We were, each of us, stunned – and thankful that he wasn’t hurt more seriously. And we were struck by the obvious: this news was breaking on Bike to Work Day.
Gov. LePage is an experienced cyclist. We know this because we’re publishing an interview with him in the next issue of our membership magazine, The Maine Cyclist, in which he talks about how and why he loves to ride.
Beyond that, at the beginning of April the governor recognized us with the Maine Office of Tourism’s Originality Award, and he was on hand at the awards luncheon in Portland to personally bestow the honors. The award recognized our BikeMaine event for its success in boosting economic development by promoting Maine as a destination for bicycle tourism. Before things got underway, we got a chance to chat with him a bit about cycling.
He warmed to the topic, and talked in detail about how he loved riding in Jackman when he was younger. But it wasn’t just what he said that rang true, it was how he said it. He got that look in his eye, you know the one; the one that all cyclists get when they’re talking about their favorite rides with someone who’s actually interested and gets it. For the governor, it’s clear that cycling is a very personal thing, and that he is a committed and experienced cyclist.
So here’s our takeaway from all this: if an experienced cyclist like the governor, who apparently was not riding in anything other than a completely legal fashion, can be so casually knocked off his bicycle by a passing motorist, perhaps we’re not doing everything we can to protect cyclists, pedestrians, and other vulnerable users of our roadways.
Right now, our transportation infrastructure overwhelmingly favors the automobile, to the point where other modes of transportation seem to be little more than eccentricities that are benevolently indulged by planners and policy makers.
And yet, time and time again, it’s made clear that people value communities that are bikeable and walkable, qualities that are often at the top of the list when they’re looking for a place to live or work. The crash that injured the governor happened in Florida, but similar crashes happen all too frequently in Maine because the fact is, our transportation infrastructure does not reflect that priority.
We can do better. And if we’re truly committed to making our state a destination for bicycle tourism – if Maine truly is open for bicycle tourism business – we must.