Biking & Walking in Maine
Whether walking to get the mail, biking to school or work, or simply walking or biking around the block, many of us are pedestrians or bicyclists at some point during our day. Some people walk or bike for recreation, to save
money, or to reduce pollution. Others walk or bike because they do not or cannot drive. This includes our children and many of our elderly. It’s important for communities to recognize this and to give people the
opportunity to walk and bike efficiently, and most importantly, safely.
Bike Tours and Walking Information
- Walking and biking promote healthy living, efficient transportation, and vibrant communities.
- Bicycle-and pedestrian-friendly communities are magnets for tourism and economic development. They reap the rewards of:
- increased retail sales;
- enhanced safety;
- reduced noise and air pollution;
- less congestion; and
- less wear and tear on roads.
- Not to mention people are happier and healthier!
In summary, bicycle and pedestrian connections improve Maine’s quality of life and contribute positively to the health, social cohesiveness, safety, economic vitality and quality of entire communities and regions. Perhaps it’s time to start making our communities more walkable, bikeable, and livable.
- Bicycle Laws
- Maine bicycling laws generally give bicyclists the same rights and responsibilities as motor vehicle operators. Bicyclists may use public roads, and they must obey traffic laws such as stopping at red lights and stop signs, yielding to pedestrians at crosswalks and yielding to traffic when entering a road from a driveway.
- Bicyclists must ride with traffic, not against it.
- Bicycle are expected to ride on the right as far as is “practicable,” but there is a variety of situations in which a rider may legally take a larger share of the travel lane, including setting up for a left turn, proceeding straight where a right turn is also permitted, passing other vehicles, and to avoid obstacles or other unsafe situations.
- Bicyclists MAY ride on designated bike paths and in bike lanes, but they are NOT required to do so, even when such paths or lanes parallel a road. Bicycles have a right to be on most roads in Maine, but may be prohibited from riding on divided highways and other roads as per local and state ordinances and rules. Bicycles are not required to ride on shoulders or in bike lanes in Maine.
- Bicyclists must have and use headlights at night, as well as rear reflectors and foot/ankle/pedal reflectors. They also must have functional brakes on their bikes.
- Cyclists under 16 must wear bike helmets.
- In most cases, sidewalk riding is allowed and legal unless specifically prohibited by a municipality/local ordinance. Please check with your local municipalities.
- Maine Motor Vehicle Laws Related to Biking:
- Motorists must allow at least three feet of clearance when passing bicyclists.
- Motorists who are passing bicyclists proceeding in the same direction may not make a right turn unless they can do so with reasonable safety.
- Motorists may cross the centerline in a no-passing zone in order to pass a bicyclist if it is safe to do so.
- Motorists should not unnecessarily sound a horn. Honking your horn when approaching a bicyclist could startle them and cause a crash. Maine law states "a person may not unnecessarily sound a signaling device or horn". (see 29A MRSA, sub section 1903.)
- Motorists may open car doors only after checking to see that it can be done safely, without interfering with traffic.
- Pedestrian Laws
- Pedestrian traffic: When use of a sidewalk next to a public way is practicable, a pedestrian may not walk on that public way.
- Pedestrian on way: Where sidewalks are not provided, a pedestrian shall walk facing approaching traffic on the left side of the public way or the way's shoulder when practicable.
- Pedestrians on sidewalks: An operator shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian on a sidewalk.
- Pedestrians in marked crosswalks: When traffic-control devices are not in operation, an operator must yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing within a marked crosswalk.
- Pedestrian crossing: A pedestrian must yield the right-of-way to a vehicle when crossing a way:
- Other than within a marked crosswalk; or
- With an available pedestrian tunnel or overhead pedestrian crossing.
- Pedestrian prohibitions. A pedestrian may not:
- Cross between adjacent intersections at which traffic-control devices operate, except in a marked crosswalk;
- Cross an intersection diagonally, unless authorized by official traffic-control devices; or
- Suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close that it is impossible for the operator to yield.
- When vehicle is stopped: When a vehicle is stopped at an intersection or a marked crosswalk to permit a pedestrian to cross, the operator of another vehicle approaching from the rear may not overtake and pass the stopped vehicle.
- Due care: Notwithstanding other provisions of this chapter or of a local ordinance, an operator of a vehicle shall:
- Exercise due care to avoid colliding with a pedestrian;
- Give warning by sounding the horn when necessary; and
- Exercise proper caution on observing a child or any obviously confused, incapacitated or intoxicated person.
- Failure to yield right-of-way to a visually impaired pedestrian. Notwithstanding other provisions of this section, an operator who fails to yield the right-of-way to a visually impaired pedestrian who is carrying a cane that is predominately white or metallic in color, with or without a red tip, or using a guide or personal care dog as defined in Title 17, section 1312, commits a traffic infraction. Notwithstanding section 103, subsection 3, the fine for a violation of this subsection may not be less than $50 nor more than $1,000.
- Additional Information
- Mountain Division Trail
- The Maine Mountain Division Trail (MDT) is a 6 mile rail-with-trail built by MaineDOT along the abandoned Mountain Division Rail Corridor connecting the towns of Gorham, Windham, and Standish. This is the first section paved and open of the long-term vision of the Mountain Division Alliance, Portland Trails and the Sebago to the Sea Coalition to connect Portland to Fryeburg for both rail and trail. MaineDOT currently owns the section between Fryeburg and Westbrook with hopes of acquiring the remaining section linking to Portland.
- For more information on the Mountain Division Trail, email the Mountain Division Alliance.
- The Kennebec River Rail Trail
- In partnership with the Friends of the Kennebec River Rail Trail and local municipalities, MaineDOT has recently completed the Kennebec River Rail Trail (7 miles), connecting Augusta, Hallowell, Farmingdale, and Gardiner along the MaineDOT- owned rail corridor. This trail is one of the most heavily used in the state, because of its proximity and connectedness to the four downtown areas. There is currently an initiative in development to connect the Kennebec River Rail Trail to the Brunswick Bicycle Path by creating the Merrymeeting Trail (Gardiner to Topsham.) This 20-mile trail could eventually form part of the East Coast Greenway as a continuous 34-mile off-road bicycle/pedestrian facility along the Kennebec and Androscoggin Rivers.
- For more information on the Kennebec River Rail Trail, please email the Friends of the Kennebec River Rail Trail or visit the KRRT website at www.krrt.org
- The Down East Sunrise Trail
- The Down East Sunrise Trail is being built along an 85- mile trail corridor that roughly parallels the Calais Branch rail line from Brewer to Calais. The Maine Department of Transportation and the Maine Department of Conservation are working together to develop the Calais Branch Rail Corridor Rehabilitation and Multi-Use Trail Project. This interagency effort will rehabilitate and preserve the rail corridor for future rail use as well as provide a wide, compact gravel base, multiuse trail for snowmobiles, ATVs, pedestrians, bicyclists, cross-country skiers, equestrians and many other outdoor enthusiasts. The trail will be built using the existing rail bed from Washington Junction to Ayers Junction. The two-mile section from Ellsworth to Washington Junction will be a Rail with Trail along the existing trail corridor that runs adjacent to the rail. (Factsheet).
- For more information on the Down East Sunrise Trail, email the Sunrise Trail Coalition or visit the DEST website at:http://sunrisetrail.org/
- The Eastern Trail
- The Eastern Trail is a multiuse, off-road trail that is being created as part of the East Coast Greenway long-distance urban trail project. The trail is currently located on-road and an interim route has been identified connecting Kittery to Calais. The new off-road sections are being built along the abandoned Eastern Railroad Corridor. MaineDOT has already constructed sections of the trail in South Portland, Scarborough, and Old Orchard Beach and trail connections to Saco, Biddeford, Arundel and Kennebunk are all in the final stages of development. The envisioned 57-mile trail will eventually connect Kittery to Portland and will become a crucial link on the East Coast Greenway’s 3,000-mile route between Florida and the Canadian border.
- For more information, email the Eastern Trail Alliance or visit the Eastern Trail website at www.easterntrail.org if you are interested in learning more about the Eastern Trail.