Advocacy

Bikemore Statement on the Resignation of DOT Director Pourciau

Today we learned that Director Pourciau has resigned. We want to wish her well on her next endeavor. When Bikemore served on Mayor Pugh’s transition team for transportation we were hopeful. Janette Sadik-Kahn came and spoke, and the mayor sat in the first row taking notes. She accepted the transition team’s recommendation for the passage of a robust complete streets bill that would place Baltimore ahead of most major cities. But at every turn, from Potomac Street to Roland Avenue, the actions taken by Mayor Pugh and Director Pourciau were at odds with the ethos of progressive transportation both claimed to embody.

The amount of leadership change in the Department of Transportation over the past five years is troubling. This lack of leadership has cost the City millions in lost grant dollars, resulted in poorly managed projects, led to the attrition of talented staff, and has sewn deep distrust in communities. When communities don’t trust DOT to do its job, it blocks all progress toward building a city connected with high quality transportation choices.

The next leader of DOT needs to be someone ready to empower the talented and trained city employees. They need to steward resources in order to maximize every transportation dollar. They need to create a vision that promotes the safety of all road users, and improves access to opportunity--especially for our most vulnerable residents. This vision must be explicit enough so that when community contention arises, the path forward is clear--streets should be designed for the safety of people over the movement of cars.

Baltimore cannot afford two more years of backsliding. Under this administration’s leadership Baltimore regularly grabbed headlines for decisions wholly out of step with best practices in the transportation industry. In that time smaller cities bypassed us in investments in biking, walking, and transit infrastructure. Baltimore cannot afford any more injuries or deaths due to unsafe street design. Baltimore cannot afford to return anymore State and Federal transportation dollars. Baltimore cannot afford to lose residents because they cannot get to work.

And lastly, any executive decision made over the past two years that went against best practices in design and engineering should be reexamined and rolled back. Baltimore deserves better. And in the wake of Director Pourciau’s departure and the imminent resignation of Mayor Pugh, vulnerable road users shouldn’t have to continue to pay the price.

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.





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.

ICYMI: Big Win for #CompleteStreets

Baltimore-city-council-complete-streets.jpg

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.

 

Downtown Bike Network Resumes Construction

Downtown Bike Network Construction Timeline (courtesy of BCDOT)

Downtown Bike Network Construction Timeline (courtesy of BCDOT)

The Downtown Bike Network resumes construction this week. For full details, please visit Baltimore City Department of Transportation’s Downtown Bike Network page.

Background

The Downtown Bike Network was originally slated to be completed over a year ago. Construction was halted during the Potomac Street fire access discussion, and the Baltimore City Fire Department required a full re-design of the Downtown Bike Network before construction could resume.

We believe a re-design to comply with arbitrary fire clearance standards was unnecessary, and successfully fought to overturn that piece of fire code to prevent those standards from affecting projects again.

However, this fight occurred alongside the construction halt on Downtown Bike Network. So we worked with Baltimore City Department of Transportation on a re-design that improved significant portions of the design while also maintaining the at-the-time required fire clearance.

New Design Monument/Centre (the good)

The new design creates a fully-separated, two-way bike lane along Centre and Monument Streets from MLK/Eutaw to Washington Street. This will allow direct connections to future separated lanes on Wolfe or Washington Streets to the East, and to the future MLK sidepath and Eutaw Place separated lane.

The design replaces the original protected lane on Madison Street east of Guilford Avenue, replacing it with the two-way facility on Monument.

New Design Madison (not so good/opportunity to improve)

West of Guilford Avenue, Madison Street is planned to have a combination of separated lanes and buffered lanes, the latter being a requirement in portions due to the fire code. This section has been strongly opposed by the Director of Baltimore School for the Arts, and as a result, implementation has been delayed until Summer 2019.

Madison Street needs a re-design that calms traffic along the corridor. It is dangerous and contributes to economic decline of the corridor.

This delay in implementation is both a disappointment and an opportunity. The fire code update will go into effect in the end of October, which gives us the winter to discuss a better design for Madison Avenue that will meet the needs of people biking, the community desire for real traffic calming, and Dr. Ford’s concerns at Baltimore School for the Arts.

However, the delay until Summer 2019 may mean the grant will expire, causing us to lose the money to construct any design on Madison Street. This would be an unacceptable outcome. BCDOT must work to ensure any delay does not end with an expired grant, and must accept that some stakeholders may never accept infrastructure changes, even when they address critical street safety issues.

Changes on Maryland/Cathedral

Certain portions of the Maryland Avenue cycle track contain construction errors in the original design, including at the Pratt Street intersection. Other portions are regular conflict points, like at Centre Street and at the Lexington Street parking garage. Resuming construction of the Downtown Bike Network will allow us to fix these sections with correct and/or improved designs that will make the Maryland Avenue cycle track safer for all users.

Overall

The Downtown Bike Network will create a critical cross town connection that can be expanded upon into East and West Baltimore over the next 2-3 years. We’re thankful that BCDOT is taking a bold step in creating another high quality connection, and that they used this delay to think creatively and improve designs.

We will advocate to use the winter to improve the Madison Street design for a spring implementation that does not risk grant expiration.