Bikemore 2015: A Year in Review

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This year was an incredibly important year for bikes in Baltimore. From memorializing the life of Tom Palermo to galvanizing people who bike to get to the polls through the launch of our I Bike, I Vote initiative, our members have turned out in ways that leave no doubt that we are growing as a movement--that bikes and Baltimore fit together a little better than the year before.  As 2015 comes to a close, let's look back on all that we've accomplished together! Want to help us grow and do bigger and better things in 2016? Consider a year end gift. Together, we are building a force for biking in Baltimore! 

And now our year in review...

 Memorial Ride for Tom Palermo 

2015 began on a somber note. On January 1st, hundreds of bicyclists gathered to pay tribute to Tom Palermo. His death was tragic, and he will be forever missed. But his passing also deepened the resolve of those in the bicycling community to work harder to ensure another family doesn't have to suffer the same immense loss. 

 
Hundreds of people on bikes gather to pay tribute to Tom Palermo. Photo Credit: Baltimore Sun

Hundreds of people on bikes gather to pay tribute to Tom Palermo. Photo Credit: Baltimore Sun

 

Baltimore City Adopts Bicycling Master Plan 

The long overdue update of our city's bicycle master plan solidified Baltimore City's commitment to growing a bicycle network. And while our work has just begun to ensure this is a plan that doesn't simply exist on paper--but is implemented--this was a critical first step in mapping out the city's future as one where all modes are considered on our roadways. 

Mayor Signs Executive Order Forming Bicycle Advisory Commission

The Mayor's Executive order breathed life into a dormant committee by drawing on talent from the private and public sector to ensure the Bike Master Plan comes to fruition. Bikemore has been a part of the commission since its creation in March, and has been able to see firsthand the dedication of these commission members as they work to ensure the city better coordinates agency efforts and allocates proper funding for future projects. 

Hired a New Executive Director    

After an extensive national search, Bikemore hired Liz Cornish to lead Bikemore in its next phase of growth. Cornish came to Bikemore after working on national advocacy issues at the League of American Bicyclists. 

 
 

Community Bike Rides 

We upped our game when it came to providing programs that brought people together to share in their love of bikes. We hosted five new community rides that hosted over 200 participants. We hosted rides with the 29th St. and North Barclay Green Community Centers that brought youth and adults together, we hosted women from D.C. as they rode the MARC bike train to explore Baltimore with other ladies who ride, we toured architectural sites by hosting a ride for Doors Open, and partnered with Brewer's Art to host the Future of Biking in Baltimore ride that explored all the places slated to get improvements in 2016-2017. We know that group rides are a great way to introduce folks to urban riding, and build community among existing riders. We look forward to planning more rides in 2016! 

Charles Street Complete Street 

Photo Credit: Baltimore Sun 

Photo Credit: Baltimore Sun 

October saw the long awaited completion of the Charles Street "complete street" construction. The project created much needed pedestrian improvements, traffic calming, and the addition of buffered bike lanes. Charles Street is now much safer for all road users, and we hope this public-private partnership to create livable streets can become a model that is replicated elsewhere in the city to spur safer street projects. 

I Bike, I Vote Kick Off 

On November 8th, 2015 we threw a party to share our platform for the 2016 election. Our goal was to get people stoked on connecting their transportation and recreation choice--biking to voting. The event exceeded our wildest expectations. We had 5 Mayoral Candidates, 16 Council Candidates and over 200 constituents attend our rally to get out the bike vote. In the coming year, we have more opportunities to engage in the upcoming election and educate voters about where each candidate stands on creating a more bikable, walkable Baltimore. 

Baltimore's First Annual Cranksgiving

We hosted over 80 riders, who went on a scavenger hunt to procure $1000s in groceries to donate to Moveable Feast. We had a ton of fun, and learned a lot about how to grow and strengthen this new bikey holiday tradition. Can't wait for next year to be even bigger and even better! 

 

Transform Baltimore 

Sometimes fighting for livable streets means getting a little wonky and organizing against policies that don't directly relate to biking, but facilitate a way of thinking about growth that undermines the creation of bikeable places. Our new zoning code has been awaiting City Council adoption for years. Just when we are getting close to the finally adopting a form based code that will ensure that all neighborhoods are developed in a way that considers things like walkability, historic preservation, and safety, the Council began voting on hundreds of amendments at a rapid pace. Thanks to your support, we were able to mobilize dozens of Bikemore members to send emails to the transportation and land use committee and ensure that the amendments most harmful to livable streets were opposed. 

Roland Avenue Cycletrack

Christmas came early with the installation of the Roland Avenue Cycletrack. This two mile stretch of parking protected bike lane taught us a lot of lessons.  First, in what took only 14 months from project concept to completion--it showed the value of local dollars in speeding up the implementation of new bike facilities. To our chagrin, it lapped the installation of the Maryland Avenue Cycletrack--which spent the entire year under State Highway review due to use of Federal funds. So while this facility had some challenges in design and community support, as Baltimore's first parking protected bike lane, we decided it was important to throw our support behind the project and ensure its installation. As the Roland Park community and city continue to work out the kinks in terms of parking compliance, maintenance, and signage, the result is a beautiful reminder of what a complete street in Baltimore can look like. Change is hard, and we knew wherever the first facility of this kind was installed we would face some opposition. But seeing BCDOT's commitment to the project despite some divisive community opposition gives us hope that whatever opposition future projects face, we have turned a corner in terms of the city leading on complete street issues. And that is cause for celebration. 

 

Thank you for helping us build a force for biking in Baltimore in 2015! 

 

Update: Transform Baltimore

Last Monday, December 14, the Land Use and Transportation Committee held four hours of amendment voting sessions. We had asked our constituents to take action on a series of amendments we believed to undermine the purpose of Transform Baltimore--to create a uniform zoning code that encourages sustainable growth and livable streets. 

The voting sessions got through all of the Title 14 amendments and the bulk of Title 15. In our email we had requested opposition to amendments in Title 10, 14, 15 and 16. Voting on the text amendments will continue after the holidays. 

Of the six Title 14 amendments we opposed all were either withdrawn or failed to pass. 

Withdrawn: T-487, T-488, T-496, T-628

Failed due to no motion to proceed: T-499, T-504

Failed due to lack of votes: T-511

It should be noted that prior to going to a vote, Councilwoman Clark had revised T-499--the amendment that blocked the adoption of neighborhood commercial by creating an elaborate finding of fact to get approved--so that the findings of fact were agreeable to our demands. However, at that point it seemed that no committee member wanted to even be associated with it to move it to a vote. 

Title 15 amendments that we opposed were revised to become more amenable to livable streets or withdrawn. 

Withdrawn: T-528

Passed with revisions: T-523. T-522

amendment revisions 

amendment revisions 

Bikemore didn't plan on becoming so engaged in the discussion on Transform Baltimore, but when it became clear that members of council and outside interests were introducing amendments harmful to the livable streets spirit of an improved form based code, it became important for us to take action. 

We will continue to monitor the amendment voting process that will likely stretch on for a few more months. We will continue to keep you apprised of opportunities for action, and ways you can communicate to our city's leaders how important vibrant, safe, bikeable and walkable places are to the future of Baltimore. 

Thank you for taking action. 

Take Action: Transform Baltimore Amendments

Today's blog post was written by Ben Groff and presented in partnership with Citizens Planning and Housing Association Ben is a transportation advocate with background in legal and policy issues. 

TAKE ACTION

The Transform Baltimore zoning code rewrite was launched nearly 10 years ago to modernize Baltimore’s zoning code and implement the vision of the city's last master plan, 2006's LIVE EARN PLAY LEARN.  

That vision included many goals that can only be furthered with livable streets, and a key strategy to accomplish this was to be the Transform Baltimore zoning code rewrite. 

The LIVE category, there were three overarching livability goals: 

  1. Strengthen neighborhoods, 
  2. Improve the design and quality of the built environment, and 
  3. Improve transportation access and choice for city residents. 

Other categories included livable streets goals, too.  

  • The EARN category called for improving transportation access to jobs. 
  • The PLAY category spoke to improving recreation for residents and visitors alike and emphasized open space.  It's the PLAY strategy that called for Baltimore to develop its Bicycle Master Plan and build out park/trail systems.  
  • The LEARN category called for safe and convenient transportation to educational facilities. 

The Transform Baltimore Legislation

In 2012, the Transform Baltimore legislation was finally unveiled as Council Bill 12-0152.  Over the years, CPHA and others have closely monitored progress on the bills which has been slow and painstaking.  

Earlier this year, 29 community organizations signed a letter calling for the code to be implemented as soon as possible, and making some general and specific recommendations to maintain the implementation of a livable streets-style vision.  CPHA's Gregory Friedman published an article in Greater Greater Washington urging the same. 

In about the last two months, City Council's Land Use and Transportation Committee has sprung into action, moving rapidly through hundreds of proposed amendments that have been accumulating since 2012. 

Some of these amendments jeopardize the livable streets vision that Transform Baltimore was meant to implement.

How the Code Promotes Livable Streets

At the highest level, the zoning code gives Baltimore a form-based code, instead of a code based on "Euclidean" segregation of uses and restrictive regulations.  It promotes livable streets by: 

  • removing development barriers to mixed-use, walkable neighborhoods, 
  • requiring designs to meet minimal standards related to quality place design
  • eliminating wasteful parking requirements, and
  • encouraging pedestrian, bike, and transit use 

In short, the code creates livable streets by enabling an attractive and diverse urban fabric throughout Baltimore, and removing last-century requirements that effectively force car ownership and subsidize or encourage access-adverse development. 

What's Happening Now

There are three types of amendments: 

  1. Amendments to the text of the bill itself (Council Bill 12-0152), 
  2. Amendments to the tables (that set forth in concise form things like parking requirements for different types of uses), and 
  3. Amendments to maps (the maps show, for the whole city, the zoning district of each property on adoption of the Code. 

This Monday, December 14, 2015 the Committee will work through some especially important amendments to Titles 14 and if time permits, 15 and 16.  As I understand it, the considered amendments are amendments to the bill text – the titles – only.

  • Title 14 contains provisions related to uses (including neighborhood commercial)
  • Title 15 contains provisions related to site development, (improvements made to an existing site)
  • Title 16 contains provisions related to parking. 

Additionally, amendments to the Title 10 provisions affecting parking in the C-5 (downtown) district will also be voted on with Title 16. 

How the Amendments Undermine Livable Streets

Amendments generally undermine the livable streets vision in the code when they:

  1. Reassert wasteful parking requirements that promote access-adverse development
  2. Restrict mixed-uses in favor of segregated uses
  3. Needlessly restrict residential density in favor of low-density, access-adverse development
  4. Undermine the central goal of enabling well-designed places for people instead of cars

The worst of the worst amendments include: 

Amendment T-545.  Section 16-601 contains exemptions to minimum parking requirements, and amendments were introduced to eliminate most of the exemptions, including T-545, T-633, T-699, T-546, and T-547.  In particular T-545 would reassert parking minimums in the C-1, C-1-E, C-5, R-MU, and D-MU districts, which under the present code are exempt from minimums.

Amendments T-374-380. Section 10-503(I) in Title 10 transforms parking and access in the C-5 downtown district.  This district is roughly bordered by the waterfront/Key Highway, MLK, President Street, and Franlkin Street.  10-503(I) currently bans new surface parking lots, requires active ground-floor uses, and bans new curb cuts on primary streets (Baltimore, Charles, Eutaw, Pratt, and Howard).  Amendments T-374 through T-380 would eliminate all of these requirements.

Amendments T-499 and T-628.  These amendments would seek to amend Title 14 to eliminate the Neighborhood Commercial use.  T-628 has been purportedly withdrawn.

Amendments T-542 and T-528.  This amendment to Title 16 removes the provision allowing for land banking of 25% of required parking (by setting aside open space) and fee-in-lieu parking, allowing developers to fund alternative transportation instead of providing all the required parking. 

Today, Bikemore and CPHA urge you to TAKE ACTION and OPPOSE HARMFUL ZONING CODE AMENDMENTS on this issue by emailing the members of the Land Use and Transportation Committee. We've created a form email you can send to all members of the committee by clicking this link

Below are tables detailing the amendments in Titles 14, 15, and 16 that would do the most damage to the livability goals of the Comprehensive Master Plan and the new Code. 

Table 1: Title 14 Amendments 

Table 2: Title 15 Amendments 

 

Table 3: Title 16 Amendments 

Table 4: Title 10 Amendments 


Audits Shine Light on DOT Inefficiencies

A bicyclists rides down Maryland Ave. Photo Credit: Baltimore Sun 

A bicyclists rides down Maryland Ave. Photo Credit: Baltimore Sun 

Baltimore City is undergoing a series of agency audits for the first time in thirty years. That it took thirty years to conjure the political will to conduct financial and performance audits is in and of itself infuriating. That the first audit released, a financial and performance review of Baltimore City’s Department of Transportation revealed that the agency "provided no evidence of policies, procedures, internal controls, or accountability" for its workers' performance in most categories is maddening, although not surprising. 

While Baltimore DOT has made some internal shifts toward promoting more bike and pedestrian friendly designs, we have yet to see a single project from this new line of thinking get installed. That the response to citizens waiting years for projects like the Maryland Avenue Cycletrack is  that it has been hampered in State Highway Administration (SHA) review is so far past adequate that one is left to wonder--how can we believe you anymore? And if it is true, where is the political will from our Mayor and City Council to deliver on promises to Baltimore citizens and hold SHA accountable? 

Since beginning my tenure as Bikemore Executive Director in May, I’ve been promised countless dates of when the Downtown Bicycle Network will go to bid. Going to bid before the end of the year is critical to ensure a March 2016 groundbreaking. This is a project that has been fully funded for years. How can we tell if the back and forth between SHA is a product of poor performance at DOT, SHA or both? The answer--we can’t. When you have no policy or procedure to measure performance or to hold an agency accountable to actually deliver on the projects it promises, the results are what we have today. Very little accomplished, very few projects even close to completion. And what incentive do employees have to actually follow through on their promises when they can rest assured knowing there will be zero consequences for failing to meet their self appointed deadlines? 

What’s more, specifically in relation to the Downtown Bicycle Network--which includes the plan for the Maryland Avenue Cycletrack--DOT as of today remains firm in their statement that they are waiting for SHA approval to be finalized. Meanwhile sources at SHA have confirmed that they have released the plans to the city--although we were not able to confirm a specific date the plans were released, and still other SHA employees in their communication to DOT today have stated that approval has not been finalized. That this level of inconclusiveness is considered status quo is unacceptable.  

This is just one small example of how poor performance from DOT has been allowed to remain “unchecked”. This is in no way an indictment of individual employees, who for the most part have exhibited a willingness to hear Bikemore’s concerns and help us find answers. But rather a system that forces well intentioned employees to patronize people who are merely seeking clarity--clarity that without strong systems of accountability and performance measurement seems outside their ability to provide. 

I hope those running for office this election cycle recognize there is a new crop of informed voters who want more than platitudes about job growth and crime reduction. We want candidates to bring forth actual plans to rid our city of the horrible abuses those with power have allowed to go on for too long. Abuses that are well documented across all agencies, not just the Department of Transportation. We want candidates that understand the nuances of operating a cash strapped independent city, and are realistic about our locus of control. Good government isn’t something that should be aspirational for Baltimore, it’s something as voters we should demand. 

 

We're Hiring!

We're growing! 2015 has been a very exciting year for Bikemore. We have had a year filled with successful events like our I Bike, I Vote kick off and hosting Baltimore's 1st Annual Cranksgiving. This in addition to community rides that brought people together to discover all the potential Baltimore has to become a world class bicycling city. 

As we work to take our advocacy to the next level, it's time to expand our staff. This helps us to continue to expand our membership base, engage new stakeholders and take on bigger projects. 

Our new position is a Part Time Membership and Communication Coordinator. This person will tackle the day to day external communications needs of our organization--sending emails to members notifying of upcoming events, managing our social media accounts, and taking on the important administrative functions typical of running a small nonprofit. 

We are looking for someone with experience in website content creation, graphic design, and database administration. You should be the type of person that folks call when they need help making that perfect spreadsheet or executing that social media campaign. 

We are a small but mighty organization positioned for growth, but we need the right person that enjoys getting in on the ground level, developing administrative systems that help build strong organizations. And of course believes that creating walkable, bikeable places is a key strategy to making Baltimore healthier, safer, and more livable. 

So if this sounds like you or someone you know, send them our way! You can read the full job description here, where you can also apply online

Email liz@bikemore.net with any questions!