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May 16, 2018

Portland gears up for Bike to Work Day

Photo / Tim Greenway Rick Harbison, Greater Portland Council of Governments planner and GIS coordinator, commutes to work by bike along Baxter Boulevard in Portland.

Friday is National Bike to Work Day, and the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, with help from Portland Gear Hub, will welcome Portland’s bike commuters in Monument Square in the morning.

National Bike to Work Day, which is the third Friday in May, began in 1956, according to the coalition.

The League of American Bicyclists, based in Washington, D.C., last year ranked Maine 17th in bicycle-friendliness. The only cities in the state rated as bicycle-friendly as of fall 2017, its latest rankings, are Brunswick and Bath. The Downtown Portland website lists 18 bike rack locations in the city.

Nationally, 0.6% of commuters bike to work, according to Census figures from 2014.

“Biking to work has a lot of positives,” said Bicycle Coalition of Maine Executive Director John Williams in a news release. “Of course, there’s the physical benefit, but riding your bike to work is great way to save some money because you don’t have to pay for parking and you aren’t using any gas.

“If your commute is only a few miles, you’ll probably find that it’s just as quick, if not faster, to ride your bike than it is to drive.”

Representatives of the Bike Coalition of Maine coalition will be in Monument Square from 7 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. with information about safe bicycle commuting, bicycle mechanics and more.

City employees who ride their bikes to work on Friday will receive a $5 token to the Portland Farmers Market, and the Portland planning staff will have maps and other information about upcoming city projects and initiatives to improve bicycling in Portland.

Staff and volunteers from the Portland Gear Hub will have a mechanics stand and tools, free air set up outside A&C Grocery on Munjoy Hill.

Maine Sport Outfitters in Rockport also offered a free Intro to Biking class this week as part of its annual Bike to Work Week program.

“This annual event ... promotes biking as a healthy alternative to driving, aims to encourage a new way of commuting,” the company said on its website.

Of the five bicycle-friendly actions the League of American Bicyclists uses as a benchmark, Maine shows progress for three:

  • Complete Streets law/policy
  • Safe passing law
  • Bicycle safety emphasis. 

The state does not score for a statewide bike plan or 2% or more of federal money going to bicycle or pedestrian safety.

A Complete Streets policy stems from a U.S. Department of Transportation program that advocates that streets be designed for safety. The safe passing law requires cares to give bicyclists a three-foot buffer when passing them.

“MaineDOT should take additional steps to ensure that their Complete Streets policy is implemented and enforced,” the LAB report card said. “A strong Complete Streets policy will help the state develop bicycle facilities at a lower cost as it realizes efficiencies related to routine paving, existing planning and project development processes, and facilitates coordination with local governments.”

It also calls for increased spending on safety and a statewide bicycle plan.

“Generally speaking rural states tended to spend more per capita on biking and walking than non-rural states,” the report said. “Maine is a notable exception to this quirk of statistics, with a much lower per capita spending rate than other rural states.”

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