City spend­ing mil­lions on bike-friendly streets

The hope is to en­tice more two-wheel­ing young pro­fes­sion­als to live and get about in Bal­ti­more

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By Yvonne Wenger

Yair Flicker com­mutes 4 miles through Bal­ti­more on his bi­cy­cle ev­ery day — but when he vis­its sib­lings who live in Ber­lin and Tel Aviv, he re­al­izes the city has much fur­ther to go to cre­ate the mod­ern in­fra­struc­ture so many mil­len­ni­als like him want.

Stand­ing in a crowd of 200 or so Fri­day for the launch of Bal­ti­more’s bike-share pro­gram, Flicker said he is hope­ful the nearly $7 mil­lion be­ing spent on the city’s cy­cling in­fra­struc­ture will en­tice more young pro­fes­sion­als to live — and ride a bike — in Charm City.

“It makes the dif­fer­ence be­tween a world-class city and one that’s not,” said Flicker, 33, of Mount Ver­non. He owns a soft­ware devel­op­ment busi­ness in Can­ton. “It is def­i­nitely one of those check­list things you need to be the type of city we all want Bal­ti­more to be.”

Work is sched­uled to be wrapped up in about a month on the cen­ter­piece of an ex­pand­ing down­town bike net­work, a two-way pro­tected track that takes cy­clists along Mary­land Av­enue from the Johns Hop­kins Univer­sity to the In­ner Har­bor.

The north-south pas­sage­way will ex­pand next year with the ad­di­tion of sev­eral east-west lanes in the heart of the city, a half-mile track along Po­tomac Street in Can­ton, a pro­tected lane along Pratt Street

west of down­town and a 6-mile bike boule­vard in West Bal­ti­more.

The bur­geon­ing 140-mile trail and street net­work also in­cludes pro­tected lanes on Roland Av­enue in Roland Park and along the In­ner Har­bor. The pro­tected track at the In­ner Har­bor will be dyed green to alert pedes­tri­ans of bike traf­fic.

Caitlin Doolin, bi­cy­cle pedes­trian co­or­di­na­tor for the city’s De­part­ment of Trans­porta­tion, said the goal is to add to the more than 2,000 peo­ple who ride their bi­cy­cle to work each day — about 1 per­cent of city com­muters. When Washington put a sim­i­lar em­pha­sis on its cy­cle in­fra­struc­ture, the num­ber of bike com­muters grew from roughly 1 per­cent to 5 per­cent, she said.

For cy­clists, Doolin said, “it can’t come fast enough, and we agree.”

For non­cy­clists, there have been growing pains.

Meg Fair­fax Field­ing, 58, of Roland Park said she is not op­posed to bike lanes. But she said the city’s com­mu­ni­ca­tion about the track along Mary­land Av­enue was poor, and its ad­di­tion has cre­ated con­fu­sion and safety con­cerns.

The pro­tected bike lane squeezes traf­fic, frus­trat­ing drivers and adding to traf­fic jams, she said. Field­ing said she also is wor­ried about a lack of signs and sig­nals. And the re­con­fig­u­ra­tion has cre­ated prob­lems for her and col­leagues try­ing to get in and out of the park­ing lot at her job.

“It’s a real prob­lem for us,” Field­ing said. “I don’t ob­ject to the bike lanes, I ob­ject to the ways they’re be­ing rolled out. Cy­clists are be­ing given a lot of pri­or­ity over drivers.”

Speak­ing out on so­cial me­dia, she said, has got­ten her “mauled, ab­so­lutely ham­mered.”

Ben Smith, a pub­lic pol­icy con­sul­tant from Bolton Hill, said he wants to ditch his car for a cy­cle com­mute, but he is not com­fort­able rid­ing with mo­tor ve­hi­cle traf­fic. He said wants more pro­tected lanes.

“I have a car, be­cause the bike in­fra­struc­ture isn’t where I need it to be,” said Smith, 28. “If the city is go­ing to have a fu­ture of mul­ti­modal trans­porta­tion, then folks who use other modes have to sup­port it.”

Liz Cor­nish, who runs the ad­vo­cacy group Bike­more, said help­ing more res­i­dents, com­muters and vis­i­tors choose bike trans­porta­tion will cre­ate a stronger, more con­nected city.

“Bik­ing brings peo­ple to­gether,” she said. “When you bike, you no­tice more, you talk to more peo­ple, you ex­pe­ri­ence all the facets of our beau­ti­ful city up close.”

Her com­ments came at the of­fi­cial launch Fri­day for the city’s $2.36 mil­lion bike-share pro­gram. Rows of 150 bikes — adorned with draw­ings of Bal­ti­more’s sky­line on the wheel cov­ers — lined the front of City Hall.

The city will start with 200 bikes at 20 sta­tions and in­crease that to 500 bikes at 50 sta­tions by the spring. The bikes cost $2 to rent for 45 min­utes, and users can buy a monthly pass for $15.

Half of the bikes are eight-gear and the other half are “ped­elec,” which fea­ture an elec­tric mo­tor as­sist that kicks in as the cy­clist ped­als. Doolin said it feels a lit­tle like “a ghost pushing you along.” All of the bikes come with GPS.

Jon Laria, chair­man of the mayor’s Bi­cy­cle Ad­vi­sory Com­mis­sion, said fu­ture ex­pan­sions will de­pend on whether the city can find busi­nesses to spon­sor more bikes and more sta­tions.

“Cy­cling, es­pe­cially bike share, is eco­nomic devel­op­ment, it’s tourism, it’s trans­porta­tion,” Laria said.

Doolin said the down­town bike net­work has been growing for the past four years at a cost of $3.1 mil­lion. The city paid about $1.9 mil­lion, with the rest com­ing from state and fed­eral cof­fers.

Work on the Mary­land Av­enue track that con­tin­ues along Cathe­dral Street was slowed by a sink­hole that opened up this month near Mount Ver­non Place, Doolin said. Pedes­trian sig­nals will be added to ev­ery in­ter­sec­tion, as well signs di­rect­ing peo­ple trav­el­ing north­bound by bike to use them. More signs will tell mo­torists to yield at in­ter­sec­tions to peo­ple walk­ing and bik­ing.

Adding east-west bike tracks on Mon­u­ment, Cen­tre and Madi­son streets is part of the same project. Con­struc­tion is ex­pected to start on those lanes in the spring.

The two-way pro­tected track on Po­tomac Street from East­ern Av­enue to Bos­ton Street also will be­gin next year, Doolin said. It will cost nearly $570,000, in­clud­ing $213,000 from the city.

A sim­i­lar track on West Pratt Street from Martin Luther King Jr. Boule­vard to Light Street will cost $375,000. Con­struc­tion should be­gin next year.

The West Bal­ti­more bike boule­vard will cost $84,000, with work be­gin­ning next year.

The project on res­i­den­tial streets, in­clud­ing Hollins and Stricker, in­volves signs, street mark­ings, bi­cy­cle-friendly speed bumps, mini-traf­fic cir­cles and land­scap­ing, much like the one north through the city on Guil­ford Av­enue.

Shirlé Hale Koslowski is try­ing to get the city to in­stall a bike rack out­side her new record store and cafe, Baby’s on Fire, in Mount Ver­non to ac­com­mo­date her cus­tomers who visit on bike.

Koslowski, 51, of Ham­p­den said the changes com­ing to the city’s road­ways have ag­i­tated some mo­torists and forced oth­ers to give up park­ing spots — but ul­ti­mately will do a bet­ter job of ac­com­mo­dat­ing ev­ery­one.

“It’s a very, very smart move,” she said.

JERRY JACK­SON/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

Jeff La Noue rides down­town from his home in Clip­per Mill on the new Mary­land Av­enue bi­cy­cle lane, a two-way pro­tected track that, when com­pleted in about a month, will be the cen­ter­piece of an ex­pand­ing down­town bike net­work.

JERRY JACK­SON/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

A bi­cy­clist rides on the new pro­tected track along Cathe­dral Street and Mary­land Av­enue that will con­nect the In­ner Har­bor and the Johns Hop­kins Univer­sity’s Home­wood cam­pus.

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