Action Alert: Yes on SB 0338, No on HB 1079

The Maryland General Assembly's Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee has two bills in front of it that you should take action on. 

SB 0338 allows HAWK Signals to improve pedestrian safety in Maryland. The Washington Area Bicyclist Association has a good write-up on why this legislation is important and how HAWK signals will--and could have already--saved lives.

HB 1079 gives local jurisdictions the authority to impose additional penalties for people who improperly cross the street. Read our post here for more information on why this is a bad idea.

The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee has no representatives from Baltimore City, but we encourage you to email them anyway in support of SB 0338 and in opposition to the cross filed version of HB 1079 that they will soon hear in committee.

HB 1079 and the History of Jaywalking


In the Maryland General Assembly this session, Delegate McMillan of Anne Arundel County introduced House Bill 1079, which seeks to give local jurisdictions the authority to create a civil penalty for crossing outside of a crosswalk.

Staff from McMillan's office explained that this is in response to heavy tourist traffic in Annapolis. They believe being able to ticket tourists that cross outside of a crosswalk will improve pedestrian safety.

The bill is currently in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, after being passed on the floor of the House yesterday. Click here to tell the committee to vote NO on this bill.

Jaywalking has a storied past. In short, as cars became more prolific in cities, and death by automobile soared, communities sought to find solutions and penalties for drivers who recklessly endangered the public.

The automobile lobby fought back with a coordinated public relations effort that blamed the people who had been using roads for centuries, not the newest invention on the roadway. AAA began an "education campaign" in schools. The Boy Scouts were employed to hand out pamphlets on street corners. 

The automobile lobby won, and their message prevailed: It was the people walking who were in the wrong, they should get out of the way of cars, and if they refused they should be punished with fines or even jail time.

In the 1990's and early 2000's focus on jaywalking re-emerged as cities like New York and Baltimore used jaywalking as a way to target individuals for Terry Stops through broken windows policing. Studies now prove when you criminalize the behavior of vulnerable road users like people walking and biking, it disproportionately impacts communities of color. Layering fines in the name of safety compounds the challenges facing our communities instead of making them safer.

Back to HB 1079: if pedestrian safety is the aim, why not advocate for designing roads that reduce pedestrian injury and fatalities by lowering vehicle speed and adding sidewalks, safe crossings, and adequate lighting? Or pass out of the very same Judicial Proceedings Committee SB 0338, which would allow HAWK Signals in Maryland, a very real improvement that can be made for pedestrian safety?

Communities across the state are working hard to make places safer for biking and walking. It's good for public health, mobility, and the economy. Let's work harder on that, and let a 100 year old strategy rooted in racist and classist policy that unfairly penalizes Maryland residents and visitors for crossing the street die in committee.

Take Action on these Bills!

Next Action Steps for Repealing the Farebox Recovery Mandate

Over the last couple of weeks, you wrote to your delegates in the House to tell them to repeal the farebox recovery mandate.

The farebox recovery mandate is a state rule that says 35% of the total operating costs for MTA's Baltimore area services must be recovered from fares and other revenues. This forces MTA to be regressive, it stifles ingenuity in route planning and service delivery, and it prevents forward thinking conversations around public transport from occurring. 

Thanks to your action on the House side, this issue is now coming up for vote in the Senate, and we once again are calling on you to take action. The vote should take place today, so send your email now!

Tell your Senator to vote yes on SB 484 using the form below!

→ Read more about the farebox recovery mandate. 

BCDOT Revises Bike Lane Snow Removal Policy On Eve of Storm

The Snow Removal Policy conflicts with the existing Complete Streets Policy

The Snow Removal Policy conflicts with the existing Complete Streets Policy

After business hours this evening before a major snow event, BCDOT updated their policy on clearing snow from bike lanes, contradicting their own existing complete streets policy and putting the safety of people who ride bikes dead last.

In public meetings and in discussions with Bikemore prior to the issuance of this memo, BCDOT stated that standard snow removal equipment would be used to clear the Maryland Avenue cycle track at the same time the vehicular travel lanes would be cleared, and that specialty equipment was on call to remove snow in narrower protected facilities like Roland Avenue and the Jones Falls Trail. BCDOT's previous commitment was to have all protected bicycle facilities cleared within 24 hours of final snow fall. 

The new policy gives BCDOT broad leeway, stating that protected lanes may not be cleared for up to 48 hours after the last vehicular travel lane in the city is plowed.

Sidewalks, bike facilities, and bus stops on major roads should be cleared ahead of lower traffic roads. Making transit and bike travel safe and accessible can cut down on dangerous car travel while maintaining access to jobs and critical healthcare for those who do not have access to a car. 

Many other cities prioritize snow removal on sidewalks, bus stops, and in bicycle and transit lanes because they recognize safety of vulnerable road users must come before convenience of private automobile use. 

Toronto begins multiple round mechanical sidewalk clearing in high volume pedestrian areas after 3 inches of snow has fallen. The city commits to complete plowing of all priority bike lanes and cycle tacks on arterial roads within 6-8 hours, and full snow removal to bare pavement within 48-72 hours. 

This last minute policy change is yet another example of BCDOT's Director prioritizing the movement of cars over the safety and movement of people. It's why we launched our #DirectDOT campaign to call for new leadership, and why we're working hard to pass a progressive Complete Streets Ordinance.


Plan4Health & Greenway Trails Coalition Update

In the Fall of 2015, the Baltimore Greenway Trails Coalition was formed. Funded in part by a grant administered by the American Planning Association, Baltimore became one of 20 cities to be recognized across the country through their competitive Plan4Health Grant.

The grant has provided capacity building funds to help us do critical coalition building work — to create a collective vision for a 30 mile, multipurpose trail loop around all of Baltimore. The funding has supported staff positions at Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, Bikemore, and CPHA, technical assistance from national experts in public health and planning, and programming in the Greater Mondawmin area. As our grant funding comes to a close we wanted to both reflect on all that we’ve learned over this 18 month process and what we hope to accomplish moving forward.

The Value of Having a Vision for Trails

The vision for the Baltimore Greenway Trails Network--on street facilities and new trails to fill gaps in our existing recreation trail system that includes the Gwynns Falls, Jones Falls, Herring Run, and Middle Branch trails — is one we see championed in master plans across many different agencies and stakeholder groups.

From the New Auchentoroly Terrace Community Association to the Baltimore City Office of Sustainability — plans have been created that aspire to provide better connections to our park system, improved access to recreation, and increased opportunities for folks to choose biking and walking as their primary form of transportation.

This process laid bare how our communities most in need of increased access and opportunity are often asked repeatedly to be part of a planning process that has no real path toward implementation. Neighbors we have worked with have been asking for things like more traffic calming, better crosswalks, and more trails for decades. This tendency for community planners to inflict community engagement fatigue on our neighbors has to end. We must strive for resources that can be invested in tangible improvements, rooted in the community’s vision.

That is one of the true strengths of the Baltimore Greenway Trails process. It’s a marriage of many existing plans — ones that did countless hours of outreach — and provides a clear path toward construction. Neighbors have become critical partners in refining the plan and helping to create awareness, but it was clear from the beginning that to spend neighbors’ time or grant resources on demonstrating need is wasteful and tokenizing.

Despite sections of the trail being years off from construction, having a clear vision has also allowed us to influence planning decisions that are taking place today. Because of our work along the 33rd Street corridor, we were able to negotiate with Johns Hopkins University to ensure that private dollars being used to reconstruct a block of 33rd street between Charles and St. Paul incorporated many elements of future design plans. The improved block design not only provides state of the art accommodations for people who walk and bike, but improves safety for all users by reconfiguring turn lanes and straightening out travel lanes.

Better Engagement

One of our goals through this coalition building phase was to create improved ways to engage stakeholders in the project. We did that through maintaining an active presence at the Druid Hill Farmers Market:


Supporting artist Graham Coreil-Allen to create a demonstration project:


And creating open houses for folks to have early input into the design process:

This was in addition to ten coalition meetings that drew attendees from across city agencies, anchor institutions, the private sector, and neighborhood groups.

Next Steps

As we move from the coalition building phase into the implementation phase, Bikemore’s role in the Baltimore Greenway Trails Network will evolve. We will be supporting Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s efforts to engage neighborhoods in planning sessions, as well as advocating for continued resources and political support to make this vision become reality.

Rails-to-Trails was able to leverage Plan4Health dollars into an award from France Merrick that will support the creation of 30% designs for all the on street gaps that currently exist in the plan. From there, the City has agreed to use these designs to submit for capital grants, such as Maryland State Bikeways dollars to go toward construction.

Neighborhood engagement is ongoing. If you’re interested in having input into facilities planned for 33rd Street and the Gwynn Falls Parkway, you can participate in the following scheduled events: