The coronavirus has led many people to seek outside spaces for a breath of fresh air, exercise, and a moment of reflection. The pandemic has heightened our awareness of the importance of safe, accessible places to walk, bike, or explore.
This is easier for some in Maine than it is for others. Chances are, if you live near a sidewalk or multi-use path you’ve spent more time on them than you used to. For others, a lack of safe and accessible spaces to get outside may suddenly be a much bigger inconvenience than before the coronavirus disrupted our way of life.
How You Can Get Involved
At the Natural Resources Council of Maine, we’re working with partners across the state to help create healthier, cleaner, and more affordable transportation options to serve Mainers better. We invite you to help us imagine what’s possible. Please send us photos and descriptions of:
- Your favorite sidewalk, walking or biking path, or bus stop, or
- A place in your community that could really use a safer, more accessible path to give people the opportunity to walk, bike, and avoid driving
- A place in your community where there already is or could be a bus stop or electric car charging station to help connect you to other towns in Maine, work, or school.
For your description, consider:
- One reason you like the sidewalk, walking or biking path, or bus stop and where it helps you go;
- Why you might enjoy a path or where you could go without using a car if safer more accessible paths were available; or
- If a local shuttle or bus existed, where you would want it to go and how it might enhance your community.
Outdoor bike paths and walkways are investments in our communities that help people lead healthier lives — and they are also investments that help reduce the carbon pollution that’s driving climate change. Emissions from cars and trucks is the largest and fastest growing source of climate-changing pollution in Maine. Any solution that gives people the opportunity to drive less or, if they have to drive, drive cleaner, will help reduce air pollution and build more resilient communities.
We asked NRCM staff members to submit some photos of their own, which you can view in the slideshow below. We hope this helps spark some ideas of places you’d like to highlight!
For too many of us, the only way to get around is to drive, even if it’s for a quick errand. Solutions like safer streets with accessible sidewalks and paths, rail trails, and more frequent and reliable public transit would help us reduce our climate impact and lead healthier lives. It’s better for us and better for the environment.
To be clear, COVID-19 has forced many of us to stop driving even when we want to. That’s not what this campaign is about. Mainers deserve the opportunity and choice to drive less if they want to. Helping communities build a connection of safe routes for biking and walking will make it easier – and more fun — to make that choice.
We understand that for some in Maine, driving is the only option, which is why we’re also working on ways to help you drive cleaner. But even in small towns and rural areas, a simple sidewalk along a major road, a safer crosswalk, or even a multi-use path that connects your town to a larger town with amenities like groceries or a hardware store might encourage you to walk or bike instead of driving. Or perhaps if a bus reliably stopped every 10-15 minutes in your town center to take you to a larger town or city, you might be more likely to choose that option rather than sitting in traffic alone in your car. That’s what this is about – opportunity and choice.
The pandemic has shown us the importance of open space – whether it be a park, path, or sidewalk – to leading healthy lives. Let’s not miss this opportunity to learn from that and support investments in modern, accessible, healthy, low-carbon ways to get around. Investments that will help grow our economy by attracting new businesses and younger workers to our state. And investments that will help lay the foundation for a more affordable, climate-friendly future.
There are many ways we can support this vision.
- We can do a better job designing our streets to be safer when they are redesigned or repaved.
- We can support more rail trails along dormant railways (trails that can easily be re-located alongside a train if service ever resumes).
- And Maine can sign onto the Transportation and Climate Initiative, which would generate sorely needed funding to support these investments.
Please help us envision this future. A future where people have lots of opportunities to move from point A to point B, when they could choose to walk, bike, drive, or take a bus if they wanted. Send us your photos today. Then join us in working toward a future that helps us lead healthier, more active lives in our hometowns and elsewhere.
—Sophie Janeway, NRCM Climate & Clean Energy Outreach Coordinator
Photos & Additional Information We've Received from You:
"This month, May 2020, marks the 301st anniversary of the original grant of the Brunswick Town Commons, one of the first tracts of dedicated public open space land in Maine. Over the centuries, parts of the 1,000 acres have been carved off for other uses, including Bowdoin College and the former Brunswick Naval Air Station. But the remaining 71 acres encompass critical habitats, impressive woods, beautiful wild flowers, and terrific trails.
During the coronavirus pandemic, people still need to get outdoors. More people than ever have been using the trails in the Town Commons for walking, biking, jogging, and wildlife watching—while social distancing.
The Brunswick Town Commons is easily accessible for many community residents who live nearby, but it would be even more accessible if the local shuttle bus, the Brunswick Explorer, stopped there." — Jym St. Pierre, Brunswick