Due to snow, city cancels public meeting to discuss future of Roland Avenue bike lanes

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UPDATE (March 20, 2 p.m.): The Baltimore City Department of Transportation says it has cancelled the 6 p.m. meeting at Roland Park Elementary/Middle School due to inclement weather.

Original (March 8): Nine months after a neighborhood association representing Roland Park residents asked the city to tear out two mile-long bike lanes in their neighborhood, the Department of Transportation has scheduled a public meeting about the matter.

The talk is set for Tuesday, March 20, at 6 p.m. at Roland Park Elementary/Middle School. A notice from the agency says “all are invited to attend.” Baltimore Fishbowl has reached out to the department for comment about the scope of the meeting.

Two winters ago, the city installed four-foot-wide bike lanes along the curbs of each side of Roland Avenue, stretching from Cold Spring Lane to Northern Parkway. Both lanes were designed with parking spaces for cars separating the bike lane from moving traffic. The project was billed as a “traffic calming project” for the area, and was part of a $6.7 million effort that also included rebuilding sidewalks, reconstructing curbs, installing new traffic signals and more.

But some residents didn’t exactly warm up to the change in the layout of their main thoroughfare, which puts moving bikes next to parked cars, and exiting drivers closer to traffic. A report assembled by a Civic League committee tallied five totaled parked cars, numerous cases of damage to vehicles and anecdotal evidence of cyclists arguing with drivers or opting to ride in the street anyway due to concerns about colliding with car doors or exiting passengers.

In June 2017, the Roland Park Civic League wrote in a letter to former Acting Transportation Director Frank Murphy (since replaced by Michelle Pourciau), Mayor Catherine Pugh and others that neighbors wanted the city to “restore curb side parking immediately and completely on Roland Avenue.”

The Civic League initially proposed that the city restructure the stretch of Roland Avenue with new bike lanes placed alongside traffic, so they could get their curbside parking back. But as association president Hap Cooper explained, the group voted to change its recommendation to ask the city to instead rip out the lanes entirely.

Cooper has not responded to an email requesting comment on the upcoming meeting.

Jed Weeks, policy director for nonprofit cycling advocacy group Bikemore, wrote in an email that his group has met with DOT and Civic League leadership multiple times since the association called for the lanes’ removal last June.

“Bikemore’s position since the planning of the Roland Avenue cycle track began has been that the street should have a road diet featuring one travel lane, a wider parking lane, and a protected bike lane in each direction,” he said, noting that was one of the recommendations in an engineering firm’s report commissioned by the Civic League.

DOT “is considering testing this configuration” long-term, and is also mulling whether to tweak the lanes as a short-term solution, Weeks said. Both types of changes are expected to be presented at the public meeting.

“We are supportive of any efforts that reduce travel speeds along Roland Avenue while maintaining a protected, low-stress bike lane, and we hope DOT can implement this configuration soon.”

Ethan McLeod
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  1. Having looked at the Roland Park Master Plan today, I can tell you that the bike lane was proposed to be exactly where it used to be-on the driver side of the parking lane. As a Roland Park resident and frequent cyclist, I enjoyed using Roland Avenue for bike transportation and parking for visits to Eddie’s block until the CycleTrak went in—I have not used either since.
    The bike lane is not 4’ wide. It is 2.5’ in most areas and then there is a parking buffer that is often parked over—and understandably so—the CycleTrak has eaten up the width of the traffic lanes to the point where parked cars regularly have the mirrors torn off. The whole situation is dangerous for bikers, pedestrians, people exiting their cars and the cars themselves.
    Roland Park residents want safety for all—and right now every Roland Park resident and visitor is at risk every time anyone rides the CycleTrak, exits their cars, crosses the street when a car is parked in the oncoming traffic’s line of vision or parks their car.
    I sincerely hope that the Department of Transportation representatives sent to the meeting on March 20th come in the spirit of working with the community for the safety of all.

  2. Please accept my apology and a correction to the first sentence of my response. There were other bike lane configurations proposed that I did not see. I stand behind everything else I said.
    When the current design was announced, I wrote to the then president of the Civic League—as a biker and resident—and urged against the design. My emphasis then was that biking commuters would be enclosed in too narrow a space with reduced visibility and the hazard of disembarking passengers, and unforgiving and unswept curbs. It wasn’t until it was installed that the damage to people’s cars was revealed—and continues to be revealed on an ongoing basis.

  3. The cycle tack is great for runners when there are people walking their dogs on the sidewalk or when it’s dark and you want to avoid spooking people.

    That cyclists (or runners like myself) would be safer in a lane with moving cars instead of a lane protected BY cars is just not a credible argument.

    When the only negative consequences of the cycle track you can cite are “parked cars regularly have the mirrors torn off. ” and “the damage to people’s cars was revealed”, we know what your priorities are (hint: it’s not other people).

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