First bicyclists cross the Hatem Bridge
Groups converge for inaugural ride under new policy
— In the first hour of bicycles being allowed to cross the Thomas J. Hatem Memorial Bridge, as many as a dozen made the trip Friday morning.
“I was hoping for years to get this bridge open to bicyclists,” said Michael Jackson, former director and bicycle and pedestrian access for the Maryland Transportation Authority.
Jackson, from Silver Spring, was among a group that started at Perryville and crossed over the 1.3-mile bridge to Havre de Grace. Upon returning to the toll plaza and paying the $8 toll, Jackson said it was an enjoyable ride.
“It was cool. The breeze was nice,” he said, noting that unlike traveling in a car, the pace was obviously slower. “You can really check out the surroundings.”
Chris Lano, a member of the White Clay (Del.) Bicycle Club, also enjoyed the crossing.
“Most drivers — I’d say 97 percent — were cautious about the cyclists,” the Bear, Del., resident said, noting that one driver did cross into the right lane and barely missed him though.
MDTA announced in February that it would allow bicycles to use the Hatem Bridge to cross the Susquehanna River. That decision was met with concern by officials from Perryville and Cecil County, but Jackson said that allowing bicycles on the Route 40 span is much safer passage than the Conowingo Dam on Route 1.
“You don’t have the steep inclines,” he said, adding the dam only has one lane in each direction.
This closes a gap in the 2,900mile East Coast Greenway Trail, which runs from Maine to Florida. This was the only spot in the trail where a bike could not travel.
Lt. Verlon Morrow, commander of the MDTA police detachment at the Hatem Bridge, said his officers would be enforcing the laws for both bikes and motorized vehicles starting this holiday weekend.
Dozens of bicyclists lead by the East Coast Greenway Alliance converged in Perryville in October 2014 to urge Maryland and federal transportation officials to add a pedestrian and bicycle element to any bridge design being considered for the replacement of the current Amtrak bridge.
Andy Hamilton, mid-Atlantic regional representative for the alliance, who was among the riders in 2014, welcomed the announcement by MDTA in February, and was in Perryville on Friday for the inaugural ride.
As he mounted his bicycle from a booth set up by the alliance, Hamilton said aloud, “Did you ever think this day would come?” Jackson agreed. “It’s a thrill,” he said, adding that riding a bicycle anywhere is a managed risk, but he encouraged people to see the bigger picture.
“We expect this will help local businesses,” he said. “Bicyclists get hungry and thirsty too.”
A group that started on the Perryville side of the Hatem Bridge return from Havre de Grace to pay the toll.