BELFAST, Maine — Jim Merkel might own a car, but he gets around more often on two wheels than on four, cycling around Belfast even in harsh Maine winters.

And he dreams of a time when he will see a lot more cyclists on the roads and byways of the state, a time when more children and adults will use their own power to get to school, work and the other places they want to go.

“What I find is that once people start riding, you really get addicted to it,” Merkel, who describes himself as a bike activist, said to mark the beginning of national Bike to Work Week. “I’m trying to do whatever I can to instigate the culture shift.”

To that end, he sits on Belfast’s pedestrian, biking and hiking committee, which aims to make the midcoast city friendlier for nonmotorized forms of transportation. Before moving to Maine, Merkel founded the Alternative Transportation Task Force in San Luis Obispo, California, which helped create an interconnected bike lane system throughout the city and county. On the West Coast, Merkel went car-free for 14 years, but he found that this was harder in New England.

Still, the author and engineer believes that every mile on a bicycle counts, for health and for the environment. Merkel said that a daily four-mile bike commute can save about 66 gallons of fuel per year and also burn about 13 pounds of body weight. He also cites data that indicates Americans work two full days per week just to pay for their cars, including the cost of purchasing, insuring, repairing and keeping them filled with gasoline.

“One car payment is enough to buy a bike, typically,” he said.

Merkel said that Europe is way ahead of the United States regarding making communities bike friendly.

“Europeans have really high ridership. They’ve been really at it in terms of municipal infrastructure and having cars slow down,” he said. “You’ll see 15 to 20 bikes stopped at a red light, with cars behind the bikes. It’s hard to even believe. It’s not the car culture we have here.”

When Merkel spoke last week to students at Belfast Area High School, he found that while almost all the teens have bicycles, almost none ride those bikes to school.

“That was a little sobering,” he said. “We’re at ground zero in Belfast as far as bike culture. There’s a lot of room to grow.”

In Belfast, recent and upcoming initiatives to promote biking include a new cycling map and more bike lanes on the city’s roads. For himself, Merkel has found that putting studded snow tires on his bicycle and dressing warmly allows him to ride through the winter.

“I have a dream of going to the Belfast Co-op and seeing 40, 50 bikes on the rack,” Merkel said. “That every time you’re out, you pass 20, 30 people just enjoying themselves with the wind blowing through their helmet. That there would be empty parking spaces everywhere, because so many people would be on their bikes.”

Merkel will speak on “A Culture of Cycling” at 6 p.m. Monday at the Belfast Free Library.