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Maryland’s Proposed Mandatory Helmet Law Is A Bad Idea

January 30th, 2013 | Categories: Programs | 10 comments

Contributed by Nate Evans

In my line of work, few issues enrage me more than mandatory helmet laws for cyclists.    I generally wear a helmet, but in some cases, I don’t.  While helmet use is good practice, it should not be a barrier to cycling.  Below is the email I sent to the Maryland delegates against House Bill 339 “Required Use of Protective Headgear.”

As bicycle & pedestrian planner for Baltimore City and an avid cyclist, I adamantly oppose House Bill 339.  In an era where cities, states and nations are encouraging bicycle use as sustainable transportation to aleve traffic congestion, improve environmental and public health while reducing foreign fuel dependence, mandatory helmet laws are a step backwards. While I support safe cycling practices, I oppose this bill for these reasons:

1. Helmet use has not been proven to consistently improve safety.  The only factor that has proven to increase safety for cyclists is the presence of more cyclists.  More bike riders on Maryland roads and trails ‘normalizes’ cycling as motorists become more aware of the increased number of cyclists.  If the intent of House Bill 339 is to increase safety, the General Assembly would truly reach that goal by increasing bicycle infrastructure funding creating conditions that all able-bodied Marylanders could use.

2. Maryland’s current law for helmet use (mandatory under 16 year old) is adequate, especially for children learning to ride.  I require my children to wear helmets not because its the law, but because they are still growing and any brain trauma suffered now would have great repercussions as they age.  As their cycling abilities improve, I do not expect them to wear a helmet all the time (except when BMXing or mountain biking)

3. HB 339 will be viewed as discriminatory to African American and Hispanic cyclists.  While most non-biking Americans envision cyclists in spandex on fast bikes, the norm is actually just the opposite.  As the bike planner for Baltimore City, I witness more African American or Hispanic cyclists who are slowly riding on sidewalks.  These cyclists are known as “invisible cyclists” because they do not stand out in flashy, bright neon.  They choose to bike because it is the only reliable form of transportation they can afford.  Most invisible cyclists do not wear helmets and for good reason:  they can not afford them or they do not see helmets as a requirement.  While slowly riding on mostly deserted sidewalks, they seldom endanger themselves or others.  Passing this law will subject these cyclists to unnecessary citations.

4. Cyclists have not always had positive interactions with law enforcement agencies.    At the local and state levels, governments have been encouraging officers to become more educated on cyclist issues.  While some progress has been made, there’s still a way to go.  Passing HB 339 will erase the positive movement made in recent years.  It would be shameful to see police departments issue citations for the tens or thousands of participants in the many cycling events held across the State of Maryland each year.

5. In Baltimore City, the Department of Transportation has been tracking bicycle commuter traffic for over 3 years.  Through volunteer assistance, direction of travel, gender and helmet use are also monitored.  On the average, 65% of cyclists wear helmets.  (which is a pretty good stat.) The other 35% would be subject to citations.

Helmet use is a personal choice that should not be imposed as a law.  I have been riding bikes in Maryland since 1977.  I started wearing a helmet in 1989 when I began mountain biking.  I have needed my helmet more for riding underneath low hanging branches than for any other riding situations.   As a regular bike commuter, I generally wear a helmet because riding many Maryland roads with motor traffic is not for the faint of heart.  I do not wear a helmet on short trips or flat trails (like on the NCR/Torrey C Brown Trail) and I have been known not to wear a helmet on the Baltimore Bike Party with 1300 other cyclists.  Passing HB 339 will not encourage me to change my helmet habits, but it will discourage thousands of Marylanders from enjoying the happiness and freedom that cycling offers.

Please withdraw your support for HB 339!

I encourage all to contact your state legislators to also oppose HB 339.  You can find the contact information for your state delegates here.  If you don’t know who your delegate is, click here

Baltimore Trail Summit, Feb 9th

January 29th, 2013 | Categories: Events | Post Comment

2013 Baltimore Trail Summit cropBaltimore City‘s Department of Recreation and Parks would like to invite trail enthusiasts of all kinds to a gathering to explore what’s new and what’s next.  Baltimore has miles of natural surface trails and paved trails. We could not do it without our clubs and friends groups! Come share what projects are going on, where new trails are, and learn about resources available for your trail! Interested in Naturalist Trainings, Participating in National Trails Day, Single Track and Skill Courses, Work Days and Maps?  Come out and meet others interested in Trails in Baltimore!

Saturday, Feb. 9
10 a.m. – noon
Vollmer Center at Cylburn Arboretum

Agenda includes:
• Welcome from Bill Vondrasek, Chief of Parks
• Update on Jones Falls and Herring Run Trail
• Update on Baltimore Historical Trails by National Park Service
• Planning for National Trails Day 

To register, please contact Molly Gallant at (443) 984-4058 or at

Download the flyer:  2013 Baltimore Trail Summit

100 Ride A Wintry Bike Party

January 28th, 2013 | Categories: Events | Post Comment

Bike Par-ty

Bike party spins down The Block

A little snow and very cold temps were not stopping the Baltimore Bike Party.   Under threat of a snowy afternoon, most city streets were plowed by meetup time at the purple-lighted Washington Monument.  The snow tapered off and the skies were clearing with an almost full moon shining down  between the clouds.  About 100 riders dressed as hipsters, lumberjacks and arctic explorers gathered for a shorter 5.5 mile ride.  The bike party will ride unless extremely inclement weather is happening.  Turnout for the ride won’t rival the 1300 for the Halloween Bike Party, but with 100 cyclists showing up in these conditions proves the bike party is growing!


Almost full moon, purple lights, GO RAVENS!



Bike Symposium in Annapolis, Feb 27

January 27th, 2013 | Categories: Events | Post Comment

2013 Symposium flyerOnce a year Bike Maryland hosts Maryland’s only Annual Bicycle Symposium. Please join us, government, community and industry leaders, elected officials and staff, advocates, and on and off-road recreational bicyclists and commuters from the Tri-State Region and beyond to learn about key bicycle issues and how you can make your community or workplace more bike-able.

16th Annual Bike Maryland Bicycle Symposium
Wednesday, February 27th, 2013
8:30 am – 4:30 pm
Thomas V. Mike Miller, Jr. Senate Building
President’s Conference Center
11 Bladen Street, Annapolis, MD 21401

Bike Advisory Meeting & Loch Raven Meetings Tomorrow

January 22nd, 2013 | Categories: Events | Post Comment

In its first meeting since August, the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Committee will meet tomorrow evening, January 23rd at 6:00 pm in the Foxx Conference Room, 417 E. Fayette Street.   The public will be updated on several bike projects as well as planning for spring bike events.   As always, feel free to bring your bikes inside.
Check out the Facebook event page

In Baltimore County, a public input meeting will be held to discuss the future of Loch Raven watershed, along the east side of the reservoir.  The plan is being introduced by the Baltimore County Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability and the Gunpowder Valley Conservancy, a local nonprofit.  The planning area encompasses the east side of Loch Raven Reservoir north to Jacksonville and Phoenix and east to Manor Road, the release states.

The meeting will be held from 6:30 – 8 pm at St. John’s Lutheran Church (13300 Manor Road) to share information about a new Small Watershed Action Plan.

For more information, call Erin Wisnieski at 410-887-5683.

Volunteer for Hipsters & Lumberjacks Bike Party

January 15th, 2013 | Categories: Events | Post Comment

Flyer 130128 Bike PartyCheck out the Bike Pary Facebook event page

As always, Bike Party is looking for ride volunteers. Lest you be leery of what that entails, there are roles to be filled that range in difficulty from super easy to a little more responsibility, but most involve enjoying the party and having a great time.  If you’d be interested please email

Velocipede Community Meeting Tonight

January 14th, 2013 | Categories: Events | Post Comment

As winter approaches, Velocipede Bike Project is planning to take time to rest, regroup and reorganize programs to be most effective and meet the needs of the ever-growing and diverse community. While there will be no regular open shops during this time,  community meetings will be held to discuss revamping aspects of operations, as well as a few shop organization days. The first community meeting will be this evening, January 14th from 7-9PM.

Goals for the meeting:

  1. How we Train People
  2. Volunteer Relations
  3. Youth Involvement and Strategies
  4. Bike Access

Please come and share your valuable input and help Velocipede evolve to become a stronger and more essential part of Baltimore’s biking community! 

Velocipded is located at 4 W. Lanvale Street, near Penn Station.

BMX Inside Charm City Skatepark

January 12th, 2013 | Categories: Programs | Post Comment

Charm City Skateboard Park

In a large but overlooked warehouse outside Brewer’s Hill, the Charm City Skatepark caters to BMX rider (as well as skateboard & scooters riders).  The skatepark features a BMX shop and provides fun indoor riding (especially) during the colder months.

Jones Falls Trail Is For Everyone

January 11th, 2013 | Categories: Infrastructure | 4 comments

Jones Falls Trail crossing at Gay StreetContributed by John McDonald

I’ve been watching the recent addition of signs and ramps that are the Jones Falls Trail (JFT) between Pratt and the Fallsway cycletrack; the route wasn’t clear to me before.

There will be criticism from serious cyclists when they realize that the trail is “just” signs directing us to ride on the sidewalk. I think those criticisms will be misguided. Yes, we could all come up with a better design if we had infinite money to spend, but I think it will be pretty cool that someone in Mt. Washington could ride with their kids to the Science Center and never have to ride in the street (with the exception of a couple quiet blocks in Clipper Mill). The sidewalks on the west side of Fallsway are wide and get little pedestrian traffic, so treating the sidewalk there as a multi-use path really shouldn’t be a problem for a slow, family-type cyclist; the same is true for Mt. Royal, St. Paul and Lanvale. Market Place could be a crowded mess, but it’s not very long.

I think the key is that the sidewalk sections of the JFT will be for people who are more comfortable sharing the sidewalk with pedestrians than they are sharing the road with cars; in other words, most people. For the rest of us, instead of condemning the JFT, we can ride in the street on the Fallsway going north to the cycletrack, then take Guilford and Lafayette instead of Mt. Royal and St. Paul. Going southbound, anti-sidewalkists could take Lanvale and then Guilford/South.

I think it’s kind of ridiculous that the people who are most adamant that car drivers should share the road with us and give us plenty of room and not be upset when their cars have to slow down and wait until it’s safe to pass, also get angry when they have to share a multi-use path (like the Inner Harbor section of the JFT) with pedestrians.

Bike Party Kickstarter Surpasses Goal (But Wait, There’s More)

January 9th, 2013 | Categories: Programs | Post Comment

bikepartyOnly two weeks into their Kickstarter campaign, the Baltimore Bike Party has gone beyond its $2,500 goal to fund a new epic mobile sound trailer.    The current music trailer, faithfully hauled by Tim Barnett, has gone beyond it’s intended lifespan and is due for replacing.  With the bike party growing at an amazing rate, the music trailer was in need of such upgrades that replacement was the viable option.  Unless you are within 50 feet of the current music trailer, you likely won’t hear the tunes.

To prepare for the new trailer, Tim has worked to minimize any funding risk by already sourcing out all our components.  RacePace is ready to purchase the trailer, and local audio store PopTronics is ready to supply all the audio equipment.  All that is needed now is a welder to have the new trailer ready to go by April’s Bike Party!

Just because the $2,500 goal has been reached doesn’t mean the fundraising has stopped.  Baltimore Bike Party has, and always will be, a free event organized by volunteers.  Any money donated beyond the needs of the music trailer will be used for future Bike Party events.  These expenses include, but are not limited to, permits, posters/fliers, security, port-a-potties, food, DJs, and other entertainment.

If you act now with a $1 donation, you’ll get a Baltimore Bike Party sticker!  Donations of $25 or more, gets you an official Baltimore Bike Party t-shirt.  Donations of $100 or more gets you an official Baltimore Bike Party jersey, designed by Hill Killer Apparel.  T-shirts and jerseys are ONLY available through the Kickstarter campaign, so donate today!

To help keep the Bike Party rolling, visit the KICKSTARTER page



The views and opinions on this website are those of the author and not of the City of Baltimore or the Department of Transportation. For official Baltimore City DOT news, please visit this page.