(PORTLAND, Maine) September 13, 2023 – A man in a wheelchair was hit by a driver while crossing Center Street in Auburn on Monday night.
“A tragic incident of a person killed on a Maine road. We send our deepest condolences to the victim’s loved ones,” said Bicycle Coalition of Maine Executive Director Jean Sideris.
The crash took place around 10:30 pm on Monday evening when Steven Mortimer, 57, of Auburn was struck by Bryan Paul, 54, of Altamonte Springs, FL. Initial media reports appear to blame the wheelchair user (which are considered pedestrians under Maine law) for crossing in an unmarked location “near the Target entrance” on Center Street. Without knowing exactly where Mortimer crossed the street, it is worth noting that this street has few crosswalks on it. Along the mile of Center Street south of the southernmost entrance to the Target lot, there are only four crosswalks, and there are none to the north. The distance from the northern entrance to the southern entrance, where there is a crosswalk, is over 500 feet, and it is reached by a sidewalk that has utility poles in the middle of it. In short–this road segment is not designed to safely accommodate pedestrians crossing on foot or in wheelchairs.
Under Maine Revised Statutes Title 29-A, Chapter 19, §2056 (6), it is not illegal in Maine to cross at unmarked locations unless they are between adjacent intersections where crosswalks are provided. North of the Target entrances, there are no other crosswalks on this roadway. Posted speed on this roadway is 35mph.
This roadway was considered a priority location in the MaineDOT’s 2018 Heads Up Pedestrian Safety Initiative, and in the final report on the location it was noted that “Additional study and significant redesign is needed to raise the pedestrian level of service” on this roadway.
The BCM urges law enforcement to carefully examine the roadway conditions, pedestrian facilities, history of crashes at these locations, driver and pedestrian behavior, phone use records, and any additional circumstances that may have been contributing factors.
Twelve pedestrians have been killed by drivers in Maine this year, according to the BCM’s tracking, and MaineDOT reports another 138 have been hit and injured. One bicycle rider has been killed, and another 103 have been injured in crashes with motor vehicles.
The Bicycle Coalition of Maine works to make Maine a better and safer place to bike and walk. Founded in 1992, the Bicycle Coalition of Maine has grown into the leading bicycle and pedestrian advocacy group in the state. The Coalition believes all Mainers should have access to bikes and bike education, and we envision a future where Maine’s roads, public ways, and trails are safe and accessible, resulting in cleaner travel options, improved health, and stronger economic benefits for Maine communities.