Patrick Adams grew up tooling around his Aroostook County hometown of Littleton on a red banana bike with chopper handlebars. “Living way out in the country,” he said, “that bike took me everywhere.”

Adams eventually inherited his brother’s gray 10-speed Schwinn. “If I wanted to go to the lake swimming, I had to pedal the 15 miles to get there – and back,” he said. “I also used it for at least two summers to get me to work. I put hundreds of miles on that bike.”

Today, as the bicycle and pedestrian program manager at the Maine Department of Transportation, Adams leads state efforts to improve bicycling and walking.

He oversees how communities throughout Maine spend more than $2 million in federal funds each year on projects such as building sidewalks and bike paths. He works on ways to improve bicycle and pedestrian safety. And he advocates for walking and bicycling when Maine DOT undertakes a major project such as rebuilding a road or bridge.

Maine has had a bicycle-pedestrian manager for about 20 years. Adams, who took over the position in December, sees his role as helping to create communities where people will want to live.

“When we look at the world through the windshields of our cars, it tends to go by at a rapid rate,” he said. By contrast, he says, neighborhoods built for safe walking and biking have a more human scale and allow people to interact with each other. Children can walk to school safely. People with disabilities can navigate the streets, and elders can stay in their homes as they age.

Adams is new to the transportation field, but he brings a lot of experience working with local communities and the federal government, key parts of the job.

For the past five years, he managed federally funded programs at Maine’s Office of Aging and Disability Services in the Department of Health and Human Services. He previously worked as a regional manager for the American Red Cross, helping communities respond to disasters.

This year, the state has earmarked $2.3 million in federal funds for 25 projects, including improving the sidewalk on York Street in Portland and posting signs that will mark U.S. Bike Route 1 from Kittery to Calais. The new pedestrian bridge over the Saco River connecting the mill districts of Saco and Biddeford also received funding from the program.

Communities that want to tap into the federal bike-pedestrian funds must contribute at least 20 percent of a project’s cost, and they face intense competition.

That competition stiffened dramatically when Congress consolidated the funding for several alternative transportation programs in 2012 and cut Maine’s overall allocation nearly in half. Dan Stewart, who served as Maine’s previous bicycle-pedestrian manager, estimates that the state now funds only 10 to 15 percent of the projects that are submitted.

That’s the bad news. But there is some good news about Maine’s efforts to improve walking and bicycling.

Maine DOT now plans and develops its own projects with biking and walking in mind. At the Legislature’s request, the department last year approved a Complete Streets policy that requires new and rehabilitated state roads, bridges and other transportation infrastructure to accommodate cyclists, walkers and public transit riders along with motorists.

That mindset is apparent when you see the multi-use paths on the new Martin’s Point Bridge and the Veterans Memorial Bridge. Speaking personally, while I have some quibbles about how to get onto those paths safely, I sure appreciate having them.

If you have ideas for projects that would improve bicycling and walking in your community, Adams suggests you contact your town or city officials about the possibility of applying for Maine’s share of the federal bicycle-pedestrian funds.

You can find a list of the projects that have been approved by going to, selecting the name of your town and looking for bicycle-pedestrian projects.

Shoshana Hoose is a freelance writer who bicycles in Greater Portland and beyond. Contact her at [email protected]