Big Jump

Baltimore neighborhood leaders, elected officials and DOT learning together in Memphis

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Last week Bikemore staff traveled with neighborhood leaders, elected officials, and DOT staff members to Memphis to learn together with PeopleForBikes. This study tour was part of Baltimore’s Big Jump grant from PeopleForBikes.

Our Baltimore delegation consisted of Keshia Allen (Westport Community Association President), Councilman Kristerfer Burnett, Rita Crews (Belair-Edison Community Association President), Fabienne Dorceus (community organizer), Celena Owens (Oliver neighborhood leader), Corey Paige (office of Councilman Dorsey), Ashiah Parker (No Boundaries Coalition/Bikemore Board President), Charles Penny (Baltimore City Department of Transportation), Councilman Leon Pinkett, and Delegate Melissa Wells.

Why Memphis? Memphis has a comparable population to Baltimore, and faces many similar challenges of long term disinvestment, poverty, and historic racism. But it’s also similar in that that are visionary leaders at both the neighborhood and city level striving to do things differently. We intentionally didn’t talk to any bike advocates, but everyone we spoke with shared that mobility was a key component to the success of their vision for Memphis, and they worked to advocate and include improved mobility for people who walk and bike in all their projects.

Here are some of the things we saw, and lessons we’re brining back to Baltimore with us:

First stop: National Civil Rights Museum

To set the context for the trip, the first stop we made was at the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Hotel, where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. We were reminded of the role transportation played in both giving activists a platform, as well as how those with power used restricting access to public space for protests as a form of control to advance racism.


South Memphis bike tour of their Big Jump and a learning farm

We rode bike share bikes and visited Green Leaf Learning Farm at Knowledge Quest, which will be piloting local grown produce delivered locally by paid youth on cargo bikes. Knowledge Quest runs a learning farm and various youth and family programs. When Director Marlon Foster spoke with us, he emphasized being thoughtful about being invited into spaces vs. inserting themselves, as well as creatively using a single highly recognizable paint color to mark the spaces they use and are developing in the neighborhood.

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On mobility and leadership from a former mayor and an affordable housing developer

Former Mayor A C Wharton, Jr. shared how he stuck to his instincts and committed to building bike infrastructure because he understood the related economic, health, and community benefits that would result in better connectivity. There were a lot of people who questioned his leadership, but by having a clear vision and supporting his staff to carry it out, that vision became reality.

Roshun Austin, President/CEO of The Works Community Development Corporation, shared the innovative housing and lending programs they run to provide affordable housing and provide new sustainable pathways to home ownership. Roshun didn’t learn how to ride a bike before she started partnering with PeopleForBikes, but they now lead regular rides as a key component of their community work. They also run the South Memphis Farmers Market, setting up creative partnerships with local farms and grocers to make it financially possible.

Making a park surrounded by highways accessible

Executive Director Tina Sullivan took us on a tour of Overton Park, which much like many parks in Baltimore, is struggling from being surrounded by wide streets that serve as highways on three sides. By creating artistic gateways and connecting entrances with planned bike paths, and being intentional about where in the park to create activation with things like playgrounds and dog parks, they are making real strides in inviting more neighbors into the park. Future plans include high-visibility crossings tied with further traffic-calming in addition to direct connections to separated bike paths.

A former Sears warehouse turned into a mixed use vertical development

Porsche Stevens from Cross Town Concourse and Crosstown Arts took us on on a tour of the mixed use Cross Town Concourse development, which houses everything from doctors offices to a school to arts organizations to small retail businesses. After the building sat vacant for years, it took 30 funding sources and commitment of nearly 40 founding tenants to get the project off the ground. She talked about how small things like the choice of music in the space has the ability to make various people feel welcome and invited into the space. We visited their state-of-the-art theatre space, and talked about the dignity and pride in bringing the best of the best resources to a historically disinvested neighborhood.

Placemaking in a medical district

In a creative partnership between the city and Memphis Medical District Collaborative, a five lane road was narrowed to three lanes. They installed quick build artistic crosswalks, bike lanes protected with flex posts, and planters to reduce crossing distances and slow traffic. The City paid for basic markings and resurfacing and the Medical District Collaborative paid for all of the extras: delineators, planters, and art.

Public art in an automotive district

In the Edge District we checked out a a traffic calming and placemaking road diet at a previously dangerous intersection. It reclaimed part of the road at a confusing intersection though installation of planters, tables and chairs, a bike fix-it station, and bike parking — and put an artistic, movement-filled shade structure above it.

Beautiful and busy public space and a day-lighted stream

We checked out Loflin Yard, a restaurant featuring an outdoor space that felt a lot like a friend’s backyard, that was filled with people playing games and relaxing, and featured a beautiful view of a stream, one of the only parts of the waterway that is not contained into a drainage pipe.

We learned a lot from this trip. We learned (or were reminded!) that change is possible, but it takes times and visionary leadership to do it well. Many of the projects we saw started 10 years ago and were just being built, but we saw that they are possible in Memphis and they’re possible in Baltimore.

And we were reminded that we need to ride bikes and have more fun together. One of the most valuable parts of the trip was the informal time we spent walking, biking, eating and just hanging out together, when we got to know each other as people. When leaders from different neighborhoods shared their stories, when elected officials and advocates shared their challenges and resources, we were reminded that together we are much stronger, and that we have the knowledge and vision within Baltimore to create the change we want.

Many thanks to PeopleForBikes for providing this amazing experience, and to the Baltimore delegation that saw the value in taking the time out of their busy lives to learn with us. We collectively came up with lots of ideas for continuing this energy in Baltimore — so stay tuned!

Druid Park Lake Drive Update

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.

More people weighed in after Davin Hong’s opinion piece linked above, focusing on the the historic and equity issues that made the case for acting now even more compelling.

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.





A Block Party that Brought Neighbors and Officials Together

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Event Photos: Brian O'Doherty
Photo Booth Photos: Side A Photography

At the Big Jump Block Party, neighbors, elected officials, biking and walking enthusiasts and advocates from around the city joined together to walk and bike and dance and eat in celebration of public space designed for people. Check out some of our favorite moments above — including Councilman Pinkett hyping the crowd up, giant bubble making enjoyed by kids and adults alike, and neighbor Ms. Dee joining Graham Coreil-Allen's tour and sharing the impact of ADA accessible paths and sidewalks make on her everyday life. Plus, lots of kids bike lessons and a great shows put on Dynamic Dance Force and Christian Warriors Marching Band!


Think all neighborhoods deserve a big jump?


We're so grateful for our Partners and Sponsors who made this possible!

Big Jump Partners

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Event Sponsors

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Call for Artists: RFP for Public Art in Reservoir Hill [Deadline extended to Sept. 3rd!]

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We're looking for local artists or artist-led teams for a public art project in Reservoir Hill! 

In 2018, Bikemore was awarded a T. Rowe Price grant to facilitate a public art project in the Reservoir Hill neighborhood. Since May, we've held biweekly open meetings with members of the community, gathered insight from past projects and artists across the country, and gathered ideas from neighbors during the Druid Hill Farmer’s Market in mid-July.

Now we're ready to selected an artist and move this project forward. We're currently accepting proposals from artists to implement in a two-phase approach to creating this public artwork, including both a community engagement phase and the design and implementation of the project.

From the input we've gathered thus far, many residents value Reservoir Hill’s relationship with the neighboring Druid Hill Park, and that historic and emotional connection is one that should be celebrated, particularly because of the large streets currently hindering neighbors’ access to the park.

In 2019, the Department of Transportation (DOT) will be conducting a comprehensive traffic study of Auchentoroly Terrace and Druid Park Lake Drive corridor, one of the busiest sections of Reservoir Hill. This public artwork is intended to encourage members of the community to think about what they would like their streets to look like. The project should empower neighbors to engage in conversations about their desires for Reservoir Hill, so that they have the necessary tools to advocate for themselves during the traffic study itself.

Public art can be defined in many ways. We are intentionally neglecting to pinpoint the medium or style this project should take, and artists of all backgrounds and experiences are encouraged to apply.

Deadlines
Monday, September 3rd | Application deadline [Deadline extended!]
Tuesday, September 11th | Notification of selection
Monday, November 5th | Project Completion

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Residents using the new #BigJumpBaltimore connection

Residents using the new #BigJumpBaltimore connection

A post from Liz Cornish, Bikemore Executive Director

It has been a good couple of weeks for bike advocacy. We saw the installation of #BigJumpBaltimore, a one mile walking and biking path that creates a safe connection across the Jones Falls Expressway. One of the highlights has been hearing from residents of Lakeview Towers who can finally travel to Remington to access amenities on their mobility devices--demonstrating once again how our work is about so much more than bikes. This project represents an innovative partnership between Baltimore City DOT, the office of Councilman Pinkett, PeopleForBikes, and Bikemore. It also demonstrates that the city has the capacity to engineer and install transformative projects quickly when the right folks come to the table. We look forward to advocating for this approach to be applied to other neighborhoods seeking solutions to improve safety, calm traffic, and improve mobility of residents.

 

City Council Hearing on BCFD video that deployed a truck in front of Liz Cornish's home.

City Council Hearing on BCFD video that deployed a truck in front of Liz Cornish's home.

Councilman Dorsey introduced Council Bill 18-0259 – Fire Code Appendix D Repeal which is scheduled to be voted out of second reader on August 6th. This would resolve the year and a half long struggle to design streets that follow NACTO guidelines by eliminating the overly restrictive portions of the International Fire Code that require 20-26 feet of clear width. The bill has support from both Complete Streets advocates and real estate developers who want to incorporate Complete Streets in new developments.

But we've also seen setbacks, including the press release issued late yesterday evening from Baltimore City DOT regarding next steps for Roland Avenue. After three years of protracted debate, fiery public meetings, multiple perspectives from residents being shared, and countless DOT resources expended, the Baltimore City DOT has announced they are hiring a consultant to continue the process of finding a permanent solution for Roland Avenue. 

Interim steps will include a pilot to reduce sections of the road to one lane and retention of two speed cameras along the corridor, both of which we support. The plan also calls for restoration of curbside parking on several blocks along the facility, which we do not support. These blocks happen to be where establishments attended by the largest critics of bicycle infrastructure are located. Piecemeal removal of protection on the Roland Avenue facility cripples the all-ages nature of the design and makes a confusing mess for all road users to navigate. New riders won't try biking on Roland Avenue, and existing users will face increased danger. It is a choice to value the convenience of curbside parking over the safety of vulnerable road users.

The opportunity was there for Baltimore City DOT to make a decisive move and select their own preferred option. It had strong citywide and Roland Park community support, and would have reduced the corridor to one lane and widened both the parking and bike lane. This solution addressed all valid stakeholder concerns and would have cost the city significantly less than a full redesign. We see the decision to devote more time and resources to this project as wasteful. DOT has allowed the circus around this small section of street to go on far past what’s appropriate to make neighbors feel heard and included in decision making. It has emboldened residents citywide into believing  if they just shout loud enough, if they deploy egregious scare tactics and disrupt public meetings, that they can get their way. That’s not good community engagement. That’s not how you create an equitable transportation system that considers all users.

Sunset at Lake Montebello

Sunset at Lake Montebello

Last night, I stood out on the edge of Lake Montebello in the evening and counted over a hundred people riding bikes. There was a small child on a pink bike with streamers in the handle bars and training wheels riding ahead of her family walking along the lake. There were dozens of residents using Rec and Parks Ride Around the Reservoir bikes. There were men and women fully kitted out on fancy road bikes. And in one of the most touching displays, a woman pedaled by on a bike that had been adapted so that she could push a young person who I assume is otherwise confined to a wheelchair around the lake, allowing him to enjoy the breeze in his face and a really nice sunset. It’s unlikely these folks even know me or Bikemore’s work. For them, biking isn’t something they even wish to fight for, it’s just a joyful experience they want to share with people they love.

Our work is about ensuring that joy is accessible to every resident of Baltimore, no matter what zip code you live in. Bringing health and joy to Baltimore residents should be an easy choice, not one that sparks endless, divisive debate. Our advocacy for Roland Avenue moving forward will include continued support to neighborhood leaders who have already demonstrated the groundswell of support for a protected lane. We will continue to attend meetings with Baltimore City DOT, including the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Commission, and voice our opinion on appropriate design and next steps. But we can no longer in good conscious continue to direct our limited staff resources to attending every public meeting to push back against residents determined to prioritize their own personal convenience above collaborative solutions that address everyone’s concerns and improve safety for all.

We know many of our members will be impacted by DOT’s decision to remove some of the lane. We know we have supporters who own homes in Roland Park whose quality of life includes having a safe place for their kids to bike to school. We’re going to do our best to continue to advocate for traffic calming and an all-ages protected facility on Roland Avenue, but not at the expense of directing our work in neighborhoods that are excited to re-imagine public space and build inclusive, safe streets for all.

I can’t get that image of the woman at Lake Montebello out of my mind, pedaling for over an hour to allow her child to enjoy the outdoors. There are families facing hardships in neighborhoods throughout the city that want and deserve that access to recreation, that safety, and that mobility. I’m disappointed that the conversations around streets can’t seem to center their experience and needs. With the #BigJumpBaltimore, the City has demonstrated its ability to do innovative work that improves the safety of people who need it most. That should be the standard they are held to moving forward.