Governor Paul R. LePage proclaimed the month of May as Bicycle and Pedestrian Month in Maine, and urged all citizens to recognize this observance. This official proclamation signed by the governor recognizes that bicycling and walking are key components of economically vibrant communities; they are safe, healthy and enjoyable forms of exercise; bicycling and walking are low cost and accessible forms of transportation; and we are working to make our communities safe places that encourage bicycling and walking to improve our quality of life. The proclamation also recognizes that Maine is considered one of the most bicycle and pedestrian friendly states in the nation – last year, the League of American Bicyclists ranked Maine second in the nation for bike friendliness.
Students in over 40 schools from Fort Kent to York and from Sebago to Houlton will be celebrating Maine Bicycle and Pedestrian Month as they commute on foot or by bicycle.
Parents, teachers, students, and volunteers at each school have organized events such as “walking school buses” (children walking with adult supervision) and walking field trips, “bike trains” and “bike trek” field trips (groups bicycling with adult supervision), as well as bike safety rodeos and after-school bike clubs. May is also National Bike Month and a number of schools will hold bike to school events to celebrate the first-ever National Bike to School Day on May 9.
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 and increase walking and bicycling to school and after-school activities. Two of the major goals of the Safe Routes to School Program are improved safety, including building life-long transportation skills, and increased physical activity to fight childhood obesity. Emerging brain science demonstrates the benefits to children who walk and bike before the beginning of the school day. “There’s a big boost in academic performance and improved classroom behavior. 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.
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 and reducing traffic congestion around schools in communities throughout the state,” said Sarah Cushman, Southern Maine Planner for the Maine Safe Routes to School program.
Communities already registered to participate in walk and bike activities this spring include Augusta, Bath, Biddeford, Buckfield, Buxton, Byron, Camden, Canton, Carthage, Dixfield, Fort Kent, Freeport, Greenville, Hanover, Hartford, Houlton, Kennebunk, Limestone, Lincolnville, Madison, Mexico, Monmouth, Naples, North Berwick, Norway, Oakland, Peru, Pittsfield, Portland, Raymond, Richmond, Roxbury, Rumford, Scarborough, Sebago, South Portland, Strong, Sumner, Topsham, Westbrook, Windham, Woolwich, and York. It is likely that additional schools also will participate.