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Home > Make Bicycle/Pedestrian Improvements in your Community > Make your Community More Walkable/Bikeable

Create a Bike & Walk Friendly Community

Belfast Foot BridgeTo 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 Maine State Planning Office, 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. Visit the SHPO for more information on developing a comprehensive plan.

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 way 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.