Posts Categorized in 'People'
Over the past few years, I’ve had the honor of being one of the area’s leading unofficial bicycle advocates. From the inside, I was able to see the good, the bad and very ugly sides of advocacy. From this perspective, I’m offering a few words of advice to Baltimore area bicycle advocates. I trust these words are applicable to advocates beyond Baltimore.
1. Quit whining! Educate & Advocate! Advocating for better cycling conditions needs to been done as maturely as possible. State your position with an heir of confidence as a cyclist. Most of the time, the argument you are making is to non-cyclists who have no idea how susceptible we are to poor pavement conditions, vehicles passing too closely or seemingly constant harassment from motorists. When the argument is stated as if from a toddler, no one listens. Keep it brief; keep it professional and move on.
2. Get involved with your community association because you never know when ‘bike stuff’ is threatened in your neighborhood. The best way to find out is through your community association. The “CA” is the first line of communication with the municipal government. Being there gives you a seat at the table. Bike lanes have been removed, shot down or potentially removed because “no one rides a bike around here.” Community association meetings are also a good place to see your neighbors true colors. You will see who really supports biking and who wants to remove a bike lane to provide more parking.
3. Develop and cultivate relationships with elected officials and other key decision makers. No one can do more, more quickly for cyclists than those making laws and policies. One of the good things about living in a democracy is that we get to choose our rulers. If they fail us during their 2, 4 and 6 year job interviews, then they don’t get to rule us again. Their time in office is meant to meet the public’s need. The sector of the public that is closest with the elected official generally has their needs met more often. Therefore, call up your elected officials office and set up a meeting, sit down for a chat, take them out for lunch and give them your ask! What is it you want them to do? Provide more funding for bike infrastructure? Pass a law against harassing cyclists? Require more parking enforcement around the Inner Harbor? Mandate all traffic engineers ride bikes to work or between meetings? Whatever it is, get to know your council members, delegates, state senators, representatives, mayors, county executives, governors, president and ask them to do your bidding. Then follow-up on that request with another meeting, lunch, bike ride and hold them accountable. Prove your trustworthiness! Keep confident what’s said in confidence and post a campaign sign when the time is right. Only use the “Freedom of Information Act” as an absolute last resort. This might get what you need in the short term, but does more harm than good in the long run. Plus, if you have those relationships, you are less likely to need it.
4. What you say online can and will be used against you. We didn’t need Snowden to prove that there’s no such thing as online anonymity. Ranting on social networks is monitored by public officials. This should not come as a surprise. The more negativity distributed online, the less likely you are to get a meeting with decision makers and have your requests heard.
5. How your ride your bike can and will be used against you. Over the past five years, the most frequent argument I’ve heard against better cycling conditions is “Well, cyclists run red lights, so why do they need their own lane?” I could easily argue similar practices by motorists, but that would only inflame the situation. Don’t think that because you can make it across that intersection before that bus broadsides you that you’ll be ok. Just like cyclists don’t remember the humpteen cars that passed them responsibly without honking, non-riders only remember that rider who blew through a red light or the cyclist that cut them off in the crosswalk. If you must use the sidewalk for more than half a block, walk your bike!
6. With every little victory, be grateful! Gratitude is an underestimated virtue. Showing gratitude acknowledges that someone did something for you even when they didn’t have to. All great cycling meccas did not achieve their status overnight. Those cities became great for riding because the people that asked (see #2 above) were grateful for what was done, and subsequent asks were granted. The Baltimore City Department of Transportation should have an inbox full of emails from grateful cyclists that a curb cut was put in the Jones Falls Trail to drain the lake before winter set in. Sure, this minor 6″ concrete cut didn’t mean much to the construction manager issuing the work order or the crews doing the job, but it certainly means the world to us! So, be grateful and say “Thank You” to those that make your ride a little easier. Stop and say thanks to the officers ticketing drivers parked in bike lanes. Wave thanks to the bus driver that uses the left lane to pass you fully. When you’re thankful for the small stuff, you’re more likely to get bigger stuff.
The above recommendations will not solve every cycling ill. Many situations will require persistence but persistence builds character. There is a long road ahead for our community to reach its full cycling potential. Many great things can be accomplished if we as cyclists can responsibly promote our cause as the viable third mode.
Contributed by Nate Evans
Five and a half years ago, I started working my “dream job” as the bicycle & pedestrian planner for Baltimore City. Combining my lifelong passion for biking, Urban Planning degree and engineering background, I set out to comprehensively implement the 2006 Bicycle Master Plan. In that time, Baltimore has become an easier place to ride. By no means are we “Portland” or “Amsterdam”, but Baltimore has developed its own brand of bike culture which I’m proud to be a part of. Like other cities nationwide, our bike culture would have developed on its own, I’m just blessed to have been on the job when it happened.
Over these past few years:
- 6 new bike shops have opened in the city, with a few more just beyond the city line
- Bike commuting have boomed, especially in areas the city has made infrastructure improvements
- Critical Mass graduated into the Baltimore Bike Party (which has done more for biking in Baltimore than I ever could!)
- The Department of Transportation has created 100+ bike route miles and installed nearly 500 bike racks
- Baltimore has added several pro-bike laws including mandatory bike safe storm grates, bike parking & a Cyclists’ Bill of Rights
In the coming months, we’ll see
- the Downtown Bicycle Network with cycletracks and bike lanes in the city center
- Charm City Bikeshare
- An updated Bicycle Master Plan which includes more cycletracks, bike boulevards and recommended policies
- 500 more bike racks across the city
This Friday will be my last day with the City of Baltimore. I’ve taken a position with a local engineering firm where I will be the on-site consultant for Maryland State Highway Administration’s (SHA) Bicycle Retrofit program. One of my first projects will be to extend the Frederick Avenue bike lanes into the county. (We’ll be able to take down the “ENDS” sign in the above picture.) My office will still be in Baltimore which I will still bike to. I look forward to seeing Baltimore’s bike network and culture grow and I’m fortunate to have helped it along the way.
I would like to give a special “shout out” to a few folks:
- Jessica for allowing to do this
- Mark “You Good?” for the insight and shared dark humor and ”Cougar” Paul for this
- Nelson Jackson & crew for installing all those bike racks!
- Greg, Penny, Gary for handing me the torch (now, I’m handing it back)
- Tim, Adam & Ana for doing what you do the last Friday of every month!
One of “my duties” as bicycle planner was to accompany Mayor Sheila Dixon on her Friday morning bike rides around the city. While the group is smaller, we’re gonna take a spin this Friday at 7 am from City Hall. If you shake of the candy rush from the night before and ignore the pending weather, c’mon out for a ride.
Thanks Baltimore! It’s been great helping my hometown learn to ride again….
Contributed by Nate Evans
After five plus years of helping make Baltimore a more multi-modal community, transportation planner and Car Free Baltimore blogger Mark Brown is moving to Texas. Dallas that is. Since giving up his Prius, Mark shared his adventures and thoughts on Baltimore from outside the steel cocoon. I’ve had the opportunity to work with and learn from Mark as well as share some serious adventures. We biked the Great Allegheny Passage from Cumberland to (and around) Pittsburgh one summer. The next summer, we biked from Baltimore to Ocean City.
These travels are well documented, but one undocumented (until now) adventure involves Mark’s first and only mountain bike trip in Baltimore. One summer day after work, we took the 120 to White Marsh. From there we ‘shared the road’ with 45+ mph traffic to Gunpowder Falls State Park. On the Big Gunpowder Trail between Harford Road and Belair Road, I introduced Mark to rock gardens, downed trees and a couple unexpected surprises. Two other friends riding with us aggravated a hornets’ nest causing stings & a trail detour. Almost immediately after, a stubborn beaver refused to get out of the trail. (It’s all good. It’s the beaver’s home after all). While recuperating at the Gunpowder Lodge, the only words Mark would apply to this trip were: ”Never again”
Thanks Mark for your vision, humor and knowledge. You will be missed.
Check out Mark’s final post at Car Free Baltimore
Local rider Schwinny performs at the ParkQuest Rendezvous in Patapsco State Parks
In case you missed him, Schwinny has a couple more performances coming up soon…
The Charm City Pedal Mill is looking for someone fun, outgoing and responsible to join their team of drivers!
1) A fun and outgoing personality to interact with the tours
2) Flexible hours
3) Weekend availability
4) 21 and over
1) Bike knowledge
2) Familiarity with the Fells Point neighborhood
If you are interested in applying or learning more, please email Charm City Pedal Mill!
Contributed by Nate Evans
Continuing in the vocation vacation, my latest trip included a stop in Moab, Utah. When my mountain biking friends learned I was in Moab, there was a common response: Jealous! Aside from being the jumping off point for Arches & Canyonlands National Parks, rafting the Colorado River and unlimited canyoneering, ORVing adventures, Moab is one of THE mountain biking meccas in the world. Famous for the Slickrock Trail, Porcupine Rim and The Whole Enchilada, I was determined to spend some time in the saddle while in the area.
My two-wheeled adventure started at the Chile Pepper Bike Shop, next to the Moab Brewery. Here I picked up a full suspension Giant to take out into the desert. While it would have been great to take my own ride out west, renting a bike is a good way to get the feel for a bike that is completely outta my price range without the long term commitment. The crew at the Chile Pepper couldn’t have been more helpful & friendly. At the counter, Ashley was very personable and made some good recommendations for trail access and conditions.
When not urban riding for work, the majority of my riding is eastern North American woodland single track; generally hardpack natural surface with heavy doses of rock garden. Eastern Utah is completely different. The Slickrock Trail has been on my trail bucket list for decades. This world famous trail is classic Utah desert riding: undulating petrified sandstone dunes above the Colorado River. This is an advanced level trail that I felt confident to ride. I had 4 hours to do the ride, which was enough to ride it with plenty of stops, or wreck early and call in the reinforcements.
Starting off at the trailhead just after 8 am, the forecast was clear with temperatures around 100 degrees. I love Utah! There were only other riders starting out, so I tagged along a couple riders on the Practice Loop. The Practice Loop is a good 2 mile loop that is a fairly good representation of the remaining trail. So those that want to try it out but get spooked won’t wind up in the middle of the desert all dejected. The trail only took 100 feet to quickly transition from crushed desert stone to sandstone boulders with a rolling flow over the rocks. The white blazes on the rocks (since there are no trees) delineated the trail path.
The trail was a continuous series of vistas. With the sun only up for a couple hours, the lower light angles accentuated the dips and bowls of the rock. Twisting through juniper scrub and cactus, this trail was a full body workout. There was little time in the saddle as the climbs demanded power and the many steep descents required a shift in gravity center with mahbutt over the back wheel. Between the boulders, the trail crossed thick, red sand. These sandtraps, while flat, bogged me down no matter how much momentum going in. I was surprised that such a famous trail had so little riders (Perhaps it was the temperature). During the whole ride, I passed 4 other riders. A few jeeps were out on the 4×4 tours and another group was flying on the zipline course overhead. Good thing there were plenty of lizards and desert rabbits to keep me company.
I stopped to enjoy the views from Shrimp Rock and Negro Bill Canyon below. As the sun rose, my energy level waned. The climbs were a little tougher now and my paced had greatly slowed. Thanks to Strava I knew where I was in the maze of rocks. I completed the main loop trail with only a couple miles til the trailhead. Coming back through this section I was aware of the only place I bought it on the whole ride: a section where the trail wound up a tight wash with 3 potholes. Coming down, I navigated the potholes successfully with an air of confidence. I needed that…and a Clif bar. Approaching the trailhead, a fleet of riders passed me heading out under the unforgiving sun. I hit the asphalt and turned off the Strava. I wasn’t looking for kudos or rewards on this ride. Just the experience of riding the Slickrock and scratching this trail off my bucket list.
The ride back to town was easy – all downhill! As Moab is a mountain bike mecca, its also very bike-friendly. In the years since I’ve been here, there are more bike lanes, (even on the side streets), more bike racks line the streets. Even in parking lots, old school racks are plopped down in car spaces without any bollards or car stops. The Moab Bike Patrol is stationed on the road to Slickrock; there’s a BMX course on 500 W and the Mill Creek Parkway winds quietly through town. A multiuse path connects the town with Arches National Park and another is under construction along the Colorado upstream from town. If you’re into biking, whether on or off-road, take a trip to Moab.
“WallyGPX” rides around Baltimore with his GPS and draws cool stuff like this:
This past weekend some of his work was featured on CSNBaltimore.com in this video.
Join Baltimore’s women’s cycling group Crank Mavens for an international day of empowerment and celebration on May 12th! This ride will leave from the Washington Monument in Mt. Vernon and run about 8 miles, ending in Mother’s Garden at Clifton Park. Women of all ages, abilities and experience are welcome– no one will be left behind!
Gather at the Monument on the North side at 6:00, leaving at 6:30. Bring an extra tube, snacks and drinks for a twilight picnic.
Contributed by Nate Evans
The new trails at Fairland Regional Park is another gem in Maryland’s single track system. A short drive down 95, Fairland is a relatively slender, stream valley park surrounded by suburbs, quarries and a golf course. To develop a series of sustainable trails on this former quarry site, MORE first established a good working relationship with Montgomery County and the Maryland National Capital Parks & Planning Commission. With a grant from REI, MORE, led by trail boss Austin Steo, put in over a thousand hours of volunteer work to create the system. MORE held a ribbon cutting ceremony yesterday to officially open 8 miles of new trail. These new trails represent just another phase in the developing system at Fairland. Several new trails provide more challenging features like boardwalk skinnies, up and overs and log lines. One section of trail features a series of rollers which allows riders to pump their way along a hillside as if riding a rollercoaster! Don’t let these features discourage you from riding here. All the trails are well-graded with no real challenging climbs and easy alternatives around the more challenging obstacles.
Future plans for Fairland include a mountain bike skills park; like Rockburn but more for mountain bikes. The old slag piles from the quarry will be the basis for future gravity lines. One of the new trails connects to a residential area allowing the immediate communities to take advantage of the park. These connector trails can also be extended north into adjacent parklands. If you have an mtb trip planned to Rockburn or Patapsco, add some time and hit Fairland while you’re at it.
Cargo bikes have long been known around the world for making seemingly impossible trips more bikeable. Whether carrying groceries, children or furniture, extended frames provide more versatility and balance in transporting heavier loads. At Lake Montebello, the use of cargo bikes broadened to include adults. With the level terrain and reduced vehicular traffic, the lake loop was the perfect setting to test one’s balance with bikesurfing. The Kona Ute comes standard with a ‘surfboard’ on the back perfect for carrying…well, people! (above)
Yesterday, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake kicked off National Drinking Water Week and Bike Month with a bike ride around Lake Montebello. Part of Recreation & Parks’ “Laps Around the Lake” anyone can rent a bike for a leisure pedal every Thursday evening through the summer. Adult and children’s bikes and helmets are available. You must have photo ID to borrow equipment. This program is perfect for first-time bikers, those that are out of practice, or those who just don’t feel like lugging that old dusty bike out of the basement.
With the recent asset liquidation at ‘da Point’, several trikes made their way to Velocipede and Baltimore City Recreation and Parks. The ‘trunk’ on the trike was also perfect carrying passengers. Mark Dennis (left) uses a trike to photograph Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake leading a group of cyclists around Lake Montebello.