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Portland made changes to bicycle infrastructure this summer, plans to continue next year

New bicycle and pedestrian traffic changes can be seen across Portland on streets like Ludlow, West Commercial Street, and Elm.

PORTLAND, Maine — The City of Portland has made several changes to bicycle infrastructure across the city this summer. 

Transportation Systems Engineer Jeremiah Bartlett estimates the city spent roughly $5 million in improvements to roads, bicycle, and pedestrian infrastructure over the course of the year in various projects.

"I think it's been working pretty well. I think it's taking some getting used to by the motorists — it's a new design," John Clark said. 

Clark rides through Ludlow Street on his commute to work just about every day. He also serves as chair of the Portland Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee

Ludlow is one of the areas that's recently seen new traffic patterns. 

According to Bartlett, the new traffic pattern is known as an 'edge lane treatment.' A striped line runs on both sides of the street, where cyclists have the right of way. Cars share the middle of the lane, and when there's no bicycles using the lanes, cars can use the full road to safely pass each other before returning to the middle of the lane.

"The idea is really to create a sense of narrowness about the street and essentially in particular to get motorists to pay more attention to their surroundings, become more courteous, slow down, and this in turn is going to help the other modes, particularly cyclists, because this is fairly common and popular cyclist route," Bartlett said. 

The new lanes on Ludlow Street have left some drivers confused however. Bartlett says only 11 other communities in Maine have edge lane treatments, so drivers are still navigating the new pattern.

Other streets, however, are getting a strong reception from riders.

"On Elm Street, they've basically made a really large bike lane," Clark laughed.

Bartlett says traffic volumes on Elm, which runs between Congress Street and Marginal Way, has low traffic volume. The city has now repaved the road and changed it to only allow one-way vehicle traffic with a large bike lane.

West Commercial Street also saw bike infrastructure improvements. The city created a path on the side of the road wide enough for bicycles and pedestrians. 

"It's a step towards fully separated, really nice, nobody can complain about it kind of infrastructure," Winston Lumpkins, vice-chair of the Portland Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee said.

Lumpkins says one thing he hopes the city can address soon is gaps in bike infrastructure between well-traveled areas.

"Like where the West Commercial Street path ends, and you have to take a pedestrian crossing to the bike lane that's going in the right direction," Lumpkins said. "Making it easier to make complete trips on some kind of infrastructure will be key in really making this feel better for everyone." 

Lumpkins and Clark add that one large push from the city's bike/ped committee is to reinstate the position of bicycle and pedestrian planner as a city position.

"There's a whole lot of projects going on right now, not just for bicycles and pedestrians, but also car road improvement. So we would just like to see someone focus just on the bike pedestrian improvements and communicate with people who are actually out riding," Clark said. 

As for next summer, Bartlett says riders can expect to see more changes coming. 

Clark and Lumpkins both say Forest Ave is a dangerous area to ride. Bartlett agrees, and says the city and Maine Department of Transportation are working to identify solutions and potential changes, however there's currently no timetable for that project.

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