Riding a bike can make you vulnerable, but compared to other risks we engage in on a daily basis, it is statistically as safe as walking down a flight of stairs. But the perceived risk often feels much greater, and it is ultimately what stops most people from choosing to ride a bike. In Baltimore, while infrequent, the threat of a robbery or an assault is real, particularly in the areas of town where popular bike routes pass through like the Guilford Bike Boulevard, Falls Road, and the Gwynns Falls Trail.
This week, an Op-Ed by Connor Meek appeared in the Baltimore Sun and told his story of being assaulted on the Gwynns Falls Trail, having his bike stolen, and his deplorable encounter with Baltimore City Police in attempting to report the crime.
Within one day of the Op-Ed appearing, Baltimore Police have now updated their policy to ensure all stations will be open 24 hours a day. We commend Colonel DeSousa for taking swift action to correct this egregious wrong.
Bikemore is committed to the safety of all people who choose to travel by bike. And while we work to ensure our streets are properly designed with the safety of people on bikes in mind, we must also work to ensure they are safe from physical harm or loss of property due to crime. In the past we have made clear attempts to work with police to improve police visibility along popular bike routes, and worked diligently to engage with neighbors to build positive relationships. Some efforts have been successful, while others petered out due to lack of engagement from officers assigned to the task.
While we work to increase the number of people choosing to ride bikes, what we also see are people being placed into positions of vulnerability, particularly with respects to crime and the police, that they may not have experienced before. This inevitably “shines a light” on bad policies and behavior that has been impacting citizens for years. The key is to both recognize that these experiences are not unique to people on bikes, but as a community we have a responsibility to use our political voice to leverage real change that can have impacts that reach far beyond bicycles.
Moving forward, we want to outline our next strategy for working with Baltimore City Police Department and building relationships with the communities located along popular routes.
- We have reopened the lines of the communication with police. We have requested meetings with leaders on the force to discuss shortcomings in current policy and alerted them to the increase in assaults and theft along popular routes.
While youth are often the perpetrators of these specific crimes, we recognize youth violence and crime is a complex and intersectional issue. When you cast all Baltimore youth as criminals, you perpetuate stereotypes and become complicit in the systems of structuralized racism and oppression that can be found at the root of our city’s youth violence problem. To combat these attitudes and to provide a fun, safe space for all of us to ride bikes together, Bikemore is partnering with the 29th St. Community Center and the North Barclay Green Community to host two community bike rides this summer.
In the coming weeks we will be sitting down with city leaders to understand how best to move forward to enact real change. We believe that Meek’s Op-Ed shined a light at an opportune time, and Bikemore intends to use this momentum to keep the lights on. We will be seeking out organizations in the community who have been working on these issues with whom we can partner and lend our voice, and develop concrete ways to mobilize you--people who bike--so that you can lend your voice as well.
Actions you can take today:
Volunteer to be a ride marshall, sno-cone maker, or general helper on one of the upcoming rides.
Make a donation to Bikemore to help us cover the costs of staff time working with youth to plan the rides and of course providing delicious sno-cones!
Donate the use of a loaner bike for one of the youth leaders at 29th St Community Center to use for the month of July. We need three, all youth are approximately 5’9”. Bikes would be stored at the center, and only used under the supervision of Bikemore staff. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or leads.
Send us an email if you have been a victim of a crime while riding your bike. Please include any relevant details including location and time of day, and whether you filed a police report. We will be collecting these stories to help make the case for improved police presence on popular routes.
We will not undo years of inadequate policing instantaneously. But know that Bikemore takes the concerns around crime and police misconduct perpetrated against people who ride bikes seriously and are committed to evoking change.
P.S. Help us collect state wide incidents by utilizing Bike Maryland's Incident Reporting Tool.