; Your World
always for cars. Still, Brunswick
has made room for bike riders using an incremental approach that
any town with a will can follow.
Business is good for Lee
Huston, owner of Center
Street Cycles in Brunswick.
As Brunswick, Maine,
demonstrates, you don’t
necessarily need a major
program to lure bicyclists
onto your streets. Over
time, incremental changes add up. Here’s what
you need to consider:
1. Get a sense of your
current bicycling situa-
tion by surveying where
people ride and by talk-
ing to people who ride to
work—they know what
works and where the
trouble spots are.
2. Assess your com-
munity’s biking infra-
structure. Do you have
a connected network of
streets, bike lanes and
bike paths? Do public
buildings and private
workplaces offer bike
parking? Do maps show
bike-friendly ways of get-
3. Study what other
communities have done
to improve the lot of
4. Consider building
your own community’s
such as a citizens’
mittee or hiring a town
5. Learn potential
sources of federal, state
and local funding.
These days along what is of- ficially Brunswick’s Androscoggin River Bicycle and Pedestrian Path, families poke along
with kids on training wheels and
toddlers in strollers; older people
gaze at the river; recreational bicyclists wheel by the occasional
youngster on a scooter, and in turn
get passed by speed-demon roller-bladers, athletes training on roller
skis and serious cyclists out for a
long ride. The 14-foot path is wide
enough to accommodate all of the
Its popularity “really opened a lot
of people’s eyes about the benefits
of having safe and convenient bike
and walking routes,” says Henry
Heyburn, 53, who co-chairs Brunswick’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee.
As a result, the town routinely
widens shoulders when repaving
roads, then stripes them to create
bike lanes—more than 40 miles
over the past 10 years. Crews get
out in early spring to clean up the sand and grit left from
winter—a hazard to road bikes’ thin tires—and are gradually replacing road grates with less hazardous designs.
Brunswick’s new downtown train station will have plenty
of parking for bicycles. And every school participates in
the state bicycle coalition’s safety education program.
The efforts have yielded a noticeable increase in bicyclists—many over 50—on the town’s streets and country
roads. This mirrors a national trend. Though Americans
still vastly prefer to travel by car or transit, the nation
saw a 43 percent rise in bicycle commuting between
2000 and 2008, according to figures compiled by the
League of American Bicyclists.
Communities encourage this trend for several reasons,
says Bill Nesper, who directs the league’s Bicycle Friendly
America program. They’re paying more attention to both
the physical health of their residents and overall environmental health—especially given mandates to reduce
carbon emissions. Even more important in officials’ eyes,
though, is economic development.
These investments help communities that compete
“to attract young workers and retirees, who want to live
in a place with these kinds of amenities,” Nesper says.
U.S. Secretary of Transportation
Ray LaHood’s recent announcement that his department will
give bicycling and walking equal
weight with cars and trucks may
bring even more local interest in
making bicycle-friendly improvements—if Congress delivers the
A key force in Brunswick has been the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, which
the town council created during
bike path planning. It’s worked
hard to keep its issues in front of
officials and groups in the region.
The committee’s first task, over a
decade ago, was to create a long-range plan. It has guided its members and officials as money and
public-works schedules permit.
“There’s a grand plan,” says Jeff
Reynolds, 53, a part-time professor
of religion and philosophy at the
The group worked with town planners, for instance,
on the new train station and the design of the road leading to it; with the regional land trust to find ways of
encouraging people to bike to the farmers’ market on
a farm the trust owns; with the police to understand
the rights and responsibilities of bicyclists ( 30 of 37 officers are licensed bicycle police); and with local business owners to help them take advantage of Brunswick’s
location along the emerging East Coast Greenway path,
which runs from Florida to Maine.
For all the progress it’s made, Brunswick still has a
way to go. “Our committee decided years ago that our
benchmark was that a middle-school-aged child should
be able to bike anywhere in the town of Brunswick,”
says John Balicki, 60, an Episcopal priest who was once
the state bicycle/pedestrian coordinator at the Maine
Department of Transportation. “We’re not there yet.
That’s our next frontier.” ;
; League of American Bicyclists,
; Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center, bicyclinginfo.org/.
; Alliance for Biking & Walking,
; The Federal Highway Administration, www.fhwa.dot.gov/envi
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Rob Gurwitt lives in Norwich, Vt.