AUGUSTA — Gov. Paul R. LePage has proclaimed the month of May as Bicycle and Pedestrian Month throughout the State of Maine.
Students in more than 40 schools from Greenville to York and from Fryeburg to Calais will be celebrating Maine Bicycle and Pedestrian Month as they commute by foot or bicycle.
The governor’s proclamation recognizes that bicycling and walking are low cost and accessible forms of transportation; that they are safe, healthy and enjoyable forms of exercise, and that Maine is working to make communities safe places that encourage bicycling and walking to improve our quality of life.
The proclamation also recognizes that Maine has historically been viewed as one of the most bicycle and pedestrian friendly states in the nation, ranked third for bike friendliness last year by the League of American Bicyclists.
Many schools will hold walk and bike events during Maine Walk and Bike to School Week (May 16-20). This week coincides with Commute Another Way Week, when adults are walking, biking, carpooling and taking other transportation modes to their jobs. Parents, teachers, students, and volunteers at each school have organized events such as “walking school buses” (children walking with adult supervision) and “bike trains” (groups bicycling with adult supervision).
Maine’s federally funded Safe Routes to School Program — a program of the Maine Department of Transportation, the Bicycle Coalition of Maine and communities throughout the state — supports local efforts to improve safety and increase walking and bicycling to school. In addition, many schools participate in presentations from the Maine Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Education Program. These no-cost presentations available to all interested schools have been recognized as national models for keeping children safe from traffic dangers while walking and bicycling to school.
Two of the major goals of the Safe Routes to School Program are improved safety and increased physical activity to fight childhood obesity. And emerging brain science demonstrates the benefits to children who walk and bike before the beginning of the school day. “There’s a big boost in academic performance and improved classroom behavior. So this program is very much a win-win for students, families and school staff,” said Nancy Grant, executive director of the Bicycle Coalition of Maine.
Since Maine’s program began in 2001, more than 150 schools have become involved. Using federal funds, more than 50 communities have been approved for infrastructure improvements to make walking and biking safer near schools. “These federally funded safety improvements have been extremely helpful in creating safer pedestrian and bicycle travel around schools in communities throughout the state,” said Dan Stewart, MaineDOT’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Program Manager.
Communities already registered to participate in events this spring include Auburn, Biddeford, Bridgton, Brunswick, Bucksport, Calais, Camden, Cutler, Eagle Lake, Falmouth, Fort Kent, Fryeburg, Gardiner, Greenville, Hallowell, Hampden, Houlton, Kennebunkport, Madison, Pittston, Prospect Harbor, Randolph, Saco, Saint Francis, Scarborough, Sebago, South Portland, South Gardiner, Topsham, Wallagrass, Warren, West Gardiner, Westbrook, Windham, Winslow and York. It is likely additional schools also will participate.
The program has three regional encouragement and planning coordinators: Darcy Whittemore (saferoutes@BikeMaine.org) in the central part of the state, Sarah Cushman (email@example.com) in southern Maine, and Jim Fisher (firstname.lastname@example.org) in eastern Maine. For more information or details about Maine Walk and Bike to School Week events, e-mail them or call 207-623-4511.
The Bicycle Coalition of Maine has been working since 1992 to make Maine a better place to bicycle. The coalition advocates for Maine cyclists at the Legislature and in Washington, D.C., teaches bicycle safety to thousands of Maine schoolchildren each year, partners with state agencies on a Share the Road media campaign and serves as a resource on local bicycling issues.