In its present sprawling state, Druid Park Lake Drive “acts as a divider”—”a moat,” even—for pedestrians and residents living near Druid Hill Park, Councilman Leon Pinkett says. “The speed and the width of that corridor doesn’t allow communities of West Baltimore…to really access the park in the way that it should.”
But with Baltimore’s Department of Transportation already set to close off lanes along the thoroughfare to make way for construction equipment for the ongoing Druid Lake Reservoir project, the city is trying a temporary experiment that Pinkett suggests is a “win-win.”
Working with cycling advocates, the city plans to install barrier-protected bike and walking paths along Druid Park Lake Drive and the 28th Street Bridge, extending eastward to Sisson Street. The paths, to be installed in May, would effectively link Remington in North Baltimore to a handful of West Baltimore neighborhoods surrounding Druid Hill Park’s southeastern edge.
Along the bridge, a two-way bike lane will fill in the far-right lane, presently used by traffic and abutting the existing sidewalk; on Druid Park Lake Drive, a two-way bike lane and a brand new pedestrian path will take over the far-right eastbound lane.
“We’re basically taking a lane that was gonna be closed and filled with construction debris, and filling it with a lane that people can walk and bike in,” said Bikemore policy director Jed Weeks, whose organization helped plan the project.
The design is only temporary, though Pinkett says his “hope is that it would be a permanent installation, whether it be this design or another iteration of it.”
Working with Pinkett and DOT, Bikemore heard feedback from residents of Auchentoroly Terrace, Reservoir Hill, Penn North and other neighborhoods near the park.
The group learned traversing the road poses risks for patrons of the Druid Hill Farmer’s Market who live nearby, Weeks said: “Some of the older residents literally could not cross the street in the length of time the signal would give them,” and would instead hop in their cars to drive over.
Planning has been funded by a Big Jump grant the city received early last year from People for Bikes, a national nonprofit. The grants—$750,000 each, plus technical support over three years—were awarded to 10 cities with existing bike infrastructure to help them try to double or triple local ridership.
The city will use its own funds for the actual roadwork. Weeks said DOT had already budgeted for traffic maintenance stemming from the reservoir overhaul project. (DOT has not yet responded to an email with questions.)
Baltimore applied for the grant during the Rawlings-Blake administration. Pinkett’s advocacy for the project in his district was “critical in getting the full city buy-in” for the Big Jump plan after Mayor Catherine Pugh’s administration took over, Weeks said.
“I don’t think it was a difficult sell,” Pinkett notes. “I think the critical piece of my role was more so raising awareness about Druid Park Lake Drive, and how it, in its current state, acts a divider of one of our great assets–Druid Hill Park–and the communities that border.”
The city is eyeing a broader infrastructural overhaul for pedestrian access in West Baltimore. DOT “is also engaging in a large-scale corridor study of Auchentoroly Terrace and Druid Park Lake Drive,” Bikemore’s website says, with a goal “to incorporate the successes of this Big Jump Project idea into permanent road reconfiguration or removal to better reconnect Druid Hill Park to the neighborhoods surrounding it.”
In the future, Weeks says, the Remington-Reservoir Hill link will also connect with a planned bike lane along Eutaw Place, under the city’s adopted Separated Bike Network Plan. The Eutaw Place lane would feed into Mount Vernon and the developing Downtown Bike Network, serving as a “spoke” of sorts for the city’s broader web, Weeks said.
Pinkett says restricted pedestrian access–in part due to the many lanes of Druid Park Lake Drive–“severely divid[es]” communities further west of the park, limiting economic development potential. “We’ve really gotta figure out what we’re gonna do with Druid Park Lake Drive. In some instances it almost gets to six, eight lanes.”
Choosing not to invest in infrastructure catering to pedestrian travel, he says, “leaves communities without the resources they need to be revitalized.”