Last Wednesday, I took a group of mayoral fellows on a bike ride around town to show some of the city’s progress in becoming more bike-friendly. Adrianna Overdorff jumped at the chance to do a guest blog post after the ride. Adrianna is from Tucson, Arizona and currently studying policy & advocacy at University of Maryland’s School of Social Work.
When I think about biking on city streets, images of a lone cyclist breezing past lanes of stalled traffic come to mind. I came to Baltimore a little over two years ago and I had not been on a bike in probably more than ten. When I learned that a bike tour was on the schedule for this summer’s Mayoral Fellows, the proper thing to thing to say would seem to have been something along the lines of, city cyclists get around quickly without the headaches associated with driving a car. More privately, I felt that as a general rule of personal safety, taking to the roads on a bike in the city was too much of a risk! In the two years I have lived here, I have seen bicycle infrastructure grow and my own driver-awareness increase. Yesterday, I finally took the opportunity to ride a bike and get a sense of the power of Baltimore’s cycling culture.
Nate Evans toured us through a beautiful bicycle route going from Federal Hill through the Inner Harbor and on to Patterson Park. The first thing I noticed was the feeling of being connected to the environment in the kinds of intimate ways that we are deeply disconnected from inside a car. It was an experience of the senses. The sun and air hit your face and legs, your feet touched the asphalt and sometimes you felt the brush of tree leaves cross your path. On my first urban bike ride ever, I felt a sense of pride and a tangible feeling of trail-blazing while pedaling on Pratt Street with a group of my peers—a feeling probably shared by the cyclists I see every morning going through traffic. It was a great summer day to be on a bike with friends and colleagues but far beyond that, cycling in Baltimore city was a politicizing experience; I felt the rush of progressive urban politics at my feet with rows of automobiles behind us.