Riders progress up Commercial Street during the 2019 Ride of Silence, an annual event whose goal is to honor bicyclists who were killed or injured on the road and to raise awareness about bicycle and pedestrian safety. Contributed / The Bicycle Coalition of Maine

Events across the state are being held next week to remember the 12 pedestrians and bicyclists who were killed on Maine roadways last year.

The Bicycle Coalition of Maine is hosting a Ride of Silence on the streets of Portland Wednesday, May 19. to memorialize those lost or injured and to raise awareness about how all users can safely share the roads. Usually an annual event, it didn’t take place in Portland last year due to the pandemic, but in 2020, it was held in 458 locations across 17 countries on six continents.

Eliza Cress, outreach and design manager for the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, said an event like the Ride of Silence is “critically important” to the work the coalition does.

“Our mission is to make Maine roads a safer, whether it be walking, using mobility devices or biking. This is an international event, but we feel it is a really good opportunity locally to have that conversation,” Cress said.

The ride, which is capped at 50 riders, kicks off at 7 p.m. and follows a 3-mile loop from Cove Street, along the Eastern Promenade Trail and Commercial Street and back again.

“The Ride of Silence provides an opportunity to recognize the dangers people walking, biking, using wheelchairs, and other road users face every day,” Bicycle Coalition of Maine Executive Director Jean Sideris. “This event helps to raise awareness of the most vulnerable users on the road, and their right to use those roads. ”

Another Ride for Silence, a 5.5 mile group ride in Yarmouth, also will begin at 7 p.m. May 19. Hosted by the Casco Bay Bicycle Club, that ride will begin and end at Hannaford. The Bicycle Coalition of Maine is also helping to facilitate additional rides in Augusta, Lewiston, Rockland and Saco.

The Merrymeeting Wheelers Bicycle Club in Brunswick has been a longtime host of a Ride for Silence, but this year is encouraging cyclists to ride independently at 7 p.m. on May 19.

Between 2015 and 2019 in Cumberland County, there were 455 motor vehicle accidents involving a pedestrian, including 21 fatalities and 80 that resulted in suspected serious injury, according to the Maine Department of Transportation’s Office of Safety. During that time period, there were 350 motor vehicle accidents involving a bicyclist, including two fatalities and 29 that resulted in suspected serious injury.

In 2020 there were two bicyclist fatalities and 10 pedestrian fatalities, Cress said. So far in 2021, there have been four pedestrians killed on the roads.

“We live in a very car-centric country and culture,” Cress said. “What we are trying to do is inform stakeholders any way we can to make roads equal for people not choosing to use a vehicle or who are unable to. It looks different in every community, but we are trying to work with people to make sure there is a safe alternative outside of cars.”

Cress said there are a few things motorists can do to more safely share the road with other users: be aware of surroundings, don’t travel above speed limits and don’t drive while distracted.

Safety tips for bicyclists include dressing in bright clothing, wearing a helmet and following the rules of the road. Additional tips and information can be found at bikemaine.org.

The League of American Bicyclists lists Maine as 20th in the nation in its Bicycle Friendly State Ranking, with Bath and Brunswick, the University of New England and Maine Beer Company listed as being bicycle friendly.

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