Report: Maine Cycling Safety Improvement Requires Attention

The latest report from The League of American Bicyclists puts Maine at the top when it comes to bicycle friendliest in New England.

The state ranked 15th nationally, behind the other New England states of Delaware, which ranked No. 3, and Massachusetts, which ranked No. 4. Meanwhile, New Hampshire ranked 27th, Connecticut 22nd and Vermont 17th.

The scoring criteria for “bicycle friendliness” was based on legislation and enforcement of bicycle safety laws, existing policies and programs, infrastructure and funding, education and encouragement and evaluation and planning.

Somewhat disappointingly, Maine fell two spots from the No. 13 position, which it held in 2014. Maine received a 4 out 5 when it came to legislation and enforcement and policies and programs, but it only received a 3 for education and encouragement. And for infrastructure, funding, evaluation and planning, the state received scores of just 2.

According to the Maine report card, what worked in the state’s favor was the fact it has enacted a “safe passing” law, requiring drivers to maintain a distance of at least three feet. Additionally, there is an active bicycle advocacy community in the state, as well as an ongoing “share the road” campaign and an emphasis on bicycle safety in the state’s strategic highway safety plan. Also, the state this year adopted a “Complete Streets” policy that encourages traffic engineers to design roadways with all road users – including cyclists – in mind.

But what worked against the state was a lack of dedicated state funding. There is also no state bicycle plan or vulnerable road user law. Less than 2 percent of federal transportation funds given to the state are dedicated to bicycle and pedestrian safety, and fewer than 1 percent of Maine residents commute to work by bicycle.

Overall, the state received a score of just 46 out of 100. That’s a slight drop from last year’s score of 50 out of 100. So the fact that it was 15th out of 50 in the nation seems to say less about our amazing bicycle safety initiatives and more about how abysmal the problem is nationally.

The release coincided with National Bike to Work Week in mid-May.

The director of communications at the Bicycle Coalition of Maine said the rankings provide advocates and lawmakers with good information.

For example, it was recommended the state pass a vulnerable road users act. And that’s exactly what is happening with the pending LD 1301, which would give legal status to anyone on the road who is not operating a motor vehicle, and it would also provide stiffer penalties for drivers who strike bicyclists or pedestrians with their vehicles.

There is also legislation pending that would ban use of a mobile phone while driving if it’s not connected to a hands-free device.

Ultimately, lawmakers and advocates hope to significantly reduce the number of bicycle accidents in Maine.

The Bike League further recommends expanding bicycle parking areas at parks and state buildings and taking into account the needs of cycling commuters in all transportation planning efforts.

Although there isn’t exact information on how many cyclists there are in Maine, it’s been estimated at least 2,500 households have at least one active cycling member. In figures recently released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, it was revealed four cyclists were killed in 2013 in Maine traffic accidents, representing 2.8 percent of all traffic deaths. That’s slightly higher than the national average of 2 percent.

If you are the victim of a Portland bicycle accident, contact  Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-804-2004 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Maine among most bicycle friendly states in New England, May 12, 2015, By Julia Bayly, Bangor Daily News

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