Testimony in Favor of LD 1301, “An Act To Improve the Safety of Vulnerable Users in Traffic and To Clarify the Responsibilities of Bicyclists and Pedestrians”

Testimony of Nancy Smith, Executive Director of GrowSmart Maine
in support of LD 1301
“An Act To Improve the Safety of Vulnerable Users in Traffic and To
Clarify the Responsibilities of Bicyclists and Pedestrians”
April 28, 2015

Senator Collins, Representative McLean and members of the Joint Standing Committee on Transportation, my name is Nancy Smith and I am the Executive Director of GrowSmart Maine.

We are a statewide non-partisan, non-profit, membership-based organization working to improve Maine's economy, protect its distinctive character and communities, and enhance our state's quality places. We believe this bill makes headway in achieving these objectives.

While growth and change are inevitable, how growth happens is something communities can manage. Smart growth is a choice communities can make. Smart growth is not new; many communities already practice aspects of smart growth when making development decisions.

One of the basic principles of smart growth is to provide transportation options.  Part of providing transportation choices involves rethinking how we design our streets. Most streets are designed with only cars in mind. This committee is familiar with Complete Streets, a national movement that has been adapted by MaineDOT and several Maine communities to design and operate streets for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities. This bill addresses basic safety and responsibility issues so that the choices we offer across the state are meaningful, because users of our roads will be safe, whether in a motor vehicle, walking, or using one of the many devices referenced in LD 1301.

There is a need for the changes proposed in this bill.  I can tell you that from my own experience.  When I walk around Portland, where people expect pedestrians, I have a fairly easy time navigating through traffic.  As I step forward onto the cross walk, drivers stop. In my hometown of Monmouth however, even though I am walking within the 25 mph downtown area and using crosswalks, drivers often seem unaware that they’ll need to share the road with walkers and bicyclists and yes, the occasional horse and buggy.  

I believe this bill offers a balanced approach toward safe use and appropriate responsibility.  Shared use of roads, public infrastructure, is good for Maine communities and for Mainers.  Each of us, out of necessity, is both a vehicle occupant and a pedestrian as we go about our daily lives.  The changes proposed in LD 1301 ensure that we strike the right balance of ensuring safety and assign appropriate responsibilities for all users.