(photo credit MyBikeLaneBaltimore)
With the recent hearings of bicycle legislation in Baltimore City Council, there cines big step forward in making Baltimore a more bike friendly city. So far, the City Council has been favorable of the 5 proposed bills. These include redesigning storm grates so that the slots run perpendicular to the curb, having bike racks in new developments, improving safety communication between police and cyclists, ticketing cars parked in bike lanes, and implementing a Complete Streets program in the city.
The legislation is a great first step that will ensure that any future development planning includes the input of pedestrians and cyclists. However, there seem to be some essential flaws in plans. There isn't enough infrastructure to begin with. Police cannot ticket cars parked in nonexistent bike lanes. This is why the Complete Streets part of the bill is so important. It will ensure that in any new development that bike needs are addressed.
This doesn't fix the situation we have now. One that the city needs to address along with new regulations. As is, there are not enough bike lanes. Instead we have "sharrows" which are helpful for cyclists to identify routes that are suitable, but give no overt sign that says "this space is for bikes only". The city has started to add more lanes, but we lag far behind other cities. St. Paul Street recently received a bike lane, but it only runs from University Parkway to 31st Street and then from North Ave to Mount Royal Ave. On this second stretch it disappears on the bridge over the Amtrak/MARC tracks.
The one protected bike lane we do have is the one along Pratt St with its giant orange barrier. The problem here is that the city can't make up its mind of whether this is a bike or pedestrian lane. It's bi directional, but does not have any specific markings. Moreover, and here is where the enforcement part comes in, the lane is frequently blocked by cabs, sometimes cars, and even City and Police vehicles.
Lastly, Bus/Bike Lanes are not a viable option. These have already been added on Pratt Street and will soon be added to Lombard Street when that road project is done. I don't know about you, but the last thing I want to do is share my lane with an MTA bus. The enforcement piece also needs to be addressed here. The lanes are frequently violated with regular traffic (and I have never, once seen someone ticketed for this), so how are cyclists supposed to feel comfortable here? They don't.
What it all boils down to is infrastructure. We need more bike lanes, they need to be clearly marked (green paint maybe like that small stretch on the Fallsway?), and in the places where there is enough room they need to be buffered. Then maybe we'll have a safer place for bikers to ride and not have to impede traffic or endanger themselves.