The nearly finished Potomac Street bike lane in Canton shall remain for the time being, a judge decided early Friday evening.
Cycling advocacy group Bikemore that night won the latest round in a standoff over what to do about the cycle track, supporting a legal move filed on behalf of residents Marisa Saville and Steve Iannelli to get a Baltimore City Circuit Court judge to grant a restraining order halting the city’s plans. The city was planning to begin the process of repainting the road and tearing out guide posts this morning.
Liz Cornish, Bikemore’s executive director, said in a statement that the group had offered other recommendations to the mayor’s office about the cycle track before heading to court. “Bikemore had hoped this would have been resolved another way,” she said.
The temporary restraining order, signed by Judge Althea M. Handy, lasts through June 19, according to a copy provided to Baltimore Fishbowl.
Days before, Mayor Catherine Pugh’s aide and chief of strategic alliances James T. Smith, Jr. sent out letters to Potomac Street residents informing them the city wanted to restart the process of installing the bike lane, which runs south from Eastern Avenue to Boston Street.
The lane is about three-fourths done at present. It’s part of an emerging network of street cycle tracks being installed in a state- and federally funded effort to make Baltimore more traversable by bike. Canton residents in this case complained about the shortened clearance of their street after the lane had been installed, citing international fire code standards that call for 20 feet of room for emergency vehicles.
The city responded at first by modifying the plans, opting to move a section of the lane from Eastern to Fait Avenues next to traffic, and narrow another curbside section of the lane running from Fait Avenue to Boston Street. The mayor’s office also said it would review all existing bike lanes and parking areas to see if they’re up to code.
After Bikemore launched a campaign objecting to the revised plans – in part because the first section would put cyclists next to moving traffic, and because the second section was narrower than national bike lane standards recommend – the city announced it would instead hit the reset button.
“After further discussion, we have determined that the appropriate approach to ensuring that Potomac Street has both safe access for emergency vehicles and safe bicycle transportation is to restart the infrastructure design process on Potomac Street,” Smith wrote in his June 7 letter. “This will ensure that residents, advocates, and emergency management professionals have an opportunity for input on the Potomac Street bike lane design.”
Lawyer Mark Edelson, part of a team representing Saville and Iannelli, said in a statement Friday night that “elected leaders and civil servants have worked tirelessly to attract federal and state funding for this project.”
“Unfortunately, the city’s shortsighted decision put this funding and efforts at risk.”
He also referenced the Red Line project cancelled by Gov. Larry Hogan in summer 2015, saying, “Our city was already once forced to walk away from federal funding for transit and improved mobility. We will not allow that to happen again.”
Cornish told Baltimore Fishbowl last week that other plans for the city’s burgeoning bike network are now also on hold. The mayor’s office hasn’t responded to repeated requests for comment.
Potomac Street’s cycle track isn’t the only one causing disputes. In Roland Park, a group representing neighborhood residents has asked the mayor’s office to tear out its year-old curbside bike lane, citing costly damage to cars, threats to public safety for cyclists, drivers, passengers and pedestrians, and a perceived lack of use of the lane by cyclists, among other reasons.
A letter signed by Roland Park Civic League president Hap Cooper last week asked Acting Director of Transportation Frank Murphy to “restore curb side parking immediately and completely on Roland Avenue.”
Residents notably moved to re-word the recommendation in the letter to omit any language about keeping the bike lane. However, Cooper said in an interview that the civic league also feels the city could add a “wider, safer bike lane” as it’s adding the old parking scheme back in.