Contributed by Patrick McMahon
Last Friday, a group of 30 or so people gathered at Baltimore’s City Hall for the annual Holiday Lights Bike Ride. After riding past “The Block” and along the “Trolley Lane,” we headed across on Lombard Street and then north on Charles Street.
We enjoyed the holiday lights just outside of the Downtown Partnership and Women’s Industrial Exchange, rode by the lit-up Washington Monument, and then through Mt. Vernon, Old Goucher, and Charles Village before turning on 27th Street and riding along Remington Avenue to 34th Street in Hampden. Our bikes and flashing lights drew some attention and positive comments from onlookers, but Nate Evans, riding dressed as Santa Claus, was the most popular, in demand for photographs and discussions with children for nearly half an hour.
Eventually it was time to move out and most of us took Keswick and Wyman Park Drive down the switchback to Falls Road and the Jones Falls Trail and then circled back to North Avenue to get to Liam Flynn’s Ale House. There were already a fair number of bike racks full in front of the North Avenue Market by the time we got there and it was great to see all of the racks from the Design Competition fill up with people that had been on the Holiday Lights Ride.
However, the most telling comment of the night, and one I heard from a number of people on the ride, was how nice it was to be riding at nighttime through Baltimore City. A number of the participants noted that they didn’t often feel comfortable riding at night on those streets, because of a combination of fears about traffic safety and personal security. However, as part of a group large enough that we needed to take a full lane of traffic, everyone felt safe and comfortable for the full ride. A group of bicyclists in New York City are just starting to organize “Biketrains,” groups of cyclists that will ride home together for added safety, security, and enjoyment, and maybe we should be looking into something like that here. Just since I’ve started working downtown again I’ve set up regular commuting plans with a colleague that is uncomfortable riding alone.
Safety and security come in numbers and as more of us are riding to and from work, whether intentionally or by happenstance, more people will feel comfortable riding and get on their bikes. The Holiday Lights Ride was a great example of how fun riding around the City can be when you have company.