Big Jump

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.

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.

It's Happening! Big Jump Project Update

"For decades, road design has prioritized car commuting through the 7th district over residents' ability to access the assets and opportunities that exist both within and outside our district by foot, bicycle, or public transit. People for Bikes' Big Jump Project is an opportunity to re-focus our priorities on improving quality of life for people living in and around Reservoir Hill, making jobs to the east and our world-class Druid Hill Park to the north safely accessible to residents who choose to walk, bike, or take transit." 

Councilman Leon Pinkett, 7th District

Today, water-filled barriers are being installed on Druid Park Lake Drive and 28th Street, creating a wide walking and biking path connecting the neighborhoods of Penn North, Reservoir Hill, and Remington. Turning north at Sisson and 28th Street, the path will continue as a sidewalk and two-way separated bike lane to Wyman Park Drive, connecting to the Jones Falls Trail.

This installation is part of a larger grant Baltimore City won from PeopleForBikes, called The Big Jump Project. Full details of the project are available in our past posts here and here

We will be writing more in-depth about this project in the coming weeks, as well as working on a large public launch event to celebrate this new safe pathway between previously disconnected communities. 

If you want to get involved in event planning, come to our weekly planning happy hour!

In the meantime, we are celebrating this huge win for Baltimore, made possible by creative Baltimore City Department of Transportation staff and clear, committed leadership from Councilman Leon Pinkett.

This work wouldn't be possible without your continued financial support.

Big Jump: Druid Park Lake Drive and 28th Street

Proposed Changes to Druid Park Lake Drive

In January of last year, Baltimore was one of 10 cities selected for the PeopleForBikes Big Jump Project, a grant aimed at bolstering ridership in an already successful community and expanding that ridership into adjacent communities. Reflecting that grant constraint, Baltimore City's application focused on improving connectivity between an area of high opportunity, Remington, and areas in need of opportunity, including Penn North and Reservoir Hill. 

In late May, Baltimore City Department of Transportation plans to install the first component of the the Big Jump Project.

The ongoing DPW Druid Lake Reservoir construction and the traffic changes necessary to stage equipment for that project will result in lane closures on Druid Park Lake Drive. Taking advantage of these already required road closures, we're able to construct a walking and biking connection across Druid Park Lake Drive and the 28th Street bridge, connecting Remington directly to Reservoir Hill and Penn North. 

The current crossing is a narrow sidewalk alongside highway speed travel lanes that leads to a non-ADA accessible pedestrian bridge and an overgrown path alongside a highway onramp. Photos of existing conditions are below.

The new connection would be a wide shared-use path separated by water-filled barriers and planters. It will extend from Atkinson Street in Remington to Madison Avenue on the border of Reservoir Hill and Penn North. Additionally, the path will extend north on Sisson Street in Remington to connect to the existing Jones Falls Trail at Wyman Park Drive and extend west along an existing path and sidewalk to connect to the basketball courts on Druid Hill Avenue.

The proposed barrier-protected bike and pedestrian path route is outlined in teal above.

The proposed barrier-protected bike and pedestrian path route is outlined in teal above.

The installation of this walking and biking path in late May will reduce Druid Park Lake Drive to one lane eastbound. Reservoir related construction will reduce Druid Park Lake Drive to one lane westbound. Not only will this project provide a safe walking and biking connection between neighborhoods across a highway, it will halve the crossing distance for pedestrians looking to access Druid Hill Park from neighborhoods to the south. 

Baltimore City Department of Transportation is also engaging in a large-scale corridor study of Auchentoroly Terrace and Druid Park Lake Drive. The goal is to incorporate the successes of this Big Jump Project idea into permanent road reconfiguration or removal to better reconnect Druid Hill Park to the neighborhoods surrounding it, while creating permanent safer walking and biking connections.

This idea has become a potential reality due to persistent advocacy and leadership from Bikemore and Councilman Leon Pinkett, as well as a commitment to The Big Jump Project from BCDOT Director Michelle Pourciau, dedicated and creative staff like Graham Young, and the Mayor's Bicycle Advisory Commission.

Community meetings outlining this project are coming up, and we encourage neighbors to come out to learn more and support this project. Details are below.

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Baltimore selected as Big Jump city!

"For decades, road design has prioritized car commuting through the 7th district over residents' ability to access the assets and opportunities that exist both within and outside our district by foot, bicycle, or public transit. People for Bikes' Big Jump Project is an opportunity to re-focus our priorities on improving quality of life for people living in and around Reservoir Hill, making jobs to the east and our world-class Druid Hill Park to the north safely accessible to residents who choose to walk, bike, or take transit." 
— Leon Pinkett, Councilman 7th District

Baltimore was selected as one of ten cities to participate in People for Bike’s Big Jump! The Big Jump Project is a three-year effort to help achieve a big jump in biking – a doubling or tripling of people riding – by building a network of safe and comfortable places to ride and engaging the community. The Big Jump will provide technical support to the city and community leaders, supporting on-the-ground infrastructure, smart outreach, community engagement, and measuring result. In total, Big Jump will provide $750,000 in targeted grants and technical support over three years. 

Big Jump Study Area with existing low stress bike connections and proposed connections.jpg

Big Jump specifically looks at ways to support neighborhoods that are already making strides toward increasing the number of people who walk and bike, and aims to build on that success in surrounding neighborhoods. 

Therefore, Baltimore’s project will focus on improving bike infrastructure in a swath of Central and West Baltimore, with the ability to connect a neighborhood of huge opportunity, Remington, to a neighborhood that would benefit immensely from increased connectivity, Reservoir Hill. The selected project area already has a higher percentage, relative to the city average, of households that lack access to a car; it has neighborhoods that already have high percentages of people walking; and it has neighborhoods eager to increase the number of people walking and biking if there was better infrastructure. 

"Innovation Village was pleased to support the City of Baltimore's application for the Big Jump Project. Removing barriers to mobility is critical to advancing socioeconomic and racial justice in our city, and a key component of raising the quality of life in a neighborhood – a key mission of the Innovation District." — Richard May, Innovation Village

We want to thank the organizations that lent their support for this application and look forward to working with them as the project unfolds. Those organizations include Beth Am, Central Baltimore Partnership, Greater Remington Improvement Association, Healthy Neighborhoods, Hekemian & Co. Inc., Innovation Village, Mount Royal CDC, Old Goucher Community Association, Reservoir Hill Improvement Council, Seawall, Strong City Baltimore and City Council members.

This project also has the opportunity to bring together developers that saw the potential of neighborhood development, in contrast to Baltimore’s standard procedure of placing all major new development along the waterfront. 

"In 10 short years, the community of Remington and Seawall Development have invested $100,000,000 in transformative projects in Remington. The JFX is currently a barrier to people without cars in neighborhoods along Druid Park Lake Drive and Auchentoroly Terrace who want to access jobs, shopping, dining, and entertainment just a mile away in Remington. We hope this project will jump that gap." — Thibault Manekin, Seawall Development 

After years of advocacy, we have finally achieved the political will to begin imagining bolder projects that connect all residents to the benefits of active transportation, as seen in 2016 with the launch of Baltimore Bike Share and the construction of the Maryland Avenue cycletrack. With a new mayor and majority new city council in office, Baltimore is at a huge transition point. Participating in Big Jump is a critical next step to bringing new and bigger partners on board as we build a city that’s great for bikes.

“The Big Jump Project will be a catalyst that encourages the city to think in terms of whole bicycle networks versus one off facilities, fosters connections between areas of low opportunity and high opportunity through active transportation, and considers deeply the responsibility to provide transportation choice to residents at a time when things like public health inequity, environmental injustice, and economic disparity are preventing our city from achieving progress. We look forward to working with our public, private and nonprofit partners from Reservoir Hill and Remington as we use active transportation to overcome the deep divide caused by I-83.”
— Liz Cornish, Bikemore

Read the announcement from People for Bikes and Mayor Pugh's press release, and stay tuned for what’s to come!