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January 19, 2023

State wants to make roads safer for bikes and pedestrians

File photo / Laurie Schreiber Without a good shoulder, a bicyclist is forced to share a Mount Desert Island road that typically sees a fair amount of tourist and residential traffic during the summer.
In 2020, Maine ranked as one of the top five states in the contribution of outdoor recreation to gross domestic product, contributing $3 billion to Maine’s GDP and creating 41,000 jobs.
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Key takeaways from public input in the first draft of the first Maine State Active Transportation Plan include a demand for safer roadways for pedestrians and bicyclists, more off-road trails and access to transit in places with a high number of people experiencing homelessness or those without a private vehicle.

Slowing down traffic was viewed as a way to encourage more active transportation and increase its safety. 

“The biggest concern for many is speeding traffic; revisiting speed limit procedures and roadway design guidelines to slow traffic was of paramount concern to some,” the draft says.

The process started a year ago. Since then, a planning team has been assessing current conditions related to walking, rolling and bicycling, along with programs, policies and active transportation infrastructure such as sidewalks, road crossings, bike lanes, shoulders and multi-use trails.

The study comes at a time when there’s an emerging “micro-mobility” trend toward increasing the use of human-powered devices and lightweight electric vehicles, the draft says.

According to the draft, released last month by The Maine Department of Transportation, active transportation includes human-powered modes of transportation — walking, bicycling, skating, skateboarding, operating a wheelchair or other mobility device, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. It can also include small-scale electric vehicles such as electric bikes and electric scooters.

The goal of the plan is to enable the MDOT to enhance safety and accessibility through improvements to infrastructure and programs. 

During a public outreach period, the department received more than 2,000 comments. 

Economic benefits

In 2020, Maine ranked as one of the top five states in the contribution of outdoor recreation to gross domestic product, contributing $3 billion to Maine’s gross domestic product and creating 41,000 jobs.

Although specific data aren’t available, “it is evident that a good portion of outdoor recreation in Maine — and the economic spin-off that comes with it — is due to visitors and residents walking, hiking, bicycling, cross-country skiing or snowmobiling on trails,” the draft says.

The draft cites economic benefits of improved infrastructure for low-cost transportation options, as well as opportunities for increased exercise and improved quality of life.

Active transportation infrastructure “has also increased local investment in outdoor recreational tourism and employment,” the draft says. 


On Maine’s roads, especially in rural areas, the study found that the highway system lacks significant active transportation facilities. A wide variety of improvements were identified as important, especially in more populated areas, such as improved sidewalks, improved crossings and reduced speeds. 

Additional feedback related to the need for a greater focus on shoulder improvements to primarily rural highways and improvements between rural and village or urban areas. 

In many rural areas, paved shoulders along existing roadways were identified as an important, basic facility for people walking, bicycling or rolling where a sidewalk or multi-use pathway might not be feasible. 


The draft also identifies a need to expand the off-road trail system, including a 2022 proposal to build an off-road trail network connecting 25 of Maine’s largest cities. 

Additionally, some state-owned, inactive rail corridors were identified as useful for active transportation purposes.

Bicycle Coalition weighs in

The plan outlines implementation strategies such as assessing speed limits, paving shoulders, making a list of trails and building out the network.

But members of the Bicycle Coalition of Maine in Portland said the plan needs a timeframe and performance metrics for implementation.

The coalition, which was part of the team that helped develop the plan, held a webinar Wednesday to discuss the plan’s elements and highlight places it said the plan could be strengthened. 

“It makes a strong statement on the importance of active transportation in this state,” said the coalition’s executive director, Jean Sideris.

The coalition’s assistant director, Jim Tassé, said the plan’s goals can’t be achieved at current funding levels.

“I think there’s room for conversation about expanding funding now, or at least planning for expanded funding,” he said.

He said the coalition would also like to see more specificity around infrastructure and facilities, such as buffered bike lanes, separated side paths and shared lane markings. 

The coalition will continue to work with the department and other stakeholders to submit more detailed comments, he noted.

There’s “plenty of work coming out of the plan, but we’re very excited that it exists,” he said.

Tassé said the schedule for finalizing the plan depends on further input and revisions.

To view the plan, click here.

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January 20, 2023

I think the roads are just too narrow in Maine to make riding a bicycle. I sold my road bike because it got too scary to ride on the roads here. I have a mountain bike but only for off road biking. People go way faster than the speed limits and don't pay attention. Just look at how many pedestrians have been hit and killed in the last few years alone. People go way too fast and don't pay attention. When I walk my dog I put on a safety vest, wear a bright orange hat and carry a flashlight that has a strobe/blinking light and cars still make me jump out of the way to avoid being hit. Biking in Florida is so much nicer as there is so much more room to maneuver. It would be great if they can come up with a way to make it nicer and safer in Maine.

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