For three years, Bikemore has been devoting time and resources to advocating for traffic calming, lane reductions, and better biking and walking connections to Druid Hill Park along the expressway-sized roads that divide the park from adjacent communities. We were inspired by long-time neighbors who had put immense effort and resources behind things like the Druid Hill Farmers market to draw more west side neighbors to the park. We wanted to draw attention to the dangers of Druid Park Lake Drive, Auchentoroly Terrace, and Druid Park Drive , and the inequity these streets exacerbate by creating a chasm between beautiful, historic neighborhoods and a world-class historic park.
We began in 2016. Following the lead of our partner Rails-to-Trails and their effort to create a 35 mile protected greenway around the city, we spent months meeting with stakeholders to understand the challenges and opportunities. Out of that came a demonstration project meant to highlight the dangerous crossing at Gwynn Falls Parkway and Auchentoroly Terrace, a crossing that prevents young and elderly neighbors from safely accessing their neighborhood farmer’s market by foot.
In 2017, the issue gained more traction and we were able to direct resources to Reservoir Hill. A coalition was formed, led by Councilman Leon Pinkett, and neighbors, academics, artists, architects, and nonprofits met with DOT regularly to demand improvements and drive the process of making the streets safer forward.
The construction at the reservoir played an important role. With the popular lake loop obstructed, crossings eliminated, and traffic lanes reduced, suddenly the need to make the park safer, more accessible, and better programmed to serve the residents most in need felt more urgent. If we didn’t capitalize on this moment, it would be possible that once the EPA-mandated construction was complete that everything would go back to being the same.
Meanwhile, we continued to direct resources, meet neighbors, create art, and throw parties to get people to think differently about how Druid Park Lake Drive could be designed. We wanted the imagination of elected officials, neighbors, and city officials to soar – we wanted a Big Jump.
This week, in what is a small first step towards realizing this vision, the Department of Transportation issued a Request for Proposals for a design firm to do a study. This study will require a consultant to reach out to neighbors and other stakeholders and determine what Complete Street interventions would be the best way to take what has become a convenient thoroughfare for commuters and restore it to its original purpose. Druid Park Lake Drive was a way to gain access to the park. Not keep people away. Auchentoroly Terrace was a neighborhood street that children could safely cross to access a park, not a multi-lane highway with cars speeding in excess of 60 miles per hour.
You can read the RFP here. Over the next few months, our job will be to monitor and provide input into the RFP process and maintain a seat at the table during these early phases of community consultation and eventually, conceptual designs. It will also be our job to make sure neighbors’ voices are being heard. We will continue doing programming that connects people to the park, this design process, and to one another. We will be joined by residents who have been empowered in this process to seek change and conduct research themselves, including Dr. Daniel Hindman and artist Graham Coreil Allen of Auchentoroly Terrace.
This is the beginning of what will no doubt be a multi-year process. But as we reflect on the last three years, we are so proud of what we’ve been able to contribute to this important and historic effort. Projects like the Big Jump are always controversial. We heard a lot of no’s before those big white barriers got put up. But it did exactly what demonstration projects are supposed to do--demonstrate what’s possible when you connect communities with safe places to walk and bike for the first time.