Locals traveling on the Big Jump. Credit: Side A Photography.

With the multi-modal Big Jump already installed on Druid Park Lake Drive, giving cyclists and pedestrians a protected lane along a busy thoroughfare, the Baltimore Department of Transportation is putting out a request for proposals to bring more elements of Complete Streets design to the roads surrounding Druid Hill Park.

The RFP calls for an engineering firm to conduct traffic studies and draw up a design “with elements of a boulevard” that considers new traffic patterns and accommodating transportation other than cars.

German Vigil, a spokesman for the department, said part of the study will determine if the Big Jump should be made permanent.

“Utilizing Complete Streets design elements, we are working to implement smart investments in biking, pedestrian, transit and multi-modal infrastructure that transform the quality of life in city neighborhoods like this one,” Vigil told Baltimore Fishbowl in an email.

By adding these elements, the department hopes to provide a safer way for pedestrians and cyclists to enter and use the park. As the RFP notes, “The wide travel lanes and fast traffic along Druid Lake Park Drive have created a hostile environment for anyone traveling outside an automobile.”

Engineering firms are instructed to meet with residents from the neighborhoods on the borders of the 745-acre park to identify safety concerns and learn about the amenities they use.

In a statement, City Councilman Leon Pinkett, whose 7th District includes the park and surrounding neighborhoods, said local stakeholders are ready to “reimagine this critical corridor for the benefit of the broader community.”

Pinkett helped to bring the Big Jump, the barrier-protected lane that stretches along Druid Park Lake Drive and the 28th Street exit ramp off I-83, to the southern edge of the park last April.

He told Baltimore Fishbowl at the time: “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.”

That same month, the council took up legislation sponsored by Councilman Ryan Dorsey to prioritize pedestrian, cycling and public transit over cars in street design. The bill was eventually signed into law last December.

Public artist Graham Coreil-Allen, an Auchentoroly Terrace resident who won an Open Society Institute fellowship to help bring Complete Streets to the roads around Druid Hill Park, wrote in an email to Baltimore Fishbowl that the expressways were installed from the 1940s to 1960s, despite protests from neighborhood associations and the local NAACP, as part of car-oriented urban planning.

Those wide roads denied residents all of the benefits of the park. With the number of lanes equaling those of a highway in places, there’s a lack of safe intersections and crosswalks to get to the park, and approximately 50 percent of residents in the area do not drive, said Coreil-Allen, who also serves as acting vice president of the New Auchentoroly Terrace Association.

Coreil-Allen said he will use his fellowship to work with neighbors to help create an inclusive, comprehensive plan for multi-modal boulevards that are safe for everyone to enjoy the park’s playgrounds, picnic areas and trails. And there may be other ripple effects.

“Making the park more accessible to residents will improve public health by encouraging more walking and use of the park’s recreation and exercise amenities,” he wrote. “Transforming the highways around Druid Hill Park into streets that meet the needs of all residents will also attract equitable and sustainable economic investment in West Baltimore.”

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Brandon Weigel

Brandon Weigel is the managing editor of Baltimore Fishbowl. A graduate of the University of Maryland, he has been published in The Washington Post, The Sun, Baltimore Magazine, Urbanite, The Baltimore...