Lewiston and Auburn may join Norway and Machias as cities in Maine with bikeshare programs. Seniors Sadie Mae Palmatier, Ben Berger, and Matt Reback are working on making this a reality for their project in ENVR 417, “Community-Engaged Research in Environmental Studies.” They are working with Professors Francis Eanes and Ethan Miller as their faculty advisors, as well as the Assistant Director of the Center for Global Education, David Das, who is a member of the Complete Streets Committee.

Eanes said that the move to bring a bikeshare program to Lewiston and Auburn came about through a collaborative process between the students and community partners. This project builds on Reback’s Environmental Studies senior thesis which focused on alternative modes of transportation. It was entitled, “Enhancing Sustainability and Justice in Urban Transportation: An Analysis of Equity Initiatives in Bikeshare.”

The timing coincides with the creation of the Complete Streets Committee, which was formed when ordinances were passed by both Lewiston and Auburn last September. The committee’s website states that their purpose is to promote “multi-modal” transportation for everyone. Simultaneously, the Complete Streets Committee works to ensure safe transportation and community and economic development. Safe transportation includes alternative means of getting around: for example, biking and walking paths that make it safer, easier, and more enjoyable for pedestrians to get from one place to another.

Speaking about the potential of the project, Reback noted, “We know what bikeshare looks like in other cities. Our aim with this project is to work with the Complete Streets Committee, as well as solicit as much feedback from L/A residents as possible, so that any type of bikeshare program meets the particular needs of this community.”

After submitting a project proposal and conducting a literature review on bikeshare in other cities, the crux of the project for the three seniors has been oriented around conversations with community members and formal surveying methods. Some of their local contacts include Marcela Peres from the Lewiston Public Library, John Grenier from Rainbow Bicycles, Shanna Cox from Project Tipping Point, as well as members of the Auburn and Lewiston Economic Development and Public Works departments. They hope to establish connections in each city’s Planning Department as they move ahead.

Looking forward, the group wants to continue to involve members of the Lewiston and Auburn community. “Next, we are going to get a map and start asking people where they would like greater access to bicycles for transportation. We imagine this as a tool which just makes general transportation easier for people, whether they are trying to go to the library, the grocery store, or a job. Often times, biking can be faster and easier than driving a car, it is definitely cheaper, and just more fun.” Reback said. In addition to general transportation, the bikeshare has the potential to be an amazing resource for Bates students committed to community engagement in Lewiston and Auburn. However, the bikeshare’s primary purpose is as a viable transportation alternative for the people of Lewiston and Auburn.

Bikeshares are not just fun outlets for people with disposable income. They are also an environmentally friendly, safe, and healthy transportation option for people without other means. The group sees it as a way to connect people from different areas in Lewiston and Auburn, while also getting people out into the surrounding area. The group has already started consulting with bikeshare companies. Although the project is still a work in progress, Reback says that it may become a reality as early as next year.