This article originally appeared on sunjournal.com
Organizers Abby King, Darcy Whittemore, Craig Saddlemire and Chrissy Adamowicz presented the main issues of biking and walking, especially for children, in Lewiston-Auburn.
With five elementary schools and a middle school, a high percentage of students live within a mile of their schools, and could easily walk or bike to school, especially in the warmer months. Unfortunately, the less-than-adequate pedestrian paths hold many people back.
Walking and biking to school has immense health benefits, as well as environmental and economic ones. According the Adamowicz, it can cut back on the cost of car maintenance, eliminate air pollutants near schools and reduce the chance of obesity and chronic illnesses.
Joe Philippon, a Lewiston Police Community Resource Team officer, was happy to contribute to the meeting. “I’m here for several reasons. One, I’m a resident; two, I’m a parent; three, as a police officer.”
“We’re here to lend support and perspective,” Philippon said. “It’s been touched upon that last year was pretty bad when it came to pedestrian accidents. We want to get that knowledge out there, so we don’t have a repeat.”
The groups would like to see better-connected and available sidewalks, walking trails and bike paths that are wider, more visible and safer.
Other problems are a severe lack of crosswalks, and the ones available are unsatisfactory; disregard for the rules, from drivers and pedestrians; a lack of knowledge of the rules; inadequate signage and availability.
According to King, steps have been taken to improve the roads for pedestrians, but there is still a long way to go.
The group would like to see improved engineering of sidewalks and bike lanes, more crosswalks and crossing guards and walking- and biking-to-school groups supervised by adults.
Although the focus of the meeting was safe student walking and biking, predominantly to and from school, children are not the only ones affected by inconvenient or unsafe pedestrian zones.
Lorraine Bard attended the meeting to represent adults who are concerned about pedestrian safety. Her father, Norm Rivard, was fatally struck on Lisbon Street in November 2015.
“He was going from his house to the Webber Avenue Social Club, and he did this three times a day for 30 years,” Bard said. “It just goes to show you.”
Bard said she’s seen the city change, and knows that traffic safety needs to improve. “Because the city has been built up so much, the demographics have changed, (and) now it’s time to do something that evolves with that.”
King added that the area needs “something that allows people to drive, but also allows people to walk across the street. ”