After more than a year of squeezing between construction work and cars while cycling on Martin’s Point Bridge, Brian Allenby was able to bike home without worry, thanks to a new footpath that opened Monday on the new Route 1 bridge connecting Portland to Falmouth.

“We have the ocean right here,” said Allenby, a communications director with Bicycle Coalition Maine, pointing toward the path’s ocean views. “It doesn’t have to be construction anymore.”

Bicycle Coalition Maine advocated for the design of the new bridge.

Allenby, who commutes over the bridge by bike most days, tested out the new, 10-foot-wide multiuse lane for cyclists and pedestrians on Monday with a group of friends.

The new $23.5 million bridge over the Presumpscot River has been under construction for more than a year, forcing cars, pedestrians and the occasional fisherman to share lanes on the original Martin’s Point Bridge, which was built in the early 1940s.

“Motorists have been very nice about (sharing lanes), but it hasn’t been as pleasant, so it’s amazing to see this resource for folks,” Allenby said.

During construction, many cyclists complained about dangerous riding conditions.

Cyclists either had to ride in traffic lanes made even more narrow by construction, or walk their bikes on a makeshift sidewalk used by pedestrians.

“You could feel the pressure from the cars behind you that are rushing past you, or you had to walk or ride your bike on the sidewalk,” said Abby King, a community advocacy coordinator with the coalition, who called it “harrowing” to have to go over the bridge so close to passing cars.

“It was just kind of chaotic, so it’s awesome that this is here.”

An incident erupted on social media last summer when a bicyclist and a truck driver got into a dispute over how close the driver got while passing the cyclist on Martin’s Point Bridge.

The cyclist, Jay Riley, took a cellphone video of the driver, Jim Harkins, shouting at him and using a homophobic remark. Harkins owns a charter boat business, Atlantic Adventures, and hosts a cable access show. He lost two sponsors of his show and saw his business’ Facebook page inundated with critical remarks from cyclists. The bridge is a major thoroughfare between Portland and Falmouth, carrying about 15,600 vehicles a day.

“Conditions for pedestrians and bicyclists crossing the bridge have been pretty challenging for well over a year, so we are sure this development will be welcomed by many,” said Carol Morris, a spokeswoman for the Maine Department of Transportation.

The new bridge, which was designed and built by CPM Constructors of Freeport and VHB of Watertown, Massachusetts, will remain under construction for the next few weeks, after which it will open to vehicle traffic.

Once finished, the bridge will have two travel lanes for cyclists who want to ride faster, in addition to the footpath, Morris said.

“We will see a lot of bikes use the path now, but pedestrians have the right of way and a lot of the bikers will be using the lanes when they open,” Morris said.

Allenby, who kept in contact with Morris during the design and construction process, said he appreciates having a choice.

“Bicyclists will be able to use the roadway as well as the multiuse path,” he said. “So it doesn’t mean that bicyclists have to use the path, they will still have a right to use the roadway.”

Chelsea Diana can be contacted at 791-6337 or at:

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Twitter: @chelseadiana_

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