Monument Street

ACTION ALERT: Monument Street

Tell Mayor Young to halt deconstruction of a half block of newly installed protected bike lane on Monument Street:

Background

Today the City plans to move forward with the removal and modification of a half block of the Monument Street two-way protected bike lane. Between Aisquith and Central Avenue, DOT will remove the portion of the bike lane dedicated for westbound bike traffic and force riders onto the sidewalk located on the north side, adjacent to Dunbar High School’s fields. This $50,000 change is occurring to restore 12 parking spots on the north side of Monument Street.

Bikemore strongly opposes this removal. For the past six months, when it became clear that the City was moving forward with this change, we repeatedly asked for the designs so we could give feedback. These designs were never made available to either Bikemore or the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Commission despite the multiple requests. No public meetings were held about this change. We first learned of the design and removal timeline on the same day everyone else did: May 15th. Thirteen days ago, one day short of the required 14 days notice.

This is unacceptable, and puts advocates in a position that forces us to be reactive versus collaborative. It is an act of bad faith, and if we are to move forward as a City that values streets designed for people over cars, we need the Department of Transportation to do better.

This change on Monument Street is problematic for a variety of reasons. But the main ones are that it violates the recently adopted Complete Streets law and further prohibits the City’s ability to be awarded state and federal transportation dollars.

The Complete Street law requires the City:

    1. Comply with State and Federal funding requirements. Alteration and removal of portions of Monument Street go against the state funded and approved design. Maryland Department of Transportation has said enough is enough, and will not continue to provide grants for complete streets infrastructure in Baltimore as long as we continue to remove or alter those facilities for political reasons.

    2. Promote walking, biking, and transit to the greatest extent possible. By forcing bike traffic onto the sidewalk it makes walking and biking on that section of street less safe. It creates conflict between people walking and people biking, and places people biking in a position that makes them less predictable to people driving cars.

    3. Ensure equity by actively pursuing the elimination of health, economic, and access disparities. We know that 33% of the city lacks access to a car, and according to census data over 75% of households lack access to a car along the Monument Street corridor where changes are proposed. Removing infrastructure proven to reduce access disparity and improve health outcomes to install parking is deeply inequitable.

Future State and Federal funding is on the line:

The majority of funding that improves walking, biking, and transit in the City comes from State and Federal money. Given the City’s current budget priorities it is unlikely, at least in the short term, that this situation will change. When the City destroys projects constructed with State funds, it is no wonder the State is now looking to other Maryland communities to support over Baltimore. This money doesn’t only fund bike lanes, it can be used to fund recreation trails, bike parking, traffic calming, and a variety of other infrastructure that improves the safety and quality of life of Baltimore City residents.

By deciding to remove this section of Monument Street, the Mayor is sending a message to residents that short term responses to a handful of people complaining about parking is more important than long term investment in transportation for the entire city.

If they care about improved community outreach, if they care about equitable investment in recreation and transportation across all neighborhoods, they will pause the planned deconstruction and respond to our concerns.

There are solutions available to the parking concerns that don’t cost $50K and threaten future state and federal transportation funding. It is a Mayor’s job to consider the entire city and make decisions that are strategic, not reactive. The decision to remove this portion of the bike lane to restore parking is short sighted. It doesn’t matter who put these decisions in motion or that they began prior to Mayor Young taking office. This is ultimately his decision. We believe there is a way for him to bring folks together on this issue. It starts with asking the Department of Transportation to stop the removal today.

DOT Instructed to Remove Portion of Monument Street Protected Lane

Beginning May 28th, Baltimore City Department of Transportation will remove portions of the newly installed two-way protected bike lane on Monument Street between Aisquith Street and Central Avenue to restore 13 parking spaces.

People riding bikes eastbound will continue to use a one-way separated bike lane in the street. People riding bikes westbound will be directed to use the adjacent sidewalk, which will be marked with both bike and pedestrian symbols.

Since email is down, you can contact the Mayor’s office to express your frustration with their continued removal of safe, all-ages bike infrastructure by calling 410-396-4900.

This change is occurring because of parking complaints from some people that work on that block. Baltimore City Department of Transportation proposed several parking alternatives, including a recently implemented road diet that allowed Sunday parking in the travel lane next to the bike lane and free off-street parking for churchgoers in a city-owned adjacent surface parking lot. These alternatives were rejected.

We have been asking to meet with the city to provide input on how this facility can work for everyone that uses that street. We’ve brought it up and offered assistance at every Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Commission meeting over the past year. But today we were notified of this unacceptable “solution” at the same time as everyone else.

So where do we go from here? In addition to making the bike lanes on Roland Avenue and now Monument street less safe, the city’s actions are pitting residents who want to ride a bike safely against everyone. It’s irresponsible.

We were clear when we worked to pass the Complete Streets ordinance that three major things have to change: we must stop designing streets that put anyone not driving a car at risk, we must make investments in road safety in the neighborhoods that are consistently underserved, and we must reimagine the community input process so that it is equitable, inclusive, and educational. The community input process should bring people together, not create these impossible divides. The city does not need to wait a year to change course. They could start making this better for everyone today.

We are angry. These past few weeks have taken a toll on everyone trying to get stuff done in the city--bike lanes included. And right now we are weighing our options, but we know we cannot continue to play into this fallacy city leadership has created. Making a street safer is not a fight. It’s an imperative.

Last week many of our supporters gathered to learn about our new strategic plan. We drank some beers, celebrated our wins, and talked about the future. We shared this quote:

“You lose a lot, but you have to play to win. But it’s fine, because you put friction in the system, you give people power over what’s happening in their neighborhoods and hopefully you eventually win.” - Paula Segal, attorney, Urban Justice Center

This is hard work. But it’s the right thing to do. And it may not be tomorrow, but eventually we will win.