Complete Streets

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!

It's the first budget after Complete Streets, and there's $0 for bikes.

The 2017 Separated Lane Network Plan. To stay on schedule, everything in Purple should be constructed this year, but none of it will be.

The 2017 Separated Lane Network Plan. To stay on schedule, everything in Purple should be constructed this year, but none of it will be.

You read that right.

It’s been just over a month since the passage of Baltimore Complete Streets, the nationally recognized Complete Streets ordinance that legally mandates Baltimore design streets through an equity lens, and prioritize pedestrians and bicyclists to the greatest extent possible. Baltimore City Department of Transportation was required to provide an update to the Baltimore City Council Land Use and Transportation Committee on day 30 after enactment, but no such update came.

Instead, we were greeted with the FY2020-2025 Capital Improvement Program, the city’s latest budget documents. Traditionally, Baltimore City DOT includes line item 508-019 Citywide Bike Infrastructure, which details proposed funding for bike improvements over the following six fiscal years, breaking down revenue sources by general/local funds, state grants, and federal highway grants and allocations.

FY2019-2024 CIP showing the line item for Citywide Bike Infrastructure. It was removed in this year’s CIP.

FY2019-2024 CIP showing the line item for Citywide Bike Infrastructure. It was removed in this year’s CIP.

The 2017 Separated Lane Network Plan, adopted by the Baltimore City Planning Commission under Mayor Pugh, specifically calls for $1,000,000 per year of General Funds for five years. By leveraging Maryland Department of Transportation Bikeways and Federal Transportation Alternatives Program grants that require a local match, this approximately $5 million in local dollars could build the entire Separated Lane Network in five years. Building this network would connect 85% of Baltimoreans to low stress bicycle infrastructure. It’s one of the lowest cost, highest return bike plans in the country.

2017 Separated Lane Network construction timeline, budget, and revenue sources.

2017 Separated Lane Network construction timeline, budget, and revenue sources.

It’s pretty simple. Win big grants with small matches of local dollars. Build 17 miles of high quality separated and supporting infrastructure per year for five years. End with one of the best networks in the country.

Instead, we have no money for design and construction this year. Baltimore City Department of Transportation will tell you they plan on building 17 miles of infrastructure in 2019, and that everything’s fine. But let’s take a look at what that infrastructure actually is:

BCDOT’s proposed timelines for bike facilities

BCDOT’s proposed timelines for bike facilities

Every project listed for “Proposed 2019” is a prior year project. Every single one of these projects was already counted in lane mile totals in 2017 when the Separated Lane Network plan was adopted, because all of these projects were supposed to have been constructed by then. Delaying projects by anywhere from 3-7 years doesn’t mean you get to count them again.

The “Proposed 2020-2022” projects include MLK Jr, Eutaw Street, 20th Street, and Baker Street. If you refer back to the Separated Lane Network Plan map at the top, you’ll see these projects are supposed to be completed this year, in 2019, not proposed for 2022, the year the entire network plan is supposed to be built.

In short, Baltimore City Department of Transportation has budgeted zero dollars of new bike design and construction money for the next six years. The projects they’re double counting as mileage are projects that were already counted in prior years. And the new projects they’re proposing are coming years late, if at all since they haven’t promised funding alongside them.

We will be testifying at the Baltimore City Planning Commission on Thursday, January 10th about this disparity between city-adopted plans and the Capital Improvement Budget.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll also highlight some planned and ongoing infrastructure projects that are costing or will cost the city millions of dollars while making streets less safe for people walking, biking, and taking public transit.

Baltimore City Department of Transportation knew this Complete Streets ordinance was coming. They knew it was going to pass. This budget was an opportunity for them to show that they were making preparations to right their ship, but instead they continue to fire cannons at their own sails.

Mayor Pugh Signs Complete Streets Ordinance

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As of Thursday, December 6th, the Baltimore Complete Streets ordinance is law. Mayor Pugh signed the legislation earlier this week, just days before the bill would have become law automatically.

Over the past two years, a broad coalition was formed to support and promote Complete Streets. The Baltimore Complete Streets Coalition is comprised of over 30 organizations including local groups like Bikemore, The League for People with Disabilities, No Boundaries Coalition and neighborhood associations, statewide organizations like the Maryland Builders Industry Association, and national groups such as AARP, the American Heart Association and Safe Routes to Schools.

This bill is about giving communities the power to work with DOT to build more equitable and healthy transportation infrastructure. When we began this effort, I aimed to set a new national standard for complete streets policies, including answering the imperative to put equity at the core of all transportation measures. So many community leaders and stakeholders have stepped up to build a policy that is truly best in class. Now it's time to work together to implement complete streets to ensure all our communities see real benefits from transportation decisions. - Councilman Ryan Dorsey

The bill received national recognition when the National Complete Streets Coalition named Baltimore’s Complete Streets Ordinance one of 2017’s best initiatives and named Councilman Dorsey a Complete Streets Champion. Complete Streets prioritizes the safety of all people using Baltimore’s streets and prioritizes multi-modal transportation. Complete Streets often have slower speed limits, wide sidewalks and crosswalks, protected bike lanes, bus lanes and shelters, and beautification like trees and plantings. The bill also contains several equity-focused provisions to address the disparities created by decades of structurally racist and car-oriented road design.

Baltimore's Complete Streets ordinance is a remarkable new model for the nation not just because of its strong, direct approach to equity and implementation, but also because of the broad, engaged coalition responsible for its adoption. The National Complete Streets Coalition is proud to recognize Councilman Ryan Dorsey, Bikemore, and the City of Baltimore for their leadership. - Heather Zaccaro Program Manager, National Complete Streets Coalition

Bikemore was an early champion of passing a robust, equity-focused Complete Streets ordinance, working to place it as a priority in the mayor’s transition report and drafting bill language for introduction alongside Councilman Ryan Dorsey.

We’re thrilled that the mayor has signed the legislation into law, and will continue to work over the next few months to ensure implementation is as intended.

None of this work is possible without the support of our volunteers and donors. Thank you!

ICYMI: Big Win for #CompleteStreets

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We did it. Together, with your support we passed the most progressive Complete Streets Ordinance in the country. It’s a huge win for biking, walking and transit. Thanks to your letters, your testimony and donations, we were able to do something that two years ago people doubted we could achieve. Led by Councilman Ryan Dorsey, lawmakers, city agencies, Bikemore and over 30 Complete Streets coalition members, we demonstrated Baltimore is ready to think differently about how are streets are designed.

Here’s what the bill does:

  • Gives neighbors more input into the process of street design. 


  • Makes sure investments in Complete Streets go to the communities that need them the most. 


  • Mandates progressive standards on street design to keep everyone who uses the road safe from reckless driving. 


Read the entire bill.

Last night while celebrating our victory, a community leader said that Bikemore is “punching above our weight.” Our work is gaining the attention of people across the city and is changing the conversation around how we design streets.

We fought for streets that prioritize your safety and we won. Help us celebrate our victory by making a donation to Bikemore today. Together we are building a force for biking in Baltimore, and we are winning.

 

Complete Streets at the Finish Line

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Today we’re one step closer to making it the law that streets are designed to prioritize the safety of all people using the street, not just the speed of moving cars — in all Baltimore neighborhoods.

Today, Baltimore City Council’s Land Use and Transportation Committee voted favorable with amendments on Bill #17-0102 Complete Streets.

This moves the Complete Streets bill out of committee, to a full city council vote on Second Reader scheduled for Monday, October 15th and Third Reader for Final Passage on Monday, October 29th.

If the bill is voted favorably on October 29th, it will go to Mayor Pugh’s desk for signature.

Once signed, it will be Baltimore City Department of Transportation’s job to begin implementation of the most progressive, equity-focused complete streets ordinance in the country.

If you are interested in attending either city council meeting, they will begin at 5pm. Please bring a state ID.

Background

Councilman Ryan Dorsey and the Baltimore Complete Streets coalition introduced our Complete Streets Ordinance just over a year ago in July 2017.

Since that time, Councilman Dorsey, the Council President’s Office, Councilman Pinkett, and Bikemore have stewarded the legislation through multiple agency meetings, public information sessions, and community meetings.

In March, we received national recognition for our progress when the National Complete Streets Coalition named Baltimore’s Complete Streets Ordinance one of 2017’s best initiatives and named Councilman Dorsey a complete streets champion. In April, we presented at Intersections 2018, the national conference for complete streets.

Subsequent hearings at the Land Use and Transportation Committee brought experts in street design to testify to City Council. A detailed presentation crafted by the Baltimore Complete Streets Coalition highlighted best practices across the country that were included in the bill, as well as identified locations in the bill where we had negotiated compromise with Baltimore City Department of Transportation.

These hearings led to work sessions in September and October where the Land Use and Transportation Committee adopted a series of technical amendments agreed upon by Councilman Dorsey, the coalition, and Baltimore City Department of Transportation.

At the final work session today, October 10th, the Land Use and Transportation Committee voted the bill favorable with amendments, sending it to the full city council for consideration.