Bikes to start crossing Hatem Friday
jbellmyer@ cecilwhig. com
— Friday morning marks the beginning of a new era as bicycles begin sharing the Thomas J. Hatem Memorial Bridge with thousands of cars, trucks and motorcycles each day.
The Maryland Transportation Authority announced in February that people- powered transportation would be allowed to cross the 1.3- mile span over the Susquehanna River on Route 40 starting at 9 a. m. July 1. According to the East Coast Greenway Alliance, the Susquehanna River was the missing link in the trails that run from Maine to Florida.
Andy Hamilton, mid- Atlantic coordinator for the alliance, said bikers from the casual to the hardcore are excited about the opening of the bridge. Hamilton said Tuesday that at least two clubs — one from Bel Air and one from Newark, Del. — have plans to make the crossing on this inaugural weekend.
Count Hamilton among those who will also make the trip
“We are going to celebrate it,” he said Tuesday. “But we’ll also be helping to educate the people and assist in the safest crossing for them.”
MDTA has installed signage and lighting to keep the motorized and non- motorized informed. This includes pedestrian crosswalk- style buttons bikers will press before riding onto the Hatem Bridge. That button lights a beacon to flash up to 15 minutes. John Sales, MDTA spokesman, said that’s how long it has been anticipated it would take a biker to pedal the length of the bridge.
For this first weekend — a holiday weekend to boot — bikes will be allowed to cross from 9 a. m. to 3 p. m. Friday. Bikes will be allowed on the bridge Saturday from dawn until 10
a. m. and then again from 4 p. m. until dusk. Sunday’s planned schedule is from dawn until noon and again from 6 p. m. until dusk. Bikers can be on the bridge any time from dawn until dusk on the Fourth of July
Any licensed driver 16 or older can ride a bicycle across the Hatem.
Bikers will be expected to pay the $ 8 eastbound toll and E- ZPass can be used, Sales said. At the Perryville town meeting earlier this month, Deb Sharpless, MDTA deputy executive director, said it would be the job of law enforcement to make sure no bike riders run the tolls.
“There may be challenges with collecting tolls with bicycles,” she said at the June 7 meeting, adding it would be an honor system. “It’s part of our learning process.”
Meanwhile, drivers are concerned about sharing the road with the slower vehicles in an enclosed space. The two lanes in each direction are hedged in with concrete barrier wall.
Perryville Commissioner Robert Ashby, a professional truck driver, worried about drivers navigating around bikes safely. Perryville resident Matt Roath worried that the availability of the bridge would open doors to an increase in suicides.
Hamilton called the Hatem Bridge a better alternative to the Conowingo Dam, which is also available to bicycles. Pedestrians may also walk across the Conowingo Dam.
“It’s much less safe for all users there,” he said of the single lane in each direction on the Route 1 crossing.
Bicyclists will be allowed to cross the Hatem Bridge starting at 9 a.m. Friday under a new state plan.