YARMOUTH — My biking adventure began in Calais, just this side of the St. Croix river from Canada. Calais is at the northern tip of the East Coast Greenway. From there, I biked the Greenway corridor through Machias, Ellsworth, Bangor, Waterville, Augusta, Lewiston, Brunswick, Portland, Saco, Biddeford, and Kittery; and on through New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and into Connecticut. My wife, Debbie, and son Sam joined me for much of this journey.

The vision of the Greenway is a 3,000-mile bike and walking trail, safe from cars, that connects urban centers from the top of Maine to the bottom of Florida. Think Appalachian Trail, but accessible for everyday biking and walking, as well as longer treks, and positioned where people live, running deliberately through population centers in the 16 East Coast states.

After Maine, the East Coast Greenway continues through Portsmouth, Boston, Worcester, Providence, Hartford, New Haven, New York City, and on through Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Richmond, Raleigh-Durham, Charleston, Savannah, Jacksonville and Miami, finishing at the bottom tip of the Florida Keys.

I love the vision of the East Coast Greenway for its health, recreation, transportation, commuting, environmental, economic and lifestyle impacts.

I refer to it as the “vision” of the East Coast Greenway because it is just 32 percent completed so far, meaning that 32 percent of it is fully constructed off-road trail, while the remaining 68 percent is temporarily on-road, while new off-road segments are gradually added and interconnected over time. Of the 569 miles I rode, 204 miles were on off-road trails.

Every one of the off-road segments I rode was wonderful. The 87-mile Downeast Sunrise Trail passes through forests, small towns and national wildlife lands from its southern gateway in Ellsworth. The Kennebec River Rail Trail weaves along the river, connecting downtown Augusta with Hallowell, Farmingdale and Gardiner. The Eastern Trail has 22 off-road miles from South Portland through Scarborough, Saco, Biddeford, Arundel and Kennebunk.


Other gems on Maine’s Greenway corridor include the Calais Waterfront Walkway, the Bangor Waterfront Trail, the Androscoggin Riverside Trail in Lewiston, the Lisbon Trail, the Androscoggin River Bicycle and Pedestrian Path in Brunswick, the Beth Condon Pathway in Yarmouth and the Eastern Promenade path in Portland. Other states have similar segments completed, each valuable to its own community, but also incrementally advancing the integrated vision of the East Coast Greenway as a whole.

In communities with completed Greenway segments, people’s lives are visibly transformed for the better: Commuters ride to and from work, families bike as families, friends walk and converse. There are runners, roller skaters, bikers and walkers; young people, older people, parents with strollers, sports teams, people walking dogs and people using wheelchairs.

Most striking to me is that the people I passed on Greenways seemed happy. The stresses that increasingly consume our daily lives are eased by the car-free peacefulness of being outside and on a Greenway. Of the miles I rode on this trip, 365 were on-road, shared with cars and trucks. Though the temporary on-road East Coast Greenway routes are selected as the more bike-friendly options available in each region, the traffic levels, speeds, shoulder widths and pavement conditions vary considerably among them – some busy and stressful, others OK and still others explicitly bike-friendly. Few of them would I describe as “peaceful.”

Wide shoulders, marked bike lanes and other accommodations for cyclists on regular roadways are unquestionably helpful for cycling enthusiasts willing to tackle on-road travel. But the experience of biking on any road with cars is in a completely different category from biking on a Greenway.

When on a road with cars, one must be alert, focused and continually attentive to safety. Greenways, by contrast, allow one to commute, exercise, walk with friends, converse and be outside peacefully, without this stress. They draw people to the outdoors for that reason.

Each new segment of the Greenway serves its community and advances this larger vision, promoting healthy lifestyles, outdoor recreation, environmentally sensitive transportation, tourism and economic development. Fully connected, the Greenway would likely be the most visited park in America.

As an already-popular destination, and a state strongly identified with outdoor recreation, Maine has an opportunity to be a strong leader in this effort. Learn more about the Greenway and the nonprofit East Coast Greenway Alliance by visiting greenway.org, where you will find maps of the route and suggestions for how you and your community can support this vision.


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