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Bicycle Coalition of Maine Members, Allies to Engage Legislators In Support of Traffic Safety Education Bill

By | Advocacy Events, Coalition News, Featured Posts, State House Watch

Proposed Legislation Would Help Reduce Pedestrian and Cyclist Traffic Deaths By Providing One Hour of Traffic Safety Education to Students Each Year
April 7, 2017 – (AUGUSTA, Maine) The Bicycle Coalition of Maine is organizing Traffic Safety Day in Augusta on Tuesday, April 11, to marshal support for proposed legislation that will help cut the number of pedestrians and bicyclists killed each year on Maine roads.
“Too many pedestrians and bicyclists are losing their lives on our roads, and in each case these tragedies are almost entirely preventable,” Coalition Executive Director Nancy Grant said. “The Traffic Safety Education Act will help reduce the unacceptable number of pedestrian and cyclist fatalities in Maine.”
LD 1130, an Act To Provide Traffic Safety Education To Maine Students, is sponsored by Rep. Matthea Daughtry (D-Brunswick) and would ensure that all Maine children in grades two through 12 receive one hour of age-appropriate traffic safety education each year. The bill is scheduled to be heard by the Legislature’s Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs on Tuesday, April 11, at 1 p.m. in Room 202 of the Cross Building in Augusta.
The Coalition’s Traffic Safety Day is intended to help Coalition members and allies learn how to most effectively communicate the facts about the bill and why it is needed to legislators. The day’s events include:

  • A meeting with the Legislature’s Bike/Ped Caucus at the Cross Café (111 Sewall St., Augusta) at 8 a.m. to discuss biking and walking issues.
  • A brief training session on how to effectively communicate with lawmakers, from 9:15-10:30 a.m.
  • Meetings with legislators from 10:45-11:45 a.m. in support of the Traffic Safety Education Act.
  • The legislative hearing at 1 p.m. in Room 202 of the Cross Building in Augusta.

In addition to communicating support for the bill, Grant said, it is also important to note what the legislation will not do: it will have no fiscal impact on Maine schools or extend the school year, nor will it add to the state’s graduation requirements or increase teachers’ workloads; teachers would have the option of using the Coalition’s curriculum – developed by teachers for teachers – or have one of Maine’s certified Traffic Safety Educators make the one-hour presentation to students.
“The Traffic Safety Education Act will help keep our children safe now, when they’re walking or biking to or from school, home or a friend’s house, and in the future,” Grant said. “Children who’ve grown up learning the rules of the road will be safer around pedestrians and cyclists when they get behind the wheel as adults.”

Maine Bike Advocates Applaud Passage of Safety Bill (MPBN)

By | Coalition News, Featured Posts, State House Watch, Stay Safe

AUGUSTA, Maine – Advocates for Maine’s bicyclists and pedestrians are celebrating one of the rare examples of political harmony in Augusta: passage of a bill designed to make Maine roads safer for those who are traveling on two wheels or by foot.
The junction of Franklin Arterial and Marginal Way is Portland’s busiest intersection. Twenty lanes of traffic converge on the edge of the downtown district of Maine’s largest city. To miss a green light here can be frustrating, especially if you’re in a hurry, says Brian Allenby.
Allenby is with the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, a strong supporter of LD 1301 – An Act To Improve the Safety of Vulnerable Users in Traffic and To Clarify the Responsibilities of Bicyclists and Pedestrians.
Click here to read more…

Press Release: Governor signs bill to protect walkers, bicyclists and other vulnerable users

By | Coalition News, Featured Posts, State House Watch, Stay Safe

 
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact:
Brian Allenby
Communication Director
Bicycle Coalition of Maine
207.623.4511 (office)
207.252.8688 (direct)
brian@bikemaine.org
bikemaine.org
 

Governor signs bill to protect walkers, bicyclists and other vulnerable users 

June 19, 2015 – Portland ME – On Friday, June 12th, Governor LePage signed a bill into law that will improve the safety of bicyclists, pedestrians, and other ‘vulnerable users’ on Maine’s roads. The bill, LD 1301, was sponsored by Senator Amy Volk (R- Scarborough) and supported by the Bicycle Coalition of Maine. According to the Governor’s Office, fewer than sixty bills have been signed into law by Governor LePage so far during this legislative session.
“We very much appreciate the Governor’s support of safer walking and biking on Maine’s roads,” said Nancy Grant, Executive Director of the Bicycle Coalition of Maine.
As a result of this legislation, Maine law now defines a “Vulnerable User” as a person on the public way who is more vulnerable to injury than a person in a motor vehicle. This definition includes pedestrians, bicyclists, wheelchair users, those driving tractors, and others. Studies have shown that these vulnerable users are far more likely to be injured or killed in a collision with a motor vehicle.
The new law also strengthens Drivers Education programs by requiring courses to include increased instruction on protecting the rights and safety of vulnerable users.
“Teaching students about the rights and responsibilities of bicyclists, walkers, and other vulnerable users is an important part of any Drivers Ed curriculum,” commented Ric Watkins, owner of Belfast Driver Ed and President of the Maine Driver Education Association.
The new law also increases protection for walkers, runners, and wheelchair users attempting to cross the street by requiring that drivers yield to pedestrians who are attempting to cross the street at a marked crosswalk. Before this change, drivers only had to yield when pedestrians at a marked crosswalk stepped out into the road.
Kriss Evans’ father, David Grant, was killed while crossing the street in a marked crosswalk in Brewer this past December.  She is grateful for the stronger crosswalk law.
“My family is still grieving the loss of our dad, who did everything right and was  still hit and killed by a car while crossing the street right in front of his barber shop. Anything we can do to make people safer when walking across the street is a step in the right direction. I hope this law will prevent more avoidable deaths like my father’s.”
In addition to the added protections for pedestrians and all vulnerable users, the new law also clarifies the responsibilities of bicyclists; namely their duty to obey yield signs, stop signs, one-way streets, and traffic lights.
 

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The Bicycle Coalition of Maine is the statewide voice of cyclists and pedestrians. Since 1992, the Bicycle Coalition of Maine has led the effort to make Maine better for bicycling and walking by protecting the rights and safety of cyclists and pedestrians through education, advocacy, legislation and encouragement.  We support biking and walking for health, transportation and fun. For more information: bikemaine.org.  

Coalition Provides Testimony In Support of Funding for Bicycle/Pedestrian Projects

By | State House Watch

 

Testimony in SUPPORT of LD 193 – An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue for Bicycle and Pedestrian Projects

June 2, 2015

Good Afternoon Senator Hamper, Representative Rotundo, and distinguished members of the Committee on Appropriations and Financial Affairs. My name Abby King. I am a resident of Portland and I represent the Bicycle Coalition of Maine. Thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today in support of funding for walking and biking infrastructure projects in any transportation bond passed this session.
The Bicycle Coalition of Maine and our 5,000 members across the state urge you to support direct funding for infrastructure projects like sidewalks, crosswalks, bike lanes, and multi-use paths. These projects are fundamentally about transportation choice, safety, access, and equity. They deserve to be funded directly in the transportation bond. Ultimately, biking and walking infrastructure is about the safety of Maine people and the economic vibrancy of Maine towns and cities.
Every year, hundreds of people walking and biking on Maine roads are hit by cars and injured or killed as a result. Over 1,300 pedestrians and over 1,000 bicyclists were hit by cars in Maine from 2009 – 2013. In 2014 alone, 15 pedestrians and bicyclists were killed on the road when hit by cars.
Providing walkways separated from the travel lanes could help to prevent up to 88 percent of pedestrian deaths that occur when the pedestrian is walking in the road. Study after study has shown that people will leave the car at home and choose to ride and walk if they have well-designed streets, sidewalks, and multi-use paths available for them.
We have not prioritized funding for transportation projects that would reduce these needless deaths and debilitating injuries. Each year, MaineDOT can only meet, at most, 10% of the demand for stand-alone biking and walking projects from the towns and cities that apply. In 2012, 92 communities applied for a competitive grant for bicycle/pedestrian infrastructure projects. None of those projects were funded due to the already long list of backlogged projects.
LD 193 would fund the construction of 39 backlogged biking and walking infrastructure projects. This bond would leverage 20% of all planning and construction funds from the local communities. This backlog is real and it’s affecting communities all over the state. All of the 39 projects on the list in front of you have been approved and deemed “eligible and worthy” for design, construction, or both by the Maine DOT, yet they continue to wait for funding.
This list represents projects all over the state, from Waterboro to Presque Isle, that would keep children, seniors, families, and all Mainers safe, and that would benefit local businesses and revitalize Maine downtowns. In the case of many of these projects, the plans have been approved and the communities have devoted their share of the local match funding. They are simply waiting for the State to devote its share of the funds that have been promised. The list before you contains dozens of shovel-ready projects all over our state that would provide jobs, make Maine children and families safer and healthier, and help revitalize struggling Maine downtowns.
Biking and walking encourage economic development by increasing foot traffic to local businesses, by attracting a young people (who increasingly want live downtown and enjoy a short, active commute to work) to move to Maine, and by serving our seniors who want to Age in Place and continue to participate, shop, volunteer, and engage in their community. Construction of biking and walking projects will create much-needed jobs in our state. An average bicycle project creates 3.6 more jobs per $1 million invested than a car-only project. And small projects like sidewalks and bike paths are labor intensive and more likely to be contracted to local construction companies rather than larger out-of-state firms.
If we had funding to build these shovel-ready projects, the safety of all road users would improve, and our transportation network would be accessible to all Mainers including the 24% of Maine residents who don’t drive. For the sake of our economy, our safety, our health, and our environment, and because all people in Maine deserve an equal opportunity to get from place-to-place safely in their communities, please support funding for biking and walking projects.

Coalition Provides Testimony In Support of The Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Act

By | State House Watch

Testimony in SUPPORT of LD 1301
An Act to improve the Safety of Vulnerable Users in Traffic and to Clarify the Responsibilities of Bicyclists and Pedestrians

Good Afternoon Chairman Collins, Chairman McLean, and Members of the Committee. My name is James Tassé and l am here on behalf of the Bicycle Coalition of Maine and our 5,000 members. l urge you to vote in SUPPORT of LD 1301.
The Bicycle Coalition of Maine is the statewide organization that advocates for bicyclists and pedestrians. We work to make Maine better for bicycling and walking.
The Bicycle Coalition of Maine believes that this bill will improve the safety of our public ways for pedestrians, bicycles and motorists. In my testimony today, l will discuss some of the core provisions of the bill, and explain how this bill will improve safety for lvlainers of all ages and situations.
But let me begin by acknowledging what might be a shocking fact to all of you: bicyclists sometimes break the rules. So do pedestrians. And believe it or not, this probably bugs the Bicycle Coalition of Maine more than it does you, because we are trying hard to educate cyclists and walkers that the safest and most courteous way to behave on roadways is also the LEGAL way. Let me admit that the changes to l\/laine law that LD 1301 would enact are not going to solve every problem that exists on the roads with walkers and bicyclists, any more than any one motor vehicle law is going to stop cars from speeding or failing to yield or texting. Alas, the roads are used by humans, and we are all imperfect—motorists, bicyclists, pedestrians, wheelchair operators. We’ve all seen faulty behavior on the part of all these users.
That all being said, we firmly believe that LD 1301 is balanced, fair and effective in its approach to increasing accountability on the part ofall users. And in doing so, LD 1301 will improve safety.
LD 1301 does three critically important things: .
1. LD 1301 clarifies the operational responsibilities of bicycles and makes it easier for law enforcement officers (LEOs) to issue citations for bicyclists who flagrantly blow through stop lights and signs without consideration of other users, or who operate against the traffic flow on one~way streets, or who fail to yield to pedestrians. Current gaps in language and differences in how the law is interpreted complicate efforts to police these dangerous practices. LD 1301 will make it easier for LEOs to know that they are on solid ground when writing tickets to bicycle riders. The bill adds references to bicycles in the specific sections of the traffic code that regulate traffic control devices (§2057) and one way streets (§2059), and includes a requirement for bicycles to yield to pedestrians.
2. LD 1301 helps clarify and improve the rules concerning a motorist’s responsibilities to pedestrians in crosswalks. In changing §2056, the bill proposes a full stop, rather than just a yield, to people in crosswalks. The bill also spells out exactly which lanes are obligated to stop as a pedestrian is crossing a roadway. And most importantly, the bill improves and clarifies the “trigger moment” when a motorist has to stop. Current law requires that a walker be in the street and in harm’s way, before traffic must yield. Current law requires, for example, that an elderly woman venture into the roadway and be “within a marked crosswalk” before her right of way is triggered and traffic must yield to her. LD 1301 better protects people crossing streets by clarifying that their right of way can be asserted before they have to step into traffic, as soon as they show a desire to cross. LD 1301 requires that motorists must come to a full stop as soon as a pedestrian indicates an intention to cross by doing something as simple as waving their hand or their cane over a marked crosswalk. The clarity of these new rules will help guide motorist behavior, and remove ambiguities that make enforcement of pedestrian law difficult.
3. LD 1301 protects a category of roadway user called ”Vulnerable Users” that includes anyone who is not in the protective metal shell of a motor vehic|e—walkers, bicyclists, motorcyclists, horseback riders, ATV operators, roller-skiers and so forth. By introducing a Vulnerable User law, LD 1301 expresses our state’s commitment to protecting children, senior citizens, the disabled, and anyone else who uses Maine’s roadways without being a car. We’ve all been on a walk or bike ride when a car passed too close, or too fast, for comfort. The goal of LD 1301’s Vulnerable User provision is to emphasize that it is the motorists’ responsibility to drive safely near people who are not in cars. The bill creates this emphasis by both education and enforcement. The bill would require that all Maine driver’s ed programs include 30 minutes of education about driving conduct near vulnerable users. The bill also creates a category of traffic infraction that is punishable by fines and other penalties if warranted. This law provides a simple option for LEOs to reference when a motor vehicle operates unsafely near a variety of unprotected users, and it prohibits harassing or menacing behavior as well. The fines are the same as those in the §2119, which prohibits texting while driving—we think that driving a car too close or to too fast by a person who is, say, out walking under physician’s orders, deserves at least the same penalty as texting while driving.

In addition to these three critically needed changes to l\/laine law, LD 1301 makes a modest revision to the 3 foot passing law by clarifying that three feet is a minimum distance, and that it may be “reasonable and proper” to leave more space in some situations. 3 feet may be ok at 25 miles per hour, but that distance feels mighty close if the car or truck is moving at 55mph.
In closing—|’d like to emphasize that the changes LD 1301 makes to l\/laine traffic law are neither new nor untested. 11 other states, including New England states Vermont and €onnecticut, have VU laws similar to the one proposed in LD 1301. The language for the pedestrian section is based on Oregon law and was developed in part with reference to templates provided by America Walks, a national pedestrian advocacy group; our law is most closely based on language from Oregon. The measures proposed in LD 1301 are consistent with national best practices for improving the safety of roadways for non-motorized users.
We believe that LD 1301 will do very positive things for Maine roadway safety. And we are not alone: 64 other organizations in Maine signed a letter of support for this bill, which I will submit as part of my testimony. We feel that this bill is needed, effective and balanced, as it clarifies expectations for bicycle, pedestrian, and motorist behavior in a fair manner. We ask you to support LD 1301.
Thank you, and I’d be happy to answer any questions.

Coalition Provides Testimony In Support of Study on Transportation Funding Reform

By | State House Watch

Testimony in SUPPORT of LD 706 – Resolve, To Establish a Commission To Study Transportation Funding Reform

Abby King, Advocacy Coordinator

Bicycle Coalition of Maine

April 14, 2015

Good Afternoon Chairman Collins, Chairman McLean, and Members of the Committee. My name is Abby King and I am here on behalf of the Bicycle Coalition of Maine and our 5,000 members. We work to make Maine better for biking and walking through education and outreach, events and encouragement, and advocacy. I urge you to vote in SUPPORT of LD 706.
The lack of adequate transportation funding in Maine affects all users of the roads. We often think of this problem only in terms of its impact on car and truck traffic, but all types of users are affected by roads that need to be maintained or redesigned. People walking and biking are often at extra risk of being injured or killed in a crash due to roads that don’t take their needs into consideration. A study commission transportation for funding reform will bring forward solutions that will allow our road network to better serve the needs of all Mainers – not just those in cars.
We hear a lot about the need for additional funding to make sure highway and bridges are repaired and improved. We also know that Maine’s supply of funds for stand-alone bicycle and pedestrian transportation infrastructure – projects like sidewalks, pedestrian crossings, paved shoulders, and multi-use paths – is wholly inadequate to meet the growing demand across the state. Each year, MaineDOT can only meet, at most, 10% of the demand for stand-alone bike/ped infrastructure projects. In 2012, 92 communities applied for a competitive grant under the Transportation Alternatives program. Those 92 proposed projects totaled $45 million. Yet MaineDOT receives only $4.5 million every two years in federal funds for these types of infrastructure projects.
Lawmakers in states across the country are putting politics aside and figuring out how to pay for the upkeep of deteriorating and underserving infrastructure. We can work together here in Maine to come up with new revenue streams and restructured policies that will help balance transportation funding shortfalls. As we study best practices we’ll need to make sure the voices of all road users are represented. The Bicycle Coalition of Maine is committed to helping. I urge you to support LD 706 so that the best minds in Maine transportation can come together to do their homework and bring viable solutions back to this committee.
Thank you for your time and I would be glad to answer any questions.

Coalition Provides Testimony In Support Of Transportation Funding

By | State House Watch

Testimony in SUPPORT of LD 901 – An Act To Ensure Sustainable Infrastructure Funding

Abby King, Advocacy Coordinator

Bicycle Coalition of Maine

April 7, 2015

Good Afternoon Chairman Collins, Chairman McLean, and Members of the Committee. My name is Abby King and I am here on behalf of the Bicycle Coalition of Maine and our 5,000 members. We are the statewide organization that advocates for bicyclists and pedestrians. I urge you to SUPPORT LD 901.
Like many other states, Maine faces increasing road maintenance costs at a time when highway fund dollars are in decline. The challenge of maintaining thousands of miles of rural roads and bridges is one that is critical to the success of our economy and lifestyle. And while we often think just in terms of the impacts on motorized traffic that poor roads have, roadway maintenance has a huge impact on all users of Maine’s road system. Crumbling shoulders and bumpy roads put walkers and bicyclists at extra risk by forcing them further into the roadways. We must find a way to pay for repairs to our transportation infrastructure system so that it can serve the needs of all. Tying the fuel tax to efficiency standards is part of the solution to this problem.
Safe, equitable roads are a fundamental public good – no one is going to repair potholes, repave or rebuild streets, or build sidewalks and multi-use paths if the government doesn’t. States across the country are adjusting their fuel taxes to pay for the upkeep of deteriorating roads. Raising fuel taxes to boost spending on roads is fiscally responsible because as transportation facilities deteriorate it becomes more expensive to repair and replace them. Fixing our roads will never be cheaper than it is right now.
Nationally, an average of 90% of all trips between one and three miles are taken by car[i]. About 43% of trips made in a car are three miles or less, and 20% are one mile or less[ii]. Maine would be well served by a policy that would help to reduce the number of short car trips, which are costly for drivers, and costly to the road system (causing wear-and-tear and contributing to traffic congestion). If we could increase the number of trips made safely by foot and bike, which do not tax the system the way car trips do we would save additional dollars down the road.  Tying the gas tax to fuel standards is such a policy – it creates disincentives to drive and encourages people to carpool, take the bus, bike, or walk.
Tying fuel taxes to efficiency standards is a fair way to increase the highway fund revenues we need for maintenance, and to reduce maintenance costs in the future by reducing the number of unnecessary car trips. Without this increase, we will not be able to make smart investments in a transportation system that serves all users.
For these reasons I urge you to support LD 901. Thank you for your time and I would be glad to answer any questions.
[i] Rails to Trails Conservancy, “Active Transportation For America” http://www.railstotrails.org/atfa
[ii] NHTS 2009, FHWA Office of Policy. www.advocacyadvance.org/docs/nhts09.pdf

Coalition Provides Testimony In Support Of Common-Sense Traffic Laws for Bicyclists

By | State House Watch

Testimony in SUPPORT of LD 903 – An Act To Allow in Certain Circumstances Two-wheeled Vehicles To Proceed through Red Lights and Make Right Turns on Red in Contravention of Posted Prohibitions

Abby King, Advocacy Coordinator

Bicycle Coalition of Maine

April 7, 2015

Good Afternoon Chairman Collins, Chairman McLean, and Members of the Committee. My name is Abby King and I am here on behalf of the Bicycle Coalition of Maine and our 5,000 members. We are the statewide organization that advocates for bicyclists and pedestrians. I urge you to vote in SUPPORT of LD 903.
There are two types of devices that have the potential to actuate traffic signals for motor vehicles and bicycles. One is a loop that is embedded in the pavement; the other is a monitor that is installed on the traffic signal itself. There are many reasons that even supposedly bicycle-sensitive devices would not detect a bicycle or motorcycle. (ex. broken wires in the ground, loops that aren’t configured to be sensitive to vehicles of various shapes and sizes, a monitor that cannot detect a bicyclist because of fog or bad weather, etc.)
Non-responsive traffic signals are a significant problem for people on bicycles, mopeds, or motorcycles. Despite obedience to the traffic control device, an undetected two-wheeled vehicle could be stuck at intersections indefinitely until the operator finally chooses to proceed against the signal when it is safe to do so.
This bill simply authorizes an action that motorcyclists and some bicyclists already have to resort to when traffic signals fail to operate correctly. This bill does not legalize disobedience to signals or “blowing through” stop lights. This bill still requires a stop, and it places the responsibility to yield squarely on the shoulders of the bicyclist or driver, who must not interfere with the right of way of other vehicles that may be proceeding with green lights.
We believe that bicyclists, mopeds, motorcyclists and automobiles must obey traffic control devices, and we support strengthening the language that requires compliance. But when a part of the traffic system does not work for an entire class of users, the law needs to be flexible enough not to turn a common sense action into a traffic violation.
I urge you to build this common sense flexibility into Maine traffic law.
Thank you for your time and I would be glad to answer any questions.