Biking in Portland
I went for my annual oil change where the garage guys laugh at me because even in one year I can't register the needed 3000 miles that necessitates this visit.
I am an urban biker - and a terrible one at that.
I always forget which side of the road to ride on. I get too close to the buses. I've been known to pedal down the sidewalks of Congress Street. I leave my bike out in the rain. My helmet is dorky. I have no gears. I wear skirts.
I believe that during those few months of decent weather, it is the best way around town. I can get from my house to work in 3 minutes and not worry about parking. Then during the day, I am free to zip around without feeding the meters or battling tourist traffic.
On the peninsula of Portland, the biking is dictated by the varying elevations. Parkside, Bayside, Old Port and the East End are all on hills. West End and Arts District are flat. As a one-speeder, I have successfully built my entire life in the flat parts. There are two good paths for the casual biker, one along the East End waterfront and one around Back Bay. Those serious bikers with bright, tight clothes who are always passing me, well I have no idea where they are going. I also don't know if their emphatic hand gestures are telling me they are turning left or flipping me off.
When I need a mini-vacation, I coast on down to the ferry terminal, fork over the fares ($9.50 for me, $6 for my bike), head to Long Island and bike to the nicest beaches in Casco Bay. Or for $2 less, I hit Peaks Island to bike the perimeter where I am always waiting for some director to jump out of the sea rose bush and yell "Cut!" because it feels so perfect that it must be the movies.
In town, Portland has been home to Critical Mass rides. Critical Mass is a movement that encourages cities around the world to host a ride on the last Friday of every month. Bikers ride through town en masse to raise awareness about bicyclists.
Maine recently upped the status of cyclists by passing new laws which clarify some basic rules of the road for two wheelers. I am psyched about the lifted ban on bikes at ATMs and required helmets for those under 15, as they need protection from people like me on the road.
Resources for Portland Biking
Register your Bike, the city's police department is offers a free, online bike registration service.
Portland Trails, for information about biking paths in Portland
Bicycle Coalition of Maine, statewide advocates for better biking.