potomac

We're winning!

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One year ago we were celebrating saving the Potomac Street bike lane. And while that was a victory for bikes, we knew this was just the beginning of the fight to get a long term policy solution to an unfair application of the law.

For 14 months Bikemore staff worked tirelessly to pressure the City to come to a solution. And on Monday we saw that hard work pay off and scored a significant win. Baltimore City Council voted unanimously to remove Appendix D from the Fire Code and state that all new street design must conform to NACTO standards. This means that the Fire Department can no longer arbitrarily block the construction of bike lanes by pointing to a section of the fire code that makes zero sense in an urban environment.

And while we still await the Mayor signing the bill into law, we demonstrated that we are tenacious in our pursuit of a city that’s safe for people who bike. And that because of your support we can deliver groundbreaking wins.

Help us celebrate by making a donation to Bikemore today. Right now we need you more than ever. These wins are only possible because of support from people like you. With 40% of our operating budget funded through grassroots donations, we rely on individuals just like you stepping up and joining the fight for bikes. Help us secure the next win with a donation of $50 or more today.

Already gave? Forward this story to a friend who loves bikes, and let them know why you support Bikemore.

 

Check out some of our recent press on the issue: 

“It’s important to note that this bill does not change BCFD’s role in project plans review,” she pointed out. “It simply ensures that conversation around fire access begins at a place that fully considers the benefits of designing a city safe for biking and walking.” 
— City council passes bill altering fire code to address stalled bike lane, building projects, Baltimore Fishbowl

“This has been a year-long fight to make sure our city advances in progressive transportation planning,” said Liz Cornish, the director of Bikemore. “We think council made the right move and we look forward to the mayor signing this bill.” 
City Council repeals part of fire code to accommodate bike lanes, development, Baltimore Sun

 

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.

Fire Access issue still delaying the Downtown Bike Network

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This morning the city's Board of Estimates voted to approve a 318 day delay for work for the contractor hired to construct the Downtown Bike Network — again citing the fire access issue as the cause for delay. This means that the city now has until October 31, 2018 to complete work that was originally set to be completed by January 2017.

Beginning in May of 2017, there were complaints about the width of the Potomac Street bike lane which was then under construction, citing a portion of the Baltimore City adopted International Fire Code addressing the required width of streets. This code is now being applied only to streets with bike lanes, delaying construction of bike lanes that are already fully designed and funded. You can check out full story for more background on this ongoing issue. 

If less than 20 feet of clearance is truly a safety threat, the city should be applying the code to all projects, said Bikemore executive director Liz Cornish — not just those with bike lanes. “They’re not applying this interpretation of the fire code equitably for streets across the city,” Cornish said. “If it is, in fact, a safety issue, it is a safety issue on all streets.”
— Baltimore bike lane construction delayed again, amid fire code concerns, Baltimore Sun
“It’s disappointing to us that this project, which has already been subject to one extension, is already a year behind, and is now potentially behind for another year because of the fire clearance issue,” said Jed Weeks, policy director for local cycling nonprofit Bikemore.
— City Officials Again Delay Downtown Bike Network’s Installation, Baltimore Fishbowl

Want to support us in our ongoing #FightforBikes?

 

 

Potomac Will Be Saved

Even under construction riders of all ages have been out enjoying the protected bike lane on Potomac Street. 

Even under construction riders of all ages have been out enjoying the protected bike lane on Potomac Street. 

We have good news - the Potomac Street protected bike lane will not be removed! We will not be going to court tomorrow. Instead we have entered into a settlement agreement and will be sitting down this week with the City to assist in finalizing new plans for Potomac Street. We are confident this modified plan will preserve a high quality all ages protected two-way bike facility on Potomac Street, as well as safeguard public safety and accommodate emergency vehicles.
 
Once the plans have been finalized, they will be shared with the public for a two week comment period. During that time the Potomac Street bike lane will remain intact as is currently constructed. Once the public comment period has ended, the City will take comments into consideration and begin construction. We are pleased to have reached this agreement with the City and are committed to being partners as we work to make Baltimore a safe place to ride a bike. 

Your support and advocacy during these past few weeks has been tremendous. Each one of you that donated, called, and wrote letters played a part in bringing us to this resolution. As a thank you, please join us at the courthouse tomorrow 6/28/2017 between 9-9:30 am. We will be hanging out at the Battle Monument serving up donuts and coffee as a thank you! Join us as we continue to #FightForBikes!