How Will a “Bike Beltway” Change Towson Traffic?

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Imagine a world in which students could bike from Towson University to the Towson Town Center to Goucher College without dodging traffic or contending with angry cars. If the proposed “bike beltway” around the Towson area moves forward, that world might become a reality.

In recent years, Baltimore has worked to boost its bike-friendly reputation with bike lanes, bike racks, bike festivals, and other pro-bike amenities. (Of course, there are those who say that the city hasn’t nearly gone far enough.) Towson, though, has remained the city’s car-centric outpost, despite the proximity of colleges and walkable shopping areas. “[Towson] has a lot of the characteristics of a small city, and [the bike beltway] is something that could really improve the quality of life here,” said Councilman David Marks.

But in an area already plagued by traffic jams, would it be possible to promote cycling without making things worse for everyone? According to Stuart Sirota, co-chair of the 5th District Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee, in most places, it’s actually possible to keep the same number of traffic lanes while also adding in a 5-foot wide dedicated bike lane. It’s mostly just a matter of scraping up and re-painting the lines on the road to make the current lanes slightly narrower. In the 25 percent of the route that can’t accommodate narrowed lanes, the committee proposed plentiful “share the road” signs to remind drivers that they’re not the only ones on the macadam.

If all goes according to plan, the project will be funded by a $100,000 grant from the state’s Department of Transportation’s Maryland Bikeways program, plus $20,000 in matching funds from the county. The grant application was submitted this week, and results come back later this summer; until then, Towson bikers will have to make do on their wits and strong legs alone.

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