NORWAY — BikeMaine 2014 organizers said Norway was selected as one of five communities to host 350 bicyclists and volunteers next September because of the town’s initiatives to get residents physically active.
“BikeMaine selected Norway as a host community in 2014 in part because of all the amazing things that have been happening in Norway around biking and walking,” said BikeMaine Ride Director Kim True. “Norway has been very forward thinking around initiatives to get its residents engaged in physical activity.”
The event is set for Sept. 6-13 and will bring 350 bicycle riders from Maine and other states to ride a 340-mile route of 52 to 62 miles each day through western, central and coastal Maine. In addition to Norway, BikeMaine organizers announced this week that Westbrook, Winthrop, Gardiner, Boothbay Harbor and Bath will also act as host communities for this second annual event.
Organizers say the ride is intended to allow participants to explore the people, places, culture and food of Maine in order to promote bicycle tourism and support bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure projects throughout the state.
True said organizers recognized Norway’s emphasis on physical activities, including the Norway Triathlon, the development of Roberts Farm Preserve Trails, its participation with Healthy Oxford Hills, which promotes proper nutrition and exercise, and its multiple representatives on the Bicycle Coalition of Maine’s Community Spoke’s team, which produces the BikeMaine event. The increased interest in biking has resulted in a new downtown business, Green Machine Bike Shop, which hosts weekly group rides during bike season, she said.
Norway also hosted a Western Maine Active Communities Environments Conference in March of 2013, True said. The purpose was to inform communities in the region about steps they can take to integrate physical activity opportunities into community planning, transportation and land use decisions and encourage more walking and biking.
Additionally, True said Norway is a part of the Maine Downtown Network, with a vibrant and walkable downtown. The downtown, with its centerpiece Opera House, is also on the National Register of Historic Places.
“Norway has a lot to offer our riders and we think our 400 BikeMaine participants and volunteers will very much enjoy their overnight stay in this town,” True said.
For Norway, the news is good on a number of levels.
“It’s going to be quite an event,” Selectman Bruce Cook said.
He said that with the large number of people expected in town, he hopes downtown merchants will welcome them.
“I hope a lot of merchants will open their doors (late) to keep them in town,” he said.
Recreation Director Deb Partridge said arrangements are being made to provide the town’s recreational fields on Cottage Street as a site for the event’s “tent city.”
“This is a great opportunity for Norway,” she said.
The site was chosen because the riders wanted to be close to downtown where they could shop and dine, she said.
Police chief Rob Federico said he has met with the organizers and he does not believe the impact will be “much of a burden” on the Police Department.
“The intent is the host town will benefit from the focus on Norway,” he said.
True said the event will help promote bicycle tourism in Maine.
“As a BikeMaine host community, Norway will benefit by the exposure to bicycle enthusiasts throughout Maine and across the country our event provides. Thousands of bicyclists will learn about Norway through our website, and hundreds will visit the town,” True said.
“After the event is over, information about bicycling around Norway will remain on our website, along with route maps beginning and ending in the town, so that bicyclists wanting to ride in the area easily can find information about where to bike and where to stay in town.”
Angela Harvey, Norway coordinator for the event, said she expects to learn more about the local need for volunteers to help with camping, lodging, safety, food and entertainment issues, at a meeting in several weeks.
“It’s very exciting. We have such great riding in this area,” she said.
BikeMaine is offered by the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, the state’s leading bicycle advocacy group with more than 5,000 members. The coalition said it hopes “to create a bridge between bicycling and sustainable community economic development, where attention to health and wellness — at work and at home — can spur community growth, vitality and economic prosperity.”
Proceeds from the ride will be split among the coalition, to fund its mission of making Maine better for bicycling, and the host communities in the form of cash grants to support biking and walking initiatives.