Bicycle/Pedestrian Improvements in Your Community

If you feel that you have an idea to make the transportation system safer or easier to access for a bicyclists and/or pedestrians, it is vitally important that you get involved early in the process to make sure that bicycle and pedestrian improvements are an important priority for decision makers at the local, state and national level.

Options for Improving the Pedestrian and Bicyclist Environment in Your Community
  • Physical Aspects of the Community: The first group addresses the physical aspects of the community. Facilities that aid walking and bicycling make doing so a more feasible option. For example, sidewalks and bike racks provide benefit to those who walk and bike, increasing the likelihood that people in the community will choose to walk or bike.
  • Policy & Planning: The second category pertains to policy and planning processes that help to lay the groundwork for making improvements at the community and regional levels. Whether your intent is to fix the sidewalk in front of your house or to improve the existing pedestrian and bike infrastructure in your community, there is a process involved. Some communities already have established bike and pedestrian plans, or advocacy groups. Other communities are simply in need of someone to get the ball rolling. Either way, getting involved is the first step to getting what you want.
Bike-Ped Infrastructure Improvements


Infrastructure Options

Infrastructure options include sidewalks, street crossings, signage, signalization, shoulders/bike lanes, street furniture and off-road facilities, such as walking and bicycling paths and trails.

  • Options and Descriptions
    • Sidewalks: Provide a separate, safe place for walkers.
    • Street Crossings: Improve visibility of pedestrians to drivers and increases the comfort and safety of both.
    • Signage: Bright, visible signage raises awareness of the pedestrian environment and provides guidance to pedestrians and drivers alike.
    • Signalization: Pedestrian countdown signals indicate the time remaining for pedestrians to cross the street safely.
    • Shoulders/Bike Lanes: Benefit pedestrians and bicyclists by providing additional space on roadways and enhancing safety and mobility.
    • Street Furniture: Provides a place to rest. May promote social interaction and an increased sense of community.
    • Off-Road Bicycle & Pedestrian Facilities: Provides a place to rest. May promote social interaction and an increased sense of community.

On-Road Improvements

You will first need to determine the classification of the road along which you would like to build bicycle/pedestrian infrastructure. Roads are under the jurisdiction of the city, state or metropolitan planning organization (MPO) and fall into three categories: major collector, minor collector and local road. Knowing who is responsible for and the classification of the road you are interested in will help to direct you to the people you need to get in touch with. This information can be found at city hall, MaineDOT or your local MPO office if you live within MPO boundaries.

  • Major Collectors – MaineDOT is responsible for improving the state’s major collectors (unless the road is within an MPO boundary) because they serve statewide needs. If the road is a major collector, the municipality requests road improvements from MaineDOT or the appropriate MPO on a biennial basis (spring of even-numbered years).
  • Minor Collectors - Towns have the responsibility for prioritizing improvements on minor collectors and must apply for funding through the Rural Road Improvement Program for improvements. It is important to assess when the road is likely to be improved, (is the section of road in the MaineDOT Six Year Plan, or 2-year work plan?) If just basic sidewalks are what the community wants, the cost may be covered as part of a future road project. If the community wants something more, it may be necessary to find additional funds locally or through the stand-alone project process.
  • Local Roads – Local roads are the responsibility of the city. Resources for projects at the local level usually come from either the local and/or state level. MaineDOT provides some funding to municipalities for improvements to local roads. Local municipalities generally create a capital improvement plan (CIP), which outlines which roads will be improved. Local municipalities often target funds towards roadway improvements, sidewalks, and crossing improvements.

Once you have identified the road classification, and contacted the appropriate organization, the next step is to get involved in the transportation planning process. At the community level, priorities are determined by town officials and planners who then work with the MaineDOT or the metropolitan planning organization (MPO), i.e., PACTS, BACTS, KACTS or ATRC, to get the project implemented. Most state and federal funding assistance for bike and pedestrian improvements requires communities to prove that its priority is more important or urgent than those of the other communities that are vying for the same money. The process of planning and securing funding for a project often takes years because projects and priorities are planned well in advance and funding, particularly for multi-phased projects, often is raised phase by phase.

Off-Road Improvements

Building an off-road bicycle and pedestrian facility is a multiyear effort involving bicycle/pedestrian advocates, municipalities, engineers, planners, and others. It involves planning studies, fundraising efforts, gaining permission to use land (oftentimes with abutter issues) applying for funding assistance, and many levels of environmental permitting. These projects usually begin as a community-driven effort, a group of people who get together to improve their community. In order to begin this process, it may be helpful to start a bicycle/pedestrian planning committee. Call your local municipality and ask if any committee currently exists to do bicycle and pedestrian planning. If not, ask your council, selectmen, or planning board to begin such a group. This group can examine the local street and road system to determine the suitability of the existing system to accommodate bicyclists and pedestrians and the potential for establishing off-road bicycle/pedestrian facilities. It can then explore funding options.

If your bicycle/pedestrian group needs more technical assistance, please contact the MaineDOT Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinator.

Create a Bike-& Walk-Friendly Community

To improve the overall environment for walking and bicycling, the stage must be set for good things to happen. Generally, this means that policy and plans must be made and in place to provide proof of a community’s commitment to making bicycle and pedestrian improvements.

While not a requirement for making improvements, plans and policies that support bicycling and walking as part of the overall transportation network are beneficial when applying for funding at the state and federal levels. Not only that, but as city officials, employees, and residents change, plans and policies endure so long as they are supported and can inform and guide decision makers of the priorities of the community.

In order to begin this process, it may be helpful to start a bicycle/pedestrian planning committee. Call your local municipality and ask if any committee currently exists to do bicycle and pedestrian planning. If not, ask your council, selectmen, or planning board to begin such a group. This group can examine the local street and road system to determine the suitability of the existing system to accommodate bicyclists and pedestrians and the potential for establishing bicycle/pedestrian facilities. Here are some of the planning efforts and policies that your committee may develop:

Create a Bicycle-Pedestrian Plan

  • Many communities have benefited from creating a town-wide pedestrian and bicycling plan. Such plans detail desired routes, phases of implementation and an approach to financing bicycle and pedestrian improvements. Plans are created by city employees, sometimes with the help of consultants, and incorporate input from community members. The development of bicycle and pedestrian plans could be the result of an expressed desire by community members.

Comprehensive Plan

  • Comprehensive plans are intended to incorporate all aspects of planning, transportation, economic development, environment, housing, public participation, etc., and provide a roadmap or guidance on how to reach the communities goals in each area. To include mention of the importance of bicycling and walking in all or some of the various sections of a comprehensive plan will help to ensure that the needs of walkers and bicyclists are considered as projects of all types move forward.
  • The goal of the MaineDOT and the Sensible Transportation Planning Act (STPA) is to work with communities to improve transportation planning by encouraging interconnected streets and sidewalks in growth areas. This reduces development pressures on the state roadway system, which is designed for mobility, and improves quality of life. If communities grow outward on the transportation system, the result is congestion and loss of the vibrant community villages that we all enjoy.

Transportation Section of Community Comprehensive Plan

  • The transportation section of a community’s comprehensive plan is where the goals and objectives of a community’s transportation network are detailed. Bicycle and pedestrian needs are mentioned throughout many comprehensive plans, but are addressed mostly in the transportation section. A bike and pedestrian section should include an inventory and evaluation of deficiencies as well as strategies to address identified deficiencies. Timeframes and potential funding sources should also be included.

Create/Improve Ordinances

  • Ordinances are local laws that pertain to everything from signs to setbacks. Ordinances that help improve the pedestrian environment require pedestrian facilities and compact growth areas, which encourage walkability/bikeability. Examples of types of ordinances that can potentially benefit bicyclists and pedestrians include:
    • Sidewalk ordinances – The following is an example of headings used as part of a sidewalk ordinance from the city of Bangor. This particular ordinance allows authorized persons to make changes, designates responsibility for maintenance, and details rules and penalties that pertain to the use and abuse of sidewalks.
      •   257-1. Alterations; curb installation
      •   257-2. Snow and ice control and removal
      •   257-3. Violations and penalties
      •   257-4. License required to occupy right-of-way
    • Bicycle parking – Some communities require that parking for bicycles be provided where parking for automobiles is also available.
    • Parking requirements – Many communities that have ordinances regulating parking require that a minimum number of spaces be provided based on the land use or square footage of the building. In the past few years, an argument that parking ordinances should indicate a maximum rather than a minimum amount of off-street parking has been gaining credence. The idea is to shift the focus away from catering to automobiles and more on accommodating pedestrians.
    • Design standards – Design standards are one tool that many communities use to ensure that pedestrians are accommodated. Brunswick’s Department of Planning and Development has created design standards for Cook’s Corner. These standards include:
      • Public sidewalks
      • Internal walkways
      • Pedestrian spaces
      • Bicycle facilities
      • Site furnishings
      • Artwork

If a community develops a good transportation plan, and implements ordinances that support the plan, it will have a better chance of receiving state and federal funding assistance for transportation improvements, including sidewalks and bicycle and pedestrian facilities. In addition to an improved transportation system, benefits of good planning can be seen in improvements in the economy, social atmosphere, tourism, open space preservation, and quality of life. It is also important to note that for people who may not have access to cars, including the young, elderly, disabled, and economically disadvantaged, walking and transit are the only choices for mobility.

Funding Options

Local/Municipal Funding Options

Funding for bicycle and pedestrian improvements at the local level is vital to improving conditions within Maine communities. Most of the grant programs require a local match either with actual funding, or materials and labor. In addition, because grant funding is competitive and not nearly enough to make all of the improvements necessary, local funding is imperative to improving bicycle and pedestrian connections. The following is a sample of some of the local funding options that can be used in Maine.

  • Capital Improvement Programs (CIP) and Projects
    • Many municipalities budget a portion of their yearly CIP budge to sidewalk improvements. Many of the roads that are improved through the CIP also include shoulders and sidewalks that benefit pedestrians and bicyclists.
  • Local Bonding
    • Many communities have used bonding as a way to make significant improvements to the sidewalk networks. Most often, bicycle and pedestrian groups work with town leaders to bring a potential bond to the voters for approval.
  • Tax Increment Financing (TIF)
    • Maine TIF laws allow communities to capture incremental growth in property tax revenue, over a period of time, for reinvestment within the community. TIF revenues provide opportunities to fund local development projects, such as bicycle and pedestrian improvements within a district, and are great sources for local grant match.

State and Federal Funding Options

  • Projects as Part of Future Road Improvements
    • For MaineDOT road improvement project needs, municipalities have the opportunity to respond every other year (even numbered years) to the MaineDOT Municipal Request Packet. MaineDOT sends out the request for priorities to each municipality. This is an opportunity for a municipality to communicate to MaineDOT its priorities and needs for road improvements on state roads within its area. After a municipality prioritizes its needs and communicates them to MaineDOT, these needs must be prioritized by MaineDOT against other community needs throughout the state. MaineDOT then creates a two year budget that is financially constrained and includes projects for bridges, maintenance needs, road improvements, transit, safety, and bicycle and pedestrian stand alone projects.
  • Stand-Alone Bicycle and Pedestrian Projects
    • If a bicycle and pedestrian connection need is identified and it is determined that the associated road is not scheduled for improvements, a community can work towards funding specifically for a bicycle and pedestrian connection. There is a variety of funding mechanisms that are used to create bicycle and pedestrian connections. The following is a summary of some of the state/federal funding opportunities that communities are using to improve connections for pedestrians and bicyclists.
  • MaineDOT Competitive Programs 
    • MaineDOT funds bicycle and pedestrian improvements in communities throughout the state through its federally-funded competitive programs. The program uses a variety of funding sources to provide funding assistance to communities to improve the quality of the community environment. MaineDOT accepts applications on an ongoing basis. The program provides federal funding assistance of approximately $2.2 million per year in bicycle and pedestrian projects that meet the transportation purpose of connecting neighborhoods, schools, downtowns and village areas. Municipalities that apply to the program must show that the project serves a transportation purpose, has community support, is buildable and environmentally feasible, and will improve safety.
  • Community Development Block Grant
    • The Maine Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) offers grants to Maine communities to achieve community and economic development objectives. The goals of the program are to benefit low income persons, eliminating the influences of blight, and addressing urgent needs. Communities often use this funding to improve the community environment – including sidewalks, streetscape improvements and trails. The Office of Community Development offers the CDBG funding program, which can be accessed for bicycle and pedestrian improvement projects, particularly those that serve as solutions to problems facing downtowns.
  • Maine Department of Conservation Recreational Trails Program 
    • This program provides funding assistance for recreational trails in communities throughout the state. The program allows funding for both motorized and nonmotorized trails and requires 20 percent in matching funds. Applications are due in May or June of each year and are due in November.
  • National Park Service Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program 
    • The RTCA Program works with nonprofit organizations, community groups, tribes or tribal governments, and local, state, or federal government agencies to conserve rivers, preserve open spaces, and develop trails and greenways. In Maine, the majority of the work has been helping communities develop trails ranging from hand-built, natural-surface walking trails to paved shared-use paths. Rivers and Trails has worked on many of Maine’s long distance trails that connect multiple communities for walking and biking. The application deadline is August 1 every year.

 

On-Road and Off-Road Improvements

On-Road Improvements

You will first need to determine the classification of the road along which you would like to build bicycle/pedestrian infrastructure. Roads are under the jurisdiction of the city, state or metropolitan planning organization (MPO) and fall into three categories: major collector, minor collector and local road. Knowing who is responsible for and the classification of the road you are interested in will help to direct you to the people you need to get in touch with. This information can be found at city hall, MaineDOT or your local MPO office if you live within MPO boundaries.

  • Major Collectors
    • MaineDOT is responsible for improving the state’s major collectors (unless the road is within an MPO boundary) because they serve statewide needs. If the road is a major collector, the municipality requests road improvements from MaineDOT or the appropriate MPO on a biennial basis (spring of even numbered years).
  • Minor Collectors
    • Towns have the responsibility for prioritizing improvements on minor collectors and must apply funding through the Rural Road Improvement Program for improvements. It is important to assess when the road is likely to be improved, (is the section of road in the MaineDOT Six Year Plan, or two year Workplan) If just basic sidewalks are what the community wants, the cost may be covered as part of a future road project. If the community wants something more, it may be necessary to find additional funds locally or through the stand alone project process.
  • Local Roads
    • Local roads are the responsibility of the city. Resources for projects at the local level usually come from either the local and/or state level. MaineDOT provides some funding to municipalities for improvements to local roads. Local municipalities generally create a Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), which outlines which roads will be improved. Local municipalities often target funds towards roadway improvements, sidewalks, and crossing improvements.

Once you have identified the road classification, and contacted the appropriate organization, the next step is to get involved in the transportation planning process. At the community level, priorities are determined by town officials and planners who then work with the MaineDOT or the metropolitan planning organization (MPO), i.e. PACTS, BACTS, KACTS or ATRC to get the project implemented. Most state and federal funding assistance for bike and pedestrian improvements requires communities to prove that its priority is more important or urgent than those of the other communities that are vying for the same money. The process of planning and securing funding for a project often takes years because projects and priorities are planned well in advance and funding, particularly for multiphased projects, often is raised phase by phase.

Off-Road Improvements

Building an off-road bicycle and pedestrian facility is a multi-year effort involving bicycle/pedestrian advocates, municipalities, engineers, planners, and others. It involves planning studies, fundraising efforts, gaining permission to use land (often times with abutter issues), applying for funding assistance, and many levels of environmental permitting. These projects usually begin as a community-driven effort, a group of people who get together to improve their community. In order to begin this process, it may be helpful to start a bicycle/pedestrian planning committee. Call your local municipality and ask if any committee currently exists to do bicycle and pedestrian planning. If not, ask your council, selectmen, or planning board to begin such a group. This group can examine the local street and road system to determine the suitability of the existing system to accommodate bicyclists and pedestrians and the potential for establishing off-road bicycle/pedestrian facilities. It can then explore funding options.

If your bicycle/pedestrian group needs more technical assistance, please contact the MaineDOT Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinator.

Bicycle Signage
  • Signage for bicycle travel on roads in Maine is important for safety awareness. Signs like Share the Road, Bikes May Use Full Lane, Maine’s 3 ft. Law, and bicycle way finding can help not only raise awareness to motorists that bicyclists should be expected anywhere, but can really make a difference in promoting safe motorists and bicyclist behavior.
  • Maine has adopted a set of approved signs for Maine roads to ensure the signage is consistent throughout the state when it comes to the types of signs that municipalities and MaineDOT put on our road system.
  • MaineDOT must approve any signage placed on MaineDOT jurisdictional highways, and strongly encourages all municipalities to use these approved signs even on local roads. These signs were developed in coordination with local stakeholders, the Maine Bicycle and Pedestrian Council, Metropolitan Planning Organizations, and the Federal Highway Administration.
  • To request a sign on a state road, bike route or way finding signage plan approval, please contact Steve Landry, Maine State Traffic Engineer, at 207-624-3632 or your local MaineDOT region traffic engineer.
  • To be eligible for approval of a bike route signage plan, the municipality would need to create a detailed signage plan for the proposed signed route, if the route has any MaineDOT jurisdictional roads. The municipality is responsible for the costs of putting up the way finding or bike route signs, unless funding is approved by MaineDOT.
  • MaineDOT will be responsible (if funding is available) for the cost of putting up single or multiple safety signs on the state highway system upon an approved request.
  •  Approved signage types for Maine roads