Response to Mayor's Statement on Potomac Street

Today, the mayor told reporters “got to be up to code,” implying that the International Fire Code requirement for 20 feet of unobstructed access on fire apparatus access roads is being strictly interpreted to apply to city streets, including Potomac Street, where the city plans to remove a 75% complete protected bike lane.

We look forward to holding the mayor accountable to this claim, particularly in respect to the miles of reverse angle parking that have been installed during the same time period as the Potomac Street planning process that fail the 20 feet clear standard and the many major development projects underway in the city that have planned streets under 20 feet clear.

The decision to weigh international code above local street context flies in the face of best practices of safety, public health and economic development.

The mayor’s spokesperson also said advocacy groups have “built their reputation on confrontation.” Bikemore has been a true partner to the city: offering freely our guidance, serving on committees, and helping to secure national recognition and hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants for the city’s efforts. Both Executive Director Liz Cornish and Policy Director Jed Weeks served on the mayor’s transition team, and her transition report adopted many of Bikemore’s recommendations to improve the everyday safety of residents who use city streets.

Prior to taking action on Potomac Street, Bikemore worked alongside the city for weeks, bringing national leaders in transportation to the table to help educate the mayor and her staff on best practices and solutions when faced with these constraints. We, and those experts, had hoped for a different outcome.

The Mayor is not simply choosing to ignore the nearly 1000 residents and business owners who in a single week have expressed concern over this decision, but the stated position of Councilman Zeke Cohen, the Canton Community Association, and the communities that surround Canton that have requested real action to calm traffic and reduce car dependency by providing safe, comfortable, all-ages bike facilities.

The fact that there is even a debate that pits the safety of emergency response against the safety of Baltimore residents who demand improvements to walking and biking safety is a failure of leadership. It shows a lack of understanding of national best practices and an unwillingness to hold a vision for sustainable, affordable, healthy transportation solutions for Baltimore residents.

Removal of this facility now almost certainly means the city must pay back already spent federal and state grants with local dollars, while expending additional local dollars on removal. It’s unconscionable to waste those local dollars on a non-problem when we’re short on money for our schools.