Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Bikemore's Breakfast Chat with Liz

Bikemore Coffee Club

Bicyclists can be hardy people. It's barely 20F when they lock their bikes outside the posh Ceremony coffee shop to hang out with Liz Cornish, Bikemore' Executive Director for the first meeting of the new monthly "Bikemore Coffee Club".
Liz Cornish talks about Baltimore's bicycle plans while Curtis
Johnson listens (photo ArchPlan)

Curtis Johnson came in suit and tie. He is a transportation planner with MDOT and decided to run for the City Council seat in district 11 currently held by Eric Costello. Greg Hinchliffe, never far when the topic is bicycling was also there. He represents Bikemore on the Mayor's Bicycle Advisory Committee.

Most of the others attending were bundled in layers of clothes: the young and diverse group of people that urban planners like to refer to as the Millennials. People who care about a healthy lifestyle and prefer to ride their bike over a SUV, a far cry from the more militant bicyclists who represented bicycle interests a decade or two ago when Critical Mass was en vogue, activist bicylists seeking confrontation with motorists by taking over city streets for an evening a month in many US cities. Today the more common way of celebrating bicycling are monthly "bike parties".
Cyclist on Maryland Avenue
Bicycling on Maryland Avenue today. (Sun photo)

The State of Bicycling in Baltimore:

So what's cooking for bicycling in Baltimore, a city that is far behind when it comes to visible bicycle facilities in spite of a steady increase in bicycle usage?

Liz Cornish issued several updates on the Bikemore blog which I summarize below:

  • The downtown bike network. A Request for Proposals (RFP) to construct an about $3 million set of bicycle facilities on Maryland Avenue (north south), and various east-west connectors on Centre, Monument and Madison Streets  (a cycle track) and various other striped bike lanes is supposed to go out any moment now with an expected begin of construction sometime in the spring. This project has been in discyssion for years and has been delayed several times, in part because of additional engineering needs resulting from SHA oversight on projects that use federal funds. 
  • Baltimore's bike share program. The program has also been delayed several times, in part because the initially selected provider went bankrupt. Another RFP went out last fall, responses are currently under review. After the success in trailblazing cities such as New York, Chicago, and Denver, most second tier cities comparable to Baltimore have such bike share programs already in place including Minneapolis, Kansas City, Indianapolis and Forth Worth Texas (just to mention a few places where I tried bike-share out). The State awarded $500,000 in addition to the City's $2.8 million budget to add bike share at critical transit hubs. It isn't clear when the contract will be awarded, apparently this depends partly on finding sponsors to underwrite operations.
    Bike share docking station Forth Worth, TX (Photo: ArchPlan)
There is hope that under a new Mayor and a re-constituted City Council Baltimore's decimated Department of Transportation will be completely re-staffed to take a more aggressive role in revamping Baltimore's ancient transportation system.  The way it presents itself in 2016 that system still boasts many features put in place in the fifties by Baltimore's Robert Moses, traffic Commissioner Henry Barnes. Those features include a pervasive system of one way streets, signals timed to facilitate speedy exodus out of the city, too many traffic signals installed based on the needs of a city of nearly a million residents, rush hour parking restrictions (which turn a parking lane into a driving lane at rush hour) making bike lanes nearly impossible. And judging from the rump racking pavement conditions, much of the pavement dates back just as far.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA 

Lagging behind other cities, Baltimore Sun article  about the state of bicycle facilities in Baltimore published a year ago

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