Thursday, June 25, 2009

Give Us Pedestrians a "Brake" at Crosswalks!

I enjoy my walk to work. I really like not having to sit in traffic during rush-hour. Seriously, if you can walk to work, or anywhere basically, it is highly recommended. Sure it's not "heavy cardio", but it's exercise, and it's refreshing. Until, that is, I reach crosswalks.

The intersections with lights or stop signs aren't bad in Baltimore. For the most part, I don't cross against the light, and only when there is a lot (and I stress a lot) of room; I'm saying cannot see any cars a lot. The problem places are the crosswalks where there aren't any lights or stop signs at. These are the accidents waiting to happen.

I can't tell you how many times I have stepped up to a crosswalk and looked down the street to see cars zooming my way with no intention to stop. Maybe I think it's just common courtesy for drivers to look and stop, is that asking a lot?

Well guess what drivers, it's more than common courtesy, it's Maryland State Law! You're supposed to stop if a pedestrian is attempting to use the crosswalk. Unfortunately in this town, there aren't many places with the yellow warning displays that say "Stop for Peds" or "Yield for Peds", but there needs to be more of these.

Drivers be warned, pay attention to us walkers!

A New (Green) Carsharing Option

(image credit, The Baltimore Sun)

The country's first all-electric car sharing fleet debuted yesterday in our city! How about that? Altcar's Maya 300s can go 120 miles on a single charge and 10 are available starting today at the Maryland Science Center.

These first cars are designed for city driving only. The cars are only capable of going up to 35 MPH, which will be fine for most of the city streets in Baltimore, unless you feel like you want to speed down Northern Parkway or Orleans St.

According to their website, Altcar hopes to add more cars to its fleet including highway capable hybrids in the near future. In addition to more cars, other locations with more cars will be operational around the city too.

If you want to check one of these little green eco cars the Maryland Science Center will be giving free rides with admission through July. Check it out, let us know how it works!

A questions still remains. The Baltimore City Parking Authority put out a RFP for a carsharing organization in May with a due date of June 12th. It will be interesting to see, now that Altcar has come in, if this will still be valid. Will Zipcar now attempt to expand its market now that there is competition?

Baltimore Sun article by Kayla Cross

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Traffic Lights, Here, Every Color Means "GO"

(image credit, wikipedia)

If you haven't lived in Baltimore for a long time, you might not realize how most drivers take to the colors of the traffic lights and their meanings. In most places, Red means STOP, Yellow means SLOW DOWN, and Green means GO. Hold it right there feller! Baltimore isn't the real world, if you didn't know. Here, every color means "GO"!

Even after living here for as long as I have, I am still surprised at how brazen some drivers can be when it comes to traffic lights. Sure, you can sympathize with the going through the light on yellow. We all know how difficult (and sometimes unsafe) to come to a screeching halt while going the speed limit to stop when it turns red. Blowing throw the stone cold red light is another thing.

What would be a simple trek across the street with the friendly white Walk Man in most places becomes a dangerously realistic version of George Costanza pushing the Frogger arcade across the street. The unwritten rule for pedestrians here seems to be, wait for the green, wait a couple seconds, and pray a Hail Mary while you cross to the other side. Who knows when the next cell phone yielding driver is going to come screaming through the light.

What should the city do? In addition to the red light cameras, maybe some traffic officers should stand by some intersections and take down license plate numbers, maybe a PSA on the news, or better yet, just add signs at some intersections that say "RED MEANS STOP" or "THE TOP LIGHT MEANS STOP", in case you're color blind.

If you're a pedestrian, just keep your eyes open and your ears tuned when you prepare to cross the street, and hope you remembered to pay your insurance coverage.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Links from Our Friends on the Web - 6/11

Honfest is Upon Us: b the paper gives us a highlight of this weekend's Honfest, with some favorite moments from past years. Brush off your Bawlmerese, and head up to Hampden this Saturday and Sunday.

Bike Baltimore Newsletter: from Baltimore Spokes we get updates on new bike racks (and how to request them from the city) and recaps from some recent city biking events.

Get a Jump on the Weekend: the Weekend Hit List from metromix baltimore gives you heads up on what's going on intown this weekend.

Fixing the JFX: From Baltimore Brew, Gerald Neily tweeks the city's proposal on demolishing the lower end of the JFX.

Congressman Pushing Stimulus Cash for Transit Operations: Elana Schor with DC Streetsblog talks about one Congressman's proposal to allow stimulus cash to be used for transit agencies for their operations costs.

Your New Ride Is...

(image credit,

the Charm City Circulator.

The new name was revealed yesterday, along with one of the new buses, at City Hall. 18 of these buses, which are clean-energy hybrids, will be on the road later this summer. The free shuttle will operate on three routes around downtown. One will go between City Hall and Johns Hopkins Hospital, the second will go from UMB to Harbor East, and the third will go from Penn Station to Cross Street Market.

For all of you that remember DASH, this is a huge improvement over that original service that died when the funding went dry a few years back. The Charm City Circulator will be funded through the increase in the downtown parking tax.

The hope is this shuttle will be appealing to not only tourists, but commuters, students, and residents, who need to get around the downtown area. Now, Fells Point residents can easily get downtown, UMB students can get to the Harbor, commuters coming into Penn Station can access the Charles Street corridor easier the Light Rail, and Federal Hill residents can get out without driving.

To make sure the buses can maintain 10 minute headways downtown, plans are to add dedicated bus lanes along Pratt and Lombard to accommodate the Charm City Circulator as well as MTA buses. Seems like a no brainer, but how come this wasn't done a while ago?

For info see

Friday, June 5, 2009

Permit Goof at Fort McHenry

(image credit, the Baltimore Sun)

I was talking with the Park Rangers down at Fort McHenry recently about why there hasn't been any construction on the new Visitors Center yet. Work was supposed to begin by May 1st, but besides the Groundbreaking on April 27th, no other dirt has been moved. Turns out the National Park Service made a goof, and forgot to get a Floodplain Permit. Now in all fairness, this wasn't Fort McHenry's problem. Rather, all Park Service construction is taken care of by a central office in Denver (why there, who knows). Anyways, it looks like the Denver office neglected to request this permit, and apparently also forgot that Fort McHenry is on the water.

This setback pushed construction off until at least August when the paperwork gets finished. Now, instead of the Visitors Center being opened in Fall 2010, it's looking more like Spring 2011. This is why you need cross all of your 'T's and dot all the 'I's before you send it your work!

Thanks to the guys down at the Fort for the update, sorry your new building will be delayed. On a positive note, the weather will be great down there this weekend, so break out the bikes, running shoes, and kites and head on down. Park is open till 8pm throughout the summer.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Links from Our Friends on the Web

Interchangeable MTA and Metro Smart Cards: Michael Dresser from the Baltimore Sun reports in his blog "Getting There" about MTA and WMATA reaching an agreement on their Smart Card Systems.

36 Reasons Why Streetcars are Better Than Buses: The Infrastructurist gives us a lot of good reasons for why streetcars beat out buses any day. More proof that the Charles Street Trolley is a good idea.

Artscape is coming up next month: Baltimore Spokes reminds Baltimoreans; if you're going to Artscape in July, ride your bike!

Expanding the Harbor Promenade: Gerald Neily with Baltimore Brew explains why the Inner Harbor Promenade should be extended down to Fort McHenry. As always, he has Google Maps to help us visualize.

Another First Thursday Concert Cancelled: This would make two cancellations on the year for First Thursdays. This time, as Sam Sessa blogs in "Midnight Sun" with the Baltimore Sun, it's the weather.

Monday, June 1, 2009

A Roundabout Argument

(photo credit, The Baltimore Sun)

Recently, there has been talk among city officials to reorient some of the most tricky Baltimore intersections, and replacing them with roundabouts. This seems like something one would see in DC, the counties, or New Jersey, but not Baltimore. For many of us in the city, the closest one we know if is the famed Towson Circle. Now, in all fairest, this example isn't the best when it comes to "properly designed traffic circles"; but generally speaking, this is the only one most people encounter, so you can understand the hesitance.

I, for one, understand the core principles of a roundabout. Yield to the traffic already in the circle, then proceed, and most importantly remember to use your directionals. Not that difficult. However, I do see a potential drawback to the one proposed at the intersection of Light Street and Key Highway. I just can't visualize how this will be accomplished.

First off, there are a lot of lanes there. Three coming in from Key Highway. Three coming North on Light. Two turning on Light Street onto Key, and two continuing South, but then (very quickly) merging to one lane as it continues on Light into Federal Hill. Complicating things is Hughes Street, which drivers can only turn onto when travelling South on Light Street. I don't see where the space is for a roundabout without making a mess. Traffic lanes would have to be narrowed.

Secondly, and most importantly, is this will make the pedestrian experience potentially worse. With a light, walkers have the ability to walk with relative ease and safety. Without a traffic light dictating who moves and when, pedestrians would be at the mercy of the driver to yield to them (which we all know in Baltimore is asking a lot for a minor consideration).

Lastly, there is always that far flung idea of extending a potential streetcar line from the Inner Harbor down Key Highway to Locust Point and Fort McHenry. Sure, this is just a "wouldn't that be sweet", but would make it all the harder to do since Streetcars don't do well navigating roundabouts. Even if a streetcar is a maybe, it's still something to consider.

A roundabout would be an interesting idea down for a gateway to Federal Hill/Locust Point. A fountain or maybe a statue (of Francis Scott Key?) would be a nice focal piece. It just has to be done perfectly, that's all I'm saying. Especially if I plan on walking nearby.