Posts Categorized in 'People'
Contributed by Greg Hinchliffe
In 2010, District 1 Baltimore City Councilman Jim Kraft approached the Department of Transportation to develop a plan addressing the increasing transportation demands in southeast Baltimore. Rather than looking exclusively at a ‘parking plan’ to increase on-street parking availability, DOT began an extensive traffic analysis and community input process to develop the Southeast Baltimore Complete Streets Master Plan (CSMP). The Complete Streets Plan not only looked at opportunities to provide reverse-angled parking, but also bike lanes, cycletracks, pedestrian improvements and reallocating pavement space for public parks.
By taking both a block-by-block and corridor-based approach, each street evaluation balanced residential preference with how the street functioned within the entire street network. After its completion, the Southeast Baltimore Complete Streets Master Plan received positive reviews from city agencies, neighborhood leaders and residents. Since then however, none of the recommendations in the plan have been implemented. Despite crafting the master plan, Department of Transportation ignored the recommendations and continued accommodating city streets only for automobile traffic and parking.
The first bike infrastructure casualty of auto proliferation and parking was on Bank Street in Highlandtown, an integral part of the signed “Greektown Bike Route”, which acts as a bike boulevard-style passage from Haven Street in the east to Central Avenue in Little Italy, in conjunction with paths through Patterson Park. To complete this route, the Departments of Recreation and Parks and Transportation collaborated to construct a path within Patterson Park, connecting an existing park path to Bank Street and Ellwood Street. This designated bike route proved to be very popular with neighborhood cyclists, yet it and the proposed traffic calming improvements in the CSMP were ignored in favor of installing reverse angle parking. DOT’s Traffic Division, which oversees all traffic patterns, pavement markings and signal operations, implemented the reverse angle parking without consulting other DOT Divisions, including the city’s bicycle planner, making a portion of the route unusable. Fortunately, the bicycle planner was able to modify the route to restore continuity, although the new route is less direct and convenient.
This pattern of auto proliferation continued with the eradication of another bike boulevard-type signed route in Canton: Fait Avenue, which is a vital link in the “Brewers Hill Bike Route”. Like Bank Street, Fait Avenue was converted from a two-way bike boulevard to a one-way reverse parking corridor. The two way bike route abruptly stops without any bicycle wayfinding signs. Again, the route can be modified to restore continuity, but this has not occurred to date, leaving a confusing and possibly unsafe situation.
In a November 14th, 2013 letter, Councilman Kraft has called for a ‘new’ southeast traffic study. Even though the CSMP accounted for all planned developments in the area including Harbor Point and Canton Crossing, Mr. Kraft is calling for a new traffic study and widening Boston Street to accommodate automobile traffic. No mention is made of accommodating bicycle traffic. A true Complete Streets vision of Boston Street is planned to coincide with Red Line improvements, but that project will not be complete for almost a decade. Pressuring City Hall to bump up the widening of Boston Street without any accommodation of bicyclists threatens the intent of the CSMP to make what could be most bikeable area of the city into the least hospitable environment for bikes.
As the average rowhome in Southeast Baltimore is typically narrower than the length of an automobile, accommodating every household with on-street parking for one or more vehicles is an unattainable goal. Similarly, we just do not have enough roadway to accommodate moving every citizen of the city and its suburbs in single occupancy motor vehicles. Providing for more walkable, bikeable and transit friendly communities is essential, and can only be achieved after the elected officials and DOT staff understand this basic spatial analysis.
Any further “improvements” to Southeast Baltimore to increase traffic flow or parking must include provision for through and local bicycling, as required by the Complete Streets Policy and Bicycle Master Plan, both of which have been enacted by the City Council and signed by the Mayor. At the least, the loss of bicycle accommodation to increase traffic flow or parking must stop. Anything else is a disservice to the present and future citizens of Baltimore.
Greg Hinchliffe is a long-time Baltimore bike pest, former chair of the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Committee and active member of the East Coast Greenway Alliance. In other words, Greg’s got serious bike-cred!
As the brutal winter of 2014 showed signs of waning yesterday, people took advantage of the semi-springlike temps to get on their bikes. On a leisure ride myself yesterday, the following people on bikes were observed:
- mom and son taking an easy ride on Loch Raven Drive
- mountain bikers at the Seminary Trailhead having 2nd thoughts about riding (no way trails are ready yet)
- smiling solo cyclist powering east on Seminary
- another smiling solo cyclist waiting to go north on Thorton
- yet another smiling solo cyclist nothbound on Thornton
- 3 guys out for a social ride with what looked like full panniers heading east on Joppa Road
- team of 3 jerseyed riders flying down Bellona
- a family of 4 out for a leisure spin around the ponds at Springlake
- numerous riders on commuter bikes heading south on St. Paul
- a fat tire bike and a low rider salmoning on Fleet Street
- kids cleaning off their bikes on Mannasota
If all these riders are out in late February, this bodes well for Baltimore’s 2014 riding season
Instead of a blog post, tweeting from the Bike Symposium hosted by Bike Maryland was much easier and instantaneous.
Catch what you missed at on Twitter #BikeSym
The Downtown Bicycle Network public meeting held at the Enoch Pratt Library last night was well attended by cyclists (above) and their bikes (below)
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!