The Bicycle Coalition of Maine extends its deepest sympathies to the family and friends of the 17 pedestrians who lost their lives in traffic crashes during 2019.
The Coalition says it was disheartened to see the number of fatal crashes drastically increase in comparison to 2018, and will continue to push for infrastructure changes, advocate for stricter consequences for those found guilty of traffic violations, and continue efforts to educate both vulnerable users and motorists of best practices when using the road.
Since 1992, the Bicycle Coalition of Maine has been the voice of cyclists across the state, and in 2014, the BCM officially added pedestrian work to its mission. Over the last 28 years, the Coalition’s efforts have specifically focused on educating vulnerable users and advocating for the safety of cyclists and pedestrians on Maine’s roadways, and the 501(c)(3) non-profit consistently works with the Maine Department of Transportation, municipalities, and law enforcement to address the needs of vulnerable users’ on Maine’s roadways.
In 2017, the Coalition worked directly with the Maine Department of Transportation to launch the “Heads Up! Safety is a Two-Way Street” campaign, which aimed to improve public knowledge about road safety in response to a spike in pedestrian fatalities from 2015 to 2017. As the campaign moves into its fourth year, the Coalition and Maine DOT continue to work with 21 communities to identify and improve dangerous locations identified by residents. In the years immediately following the launch and promotion of the “Heads Up!” campaign, the number of pedestrian fatalities dropped to just six in 2018.
Unfortunately, reports show the downward trend reversed in 2019.
While the Bureau of Highway Safety has already made grant money available to keep pedestrians safer—and plans are already in the works for another campaign to call attention to safe-driving practices and the safety of vulnerable users —the Coalition says it would like to remind everyone that Maine’s roads can legally be used by cyclists and pedestrians, and are not exclusively for motor vehicles.
However, Maine roads have historically been designed without pedestrians or cyclists in mind, prioritizing efficiency for motor vehicles and leaving no room for other users. Because of these dangerous conditions, the number of people—especially kids—using Maine’s roads to walk and bike is lower than it would be if better bike/ped infrastructure existed.
As a result, drivers become less careful and aware of other users, and news stories of crashes frequently blame victims for “walking in the road” even though there are not safer places for them to walk. These are all unfortunate realities that the Coalition says it is working to change.
With the implementation of road designs that embrace Complete Streets principles, the number of people comfortable walking or biking will increase. Consequently, as more people feel safe enough to seek alternatives to their motor vehicles, drivers will develop a more heightened awareness of vulnerable users.
As Maine works towards safer road design, the Coalition encourages all road users to obey the law, comply with speed limits, and always operate while highly alert and without distraction. The Coalition will continue its education and advocacy efforts to improve road safety conditions for all users so that someday Maine’s road design will consider the safety of all types of users.