Biking Groups, Bike-Friendly Communities and E-Bikes
Want to bike more, either for fun or commuting? Here are some helpful resources to get you started
Did you know New Hampshire has five communities designated by the League of American Bicyclists as Bicycle Friendly Communities? It’s part of their Bicycle Friendly America (BFA) program. The BFA program provides a framework, tools and incentives that allow states, communities, businesses and universities to make bicycling a more realistic and efficient option for transportation and recreation.
Communities with a Bicycle Friendly rating are more likely to have features such as bike lanes, bike parking, signage and other safety infrastructure designed for bicyclists. They have active and dedicated planning commissions and bike-ped advisory committees that focus on the needs of bicyclists and walkers, not just cars.
Currently Keene, Concord, Portsmouth, Lebanon and Hanover have been awarded this designation, ranging from bronze to silver level.
Keene (Silver Level) – The thriving city of Keene has implemented major bike-friendly improvements to its downtown area within the last few years. These include bike boxes, sharrows and bike lanes. Bike boxes are painted areas at intersections that allow bicyclists to move to the front of the line at stopped traffic so they are more visible. Sharrows are the bicycle icons painted on the roadway to let motorists know that bicyclists may share that lane, which is true even if the sharrow is not there. A variety of bike paths and rail trails wind through the downtown, and there’s even a public bike repair station. The city is also exploring bike share as a new option that will appeal to locals and visitors alike.
Concord (Bronze Level) – Our fair state capital has smartly adopted a “Complete Streets” policy, guided by the idea that streets are for everyone, not just cars. Implementing lane marking, such as bike lanes and sharrows, were some of the easiest and most successful ways the city improved biking conditions. For the past decade, every roadway or paving project is reviewed by the Bike-Ped committee and city engineers to look for any ways they can improve biking conditions and roadway safety. Multiple rounds of these slight adjustments have resulted in more shoulder space for bicyclists, and in some locations, an entire bike lane.
The recently redesigned Main Street has infrastructure such as bike lanes and bike parking. With economic development in mind, the Main Street renovation project not only reallocated space for bicyclists and pedestrians, but also transformed the space for everyone.
Upcoming major projects have a focus beyond just moving cars. Goals are to provide ways for bicyclists and pedestrians to safely travel between “the Heights” and downtown, as well as access the river.
Portsmouth (Bronze Level) – Beautiful seaside Portsmouth has plenty of bike-friendly streets, bike lanes and ample bike parking. The city was the first in the state to install a “protected bike lane,” the Middle Street bike lane, which uses a combination of lane markings and flexible bollards to provide protection for bicyclists. Widely used and heralded by locals, including students from Portsmouth schools and tourists who are new to the city, this infrastructure treatment calms the motor vehicle traffic and safely delineates the area where bicyclists should ride. It provides the comfort and safety needed to get more people biking safely.
From the lively downtown area, you can easily plan ride loops to the seacoast and be treated to amazing vistas, fresh air and a myriad of food and rest options, state parks. Don’t have a bike? You can easily rent a bike using the city’s popular bike share option.
TIP: Take a picnic lunch to Fort Foster and enjoy stunning ocean scenery. For a shorter distance from downtown Portsmouth, Lil’s Café welcomes bikers with ample outdoor seating and bike racks.
Lebanon (Bronze Level) – Lebanon has been going all-out to capitalize on ways that bicyclists and pedestrians can move about and through the city. With its location along the Connecticut River, easy access to White River Junction, Vermont, to the west and access to the Northern Rail Trail, New Hampshire’s longest rail trail, right in the heart of the city, this border town mini-city has lots to offer. Plans to soon connect the Mascoma River Greenway to the Northern Rail Trail will further enhance the bike-friendly character. Popular community events, like their annual bike rodeo and “Curb the Car” day, engage people of all ages of to explore this beautiful city by bike.
Sometime in the near future, Lebanon will have the state’s first bike-ped tunnel, and an extension that will run from downtown Lebanon to West Lebanon, ultimately connecting the 58-mile Northern Rail Trail to the Mascoma River Greenway.
These organizations offer tons more information about bicycling. Check out their websites or Facebook pages, or better yet, support them with a donation or membership.
Granite State Wheelers
New Hampshire’s largest and most active recreation road and off-road bicycling club, offering weekday and weekend group rides, events and multiday trips. Membership gets you discounts at select bike shops and more.
New Hampshire Rail Trails Coalition
A collaboration of rail trail organizers and users with lots of resources on New Hampshire’s rail trails, including a statewide listing and suggested rides, plus trail building updates.
Bike-Walk Alliance of New Hampshire
New Hampshire’s statewide biking and walking advocacy organization whose mission is to get people biking and walking more often. Efforts focus on statewide education, legislation, policies and infrastructure that supports bicycling and walking for transportation, recreation, and health and environmental benefits.
New England Mountain Bike Association
A community of mountain bikers committed to creating epic riding experiences, preserving open space and guiding the future of mountain biking in New England.
League of American Bicyclists
Nationwide bike advocacy organization, protecting the rights and promoting the safety of bicyclists since 1880. For more information on the Bicycle Friendly Community program, including how your community can apply, go to bikeleague.org/bfa.
Just a heads-up that electric-assist bikes, known as e-bikes, are a rapidly growing trend nationwide and many New Hampshireites have embraced this option for a variety of reasons. Some folks are just getting older and find a little boost is needed to get up hilly New Hampshire roads. Others simply want to get to work or other destinations without working up a sweat. Parents towing kids or anyone towing any kind of cargo are thrilled to have this option. It helps you maintain safe speeds when riding in or near traffic or maneuvering up hills. A significant percentage of folks with physical limitations due to health issues (arthritis, MS, Parkinson’s disease, joint issues, lung issues, muscle issues, cardiac, you name it) have discovered that e-bikes allow them to enjoy riding again, or in some cases, for the first time.
There’s definitely a learning curve with understanding where these bikes fit in the grand scheme of things. Are they considered motorized vehicles or bikes? Like most states, the New Hampshire state law passed in 2019 categorizes them as “bikes” and not as “motorized vehicles,” but there are some issues to be aware of. For example, the most popular Class 1 e-bike option is a pedal-assist only (no throttle). You must be pedaling to get any assist from the very small (typically around 350-watt) electric-assist motor. This electric-assist motor is designed to cut out (stop providing assistance) when the bike reaches 20 mph. Class 2 e-bikes have a throttle, which means the bike can be powered without pedaling, and are not allowed in some areas. The higher-powered Class 3 e-bikes have even more restrictions. While all three categories of e-bikes are perfectly legal on roadways, rail trails and mountain bike trails typically have some restrictions. For more information, see bwanh.org/ebikes.