Why is family biking important for Baltimore?


On Saturday we welcomed 75+ kids, adults, and cargo-bike enthusiasts at our Family Biking Open House in partnership with Baltimore Family Bike Party! Peabody Heights Brewery was overflowing with local bike shops and advocacy organizations, and with a wide range of bikes — from bikes with kids seats on the front and back to custom cargo bikes to trailers. Attendees roamed and mingled among the bikes, asking questions and comparing notes on what has and hasn’t worked for biking with their own families.

Some of the questions we heard included: What helmet is right for this age? I used to bike all the time before I got pregnant, how do I get back into it now that I have a little one? My kiddo moved around too much in this seat for me to feel comfortable; are there other options? At what age can they ride on their own bike in the street? Where are good places to ride with kids in Baltimore?

And the most common answer to most of these questions? There are best practices and recommendations (many of which are in Family Bike Party's resource guide), but there’s a wide range of options and what works for your family is dependent on your own needs, level of comfort, and your own kids. The mentality we heard was very much "if this doesn’t work, try that." But it was clear that creating a friendly space for families to discuss pinch points with each other was a step in the right direction to getting more families riding.


A city that is bike friendly, means one that's great to ride in no matter your age. And in order to make Baltimore this bikeable city, we need families to keep on riding. We need you riding in a park or on trails on the weekend, we need you riding to school or to the grocery store, we just need you out there, in whatever way your family enjoys.

Because families who bike stay connected to the city in a way that changes how they view transportation and how they view the design of our streets and sidewalks and trails. And families are a constituency that has significant political power, creating the demand for policy that creates more bikeable and walkable neighborhoods.

If you're a parent or caregiver that wants to feel safer riding with your own kids, or if you envision a future Baltimore where kids and adults alike can ride comfortably throughout the city, consider a donation to Bikemore

Check out the full Facebook album for more photos.

Want Baltimore to be a safer place for kids to bike?

→ Interested in getting more involved in family biking in Baltimore? Sign up to be part of the Family Committee!  

Many thanks to all the families that shared their experience and knowledge, Baltimore Family Bike Party, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, Baltimore City Department of Transportation, Race Pace Bicycles, Baltimore Bicycle Works, Peabody Heights Brewery, and Side A Photography!


Our Thoughts on the Separated Bike Lane Network Plan

The 2015 Bike Master Plan comprehensively maps out bike routes in every neighborhood in Baltimore. It's a robust guiding document for bicycling in Baltimore, but it lacks specificity in two areas: facility selection and prioritization of implementation.

Recognizing these faults, Baltimore City Department of Transportation has drafted an addendum to the 2015 Bike Master Plan, the Baltimore City Separated Bike Lane Network.

Like our neighbors in the DC region, the addendum begins by mapping the level of "traffic stress" on each of Baltimore's streets, and then identifies a network of protected lanes and supporting bicycle facilities, like bike boulevards, to connect to existing facilities and existing "low-stress" streets. 

A "low-stress" street is far more likely to be used by people identified as "interested but concerned" bicycle riders. For example, only about 38% of "interested but concerned" bicycle riders would use a standard bike lane, but that number grows to 80% if protected bike lanes are present or if the street is slow, calm, and has a neighborhood feel.

Draft facility selection flow chart

Draft facility selection flow chart

The goal of this addendum is to make the majority of Baltimore City neighborhoods accessible by a barebones network of protected infrastructure, supporting facilities, and existing low-stress streets in just five years.

The plan is ambitious, and it is a giant leap forward in planning and prioritizing bicycle infrastructure in Baltimore. 

Things we really like about the plan

  • It creates a sensible and appropriate selection process for the type of bike infrastructure applied to streets.
  • It focuses on building infrastructure that will make a wide range of people comfortable riding bicycles.
  • It focuses on building out from, and connecting gaps in, our existing infrastructure.
  • It prioritizes building infrastructure in historically marginalized communities with low car ownership to connect those communities to existing infrastructure in areas of opportunity.

Things we don't like about the plan

  • It purports to be data-driven, but North Avenue and other major, high-stress roads were left off the map for protected infrastructure, despite qualifying by the plan's own metrics. This suggests "hard limitations" were placed on the planning process by BCDOT because they don't want to make North Avenue Rising better.
  • Already planned and funded infrastructure is counted in the "Within 2 years" implementation map, despite an overall Bike Master Plan goal of 17 miles of infrastructure per year. 

Here's what we want you to do:

  1. #FilltheRoom! Show up for the public meeting on Tuesday, February 21st at 6:30pm at the War Memorial Building.
  2. Leave feedback online by filling out this survey by March 15th. 
  3. Show up to the Planning Commission hearing (TBD) to support the addendum with incorporated community feedback.
Parallel facilities can't replace direct, protected routes.

Parallel facilities can't replace direct, protected routes.

We ask that in your feedback, you demand that high-stress roads like North Avenue, Belair Road, Liberty Heights Avenue, and Edmondson Avenue be prioritized for infrastructure as the plan's data shows, instead of making the easier and cheaper political choice of building "parallel facilities."

Our Next Campaign: Complete Streets

Separated bike lanes on Guadalupe Street in Austin, TX. Photo courtesy of the Plantizen, City of Austin.

Separated bike lanes on Guadalupe Street in Austin, TX. Photo courtesy of the Plantizen, City of Austin.

In Bikemore’s short history we’ve managed to deliver tangible wins for people who bike. But the bike has always been a tool to tell a bigger story, to do bigger work. We value principles, standards, and policies that make cities healthy, safe, vibrant places to live. The time has come for us to be bolder in our advocacy and think beyond a single bike lane or a crosswalk. We must seek comprehensive policy reform for how we design our streets.

Today we launch our campaign for an improved Complete Streets Policy for Baltimore. Partnering with lead sponsor Councilman Ryan Dorsey, we are building a coalition of diverse stakeholders who believe all neighborhoods deserve streets that prioritize the safety of people over the movement of cars. Complete Streets save lives by preventing chronic diseases, reducing injury and death from traffic crashes, and improving environmental health — while stimulating economic development and ensuring access for all people.

This legislation builds on an existing resolution established in 2010. The previous bill lacked specificity and contained significant loopholes that resulted in little forward progress since its enactment. Millions of dollars were spent on road improvement projects that did little to improve the safety of people who walk and bike. Our new policy does two key things: It creates a framework to distribute resources for Complete Streets through a lens of racial equity, and creates a policy that requires that design solutions consider all modes of travel — not just driving in a car. This means more bike lanes, better sidewalks, safer intersections, cleaner bus stops and more street trees.

How can you help?

Sign on to support our Complete Streets legislation and read our policy brief. This is the best way to get advocacy alerts related to Complete Streets. Be on the lookout in the coming weeks for requests for testimony and prompts to encourage your representatives to support this ordinance.

And lastly, consider a donation to Bikemore. Your financial support will determine the scale of our campaign. Complete Streets are better for everyone, regardless of if you choose to walk, bike, take the bus or drive a car. Let’s make sure we have the resources to build widespread support for this common sense legislation.

Priorities: Spending Millions on Central Avenue for More of the Same

This is the second in a series of posts highlighting presentand flawedplanning priorities in Baltimore City.

Portions of Lancaster Street, Central Avenue, and Aliceanna Street are being closed as construction begins on the Harbor Point Connector Bridge. This bridge seeks to accommodate the anticipated increased traffic from the many mixed-use construction projects underway in Harbor Point, including the new Exelon headquarters.

The reconstruction of Central Avenue has been underway since 2012. Phase I, which spanned from Madison Street to Baltimore Street, was completed in 2015. Phase II began several weeks ago and will cost $47.5 million, $10 million of which is from the Harbor Point TIF.

Phase II also represents the City's first design/build project. Design/build projects award both design and construction to the same contractor in an effort to expedite project timeline. In this case, the request for proposals was issued in March of 2016 and awarded in July of 2016. Construction is beginning just six months later, and folks could be driving across the new bridge by the end of this year.

Baltimore City needed to move quickly to address the transportation challenges created by moving thousands of jobs to a peninsula with limited access points. As a result, this project has numerous missed opportunities, and has highlighted dysfunction within the Baltimore City Department of Transportation.

Ignoring Complete Streets: Planning for Cars, Not People

The Phase II project area of Central Avenue currently has two lanes of traffic in each direction, a center turn lane, and substandard, unsafe bike lanes. After a $47.5 million rebuild, it will have the exact same configuration.

Too wide, too dangerous: Central Avenue retains prior configuration after $47.5 million rebuild.

Too wide, too dangerous: Central Avenue retains prior configuration after $47.5 million rebuild.

The new Central Avenue bridge will feature a mixed use path, and narrow standard bike lanes, but no protected bike infrastructure alongside 4 lanes of car traffic.

We know that developments without real infrastructure to encourage people to shift from driving will result in more of the same: more cars, more congestion. It's unclear why large scale developments in the most traffic-choked parts of Baltimore are allowed to move forward without robust investments in multi-modal transportation solutions. 

Bikemore requested a more adequate Complete Streets treatment during Phase I construction in 2012. Instead, automobile throughput was prioritized, and "sharrows" were installed against Department of Transportation's own policy. Now, the failure to design adequately in Phase I is used as an excuse to make the same mistakes in Phase II in the interest of "promoting continuity."

The Central Avenue project website describes Phase I "Sharrows" as Dedicated Bike Lanes.

The Central Avenue project website describes Phase I "Sharrows" as Dedicated Bike Lanes.

Cities across the country recognize that adding and retaining travel lanes for private automobiles induces demand and leads to more congestion. Baltimore must join them in moving away from road expansion, and instead invest in meaningful improvements that actually remove cars from the road.

Our 2010 Complete Streets Resolution, and subsequent Department of Transportation policy, says as much. Why, over six years later, do these two policies continue to be sidestepped? Why has no system of accountability been put in place and enforced? 

Why are we spending $47.5 million to force people to unsafely walk and bike alongside traffic that will attain speeds in excess of 40mph in one of the densest areas of our city?

A simple fix could provide protected bike lanes and 10 feet of additional pedestrian refuge.

A simple fix could provide protected bike lanes and 10 feet of additional pedestrian refuge.

Not every street needs a state-of-the-art bicycle facility. But every street that receives federal and state funding should be evaluated to safely include all road users. It's the law. There was a way to make Central Avenue do more for the city, but for now, we're getting a highway offramp to Harbor Point.

Project Inequity

Bikemore spent four years fighting to get the Maryland Avenue protected bike lane installed, a project roughly 2% the cost of Central Avenue Phase II. Throughout that fight we were told that long project timelines are par for the course. In meetings with Department of Transportation, Interim Director Frank Murphy is adamant that the capital process cannot be shortened. But here we are, in wealthy Harbor Point, where design and build of a major bridge may happen in 12 months.

People of color and older adults are overrepresented in pedestrian deaths. Pedestrian deaths are also correlated with median household incomes and rates of uninsured individuals. - Dangerous by Design, 2017

Inadequate design has deadly consequences, and disproportionately impacts those that can least afford to be injured. Yet in large capital investments, Baltimore continues to prioritize accommodating cars from outside of the city. Decision-makers continue to double-down on the myth that in order to grow, attract, or retain business we must make it convenient and fast to get into Baltimore by car.

Traffic congestion does harm business, but only when it's allowed to reach a certain degree. When you design public spaces that allocate too much space for private vehicles, everyone loses. When you don't push forward on projects that seek to improve the lives of residents that need it the most, you hold back the entire city. We must reject anecdotes from CEOs stuck in moderate traffic, and rely on the volumes of environmental, public health, and transportation data that tells us there is a better way.

Countless improvement projects are awaiting design, approval, or signatures to inch closer toward construction. The pace at which these improvements are being implemented, compared to projects like Central Avenue, is maddening, harmful, and inequitable.

The future of Baltimore is dependent on a Department of Transportation that is willing to put forth bold, innovative ideas that begin to address the most pressing transportation challenges of our residents.


→  Be sure you're subscribed to our email list for an upcoming update on how you can support Complete Streets in Baltimore! 


Priorities: Southeast Transportation Vision Wrongly Puts County Residents First

This is the first in a series of posts highlighting presentand flawedplanning priorities in Baltimore City.

According to the Harvard-based Equality of Opportunity Project, every year a child spends growing up in Baltimore City lowers their household income by .86%. This means that by adulthood, a child who grows up in Baltimore City faces a likely earnings deficit of 17% compared to the national average.

We know from the same study that access to transportationspecifically commute timesare the #1 factor in upward mobility. 

Armed with this information, cities across the country have been investing in bicycling, walking, and public transportation options that provide safe, reliable, and efficient access to jobs and opportunity for city residents.

Despite incremental improvements like launching bike share and the construction of the Downtown Bike Network, Baltimore has yet to make the level of investment necessary that could truly transform how people travel inside the city. 33% of Baltimore City residents lack access to a car. That number climbs to almost 80% in East, West, and North Central Baltimore. Despite these figures, Baltimore has historically invested in promoting automobile throughput for county commuters at the expense of city residents, disproportionately, and at times deliberately, damaging communities of color.

As a result, it's often easier for a resident of Baltimore County to drive to work in Baltimore City than it is for a city resident to get to that same job by walking, biking, or taking public transit. This reinforces Baltimore's segregationist, racist history.

Unlike many other seemingly intractable problems Baltimore faces, this one has an easy fix: it simply requires the political will to stop spending money on wasteful road projects that benefit county commuters over city residents. 

Let's take the Southeast Strategic Transportation Vision as an example. This study began in coordination with the Red Line to address transportation challenges in Southeast Baltimore. When Governor Hogan canceled the Red Line, Baltimore City Department of Transportation was tasked with updating the study to offset the loss of a rail transit line.

The result can be seen in the screen captures of the plan above. Between June 2015 (left) and present (right), a $150 million viaduct around the railroad tracks on Boston Street and a $50 million widening of less than one mile of Boston Street were added to the plan.

Let's map that out.

Here's what $50 million spent on less than a mile of road widening looks like:

Here's what $50 million spent on protected bike infrastructure for Baltimore City residents could look like:

Here's what $150 million spent on a viaduct around the Boston Street railroad tracks looks like:


And here's what that same $150 million spent on providing high quality, dedicated bus lanes for the proposed CityLink frequent bus network could look like:

This isn't a joke. A $200 million investment could build paint dedicated lanes for our entire frequent bus network, build our entire bike network envisioned in the bike master plan, and provide bike share for every neighborhood in Baltimore City. Or, it could build one mile of new, expanded roadway.

The latter is slated to become official transportation policy with the passage of the Southeast Strategic Transportation Vision.

We can change these priorities. We're making progress.

Bikemore's #ibikeivote campaign brought transportation to the forefront of political campaigns for city council and mayor, and prompted discussion about equity in transportation funding. We are partnering with Councilman Ryan Dorsey on passing stronger, equity focused complete streets legislation that will make proposals and decisions to fund roadway expansion at the expense of other transportation options much more difficult. And Mayor Catherine Pugh and her team are seeking a new Director of Transportation with a background in complete streets and livable cities.

But citywide, from our elected officials to our planners to our residents, we must finally recognize that people who drive into Baltimore from the counties are not the saviors of our city, but providing safe, convenient ways to walk, bike, and take reliable public transportation can be.


→  Be sure you're subscribed to our email list for an upcoming update on how you can support Complete Streets in Baltimore!