South Portland project puts bike lanes to real-time test

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SOUTH PORTLAND — The city and Bicycle Coalition of Maine have created two temporary bicycle and walking lanes on Cottage Road as part of a pilot campaign to demonstrate how inexpensive and easy the process can be. 

The hope is that if successful, the project will lead to establishment of additional permanent bike lanes throughout the city.

The Imagine Bikes Here launch is part of a larger, 18-month project that will include temporary bike and pedestrian lanes in five municipalities.

The opportunity to install bike lanes was made possible by a $5,000 grant from People for Bikes, a Colorado-based nonprofit.

Rather than present the idea of bike lanes to a municipality on paper, the grant allows for a more interactive and real-time approach, Jim Tasse, assistant director of the coalition, said.

“By making it easier for the public and municipalities to imagine their communities more walkable and bikeable, (the hope is that) they’ll pick up the challenge and take some steps to improve their communities,” Tasse said. 

Two lanes were installed along Cottage Road early Wednesday afternoon, between Walnut Street and Mitchell Road. They will be there for one month, said Brian Allenby, communications director for the coalition. 

Coalition employees will monitor use via a city-owned camera mounted on a utility pole, which will likely operate during morning and evening commute hours, Tasse said.

Residents will be able to fill out a short survey about the installation, found at both ends of the quarter-mile lanes or online at

“We’re hoping that feedback can help influence future projects,” Allenby said Tuesday. “It’s also good to take back to a municipality.”

This type of project has never been done by the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, he said. 

“We’ve certainly assisted other municipalities (in) creating temporary infrastructure,” he said, but “this is the first time it’s just us doing it … we’re really excited to try it.”

Public Works Director Doug Howard said he and the department “support safer biker and pedestrian routes throughout South Portland, wherever possible.”

The coalition’s pilot program “is a great way to see if something (like this) is going to work before we put down permanent lines,” Howard said Thursday.

If the department gets a lot of feedback, “we could get to a situation where there are permanent lines and permanent bike lanes in areas where it worked,” Howard said.

In addition to cooperation and help from sectors of South Portland’s municipal services, including the Planning Department, the Police Department and the Public Works Department, the the coalition solicited 15 local volunteers to help with the installation Wednesday.

The comprehensive aim with temporary bike and pedestrian lanes is to show residents not only how easy installing permanent lanes can be, but also to spur conversation among residents about seeking out city approval to do so. 

Tasse said Thursday morning that permanent installation is “absolutely the goal.”

“I would like to say there are real benefits both economically and in quality of life to making a community more walkable and bikeable,” he said. “We see this as the overall strategy to make this place more livable, (and to) attract the young people who are not driving as much and looking for the places that are more walkable and bikeable.”

At the end of the day, “that’s the goal of this,” Allenby said. “To go to a municipality and say, this was really easy (and) it was done with minimal cost. It was done without creating any unnecessary bottlenecks or motor vehicle traffic (and) here’s the data to back it up.”

 Alex Acquisto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or Follow Alex on Twitter: @AcquistoA.

Sidebar Elements

South Portland bicyclists use temporary lanes installed Wednesday, July 22, on Cottage Road by the Bicycle Coalition of Maine.

South Portland and Scarborough reporter for The Forecaster. Graduate of Western Kentucky University and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Alex can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106.