Advocacy

Downtown Bike Network Resumes Construction

 Downtown Bike Network Construction Timeline (courtesy of BCDOT)

Downtown Bike Network Construction Timeline (courtesy of BCDOT)

The Downtown Bike Network resumes construction this week. For full details, please visit Baltimore City Department of Transportation’s Downtown Bike Network page.

Background

The Downtown Bike Network was originally slated to be completed over a year ago. Construction was halted during the Potomac Street fire access discussion, and the Baltimore City Fire Department required a full re-design of the Downtown Bike Network before construction could resume.

We believe a re-design to comply with arbitrary fire clearance standards was unnecessary, and successfully fought to overturn that piece of fire code to prevent those standards from affecting projects again.

However, this fight occurred alongside the construction halt on Downtown Bike Network. So we worked with Baltimore City Department of Transportation on a re-design that improved significant portions of the design while also maintaining the at-the-time required fire clearance.

New Design Monument/Centre (the good)

The new design creates a fully-separated, two-way bike lane along Centre and Monument Streets from MLK/Eutaw to Washington Street. This will allow direct connections to future separated lanes on Wolfe or Washington Streets to the East, and to the future MLK sidepath and Eutaw Place separated lane.

The design replaces the original protected lane on Madison Street east of Guilford Avenue, replacing it with the two-way facility on Monument.

New Design Madison (not so good/opportunity to improve)

West of Guilford Avenue, Madison Street is planned to have a combination of separated lanes and buffered lanes, the latter being a requirement in portions due to the fire code. This section has been strongly opposed by the Director of Baltimore School for the Arts, and as a result, implementation has been delayed until Summer 2019.

Madison Street needs a re-design that calms traffic along the corridor. It is dangerous and contributes to economic decline of the corridor.

This delay in implementation is both a disappointment and an opportunity. The fire code update will go into effect in the end of October, which gives us the winter to discuss a better design for Madison Avenue that will meet the needs of people biking, the community desire for real traffic calming, and Dr. Ford’s concerns at Baltimore School for the Arts.

However, the delay until Summer 2019 may mean the grant will expire, causing us to lose the money to construct any design on Madison Street. This would be an unacceptable outcome. BCDOT must work to ensure any delay does not end with an expired grant, and must accept that some stakeholders may never accept infrastructure changes, even when they address critical street safety issues.

Changes on Maryland/Cathedral

Certain portions of the Maryland Avenue cycle track contain construction errors in the original design, including at the Pratt Street intersection. Other portions are regular conflict points, like at Centre Street and at the Lexington Street parking garage. Resuming construction of the Downtown Bike Network will allow us to fix these sections with correct and/or improved designs that will make the Maryland Avenue cycle track safer for all users.

Overall

The Downtown Bike Network will create a critical cross town connection that can be expanded upon into East and West Baltimore over the next 2-3 years. We’re thankful that BCDOT is taking a bold step in creating another high quality connection, and that they used this delay to think creatively and improve designs.

We will advocate to use the winter to improve the Madison Street design for a spring implementation that does not risk grant expiration.


Complete Streets at the Finish Line

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Today we’re one step closer to making it the law that streets are designed to prioritize the safety of all people using the street, not just the speed of moving cars — in all Baltimore neighborhoods.

Today, Baltimore City Council’s Land Use and Transportation Committee voted favorable with amendments on Bill #17-0102 Complete Streets.

This moves the Complete Streets bill out of committee, to a full city council vote on Second Reader scheduled for Monday, October 15th and Third Reader for Final Passage on Monday, October 29th.

If the bill is voted favorably on October 29th, it will go to Mayor Pugh’s desk for signature.

Once signed, it will be Baltimore City Department of Transportation’s job to begin implementation of the most progressive, equity-focused complete streets ordinance in the country.

If you are interested in attending either city council meeting, they will begin at 5pm. Please bring a state ID.

Background

Councilman Ryan Dorsey and the Baltimore Complete Streets coalition introduced our Complete Streets Ordinance just over a year ago in July 2017.

Since that time, Councilman Dorsey, the Council President’s Office, Councilman Pinkett, and Bikemore have stewarded the legislation through multiple agency meetings, public information sessions, and community meetings.

In March, we received national recognition for our progress when the National Complete Streets Coalition named Baltimore’s Complete Streets Ordinance one of 2017’s best initiatives and named Councilman Dorsey a complete streets champion. In April, we presented at Intersections 2018, the national conference for complete streets.

Subsequent hearings at the Land Use and Transportation Committee brought experts in street design to testify to City Council. A detailed presentation crafted by the Baltimore Complete Streets Coalition highlighted best practices across the country that were included in the bill, as well as identified locations in the bill where we had negotiated compromise with Baltimore City Department of Transportation.

These hearings led to work sessions in September and October where the Land Use and Transportation Committee adopted a series of technical amendments agreed upon by Councilman Dorsey, the coalition, and Baltimore City Department of Transportation.

At the final work session today, October 10th, the Land Use and Transportation Committee voted the bill favorable with amendments, sending it to the full city council for consideration.

It's Happening! Big Jump Project Update

"For decades, road design has prioritized car commuting through the 7th district over residents' ability to access the assets and opportunities that exist both within and outside our district by foot, bicycle, or public transit. People for Bikes' Big Jump Project is an opportunity to re-focus our priorities on improving quality of life for people living in and around Reservoir Hill, making jobs to the east and our world-class Druid Hill Park to the north safely accessible to residents who choose to walk, bike, or take transit." 

Councilman Leon Pinkett, 7th District

Today, water-filled barriers are being installed on Druid Park Lake Drive and 28th Street, creating a wide walking and biking path connecting the neighborhoods of Penn North, Reservoir Hill, and Remington. Turning north at Sisson and 28th Street, the path will continue as a sidewalk and two-way separated bike lane to Wyman Park Drive, connecting to the Jones Falls Trail.

This installation is part of a larger grant Baltimore City won from PeopleForBikes, called The Big Jump Project. Full details of the project are available in our past posts here and here

We will be writing more in-depth about this project in the coming weeks, as well as working on a large public launch event to celebrate this new safe pathway between previously disconnected communities. 

If you want to get involved in event planning, come to our weekly planning happy hour!

In the meantime, we are celebrating this huge win for Baltimore, made possible by creative Baltimore City Department of Transportation staff and clear, committed leadership from Councilman Leon Pinkett.

This work wouldn't be possible without your continued financial support.

Big Jump: Druid Park Lake Drive and 28th Street

Proposed Changes to Druid Park Lake Drive

In January of last year, Baltimore was one of 10 cities selected for the PeopleForBikes Big Jump Project, a grant aimed at bolstering ridership in an already successful community and expanding that ridership into adjacent communities. Reflecting that grant constraint, Baltimore City's application focused on improving connectivity between an area of high opportunity, Remington, and areas in need of opportunity, including Penn North and Reservoir Hill. 

In late May, Baltimore City Department of Transportation plans to install the first component of the the Big Jump Project.

The ongoing DPW Druid Lake Reservoir construction and the traffic changes necessary to stage equipment for that project will result in lane closures on Druid Park Lake Drive. Taking advantage of these already required road closures, we're able to construct a walking and biking connection across Druid Park Lake Drive and the 28th Street bridge, connecting Remington directly to Reservoir Hill and Penn North. 

The current crossing is a narrow sidewalk alongside highway speed travel lanes that leads to a non-ADA accessible pedestrian bridge and an overgrown path alongside a highway onramp. Photos of existing conditions are below.

The new connection would be a wide shared-use path separated by water-filled barriers and planters. It will extend from Atkinson Street in Remington to Madison Avenue on the border of Reservoir Hill and Penn North. Additionally, the path will extend north on Sisson Street in Remington to connect to the existing Jones Falls Trail at Wyman Park Drive and extend west along an existing path and sidewalk to connect to the basketball courts on Druid Hill Avenue.

 The proposed barrier-protected bike and pedestrian path route is outlined in teal above.

The proposed barrier-protected bike and pedestrian path route is outlined in teal above.

The installation of this walking and biking path in late May will reduce Druid Park Lake Drive to one lane eastbound. Reservoir related construction will reduce Druid Park Lake Drive to one lane westbound. Not only will this project provide a safe walking and biking connection between neighborhoods across a highway, it will halve the crossing distance for pedestrians looking to access Druid Hill Park from neighborhoods to the south. 

Baltimore City Department of Transportation is also engaging in a large-scale corridor study of Auchentoroly Terrace and Druid Park Lake Drive. The goal is to incorporate the successes of this Big Jump Project idea into permanent road reconfiguration or removal to better reconnect Druid Hill Park to the neighborhoods surrounding it, while creating permanent safer walking and biking connections.

This idea has become a potential reality due to persistent advocacy and leadership from Bikemore and Councilman Leon Pinkett, as well as a commitment to The Big Jump Project from BCDOT Director Michelle Pourciau, dedicated and creative staff like Graham Young, and the Mayor's Bicycle Advisory Commission.

Community meetings outlining this project are coming up, and we encourage neighbors to come out to learn more and support this project. Details are below.

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Baltimore Complete Streets Recognized Nationally as One of 12 Best Initiatives!

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The National Complete Streets Coalition, a program of Smart Growth America, has recognized our new Complete Streets Bill as one of the 12 best Complete Streets initiatives of 2017!

In collaboration with Councilman Ryan Dorsey, the bill we drafted prioritizes the safety of all people using Baltimore’s streets over the speed of moving cars. Complete Streets often have slower speed limits, wide sidewalks and crosswalks, protected bike lanes, bus lanes and shelters, and beautification like trees and plantings. The Baltimore bill also contains several equity-focused provisions intended to address the disparities created by decades of structurally racist and car-oriented road design.

“Passing a comprehensive Complete Streets policy that centers equity is a key component Bikemore’s strategy,” says Bikemore Executive Director Liz Cornish. “Complete Streets is about so much more than bikes, and it’s past time we as a city commit to a policy that improves the health, safety, and mobility of all Baltimore residents. We are honored to have our work recognized by Smart Growth America, even as we recognize that work is just really beginning.”

Smart Growth America recognized Baltimore’s new policy for its focus on equity, implementation and accountability. “After scoring and rating America’s best complete policies for more than five years, we revised our criteria this year to reflect new lessons, particularly the importance of focusing on implementation and equity. We are impressed with the work Councilman Dorsey and Bikemore have done and are happy to feature the Baltimore bill as a leader in these emerging focus areas,” said Emiko Atherton, Director of the National Complete Streets Coalition (a program of Smart Growth America).

Currently, Baltimore City has a Complete Streets resolution, passed in 2010, but that resolution non-binding and is often ignored. Beginning early in 2017, Councilman Dorsey and Bikemore began work building a coalition around Complete Streets, visiting with more than 50 neighborhood groups, and local, state, and national advocacy groups to discuss Complete Streets. The Bill’s first hearing, planned for the Land Use and Transportation Committee hearing on March 21, was cancelled due to snow and has been rescheduled tentatively for April 25 at 5:00PM. The hearing will be televised on Charm TV.

“If we truly wish to improve quality of life for all City residents, we need policies that prioritize disinvested communities and fundamentally change how we engage residents in the transportation planning process,” says Councilman Dorsey. “I’m happy that our work in Baltimore is being recognized. We are proud of it and look forward to working with Mayor Pugh, Council President Young, and my colleagues on the Council to pass and implement Complete Streets. However, legislation is just a start.”

“The real work of getting this bill passed is just beginning. Communities need to have ownership over the legislative process,” Dorsey continued, “for us that means conducting our own outreach with communities that are most directly affected by transportation disparities.”

In addition to being recognized by Smart Growth America, the Baltimore Complete Streets team was selected to present at the National Complete Streets Coalition’s second annual conference, called Intersections: Creating Culturally Complete Streets in Nashville, TN on April 3-4.

And while we've been working on this for over a year, this is really just the start. Over the following months, we're planning to grow and strengthen our coalition, do further outreach with communities that are most directly affected by transportation disparities, and work to get the bill passed. 

But to do this, we need your support.