Bike commuting sees big bump in Maine

A new report from the Alliance for Biking & Walking finds that the number of Maine residents who bike to work increased by 120 percent between 1990 and 2009.

Across the nation, there was a 64 percent increase in bicycle commuters over the same time period, according to a release sent out Monday by the Bicycle Coalition of Maine.

“More than a quarter of all Maine adults are obese, causing health problems, lost productivity and other costs that affect all of us,” said Nancy Grant, the Bicycle Coalition of Maine’s executive director, in the release.  “By investing more federal dollars in biking and walking, we can help reduce injuries and death, cut health care costs and create more vibrant communities.”

According to the BCA release, the new report also shows:
·     Maine ranks 10th nationally in the number of people who bike and walk to work.
·     Maine has a higher percentage of commuters who walk to work (4.1 percent) than the national average (2.9 percent).  But the number of pedestrian commuters in Maine declined 14 percent between 1990 and 2009.
·     In 2009, Maine had 3,202 people – or 0.5 percent of all commuters – who biked to work.  That percentage is the same as the national average.
·     In Maine, 6.6 percent of traffic fatalities are pedestrians (compared to 11.7 nationally) and 1 percent of traffic fatalities are bicyclists (compared to 1.8 percent nationally).  Maine’s rural nature probably contributes to the lower number of fatalities.  But while overall traffic fatalities are decreasing, pedestrian deaths in Maine have not dropped.

 

Bike commuting in Maine can be challenging, but it is doable – I know from personal experience. When I was studying at the University of Maine, I lived off campus and biked in from Orono and Old Town.

And a few years ago, when I was working as an editor at the Portland Press Herald, I biked the three miles to work every day for a year, through winter weather and all. The trick for the winter? Dress in layers, wear a balaclava and make sure you’ve got studded tires and a rear fender. Reflect a lot (not on life, but with reflective clothing) and have a good light setup for the night commute back. Run a flashing light on your back day and night.

Here’s a photo from a winter ride last year (I wasn’t commuting, but that’s the general winter rig I ride). This is on a pond in Cape Elizabeth –

Studded tires are recommended for winter bike riding, commuting or otherwise. The author, seen here, rides across a frozen pond in 2011.

“Bicycling and Walking in the United States: 2012 Benchmarking Report” was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and made possible through additional support from AARP and Planet Bike.