by Patrick McMahon
This past Saturday, I had a glimpse into a new role for bicycling in Baltimore. I was part of a 9-mile bike ride led by Odette Ramos, a candidate for City Council, through the 12th District. The ride showed how effective a casual bike ride is for getting around the City and connecting with its residents. Along the way we had several stops to talk about Odette’s experience, various community issues, and the existence of or need for bicycling facilities. The impending hurricane kept all but the most committed folks from attending, but even with storm clouds overhead we had a great ride and accomplished a lot, talking while we rode about what we saw and issues at stake in this year’s elections.
The ride started and ended in Collington Square Park, taking Preston Street, Caroline, and McElderry through the area around EBDI and the Johns Hopkins campus, stopping at the corner of Fayette & Broadway. The group then went down Broadway to Gough, Central, and Lombard to arrive in Albemarle Square. The next step was north on President, Fallsway, and Guilford to the Greenmount West neighborhood. The group continued on Lanvale, Charles, 25th, Huntington, 27th, and St. Paul to the Village Learning Place in Charles Village. Finally we returned to Collington Square via Guilford and Biddle. At each stop along the way we talked about local issues. In Greenmount West this included the new City Arts building, the future home to the Baltimore Design School in the Lebow building, the potential for transit-oriented development, and how vacant properties are now being put to good use through the receivership process.
Over the course of two hours we had the chance to ride along the new green bike lanes on President Street, the contraflow lane on Lanvale Street, the future Guilford Avenue Bike Boulevard, portions of the Southeast Baltimore Bike Plan, and many more sharrows and bike lanes. At the same time, we also saw and photographed the license plates of two vehicles blocking the bike lanes on Central Avenue and discussed misplaced sharrows along Fallsway and Guilford.
Maybe most importantly, the ride was a direct effort to engage the cycling community. Rarely does the cycling community get this level of attention from a politician in Baltimore and it’s great to see that kind of thinking from a new political candidate. We need to highlight to our elected officials that bicycling is a strategy for improving health, affordability, mobility, and creating community. By being supportive of cycling, candidates can show their support for a more sustainable future, and we need to make sure we support those types of candidates and continue to push our elected officials about our needs and desires for a more bikeable Baltimore. For all of the wonderful work that Nate does, it is the elected officials that have the authority to make sure things get done and funded.
I hope we will see more of these types of rides around the City, by other elected officials and as a part of the City’s process to improve the bikeability of our City’s streets by getting out on the streets, seeing the conditions on the ground and interacting with cyclists, pedestrians, and other community members.
Patrick McMahon is a transportation and community development planner, a resident of the Abell neighborhood, a long-time bike commuter, a member of the Baltimore City Commission on Sustainability, and the transportation chair for the Greater Baltimore Group of the Sierra Club.