Sit Down With an Advocate: How Portland Maine Aims to Increase its Active Mobility Options

A discussion with Jim Tassé, the assistant director at the Bicycle Coalition of Maine (BCM).

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Ryan Giunta
Drive Less, Live More Campaign, Associate

Author: Ryan Giunta

Drive Less, Live More Campaign, Associate

Started on staff: 2021
B.A, Bates College

Ryan leads the Drive Less, Live More campaign, which focuses on reimagining our transportation systems to make them safer, more convenient and more environmentally friendly. Ryan lives with his family just outside of Boston, where he enjoys running, watching sports and snowboarding.

Global temperatures are rising from greenhouse gas emissions, personal auto debt is increasing and immense congestion in our cities is causing us to spend significant portions of our lives stuck in our cars. Clearly, we need to do something to change our transportation system. We should be using clean transportation methods that are inexpensive and can help decongest our roads. 

A transition like this may seem like a tall task, but after sitting down with Jim Tassé, the assistant director at the Bicycle Coalition of Maine (BCM), it's clear that we already know where to start: encourage walking and biking as forms of transportation. 

Active mobility is a great solution to our transportation problems because it not only reduces emissions, but it can also get people out of their cars, providing them with a more enjoyable and less expensive way to get around. According to Tassé, creating bikeshare programs is one way in which municipalities can support active mobility. Tassé and other advocates in the state of Maine are excited that Portland is looking to launch their own bikeshare in the upcoming summer. 

Portland has partnered with Tandem Mobility as a vendor and is currently looking to find a sponsor to help the program launch in the summer of 2022. The city has remained enthusiastic about the implementation of a bikeshare program and Tassé says that the bikeshare program could have a number of positive impacts on the city. For example, the increased number of bikers on the road would lead to less greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution and roadway congestion. 

The implementation of Portland’s bikeshare program could also lead to major infrastructural and cultural changes for the city that will make walking and biking easier. Tassé indicated that the city’s previous investments in biking infrastructure have opened the door to the bikeshare program. Once the program is implemented and the public begins to see more bikers on the road, Tassé argues that it will create a greater sense of urgency to expand infrastructure for walkers and bikers. 

Even beyond traditional biking, advocates are excited that the pilot program will include electric bikes. Initially, the program will provide the public with 150 traditional bikes and 50 e-bikes. Tassé’s message on this was clear: “lean into e-bikes”.

Tassé and many other advocates are enthusiastic about the rising popularity of e-bikes because of their potential to revolutionize the way that people get around in urban areas. E-bikes are enjoyable to ride as well as enhance the distances and ease at which the average person can travel on a bicycle. As a result, Tassé says that the e-bikes will get people out of their cars:

 “There are people who would never think of getting on an unpowered bike who are jumping on e-bikes and having a ball,” said Tassé. “The e-bike to me is the bridge to get people out of their cars and onto a more active form of transportation.” 

E-bike have the potential to serve as a middle ground between fully-active and motor-assisted transportation. According to Tassé, his organization has found hosting e-bike demos are a great way to introduce the public to e-bikes as a viable form of transportation. 

While Portland is still working to find a sponsor for their bikeshare, the city’s effort to create a program that will reduce vehicular emissions, relieve congestion and give its citizens a better opportunity to use an affordable form of transportation is commendable. Other municipalities should consider implementing their own bikeshares or other programs that make alternative transportation options more accessible. Legislators across the country should take the hint and follow the lead of one of the fastest growing cities in the Northeast and work to prioritize increasing active mobility options for its residents. 

Image: Uriel Mont, pexels.com

Ryan Giunta
Drive Less, Live More Campaign, Associate

Author: Ryan Giunta

Drive Less, Live More Campaign, Associate

Started on staff: 2021
B.A, Bates College

Ryan leads the Drive Less, Live More campaign, which focuses on reimagining our transportation systems to make them safer, more convenient and more environmentally friendly. Ryan lives with his family just outside of Boston, where he enjoys running, watching sports and snowboarding.