Abdi Nor Iftin is a Somali-American writer, radio journalist and public speaker. He lives in Yarmouth and can be contacted at noriftin@gmail.com.

We need to address the lack of sidewalks in the Yarmouth, Falmouth and Cumberland areas. As an enthusiastic runner and cyclist, I have come to cherish the beauty of our communities, but I am deeply concerned about the safety risks I and others face when navigating certain routes.

Specifically, I often find myself doing long runs along Route 115, Route 88 and Sligo Road, which connect these three towns. While these roads offer stunning scenery and Route 115 even leads to Toots Ice Cream, which is a favorite of mine, they also come with considerable peril due to the absence of dedicated pedestrian paths. I have been endangered by drivers who, when passing clearly visible pedestrians and cyclists, don’t give them enough space or even slow down.

These drivers greatly hamper my enjoyment of outdoor activities during the summer, when we all should be able to relish walks or runs, even after sunset. I find myself constantly racing against time when I need to exercise, as it becomes extremely unsafe to be on Sligo, Routes 115 and 88 and other roads that lack sidewalks after dark. This limits our ability to fully embrace the beauty of our surroundings and enjoy the fresh air.

One of the most harrowing moments for me was during a long run on a beautiful summer day down Sligo Road in Yarmouth, crossing Route 9 and returning via Route 115. The need to dodge cars on those roads completely overshadowed any enjoyment I could have derived from my run. As a resident of this town, it pains me to consider abandoning these routes altogether due to safety concerns.

If you are familiar with Yarmouth and Cumberland, you likely agree that Route 88 is one of the most visually captivating routes in southern Maine, providing glimpses of the ocean and showcasing beautiful houses. It is a road I particularly relish running on, partly because I notice more fellow runners on this route and because there is often a police presence at the corner of 88 and Gilman Road, which gives me some hope of drivers slowing down. However, the absence of sidewalks still makes it challenging to navigate, especially at the curves and sharp turns.

Diversity in Yarmouth, Falmouth, Cumberland and neighboring towns is growing as we welcome an increasing number of Black and brown residents, including asylum seekers who have found a warm and caring community here over the past three years. They should be able to fully experience what our towns have to offer. Many newly-arrived asylum seekers don’t have driver’s licenses, making bicycles, running and walking their primary modes of transportation.

Given this reality, we must prioritize not only their safety, but the safety of everyone who chooses to enjoy the outdoors without relying on cars. A crucial step forward is to urge our towns to seriously consider installing additional sidewalks. By taking this proactive step, we can ensure the well-being of all residents and foster a vibrant community where everyone feels safe while enjoying the benefits of physical activity.

It is crucial that we all have our share of the roads, regardless of whether we drive, walk, run or bike.

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