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New bicycle law should make Maine roads safer, more accessible (Portland Press Herald)

By | Coalition News, Stay Safe

This article originally appeared in the Portland Press Herald.

New bicycle law should make Maine roads safer, more accessible

Wednesday June 19, 2013 | 10:24 AM

With the tragic news last week of 23-year-old Massachusetts cyclist David LeClair being killed while riding in the American Lung Association Trek Across Maine, little attention was given to Maine’s newest bicycling law.

On June 14, LD 1460, “A Bill To Revise Maine Bicycle Law,” became law thanks to the hard work and attention from the Bicycle Coalition of Maine.

The hope is that the bill, sponsored by Rep. Erik Jorgensen of Portland, is just the beginning of a process that will make cycling safer and more accessibility for riders around the state. And it is interesting to note that, with all of the recent vetoes and threats of veto out of Augusta, the bill was made into law without Governor LePage’s signature.

The following are the key points of the law:

The operator of the bicycle determines where it is safest and most “practicable” to ride on a roadway. This common sense change clarifies that when a bicyclist feels the need to use a travel lane (for example, because a shoulder is not in safe condition), the bicyclist has a clear legal right to do so.

A collision of a passing car with a bicycle is “prima facie” evidence of a violation of the three-foot law. BCM hopes that this change will encourage more citations for violations of the three-foot law, whether or not a collision occurs.

Cars may not make turns in front of bicycles when doing so interferes with the safe and legal operation of a bicycle.

“We’re thrilled to improve and clarify the foundation of bicycle law in Maine and are hopeful this bill will act as a catalyst for future legislation to protect the rights and safety of bicyclists,” said BCM Executive Director Nancy Grant.

For a detailed description of provisions in the new law go to bikemaine.org.

New Law Aimed At Protecting Cyclists In Maine (WGME – Video)

By | Coalition News, Featured Posts, Stay Safe

This article originally appeared on WGME.com

For video, please click here.

New Law Aimed At Protecting Cyclists In Maine

STATEWIDE (WGME) — There is a new law aimed at protecting cyclists in Maine. The Bicycle Coalition of Maine says the law does three things:

  • If a cyclist is hit, then the 3-foot law is automatically broken.
  • The new law also allows a cyclist to determine how far to the right they ride, so if the shoulder has cracks or is unsafe, the cyclist can move closer to the middle.
  • The law also makes it illegal for drivers to peel out in front of cyclists.

Nancy Grant, executive director of the Bicycle Coalition of Maine says, “I can’t tell you how many accidents in Maine are what we call right and left hooks where a motorist is making a turn and just takes the bicyclist right out – doesn’t wait for the bicyclist to proceed, doesn’t give the bicyclist enough chance and takes the bicyclist right out.”

The law went into effect without the governor’s signature. 

The Bicycle Coalition of Maine will also push for a law that would create automatic citations if a cyclist is hit, no matter what the reason.

LD 1460, "A Bill To Revise Maine Bicycle Law," becomes law

By | Coalition News, Featured Posts, Stay Safe

On Friday, June 14, LD 1460, “A Bill To Revise Maine Bicycle Law,” became Maine State Law! 

Here’s what LD 1460 does for you:

1. It clarifies that the operator of the bicycle determines where it is safest and most “practicable” to ride on a roadway. This common sense change clarifies that when a bicyclist feels the need to use a travel lane (for example, because a shoulder is not in safe condition), the bicyclist has a clear legal right to do so. 

2. It makes the collision of a car with a bike while passing “prima facie” evidence of a violation of the three foot law. If the car hits the bike, it didn’t give three feet! It is our hope that this change will encourage more citations for violations of the three foot law, whether or not a collision occurs. 

3. It clarifies that cars may not make turns in front of bicycles when doing so interferes with the safe and legal operation of a bicycle. 

Enacting this bill is just the beginning of what we hope will be a process that changes Maine’s bike laws to improve safety and accessibility for all riders. Your membership and support of the Coalition helps us make the roads safer for YOU!

 

The complete text of the law is as follows:

Act To Update and Clarify the Laws Governing the Operation of Bicycles on Public Roadways

PLEASE NOTE: Legislative Information cannot perform research, provide legal advice, or interpret Maine law. For legal assistance, please contact a qualified attorney.

An Act To Update and Clarify the Laws Governing the Operation of Bicycles on Public Roadways

Be it enacted by the People of the State of Maine as follows:

Sec. 1. 29-A MRSA §101, sub-§83, as enacted by PL 1993, c. 683, Pt. A, §2 and affected by Pt. B, §5, is amended to read:

83. Traffic.   “Traffic” means pedestrians, ridden or herded animals, vehicles, bicycles and other conveyances either singly or together using public way for travel.

Sec. 2. 29-A MRSA §2060, sub-§1-A, as amended by PL 2009, c. 484, §3, is further amended to read:

1-A. Right turns near bicyclists or roller skiers.   A person operating a motor vehicle that passesnear a person operating a bicycle or roller skis and proceeding in the same direction may not make a right turn at any intersection or into any road or way unless the turn can be made with reasonable safety and without interfering with the safe and legal operation of the bicycle or roller skis.

Sec. 3. 29-A MRSA §2060, sub-§2, as enacted by PL 1993, c. 683, Pt. A, §2 and affected by Pt. B, §5, is amended to read:

2. Left turns on 2-way roadways.   At an intersection where traffic is permitted to move in both directions on each way entering the intersection, an approach for a left turn must be made in that portion of the right half of the way nearest the center line and by passing to the right of the center line where it enters the intersection. After entering the intersection, an operator must make the left turn so as to leave the intersection to the right of the center line of the roadway being entered.

When practicable, the left turn must be made in that portion of the intersection to the left of the center of the intersection.

An operator intending to turn to the left must yield the right-of-way to a vehicletraffic approaching from the opposite direction that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard.

Sec. 4. 29-A MRSA §2063, sub-§2, as amended by PL 2009, c. 484, §5, is further amended to read:

2. Riding to the right.   A person operating a bicycle or roller skis upon a roadway at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at that time and place shall driveoperate on the right portion of the way as far as practicable except when it is unsafe to do so as determined by the bicyclist or roller skier or:

A. When overtaking and passing another roller skier, bicycle or other vehicle proceeding in the same direction;

B. When preparing for or making a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway;

C. When proceeding straight in a place where right turns are permitted; and

D. When necessary to avoid hazardous conditions, including, but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, vehicles, bicycles, roller skiers, pedestrians, animals, broken pavement, glass, sand, puddles, ice, surface hazards or opening doors from parallel-parked vehicles, or a lane of substandard width that makes it unsafe to continue along the right portion of the way. For purposes of this paragraph, “lane of substandard width” means a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle or roller skier and a vehicle to travel safely side by side in the lane.

This subsection does not apply in a municipality that, by ordinance approved by the Department of Public Safety and the Department of Transportation, makes other provisions regarding the operating location of a bicycle or roller skier on a roadway.

Sec. 5. 29-A MRSA §2070, sub-§1-A, as amended by PL 2009, c. 484, §6, is further amended to read:

1-A. Passing bicycle or roller skier.   An operator of a motor vehicle that is passing a bicycle or roller skier proceeding in the same direction shall exercise due care by leaving a distance between the motor vehicle and the bicycle or roller skier of not less than 3 feet while the motor vehicle is passing the bicycle or roller skier. A motor vehicle operator may pass a bicycle or roller skier traveling in the same direction in a no-passing zone only when it is safe to do so.

The collision of a motor vehicle with a person operating a bicycle or roller skis is prima facie evidence of a violation of this subsection. 

Effective 90 days following adjournment of the 126th Legislature, First Regular Session, unless otherwise indicated.

Maine Voices: Clash between driver, cyclist spotlights need to review rules of the road (PPH)

By | Coalition News, Featured Posts, Stay Safe

This article originally appeared in the Portland Press Herald.

Posted: June 09. 2013 10:31PM

Maine Voices: Clash between driver, cyclist spotlights need to review rules of the road

We can all share Maine’s roadways, but it takes courtesy and respect to do so peacefully.

 
ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James Tasse is education director of the Bicycle Coalition of Maine and director of the Maine Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Education Program.

PORTLAND — Last week’s incident between a driver and cyclist on the Martin’s Point Bridge in Portland has raised everyone’s awareness about bikes and motorists sharing Maine’s roadways. Thankfully, incidents like the one on the bridge are relatively rare in Maine, but while everyone is thinking about bikes and cars right now, we have a a good opportunity to review the laws and best practices that apply to situations where bikes and cars meet.

BICYCLISTS

By state law, bicyclists should ride with traffic, in the street, “as far to the right as practicable.” In most cases, that will put bicycles in the right-hand third of a travel lane, or on a shoulder if it is safe to use, but there are situations when taking more of the road may be necessary.

Bikes may legally use more of a travel lane when passing parked cars, avoiding obstacles or when the lane is too narrow for a car and a bike to share (as is the case with the Martin’s Point Bridge, which is marked with “shared lane markings” and “Bikes May Use Full Lane” signs during construction). Even on roads where bicycle lanes exist, it may be necessary to move into the travel lane to avoid opened doors, parked cars or other obstacles.

Riding on the sidewalks is not recommended for persons over the age of 12 and is illegal in some communities in Maine. If you must ride on the sidewalk, you must yield to pedestrians and alert them before passing.

Passing cars on the right can be dangerous, but it is legal under state law at a cyclist’s own risk.

Bicyclists should expect treatment no different from that of other users of the roads. Bicyclists should stop at all stop signs and red lights, and they should not go out of turn at intersections. A bicyclist’s actions should never force another user who had the right of way to have to stop.

Wearing a helmet and following the law not only protects you from crashes, it also preserves your legal rights if a crash does occur.

And bicyclists, although you have every right to the road, please try to be considerate of the whole traffic system as you drive your bike. Don’t forget what it is like to drive a car while you’re on your bicycle. You have a right to the full travel lane in some cases, but be judicious where and when you take it.

When you stop, please step completely off the pavement. Respect private property. Obey the principles of traffic law. Yield to pedestrians.

MOTORISTS

By virtue of the number, size and power of their vehicles, motorists carry a special responsibility for creating safety on the roads. Please be considerate of other users on the road. It is terrifying to a cyclist or pedestrian when a car passes them fast and close.

Remember that a car can be lethal to vulnerable users like bicyclists and walkers! Follow posted speed limits and obey traffic signs and lights. Avoid using cellphones and other electronic devices while driving.

Remember that “Yield” means to slow down and wait for other vehicles. Motorists should expect other users, including walkers and bicyclists, on the roadways.

Motorists should also remember that bicyclists have a right to the road and should be treated like any other slow-moving traffic (such as farm tractors) when they are encountered. Motorists should slow and stay behind such traffic until it is safe to pass.

By Maine state law, bicyclists (and pedestrians) must be passed with at least 3 feet of space. If you can’t give them at least 3 feet, you should slow down and wait for a safer place to pass.

Maine is a great place to enjoy summer, whether on foot, on a bike or on the road to the beach. All users should remember that we’re all going to be out there on the roads together, and that we should try to be courteous and respectful of other users’ rights to our public ways. Let’s have a safe and calm summer season on the roads this year!

— Special to the Press Herald

Video – Walking School Bus Program Kicks Off In Portland (WGME)

By | Coalition News, Featured Posts, Safe Biking at School, Stay Safe

 

This article originally appeared on WGME.com

Click here to watch the video

Walking School Bus Program Kicks Off In Portland

PORTLAND (WGME) — A program just getting under way here in Portland is putting a different kind of school bus on the street, and getting kids to exercise in the process. It’s called the Walking School Bus program.

If you’d like more information, click here

So far, the program is in the Reiche School and East End Community School. Kids walk with adult volunteers along set routes to their schools each morning, and along the way they make stops at various points to pick up more kids. Just like a traditional school bus. 

The program accomplishes two goals: getting kids to school safely and promoting exercise too.

Program coordinator Betsy Critchfield says, “A lot of parents have concerns about letting their kids walk to school by themselves especially kindergarten and first grade and so we just wanted to enable that to happen in a safe environment.”

“Physical activity is one way to set kids up for learning, to be open to learning so this is one way to do that,” says Peter McCormack, assistant principal at East End School.

The program needs your help.  They are looking for more adult volunteers so that they can allow more kids to join in the fun.

Balancing act: Bikes, cars compete for Portland streets

By | Featured Posts, Stay Safe

 

This article originally appeared on TheForecaster.net

Balancing act: Bikes, cars compete for Portland Streets

Tuesday, April 30, 2013 at 9:30 am
 

PORTLAND — It’s a sure sign of spring: bicycle riders, from kids wobbling on their first two-wheelers to Spandex-clad athletes on high-tech racing machines, once again occupy city streets.

Photo: William Hall / The Forecaster

A pack of cyclists crosses Washington Avenue on Ocean Avenue in Portland on Monday afternoon, April 29. The city’s efforts to become more bike-friendly are generating praise and concern.

This year, several initiatives are making Portland a more bike-friendly place for cyclists.  But some wonder if it is becoming too friendly.

In February, the city was one of five communities in the country to receive federal assistance for creating a bike-sharing program, which would offer the public free or low-cost access to a shared pool of bicycles for short trips. A forum to gather public input on the idea is scheduled for Wednesday, May 8, at 5:30 p.m. in City Hall.

In December, the city adopted a “complete streets” policy, which calls for designing roadways to accommodate all users, including cyclists. It was recently named one of the country’s 10 best such policies.

And Portland has begun creating a network of “neighborhood byways” – secondary streets with traffic-calming signs, medians and other infrastructure designed to create safer, more enjoyable routes for cyclists and pedestrians.

The network, recently piloted with five miles of byways in Deering Center, could someday stretch for 29 miles throughout the city, according to Bruce Hyman, Portland’s bicycle and pedestrian coordinator.

The byways are one part of a new plan to promote cycling and walking in Portland. The plan, under development for more than a year, was added to the city’s Comprehensive Plan in December.

No wonder that local cyclists – and even the city’s website – tout Portland as a great place to ride.

But with the city welcoming more and more cyclists, some people wonder if there will be greater problems on the road. Indeed, other cities may already be experiencing more accidents and road rage as they become bike-friendlier.

In New York City, which has added nearly 300 miles of bike lanes since 2002 and started bike-sharing last year, concerns about added traffic have led neighborhood groups to oppose some of the new bike-friendly measures. And the city’s comptroller released a report claiming that the bike-sharing program would lead to more accidents, injuries and potential lawsuits.

In Boston, an accident that killed a cyclist prompted the Boston Globe to publish an editorial in February about increasing hostility toward bicycle riders.

“Sharing the road with increasing numbers of cyclists can be frustrating for drivers. But disregard for the safety of cyclists has reached pathological levels among some drivers,” the Globe opined.

In Portland, there is little evidence of increasing dangers or road rage. Still, accidents happen.

From 2005 through 2010, there were 208 collisions reported between cyclists and motorists, Hyman said, an average of about 35 a year. In 2012, there were 56 accidents involving cyclists, according to information obtained from police.

And many cyclists report scary near-misses.

“I was riding here today and a driver blew past me, honking his horn and screaming something out the window,” said Chris Sawtelle of Portland, as she left the Great Maine Bike Swap at the University of Southern Maine on April 28. “I guess I was moving too slow for him. He nearly side-swiped me.”

Motorists have said that cyclists can be a safety hazard, too. That worry prompted former state Rep. Ralph Sarty, R-Denmark, to introduce a bill in the Legislature two years ago that would have placed a 2 percent tax on bike sales, with the proceeds used to build new bike lanes.

“In recent years, recreational bicycling has put thousands of new bikes on our highways, increasing the potential for accidents,” Sarty wrote in 2011. ” … The current laws regarding bicycle use on public ways place little if any responsibility or liability on the bicyclists. Almost all the responsibility and liability is on motorists.”

The legislation was killed, but concerns about sharing the road remain.

Jim Tasse, education director for the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, noted cyclists are allowed to ride on all Maine roads, except interstate highways and a portion or U.S. Route 1 between Brunswick and Bath.

“Motorists should expect cyclists to be on the roads, and they have every right to be there,” he said.

Motorists must leave at least 3 feet between their vehicles and cyclists, according to state law, and are allowed to drive in the opposite lane when necessary to safely pass a cyclist.

Cyclists, for their part, must obey the same traffic rules as motorists, and must ride as far to the right as “practicable.” But the law also allows them to ride two abreast, and to ride in a road’s travel lane when making a left turn or to avoid a vehicle or safety hazard.

Tasse acknowledged that it’s easy to get frustrated when driving behind a slower-moving cyclist or a large group of riders that is difficult to pass.

“But the conflicts often arise because (a motorist) feels a need for speed,” he said, noting that drivers should obey the speed limit and be patient.

Most of all, he said, motorists and cyclists should “exercise some restraint and courtesy” and realize the dangers a two-ton vehicles poses, regardless of who is at fault.

“When cars and bikes get too close,” he said, “it’s like juggling a loaded gun.”

Maine Schools Celebrate Walk and Bike to School Month Throughout May!

By | Coalition News, Featured Posts, Safe Biking at School, Stay Safe

Darcy Whittemore
Program Manager, Maine Safe Routes to School Program
saferoutes@bikemaine.org 
(207) 623-4511

Maine Schools Celebrate Walk and Bike to School Month Throughout May!

(Portland, ME) May 1, 2013 – May is Walk and Bike to School Month in Maine and students in over 30 schools from Fort Kent to York and from Rangely to Lincolnville have announced that they will be celebrating as they commute on foot or by bicycle.  A list of activities, dates and locations is available on-line here.

Parents, teachers, students, and volunteers at each school have organized fun and engaging activities such as walking school buses (children walking with adult supervision) and walking field trips, bike trains and biking field trips (groups bicycling with adult supervision), as well as bike safety rodeos and after-school bike clubs.  Some schools will hold one-day celebrations, while others plan walk and bike to school events for a whole month or the entire spring.  

May is also National Bike Month and a number of schools will hold bike-to-school events to celebrate the 2nd Annual National Bike to School Day on May 8. “Events are fairly easy to organize and build great local enthusiasm – and spring can be an especially good time to organize activities as the weather improves,” shared Darcy Whittemore, Program Manager for the Maine Safe Routes to School Program.

Throughout the year, Maine’s federally funded Safe Routes to School Program — a program of the Maine Department of Transportation, the Bicycle Coalition of Maine and communities throughout the state — supports local efforts to improve safety, build life-long transportation skills, and increase physical activity to fight childhood obesity.  A number of studies demonstrate the academic performance benefits to children who walk and bike before the beginning of the school day.  “Students arrive at school alert and ready to learn.  So this program is very much a win-win for students, families and school staff,” said Nancy Grant, executive director of the Bicycle Coalition of Maine.

Communities already registered to participate in walk and bike activities this spring include: Bangor, Bath, Biddeford, Bridgton, Camden, Fort Kent, Gray, Hampden, Kennebunk, Lewiston, Lincolnville, Madawaska, Madison, Milford, Monmouth, Naples, New Gloucester, North Berwick, Oakland, Pittsfield, Portland, Rangeley, Raymond, Saco, Scarborough, Sebago, South Portland, Topsham, Winterport and York.  It is likely that additional schools also will participate. 

For more information, visit MaineSafeRoutes.org

 

###

                       

About the Maine Safe Routes to School Program – Established in 2001, the Maine Safe Routes to School Program assists communities in enabling and encouraging children to safely walk and bicycle to school.  Federally-funded since 2005, the Maine Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Program is a partnership of the Maine Department of Transportation, the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, and communities throughout the state. The program provides technical support and over 190  Maine schools have participated in various Safe Routes to School activities, with many expanding their initiatives involving bicycle and pedestrian safety education, and encouragement and incentive programs to get more students and their families walking and biking.

In Maine, 90% of the Safe Routes to School Program funding (the maximum allowed under the SAFETEA-LU federal transportation bill) have been used to build physical infrastructure to make it safer for students to walk and bicycle to school.  Infrastructure examples include sidewalks, crossing improvements, off-road connections, improved signage, etc.  Since 2005 over 40 Maine communities have been awarded SRTS infrastructure improvements funding.  “These federally-funded safety improvements have been extremely helpful in creating safer pedestrian and bicycle travel and reducing traffic congestion around schools in communities throughout the state,” said Dan Stewart, Bicycle & Pedestrian Program Manager for the Maine Department of Transportation.

 

 

end

 

Part 2 – Bicyclists Rights

By | Coalition News, Stay Safe
 

A Response to Cycling Fatalities in Chicago, Part 2 of 4

By John Brooking (Bicycle Coalition of Maine Board Member) 

 Bicyclists Rights

Hello, Chicago. I’m writing to you from Portland, Maine. (Yes, “the other Portland”, land of lobster and lighthouses.) I’ve been a year-round bike commuter here for over 10 years. Brent invited me to write this series of guest columns based on a discussion we had in the comments section of his 11/2 article Chicago Cycling Fatalities: Making Sense of the Senseless.

Given that, I first need to extend my sympathies for the friends and families of the victims of the two crashes Brent mentioned in his article. It’s always a tragedy when this happens.

I first learned of Brent’s article through his mention of the page “What Cyclists Need to Know About Trucks”, from the CommuteOrlando web site. CommuteOrlando’s author, Keri, is also a co-founder of theCyclingSavvy education program, of which I am a certified instructor. So I was intrigued by Brent’s critique of the tone of that page, and felt compelled to reply to him about his criticism. My understanding of his critique is that he felt that Keri’s page put too much of the onus on the bicyclist to avoid being hit, and not enough responsibility on the motorist.

I’m grateful that Brent and I were able to have a respectful Internet dialog, and that he seems interested enough in what I have to say to let me write this article.

The Concept of Bicyclists’ Rights

I was intrigued by the different ways that Brent and I approached the concept of bicyclists’ rights. Brent’s post emphasized the mindless mistakes motorists make, and the infringement of these mistakes upon bicyclists’ rights and expectations to operate safely on the road. While I agree that bicyclists should have this right and expectation, I think one difference in our perspective has to do with the relationship between infrastructure and safety. If you assume that infrastructure is provided for the purpose of increasing safety, because that is what all the advocates and engineers say, you naturally expect to be safe. When fatalities happen, there is a sense of betrayal, and a reach for explanations. Among them may be that the infrastructure was inadequate (thus the progression from normal bike lanes to cycle tracks and bike boxes), or that the penalties to the motorist are not high enough to keep them from making mistakes or misjudgments around bicyclists.

If however you view bicycle infrastructure with suspicion (more on this in the next installment), then the historical right of bicyclists to use other parts of the roadway instead of the special infrastructure becomes the more important right. I am one of those people who are suspicious of some bicycle infrastructure. Brent’s comments about the rights of cyclists to use bicycle infrastructure seem inverted to people who think as I do, as we tend to view being expected to restrict our road use to infrastructure which we mistrust as a diminishment of our rights to the full road. Bicycle infrastructure does not create or enhance our legal right to use the road,it merely enhances the comfort level of beginning cyclists.

Again, if you view bicycle infrastructure as a valuable roadway safety enhancement, then you might tend to view having to negotiate with other traffic for the general portions of the road (or “being forced into the travel lane”, as another correspondent recently put it) as an undesirable option, and to you it might even represent a diminishment of bicyclists’ rights to use the road safely at all. If your route takes you through areas of heavy traffic congestion, where a bike lane provides an official place for bicyclists to bypass slower cars, then that bike lane might well seem even more valuable, and encountering danger in it even more frustrating.

If bike infrastructure could be counted on to always keep cyclists safe, that would be great. Unfortunately, as these and other fatalities around the country show, that is not always the case. As Brent asks, what can we learn, and how can cyclists keep themselves safe from motorist mistakes?

In the next installment, we will discuss bike lanes in more detail, after a slight detour into a brief history of the rules of the road.

International Walk & Bike to School Day

By | Coalition News, Featured Posts, Safe Biking at School, Stay Safe

For More Information:

Darcy Whittemore
Central Maine Safe Routes to School Program
saferoutes@BikeMaine.org

Sarah Cushman
Southern Maine 
Safe Routes to School Program
sarah@sarahcushman.com

Jim Fisher
Eastern Maine 
Safe Routes to School Program
jfisher@hcpcme.org

Dan Stewart
Maine Department of Transportation
Bicycle, Pedestrian, and Quality Community Program Manager
dan.stewart@maine.gov
207-624-3252


For Immediate Release

Children Commute to School on Their Own Two Feet on October 3, International Walk & Bike to School Day  

Augusta, ME – 09/27/12 – Hundreds of Maine children will walk or bike to school with family members, school staff and volunteers in celebration of International Walk to School Day, Wednesday, October 3. Community members and school staff join together to host festive walk and bike to school events across the state throughout October, which is International Walk and Bike to School Month, and some schools will continue holding events throughout the fall.

A number of students head to school via “walking school buses” (children walking in groups under adult supervision) and others via “bike trains” (groups bicycling under adult supervision).  Participating schools are located from York to Fort Kent and Lincoln to Kingfield, as well as many points in between.

 “Each year, more and more schools in Maine are involved in encouraging kids to begin the habit of walking and biking safely to school, helping to build these important life skills for an entire generation”, said Nancy Grant, Executive Director of the Bicycle Coalition of Maine. The U.S. public health initiative Healthy People 2020 recognizes walking and bicycling to school as an opportunity to increase physical activity among children and adolescents five to fifteen years of age.

Maine’s federally funded Safe Routes to School Program — a program of the Maine Department of Transportation, the Bicycle Coalition of Maine and communities throughout the state — supports local efforts to improve safety and increase walking and bicycling to school.  In addition, many schools participate in presentations from the Maine Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Education Program — available at no-cost to all interested schools. These programs have been recognized as national models for keeping children safe from traffic dangers while walking and bicycling to school.

Since Maine’s program began in 2001, more than 150 schools have become involved.  Using federal funds, more than 50 communities have been approved for infrastructure improvements to make walking and biking safer near schools.

 “These federally funded safety improvements have been extremely helpful in creating safer pedestrian and bicycle travel around schools in communities throughout the state,” said Dan Stewart, MaineDOT’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Program Manager.

Two of the major goals of the Safe Routes to School Program are improved safety and increased physical activity to fight childhood obesity.  In addition, Walk and Bike to School programs help to ease traffic congestion, boost academic performance, improve classroom behavior, improve air quality and save school districts money on busing costs.

The program has three regional encouragement and planning coordinators: Darcy Whittemore (saferoutes@BikeMaine.org) in the central part of the state, Sarah Cushman (sarah@sarahcushman.com) in southern Maine, and Jim Fisher (jfisher@hcpcme.org) in eastern Maine.  For more information or details about the October 3rd events, please e-mail them or call 207-623-4511.

The Bicycle Coalition of Maine has been working since 1992 to make Maine a better place to bicycle.  The coalition advocates for Maine cyclists at the Legislature and in Washington, D.C., teaches bicycle and pedestrian safety to thousands of Maine schoolchildren each year, partners with state agencies on a Share the Road media campaign and serves as a resource on local bicycling issues.  

Editor’s Note: Click here to find a list of communities that are having walk and bike to school events

 

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