Share the road

A recent meeting of bicycling interests on Mount Desert Island produced an impressive turnout. Any effort to enhance the safety of cycling on Mount Desert Island, and improve roads to better accommodate bicyclists, should be welcomed.

At the meeting, one old idea, already tried and shelved, resurfaced. That was the weekend closing of the Acadia National Park Loop Road to motor vehicles each spring so that bicyclists do not share the road with cars for a specific period of time.

For several years, the loop road was opened for the season, but during a weekend a few weeks later, the gates were temporarily locked again. That caused widespread confusion for park visitors, particularly when fellow Mainers on day trips to the area found themselves locked out. Weekenders, here for just a few days, were upset that they could not use a road specifically designed for motorists to access Cadillac Mountain and other popular locations.

The seasonal nature of the loop road, and its traditional closure for the winter, already insure that there are plenty of days in the fall and spring of each year when the roads largely are free of ice and snow and devoid of motor vehicles. Park officials have worked hard to keep the public informed about the times when cyclists can enjoy the loop road sans automobiles.

And, thanks to the network of beautifully maintained carriage paths, bicyclists already have more than 40 miles of motor-free roads in Acadia upon which to recreate.

But attempting to bicycle on the Park Loop Road can be a challenge, especially when the road is thick with numerous motor coaches and large recreational vehicles. Nearly every part of the park, hiking trails and carriage roads, are crowded at peak times of day or season. At some point, every group of users would probably like to ban some other subset. As with most things in life, we all just have to get along.

By biking earlier in the morning, or later in the evening, much of the Park Loop Road congestion can be avoided.

Because of those realities, Acadia officials should resist any attempt to provide temporary exclusive access by one group of users to the exclusion and detriment of others.

Support for cyclists and cycling safety is a worthy community goal. But locking down previously opened roads so bikers can ride on a car-free Park Loop Road, at the inconvenience of hundreds of visitors and area residents, is not a good idea.

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