For the past four years, Maine has moved up the rankings of “bike friendly” states to the No. 2 slot in the assessment done by the League of American Bicyclists.

But by all accounts, it could easily be No. 1 — and with all the bike projects on tap this year, Vacationland could catapult in the standings before the year is out.

“Our infrastructure is ranked higher than No. 1 Washington state,” said Dan Stewart, the bicycle and pedestrian coordinator at the Maine Department of Transportation.

“They got a higher ranking than us in enforcement. We were higher in infrastructure by quite a bit.”

Last year Maine was ranked No. 1 in infrastructure as well. So as far as Stewart is concerned, Maine is the top dog given all the bike trails and paths that connect communities here.

And the projects around the state are not slowing down.

Meanwhile, in Washington, the top-ranked bicycle friendly state the past two years, bike advocacy leader Barbara Culp says the ranking is arbitrary and virtually meaningless.

But Washington just saw its second cyclist killed on the road in five years. And Washington got a “D” in terms of infrastructure — shoulders and paved bike paths — a fact that indicates to Culp that the national honor means next to nothing.

“It’s hard to rejoice in this ranking and have some cyclist run down on a country road last weekend. Shoulders, laws, education, enforcement — it all would have come into play (in that death),” said Culp, executive director of the Bicycle Alliance of Washington in Seattle.

“I feel like we deserve it, but we don’t deserve it. On the one hand we deserve an ‘A’ in legislation, on the other hand we don’t.”

But at the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, folks are proud of Maine’s ranking specifically because No. 2 represents progress, and in Maine that’s easily quantified.

Over the past year, tons of off-road bike projects were completed, and more are on the way.

“In only four years we went from No. 6 to No. 3 to No. 2,” said Nancy Grant, executive director of the Bicycle Coalition of Maine.

“We’ve always been really strong in education and encouragement. And we are always increasing the number of bike trails and multi-use paths.”

Last year the 85-mile off-road, multi-use Sunrise Trail opened in the Downeast region, a stretch of trail longer than the drive from Portland to Boston.

And the Eastern Trail that starts at Bug Light in South Portland was extended from the Scarborough Marsh into Old Orchard Beach and from Biddeford to Arundel. And it will grow more this year.

All told, Maine now has 591 miles of off-road trails.

Granted, 120 miles of that is around Acadia National Park’s carriage roads, but the rest is spread all over the state, including the 26 miles of trails that originate in Dover-Foxcroft; 58 miles that extend from Bangor north; and 16 miles of off-road fun in the St. John Valley.

“It’s important to use dedicated federal funding toward these types of projects,” Stewart said. “We received $36 million in requests last July from 45 different communities.”

Maine received about $8 million in federal funds to be spent on bike paths over two years, which Stewart said it will receive if towns come up with the required 20 percent match.

And he believes this effort will continue.

“This is not easy. These things are not easy to do. But all this shows there is a commitment at the local level to develop visions for improving communities, and seeing through the effort to make it a reality,” he said.

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:

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