Potomac Street Victory Lap

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With our policy director away on vacation, we are going to skip writing a longer post analyzing the final design for Potomac Street and what it means long term for Complete Streets and bike infrastructure in Baltimore today. But know that it’s coming.

We did want to share our perspective on Department of Transportation’s decision and share the final design. DOT hosted an Open House to share the feedback received from the latest round of community input on a design meant to address Canton residents’ and BCFD’s concerns around fire access.

The design that will move forward will be the one presented at the last community meeting. The revised design retains a two way bike lane, removes street parking from the West side, and changes East side on street parking from parallel to rear angle.

Bikemore has maintained that with a few tweaks to improve emergency vehicle access, the existing design that is currently in the ground would work. But we also believe in compromise when possible, and while we still believe that 20ft clear access for emergency vehicles is not necessary or always appropriate in urban environments, it was important to move forward. This design addresses concerns around fire access by creating 19ft of clearance. Additionally it addresses neighborhood concerns around parking loss by maintaining roughly the same amount of parking as the original design by changing it to rear angle parking. Most importantly the revised design maintains an all ages, high quality two way bike facility--which was the original intent of the project.

You can click through the boards and slides presented at the meeting here to get all the wonky facts surround the new design:

Potomac Street was the biggest fight we’ve ever taken on. Our small staff and dedicated volunteers and attorneys put in many long hours. We sued the city. We stopped the arbitrary removal of a bike lane based on nothing more than a handful of resident complaints (loud ones, but not in the numbers they reported to have). We forced stakeholders and the city back to the negotiating table to think through a thoughtful redesign. We stood firm in our stance that we cannot go backwards, that Baltimore desires and deserves high quality bike infrastructure, and that we cannot allow every public project to improve mobility in this city — whether it’s bike lanes or bus stops — to become derailed when some neighbors don’t want to see change in their neighborhood.

In this latest round of community input to respond to the redesign, DOT received 560 emails. Of those 447 supported the Potomac Street redesign. 113 did not. What’s more, what became the rally cry for redesign — emergency access — received only 16 comments out of a total of 560 emails. Concerns over parking loss received 75. It confirmed what we always knew. That backlash to bike lanes is about nothing more than people placing their personal convenience over public safety and mobility.

Community input is important. No community should ever feel as though a project is being placed upon them without listening to their concerns. But after multiple meetings, and a litany of press, Potomac Street has arguably received the most attention of any eight blocks in the city. The concerns around safety were addressed. Other concerns like parking were accommodated as best they were able. We are satisfied with the outcome. We are looking forward to being able to focus our policy work on Complete Streets that looks at how to prioritize the safety and mobility of people on all city streets, in every neighborhood.

This was a decisive win for people who bike. Not because Bikemore is some inside influence with tons of resources to bring to the table like some would claim, but because of you. Our members. Your letters were inspiring to read. You showed up when you were called to, you were bold in your position for safe streets for all users, and gave generously to allow us to focus all our efforts on the issue at hand.

We have a long way to go before Baltimore is truly safe and accessible for people of all ages and abilities to ride a bike. But we are closer today because of your support. We need your continued support to keep us moving forward.

Please consider making a recurring donation to Bikemore. Whether it’s $10 each month or $1000 a year, you can be certain that your dollars are helping to build a force for biking in Baltimore. We look forward to having you join us as we continue to #fightforbikes.