Bikemore Comments on the Southeast Strategic Transportation Plan

 Heatmap of bicycle activity in Southeast Baltimore (via Strava)

Heatmap of bicycle activity in Southeast Baltimore (via Strava)

Bikemore, the bicycle safety advocacy organization for the Baltimore metropolitan area, is pleased to see the priority which has been placed on multi-modal transportation planning in the Southeast Strategic Transportation Vision, and is encouraged that DOT continues to prioritize biking and walking in future planning efforts.

It is clear that the opportunities for increasing traffic capacity in Southeast are very limited, particularly in historic areas such as Fells Point, and further, that many of the possible capacity increases could only be accomplished at the cost of unacceptable degradation of bicycle/pedestrian accommodation and general neighborhood livability. Demand management is therefore the most promising path forward, and increasing bicycle ridership among both commuters and residents is an essential part of reducing motor vehicle demand.

We believe that dedicated facilities and easy to understand way-finding are essential to increasing and encouraging bicycle use, and we particularly support the parts of the plan that create (or improve existing facilities into) separated facilities such as cycle tracks, paths, and protected bike lanes. Research continues to show that this type of facility is necessary to significantly increase bicycling mode share.

We do have concerns with a few specific points within the plan:

We disagree with the continued designation of the President Street bike lane as a desirable facility. Not only is the quality of infrastructure poor, but it places riders in the vulnerable position of traveling alongside high speed traffic, completely unprotected, and therefore is presently used by only the most confident of cyclists. Unless the plan is for that to become an improved protected facility, it should not be considered part of the network. Parallel alternatives exist.

The installation of "share the road" signs alone does not qualify as a proper bicycle facility. Where signs are placed without any effort to calm or reduce traffic along the corridor they create a false sense that bicycling will feel safe and pleasant on that particular roadway. A prospective cyclist who has a bad experience “sharing” a busy and otherwise unimproved road may come to distrust all bicycle accommodation and be reluctant to ride.

There is a major gap in the SE bike network, both in the existing and planned accommodation, which is obvious from even a quick look at the maps: the barrier caused by the I-95 and I-895 elevated highways and the NS, CSX, and Canton Railroads. It is, for example, almost impossible to safely bicycle from the O’Donnell Heights neighborhood to any of the employment, retail, or entertainment opportunities of Canton, Fells Point, or Downtown. Likewise it is very difficult to bicycle from any of the more central neighborhoods to employment at Amazon or any of the other Holabird or Dundalk area opportunities. This will be difficult, to be sure, but must be included, at least as a long-term plan.

Finally, we would like to see secure bike parking be part of a comprehensive transportation plan.