Portland Maine Bicycle Commuting Message Board General Discussion › Transportation Center / Casco Bay Bridge route advice

Transportation Center / Casco Bay Bridge route advice

John B.
JohnB38
Westbrook, ME
Post #: 1,489
I got an email query from someone in Wayne who will be in Portland, and is considering how to cycle between the Transportation Center and the Casco Bay Bridge, using the Fore River Parkway Trail and hoping to avoid having to ride past the right merge from West Commercial. I've copied his email and my reply below. It'd be great if those of you more familiar with this route than I am could (a) check my advice to make sure it's sound, and (b) see if you have any other suggestions.

Here's his email, which was actually sent to Nan Cumming at Portland Trails and forwarded by her to me:
I have a question on the best was to bike from the Transportation Center (Amtrak Station) to the Casco Bay Bridge. I see two possible routes on a bicycle:

1) Take the Fore River Parkway Trail to the section of bike path at the west end of Danforth Street, then Danforth St to Tate St to York St and the bridge. This disadvantage I see of this route is that the southbound bike lane on the bridge merges with the traffic entering the bridge from W. Commercial St and Beach St, and a cyclist would have to cross the traffic from Beach St.

2) Take the Fore River Parkway Trail to W. Commercial St and until it is no longer a separate path, then cross to the paved shoulder on the south side of W. Commercial Street, and finally, take a left on Beach Street to gain entrance to the bridge. This would allow one to stay on the right of the traffic entering the bridge traffic, but it would entail crossing W. Commercial Street a couple times and being in some heavy traffic even before getting onto the bridge bike lanes.

The best return route seems a little more obvious: on the Portland end of the bridge, cross York and State streets at the crosswalks, then cycle on York, Tyng, and Danforth streets, leading to the Fore River Parkway Trail at the west end of Danforth.

I'd appreciate any suggestions you have, especially for the direction from Amtrak Station to South Portland.

And here's my reply to him:
Nan at Portland Trails forwarded your question to me. I run the Portland Bicycle Commuting Meetup, and am also involved in various other ways with bicycle issues around Portland. I have to admit that the area you're asking about is not on my regular route, but I do pass over the bridge occasionally, most usually northbound. When I have crossed it southbound, I have not found the right-hand merge of the W. Commercial Street onramp to be a problem, but I can understand your concern if you haven't used the bridge before. It is kind of a confusing situation.

So to avoid that merge, I think you're right to consider coming up onto the bridge using that onramp itself. I'm not sure if the onramp is also considered Beach Street, or if Beach Street is only the portion of the road that comes downhill from Clark to W. Commercial. In any case, looking closely at Google Maps, including this street view, it seems to me that you get to the onramp and still avoid W. Commercial by taking Danforth to Clark, south on Clark until it terminates, then right on Beach Street (the one-way continuation of York) down to W. Commercial just to turn around and get on the onramp.

Two caveats with this. First, there is a No U-Turn sign at the bottom (according to Google street view), and since bicyclists operating on the road have the same rights and duties as vehicle drivers, that would apply to you as well. If there's no traffic, it's probably okay, but if there is some, you might consider dismounting and crossing to the other side as a pedestrian, so you're not breaking the law, and more importantly because it would be safer. But depending on the time of day, there may well be a line of cars waiting to turn left from W. Commercial onto the onramp (I've seen this frequently in late afternoon), so at the bottom of the ramp doing this may well result in having to get back on the bike and start riding in front of a motorist you've just crossed as a pedestrian in front of. In this case, I would feel more comfortable actually taking a right onto West Commercial westbound, temporarily, until you see the end of the line of waiting left-turning cars, then turn around and take your place in line behind the last one. You may wait a little bit until it's your turn to take the left turn, but I think your predictability will make this action less stressful for both you and the other drivers. This way you don't butt in front of anyone, you simply wait your turn, and the cars that pull up behind after you've gotten in line will just wait behind you, if you put yourself in the middle of the left turn lane. Then after you make the left turn, it looks like a shoulder begins about halfway up the ramp, which will become the bike lane on the bridge.

Northbound, your plan sounds fine, although I would recommend you dismount and use the crosswalks as a pedestrian until you're pointing the right way on York. Riding in crosswalks is pretty unsafe, especially at such a busy intersection, and I personally like to make a clear distinction between being vehicular when I'm riding on the road, versus being a pedestrian when I'm in a crosswalk or sidewalk.

Hope this helps in terms of the bridge. Where is your destination in South Portland? Would you like to continue this discussion into how to handle the south end of the bridge, which can also be gnarly?

Kenneth O.
kob22225
Portland, ME
Post #: 393
I would strongly recommend staying off all sidepaths and sidewalks on your bicycle.

I would recommend taking a right out of station access road onto Fore River parkway itself, and not the trail. Please leave the trail to pedestrians. The roadway is safer and more appropriate for bicyclists.

At end of Fore River Parkway cross straight across to Commercial street. As ramp entrance to bridge approaches merge over to the left early and then take the ramp up to bridge.

This is the same way I would recommend any vehicle driver take. It is more than reasonably safe for a bicyclist. It is almost certainly the safest way for any bicyclist to get from station onto bridge.
Scott
user 5414356
Brunswick, ME
Post #: 180
I would strongly recommend staying off all sidepaths and sidewalks on your bicycle.

I would recommend taking a right out of station access road onto Fore River parkway itself, and not the trail. Please leave the trail to pedestrians. The roadway is safer and more appropriate for bicyclists.

At end of Fore River Parkway cross straight across to Commercial street. As ramp entrance to bridge approaches merge over to the left early and then take the ramp up to bridge.

This is the same way I would recommend any vehicle driver take. It is more than reasonably safe for a bicyclist. It is almost certainly the safest way for any bicyclist to get from station onto bridge.

This is exactly what I would do, too.
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