City officials encouraged Baltimoreans to ride bicycles to their jobs, school and other destinations to mark the city’s 25th annual Bike to Work Day on Friday.
Mayor Brandon Scott said during a press conference Friday morning that the city is working to make it easier for residents to get around Baltimore without a car.
“As we celebrate Bike to Work Day, I encourage residents to consider biking as a viable option for commuting to work and wherever else that you need to go,” Scott said. “Not to mention, and even more importantly, [biking is] a good way to participate in a healthy lifestyle and build community with folks in your neighborhood, in your family and across the city.”
Quinton Herbert, director of human resources for the city, extolled the benefits of biking, including reduced annual medical costs, less time missed from work due to illness or injury, and increased work productivity.
Biking to work also helps reduce vehicle emissions and improve air quality, city officials said.
Ava Richardson, acting director for the Office of Sustainability, said that during the pandemic bike purchases have surged nationally and more people are biking across Baltimore.
And it’s not just bikes that are on the rise. Scooters have also become a popular mode of transportation, according to Jon Laria, chair of the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Commission.
Baltimore has an average of 3,000 scooters on its streets each day, logs about 120,000 scooter trips per month, and has recorded more than 2 million scooter tips since the program’s inception, Laria said.
“These are for enjoyment and for exercise,” he said. “But in a city with longstanding transit challenges, they are an essential part of our transportation network and therefore essential for job creation and economic development.”
Laria added that Baltimore doesn’t need to persuade its residents to use bicycles, scooters and other forms of transportation; it just needs to build the infrastructure to make it safer and more accessible to do so.
“We do not have to get people to ride bicycles,” he said. “People are going to do that on their own. But we, all of us, need to provide good bicycle facilities on street and on the trails so people can do that safely.”
Richardson said marginalized communities continue to face barriers to biking.
“As many of us opt for two wheels instead of four or more to get to work, to get to school or to run errands, it is essential that we can do so safely,” she said. :Data reflects bicycling infrastructure is not always evenly distributed, leaving Black and Latino communities more vulnerable to traffic incidents and fatalities.”
Nia Reed-Jones and Shaka Pitts co-founded the Baltimore-based organization Black People Ride Bikes in 2019 to provide a welcoming atmosphere for Black cyclists.
“There was a void within the bike community and within Black neighborhoods that we were missing from that conversation,” Reed-Jones said. “We started the organization to make sure our voices were heard.”
At the beginning of the pandemic, Lanise Stevenson started organizing weekly Tuesday night bicycle rides from Druid Hill Lake to Lake Montebello.
Stevenson partnered with Black People Ride Bikes and other groups “to be able to provide an opportunity for people who look like us to be able to come together in an environment that made them feel welcomed, valued, supported.”
What started as a community ride of about 50 cyclists has grown into a group of more than 200 riders, including people from the surrounding counties and even from Pennsylvania and D.C., Stevenson said.
Scott said one of his top transportation priorities has been the completion of the Baltimore Greenway network, a 35-mile loop that will connect 75 Baltimore neighborhoods. Of the network’s planned 35 miles, more than 25 miles already exist and the city is working to fill the remaining gaps.
The city’s Department of Transportation is also launching a new website with resources and information about biking, scootering, taking public transit, and carpooling.
Holly Arnold, administrator for the Maryland Transit Administration, said biking and public transit can work together to create a better connected city and region.
“First and most obviously, Bike to Work Day exists to encourage people to get out of their cars and onto their bicycles,” Arnold said. “But it also presents a great opportunity to show how we can combine bicycling and transit to allow more people to get to more destinations without depending on a car.”
Last June, MTA announced that full-size bicycles can be taken on all MARC trains on all three lines at no additional cost to riders.
MTA also expanded its policy to allow personally-owned e-bikes and e-scooters that weigh fewer than 50 pounds on all modes of MTA transportation.
MTA has partnered with Baltimore City to install corrals for dockless scooters and bicycles at MTA locations, including 11 corrals as part of the North Avenue Rising project and a dozen more that will be added at other rail stations.
“These help to reduce the likelihood that scooters end up in the path of pedestrians, and they make it really easy for transit riders to have one place to go to have access to a bike or scooter when they finish a trip that they started on transit,” Arnold said.
MTA also worked with the city to install an open cycle track on North Avenue between Maryland Avenue, the North Avenue Light Rail station and Mt. Royal, “connecting those key pieces of bicycle infrastructure,” Arnold said.
The city government on Friday raffled off 10 Trek Marlin bicycles and helmets to 10 city employees.
In addition to Bike to Work Day on Friday, Bike to Work Week 2022 ran from May 16 through May 22. Residents who registered to bike to work this week have been able to claim a free t-shirt from one of eight pit-stop locations across Baltimore City, while supplies last.
Scott hopes Baltimore can “grow in our thinking that getting to work or getting to where you need to go can only happen by car.”
“We know that we have to build a better infrastructure in the city, but we also have to dig deep … into the cultures of our communities, especially in our Black and brown communities,” he added. “Folks who ride bikes, folks who may be afraid, folks who just need to learn. We can do that by showing them they can do it and again reaching into the communities to help them out.”
Currently there are no provisions for bicycle storage on the Marc trains. Bicyclists stack them in the areas and seats designated for handicapped train riders
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