Efforts by municipalities and advocacy groups to encourage biking for transportation and recreation has been associated with improvements in emissions reductions, economic development, public health, and social equity (Gardner and Gaegauf 2014, 2013). The aim of this project was to identify barriers to biking in the towns of Lewiston and Auburn. Given this aim, the primary objective was to determine a strategy to overcome these barriers in the form of a bike access program. There are many methods that support biking as a viable form of transportation, including bicycling infrastructure (parking and bike lanes), promotional events, and educational initiatives. The primary focus of our group, however, was to determine the viability of some form of a “bike access” program in Lewiston and Auburn. In order to determine what an equitable bike access program might look like, we sought community feedback from local businesses and residents through interviews and surveys, discussed the project with government officials in both Lewiston and Auburn, consulted operators of other bike access programs in Maine and across the US, and identified some local leaders to champion this program. Such conversations and outreach provided a thorough understanding of the primary barriers to bicycling, the specific locations where people want access to bikes, and the existing bicycling culture of town. Additionally, our conversations with traditional bikeshare operators and other Maine bike access programs helped us gain a better understanding of the costs of these programs, as well as the logistics of implementation and maintenance. Our findings indicated a large interest in bicycling for both recreational and transportation purposes, as well as general interest in a program that would allow for greater access to bikes in the downtown Lewiston and Auburn areas. From an economic and equity standpoint, we found that a traditional ‘bikeshare’ program would be too costly and too much of an infrastructural investment. Rather, our outreach and research lead us to conclude that a ‘bike library’ or other type of public bike access program would be more effective at promoting ridership. A bike access program also serves as a proof of concept. If such a program is successful for a pilot period, perhaps it will generate support for a more comprehensive bikeshare program in the future. For the time being, energy and funding should be concentrated on developing and implementing a bike access program. We recommend developing bike access programs out of the public libraries at both Lewiston and Auburn, in which users can check out a bicycle for free, and in exchange for collateral that they will get back at the end of their rental. While users are free to take the bikes wherever they wish, we also recommend establishing a safe route that leads cyclists on low-stress paths away from car traffic where they are supported with signage and infrastructure. Such a route enables users to freely travel between the two libraries, thereby gaining confidence travelling on a bicycle. Encouraging bicycle transportation on one specific route is likely to result in a a significantly safer bicycling environment due to the phenomenon of “Safety in Numbers” (Jacobsen, 2003). Once this route is established and the program gains some visibility and credibility in the community, there is the possibility that this could extend to other venues. In its initial implementation, though, we suggest starting with just two locations with a protected “safe route”.
Berger, Benjamin; Reback, Matthew; and Palmatier, Sadie Mae, "Addressing the Barriers to Bicycling: A Bike Access Program in Lewiston and Auburn, ME" (2018). Community Engaged Research Reports. 46.