstructured day, during which riders can take part in various activities, biking and otherwise. Once that’s settled on, they have a scaffold off which to build.
“We work with the Maine Downtown Network,” True says, “to identify potential host communities that have vibrant downtowns, places of historical and cultural interest, the organizational capacity to feed and entertain over 300 people and the willingness to work together to showcase the best the community has to offer.”
In general, True finds candidate towns are exclusively accommodating. Even given the challenges associated with a sudden influx of hundreds of athletes, all carrying gear and accompanied by support staff, municipalities recognize the economic and PR benefits of welcoming the BikeMainers.
Most riders tent out, but there’s no requirement to do so. Other riders make their own arrangements to stay in hotels, and the coalition is partnering with Summerfeet to offer a hotel service. Summerfeet makes all the hotel arrangements and provides transportation between the BikeMaine village and the hotel.
Hot showers are available as well. Last year, BikeMaine relied on local schools, but not all could handle the BikerMainers’ hot water needs. So, this year, the coalition has leased a 16-stall mobile shower truck from New England Mobile Showers to travel with them all week.
“Every town is different,” Beneman observes. “[And biking] gives us the chance to slow down, see things at bicycle speed and interact with the residents. People we meet in towns and along the ride are very friendly. There’s a lot of local history, and BikeMaine does a great job of pointing out things to see and planning activities along the way – going up the Penobscot Narrows Bridge Observatory last year was one of the highlights.”
These goodies come at a cost, of course: each rider pays $875 up front to register. That fee may seem steep, but riders clearly get a great deal for their money: 18 meals, including a lobster bake, access to the BikeMaine Village and its amenities, luggage transport, a fully supported route with maps and rest-stops, nightly entertainment, a T-shirt and the opportunity to explore a long list of communities in a unique fashion.
“We feel it’s a very good value,” Beneman says. “It’s pretty all-inclusive.”
“This year, we’re bringing along some Westbrook High School students who are enrolled in the school’s WRENCH program to assist with camp setup and minor bike repairs,” True says. In addition, 20 volunteers travel with the pack to erect and strike the BikeMaine Village and drive the luggage and supply trucks, and 25 more post route signs, establish rest stops with snacks and drinks, operate HAM radios and provide medical care.
A hard day’s ride is a hard day’s ride, no matter how much roadside support riders receive, so those nights of relaxation are important. Professionals from the host communities offer massage, yoga, and locally concocted libations. This year’s entertainment includes various musical performers, a contra dance, and a night of comedy. Acts include North of Nashville (Westbrook), Bold Riley (Norway), the Gawler Family Band (Winthrop) and more.
The coalition doesn’t consciously pick a theme for the tour; it just so happens that sometimes a theme emerges on its own, a la “Pedaling the Waterways.” Three of this year’s six “BikeMaine Villages” are located on water, and the course itself looks out over some of Maine’s most scenic freshwater and saltwater vistas, including Androscoggin Lake, the Kennebec River, and the mighty Atlantic Ocean.
“When we were sketching the route, it became clear that every day, the route was following, skirting and crossing multiple bodies of water,” True says.
This is only the event’s second year, but it’s already turned into a sizeable affair. Last year’s 251 riders has jumped to 275 in 2014, for instance. Many participants hail from Maine, of course, but many more, in fact, come from beyond our borders.
“Two-thirds of our riders from out of state,” True says. “They’re coming from 34 states and Canadian provinces, as well as from Japan, Australia and New Zealand.” Participation by Mainers themselves is actually down this year.
The coalition would’ve capped registration around 350, so they fell shy of their limit, but are OK with even, if modest, growth.
“We want the event to grow at a measured pace,” True says, “to ensure that we have the necessary systems and support in place. We continually assess feedback from our riders, volunteers, host communities, partners and sponsors to make sure we’re producing a high-quality event.”
The coalition, a nonprofit boasting about 5,000 members, aims simply to make Maine better for biking and walking. True sees progress toward this goal accelerating in the future.
“BikeMaine is still in its startup phase,” she says. “We expect to turn a profit next year, at which time 40 percent of the proceeds will be used to support the coalition’s programming and 60 percent will be returned to the host communities in form of grants to support their biking and walking initiatives.
“From the very beginning, however, we’ve assisted local service organizations with fundraising by having them provide services for a fee to our riders. We also partner with nonprofits throughout the state to assist them in furthering their missions, such as with the Maine Federation of Farmers’ Markets.”
Importantly, BikeMaine is not a race.
“Everyone rides at their own pace,” Beneman says. “We ride in small clusters most of the time. Sometimes we move along at a pretty good clip; other times we might be more leisurely, chatting with other riders if we are on a quiet country road.”

Press Release: Maine Department of Transportation Adopts Complete Streets Policy

By | Coalition News, Featured Posts

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Maine Department of Transportation Adopts Complete Streets Policy

Bicycle Coalition of Maine, GrowSmart Maine and other partners join together to help create an innovative statewide policy

PORTLAND, Maine – The Bicycle Coalition of Maine and GrowSmart Maine are proud to announce that after two years of collaborative work by partners around the state, the Maine Department of Transportation (MaineDOT) has adopted a statewide Complete Streets policy. This policy outlines how MaineDOT and its project partners will consider the needs of all types of users when planning and developing projects.
“This formalized policy, based on federal law and existing state and federal policies, helps ensure Maine’s transportation system is safe for all people, and is intended to help create and maintain economically vibrant community environments,” said MaineDOT Commissioner Bernhardt.
The policy will ensure that all users of Maine’s transportation system-including bicyclists, pedestrians and people of all ages and abilities-have safe and efficient access to the transportation system. This policy is a major milestone in the state’s efforts to create a safe transportation system for all.
“With its new Complete Streets policy, Maine DOT takes a strong position that its transportation system will connect residents and visitors, regardless of age, ability, or mode of travel, to the state’s many destinations,” said Roger Millar, Director of the National Complete Streets Coalition at Smart Growth America.
While communities around the state have adopted several local Complete Streets policies, this new directive from MaineDOT applies to all state roads, ensuring that the hard work of towns and cities will be supported at the state level as well.
“Maine has always been a leader when it comes to safety on our roads”, said Nancy Grant, Executive Director of the Bicycle Coalition of Maine. “Portland, Lewiston and Auburn have already been named tops in the nation for their Complete Streets policies. Now MaineDOT joins them in considering the needs of all modes of transportation when designing and reconstructing Maine’s roadways.”
The MaineDOT has a long history of providing for the needs of all modes of travel in the planning, programming, design, rehabilitation, maintenance, and construction of the state’s transportation system. This policy is intended to improve Maine’s project delivery processes to help improve and maintain a safe, reliable, and efficient transportation system that supports the mobility and economic needs of our state.
Nancy E. Smith, Executive Director of GrowSmart Maine added, “When we plan for pedestrians, bicyclists and transit passengers of all ages and abilities, as well as trucks, buses and automobiles, safety is increased, traffic efficiency is increased and our communities are more accessible. This ultimately results in healthier neighborhoods – both physically and economically.”
For more information, please visit: http://www.maine.gov/mdot/completestreets/

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Media Contacts:
Bicycle Coalition of Maine
34 Preble St.
Portland, ME 040101
CONTACT: Brian Allenby
207-623-4511 x104
brian@bikemaine.org
GrowSmart Maine
415 Congress St, Suite #204
Portland, ME 04101
CONTACT: Kimberly Ballard
207.699.4330
kballard@growsmartmaine.org
The Bicycle Coalition of Maine is the statewide voice of cyclists. Since 1992, the Bicycle Coalition of Maine has led the effort to make Maine better for bicycling by protecting the rights and safety of cyclists through education, advocacy, legislation and encouragement. We support biking for health, transportation, recreation and fun. For more information: bikemaine.org
GrowSmart Maine promotes sustainable prosperity for all Mainers by integrating working and natural landscape conservation, economic growth and community revitalization. We do this by convening and engaging in public conversations about Maine’s future, contributing common sense policy analysis, educating the public, advocating for state and local change and supporting model practices. For more information: growsmartmaine.org

BikeMaine Scholarship Winners Announced

By | BikeMaine, Featured Posts

photo2The Bicycle Coalition of Maine is proud to announce that Coalition members Victor Langelo and Nicole Anderson have each won a half-week BikeMaine Scholarship.  We’re looking forward to riding with you both!

Victor loves riding in Maine and is a tremendous proponent of bicycling.   He lives in Topsham and is trained as a Bicycle Coalition of Maine advocate thorough our Community Spokes program.  He organized the Brunswick-Topsham Trail Coalition working with snowmobile riders, hikers and bicyclists, has done significant fundraising for a local trail segment that will eventually help connect to the existing Brunswick-Topsham Trail, and volunteers and rides regularly with the Merrymeeting Wheelers (he won their “golden sprocket” award last year). He’s a stalwart on the Merrymeeting Trail committee, and has twice led rides from Gardiner to Bath to familiarize people with this possible future trail, and to promote the trail to local businesses along the way.

imageNikki is 29 years old and a resident of Portland.  She is a year round bike commuter, member of the Portland bicycle pedestrian advocacy group and Meetup bike ride leader in Portland. She usually does a bike tour each year with her husband, but could not afford to do so this year as they are preparing to buy their first home.

Our thanks to  Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Maine  for allowing us to recognize these two very active members of the Bicycle Coalition of Maine for their passionate commitment and great work, with a scholarship to ride a half-week of BikeMane 2014.