Joining cyclists and advocates for multi-use infrastructure, a state delegate asked Baltimore’s mayor and transportation director to postpone a planned alteration of a protected bike lane on E. Monument Street.
Del. Robbyn Lewis (D-46th District) this morning posted a letter online to Young, cc’ing Acting Transportation Director Frank Murphy and others, asking for a delay to “allow additional time to undertake a decision-making process that is more thorough, inclusive and transparent.”
Lewis noted—as has cycling advocacy nonprofit Bikemore—that Young’s administration has ordered sections of the protected lane along E. Monument Street to be removed after outcry from members of the Foundation Baptist Church and people who work nearby. Her letter details a conversation she had with Young on May 16.
As of this writing, as best I’m aware, deconstruction of contested segment of Monument Street protected bikeway will occur today. I pray there will be a change of heart. ??♥️ My letter below. #bikemonth #TransitEquity @NAACP_LDF @BmoreCityDOT @mayorbcyoung pic.twitter.com/l9kC6Qc3nI
— Del. Robbyn Lewis (@RobbynLewis46th) May 28, 2019
DOT’s stated plan, per a flyer shared earlier this month by Bikemore, is to remove sections of the curbside cycle track and direct cyclists traveling westbound to use the sidewalk, “which will be separated into walking space and biking space.” According to Lewis’ letter, in doing so the city will free up about 12 parking spaces in front of the church that were lost to construction of the bike lane when it was installed last year.
Work was set to begin today.
By Lewis’ account, the mayor told her churchgoers felt they were left out of the initial bike-lane planning process, and suggested cycling infrastructure-related matters are, in the delegate’s words, “not a concern of African-American people.”
She disagreed, noting later that she organized a rally this past weekend that drew a racially and ethnically mixed crowd of supporters for the protected lane.
Lester Davis, a spokesman for the mayor, did not refer to the church in an email, but rather said it was “senior residents of this community, that use the parking spaces that were taken away from the curbside by the installation of the bike lane.” Once it was in place, officials “began to receive numerous complaints from senior citizens and other members of this this community requesting that BCDOT return curbside parking.”
He added, “Finding a way to return parking for our senior population became our top priority. Our second priority was to maintain the bike lane without removing it.” So, removing a portion of the cycle track is an attempt “to compromise and accommodate both cyclists that use the bike facility and the residents who live in this community.”
DOT spokesman German Vigil said residents near that section of Monument Street were notified they should start seeing signs about the planned modifications. “That gives them 72 hours before work begins, depending on weather,” he said.
He otherwise deferred to the mayor’s office. Davis said the partial removal in the 900 block of the road was set to begin today.
Lewis and Bikemore have been out on E. Monument Street today talking with other supporters and keeping an eye out for work crews. It would appear the section of to-be-removed lane is still intact as of this afternoon.
A good Samaritan brought me ice water for #bikelanewatch2019. This is a $50k change to restore 12 parking spaces in a census track where 75% of residents lack access to a car. To make a bike lane less safe. Makes no sense. pic.twitter.com/vUExY76ZBr
— Liz Cornish (@lizbybike) May 28, 2019
Been at Monument Street protected bikeway since around 10:30am. Haven’t seen any deconstruction crews. But have seen lots of humans, mostly African Americans, getting around on two wheels including gentleman in a wheelchair. #BikeMonth #TransitEquity pic.twitter.com/YeQUCGsXpY
— Del. Robbyn Lewis (@RobbynLewis46th) May 28, 2019
Anthony took a break from learning to longboard this afternoon to tell us about why keeping the Monument Street protected bike lane and investing in #streetsforpeople is important to him. Take 2 minutes to hear his story: pic.twitter.com/t56HVrNR2g
— Bikemore (@bikemorebmore) May 28, 2019
Bikemore executive director Liz Cornish, quoted via Twitter above, has pegged the cost of removing the section of the lane at about $50,000.
The controversy is the latest in string of battles over cycling infrastructure. One public meeting involving a bike lane in Mount Vernon last summer turned violent. City lawmakers altered municipal fire code last year after facing resistance to Complete Streets infrastructure from the fire department.
Just this month, the city paid crews to repaint a much-fussed-over curbside cycle track along Roland Avenue in North Baltimore, which was installed as part of a multimillion-dollar road redesign and traffic-calming project several years ago.
In Canton two years ago, residents pushed the city to tear out a protected cycle track that removed parking spaces along Potomac Street. The city ultimately relented on the removal as part of a legal settlement with Bikemore.