On Monday, December 17th, the Baltimore County Department of Public Works hosted a public meeting to illustrate the details of the proposed Towson Bike Beltway. The bike beltway project is funded in part by a Maryland Department of Transportation Bikeways grant, which has funded similar improvements across the state. Other localized bike network projects are underway in the southwest areas of Baltimore County, but this network will be in the spotlight as it is in the county seat.
The Towson Bike Beltway consists of a 4 mile loop encircling Towson on Bosley Avenue, Towsontown Blvd, Hillen Road, Goucher Blvd and Fairmount Avenue. Bike lanes will be installed on Bosley Avenue from York Rd to Towsontown Blvd and on Goucher Blvd from Putty Hill Avenue to Providence Road. Shared Bike & Parking Lanes (which are 13′ wide parking lanes) will be installed on Bosley between Fairmount & York and on Goucher between Providence and Fairmount. Bike lanes and shared parking lanes account for 2 miles of the 4 mile route. “Share The Road” signs will be installed on Fairmount from Bosley to Goucher and on Towsontown and Hillen Road from Bosley to Putty Hill Avenue.
While the Towson Bike Beltway plans are welcome, a few modifications will transform this project into a viable bicycle network that will encourage non-cyclists to ride.
1. Install 5′ bike lanes and 8′ parking lanes in lieu of shared bike & parking lanes. While most bike lanes are installed “in the door zone”, having the extra line adjacent to the parked vehicles encourages parking closer to the curb while providing more space for bicycle travel. Where the shared bike/parking lanes occur in the Towson project, more roadway space is needed for bike travel along high speed, high volume arterials.
2. In developing a bicycle network in Towson, terrain plays an important factor. While most of the area is along the same relative elevation, a significant hill exists between Fairmount/Goucher and Joppa Road. Planning bike facilities between Joppa & Goucher should consider local travel paths, destinations and traffic conditions. While bike lanes should be installed wherever feasible, bike lanes on Fairmount Avenue between Goucher Blvd and Hillen Road would provide connections to the Towson Towne Center and to central Towson.
3. As this is the first significant bicycle network in Baltimore County, bicycle facilities offering increased level of comfort is needed to encourage use. The bike lanes on Bosley and Goucher will help encourage use with defined areas of travel. Level terrain along Goucher & Fairmount will also encourage use, but also encourages high travel speed by motor vehicles. With 3 vehicular travel lanes on Fairmount, “Share The Road” signs will not create a sense of safety from vehicular traffic travelling in excess of 45 mph. With similar traffic conditions and “Share The Road” signs on York Road, little to no bicycle traffic has been documented. Transforming the outside travel lane to a buffered bike lane would provide increased separation from vehicular traffic and attract more cyclists.
4. Add bike lanes to Pennsylvania Avenue and Chesapeake Avenue. Both streets are relatively flat with a host of destinations along the way. Over the past few years, bike racks have been added to the streets of central Towson. More cyclists will utilize these bike racks if bike lanes were added to the streets they pass. Coupled with the other bike facilities in the network, bike lanes on Pennsylvania and Chesapeake will solidify the bike network and encourage non-cyclists to give it a try.
5. Add bike lanes to Kenilworth Drive between Bosley and West Road, Kenilworth is a relatively level street with ample roadway space for bike lanes. At West Road, traffic calming measures already in place creating very bikeable conditions to Charles Street where new bike lanes are in place.
The Towson Bike Beltway will create a more livable Towson by making bicycling a viable transportation option between the university, central business district and town center. This project can be done inexpensively with no community resistance or induce some growing pains while transforming the way residents, commuters, students and costumers move around Towson. These initial improvements will help make Towson a 21st century community where its easier to live, work and play.