Last year, when Maine’s state bicycle and pedestrian coordinator received a national award for improving pedestrian safety, he credited the Bicycle Coalition of Maine.

“In my role, I couldn’t be nearly as successful without them by my side,” said Patrick Adams of the Maine Department of Transportation, explaining that in other states the relationship between state DOTs and bicycle advocacy is sometimes antagonistic. “But in Maine, we have enormous respect for them. We can achieve more in collaborating together.”

For its work making Maine’s roads safer for cyclists and pedestrians, and encouraging environmentally friendly forms of transportation, the Bicycle Coalition of Maine has received a 2020 Source Award.

Customers wheel selected bikes at the Bicycle Coalition of Maine’s annual Bike Swap in 2016 at University of Southern Maine, where over one thousand bikes were available for sale, by individuals and dealers. Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

Formed in 1992, the Portland-based coalition has long been recognized for getting more Mainers to ride through its annual Great Maine Bike Swap, in which hundreds of people look for good deals on used bikes. In the last six years, the group has also become known for its annual Bike Maine tour, which introduces cyclists to the joys of riding around the state and works closely with less-affluent regions and communities to encourage bicycle tourism as a way to generate money. Less well-known, perhaps, are its efforts to pass bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly traffic laws and its efforts to, as its five-year plan states, “spread a love of being active to children and adults alike.” Today, the Bicycle Coalition of Maine has 4,000 members and is supported, in part, by annual membership fees.

In the past year, the coalition has focused many efforts on pedestrian safety. In 2019, the nonprofit created a number of temporary traffic-calming installations – bumping out sidewalks to make crosswalks more visible to vehicles and force drivers to slow down. The 10 “bump-outs,” as they are called, were installed from Sanford to Lewiston and more are planned this year, said Eliza Kress, the coalition’s communications and development manager.

Riders cross the Two Cent Bridge from Winslow as they make it to Head of Falls in Waterville to finish the 2019 Bike Maine event, one of the Bicycle Coalition of Maine’s better known efforts. The winner of the Pedal Pusher Award from the 2020 Source Sustainability Awards, the coalition also advocates for legislation that promotes bike and pedestrian safety. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

The coalition also advocated for bills to make roads safer for cyclists and pedestrians, including what eventually became Maine’s hands-free cellphone law. It pushed for legislation that afforded electric bikes the same protections on roads as bicycles, as a way to encourage Mainers to use them for transportation instead of driving.

This spring, the coalition advocated for Gov. Janet Mills to designate bike shops as essential businesses during the pandemic so they could serve cyclists while the state’s stay-at-home order is in effect.

The pandemic coincided with warming weather, and, without gyms and many other forms of recreation, more people got on their bikes. At the same time, the coalition increased its online education, creating safety videos for physical education teachers to use with students learning at home as well as posting the videos online for the general public.

The organization’s ultimate goal remains to make Maine a state with more bike-and-pedestrian infrastructure so Mainers are inspired to walk and bike more, said Angela King, the coalition’s advocacy manager.

“Given what is happening right now, it is an exciting time for bike-ped advocacy,” Kress said. “Now more than ever, people are realizing they want to be outside and to have a safe place to exercise.”


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