This summer we spent considerable time and resources ensuring that a high quality, all ages bike facility championed by residents was not removed. That was only possible because you—our supporters—were galvanized and took action.
Next Tuesday marks an important next step in ensuring the success of our action. The Department of Transportation will present the revised design to the community at the Canton Community Association meeting. We are asking you to turn out. And most importantly, be vocal during the meeting of your support of the project.
As part of our settlement with the city, we have been instructed to not to share the design in advance of the meeting. The public—including our members—still needs a chance to be involved in the process. What we can say is the new design has taken into consideration the concerns raised by some folks who live in the neighborhood, received the approval from the Fire Department, and has the support of the Mayor’s office and DOT.
During this process, we were discouraged but not surprised by the divisive rhetoric put forward by those who wished to see the lane removed. It’s challenging moving Baltimore forward on issues regarding safety and transportation. When change happens, those opposed resort to a type of fortress mentality, a belief that only they should have input into changes in their community. What this ignores is the many people who are their neighbors that have been supportive of the project since the beginning. They paint Bikemore as some special interest group (their exact words)—as if improving the safety of all road users, and increasing opportunities of mobility is somehow nefarious and does not in fact have well-documented benefits on the community as a whole. Even throughout the legal process we had to constantly remind those on the other side of the table that this argument was not residents versus people who bike—but that the people who bike are in fact also residents who happen to have an opposing point of view. Yes, we organized and formed an advocacy group to champion that point of view—because as evident by how behind we are at achieving progress in multimodal planning—our interests were not well represented.
Opposition will also state that Bikemore engaged in some secret meetings to try and get the new design put forward. What they leave out is that the plaintiffs in the case were not Bikemore, but our members—members who live in Canton and Highlandtown and rely on the Potomac lane frequently. The secrecy? That’s part of the legal process, one Canton residents were a part of. Our settlement was negotiated under the terms that we would allow the City to engage in a public process moving forward. This was a design put forth by DOT. It did not meet all of our demands, but preserved key pieces that allowed us confidence that the City had taken our concerns into consideration. Anything else is conjecture and hyperbole. It’s about power and nothing more.
Next Tuesday it is critical that those who bike and rely on safe infrastructure to do so turn out and demonstrate a commitment to safe streets. We are especially encouraging our members who live in Canton to be represented. We will be following up with many of you individually. That’s how important it is you show up.
When you show up, we ask you to speak. Community meetings are tough. Opposition intentionally organizes to make it vitriolic so that it intimidates reasonable people from attending and expressing their views. But we can’t sit idly by and allow our needs to be shouted down. When the time comes to have input, we need you to raise your hand. Get in line to speak. You don’t need to have an eloquent speech prepared. Simply saying, “I’m a Baltimore resident and I support protected infrastructure on Potomac” is enough.
To rally supporters we will be out in front at 6:30, handing out stickers to demonstrate your support. We love our city. We want it to work for everyone—no matter how you choose to get around. We believe this design does just that. It’s time we demonstrate strongly that we want choice when it comes to how we get around. Simply planning and designing streets only for cars is something that does not work for the future of Baltimore. And neighbors creating a fortress mentality that believe they represent the whole of a neighborhood, or that those that live in the city and may use that street don’t have a say on what happens on the public right of way is wrong, and the least neighborly way to behave.
We can’t begin to express how grateful we are to your action thus far. The donations, the emails, and the phone calls have been what has kept us going. The time is now to demonstrate that we are residents and we believe in a future that provides safe options for all road users.
Show up. Speak up. Your city leaders need to hear from you.