[Publisher’s note: This story was written by Managing Editor Elly Blue during her recently completed East Coast Tour. Read more of her travel dispatches here.]
It’s not on the annual lists of biking hot spots, but during my recent visit to Baltimore I realized they might just become the next big bike city. They’re not quite Portland (yet), but they’re gaining fast.
sets off for a tour of the city.
– More photos below –
(Photos by Elly Blue)
Like many cities, Baltimore’s bike-friendliness begins at the top. Bikes are buoyed by the city’s Bicycle Master Plan (that was adopted in 2006) that is wholly supported by their mayor Sheila Dixon. Dixon was elected in 2007 and she’s an avid cyclist. Dixon leads weekly morning rides (which are open to anyone) and last year she put the city’s dollars behind biking with the hire of bike and pedestrian planner Nate Evans.
Baltimore has made some major improvements to their bike network recently, including the marking of 42 miles of bikeways, installation of 70 bike racks in front of businesses (with more requests pouring in every day), experimentation with sharrows and “floating” bike lanes, and the conversion of old parking meters into bike parking.
These efforts garnered Baltimore an honorable mention from the League of American Bicyclists’ Bicycle Friendly Communites program. The League was so impressed that they invited Baltimore to apply again this year (cities usually must wait three years between applications).
the campus of Johns Hopkins
If the mayor remains in office (she was indicted on corruption charges the day I was there), Evans is confident of earning Silver status this time around.
Listening to his goals for 2009, this doesn’t seem all that far-fetched. The city plans to more than double bike parking capacity and bikeway mileage, with an emphasis on connecting routes and neighborhoods; three on-street bike parking facilities are in the construction pipeline; a Sunday Streets “ciclovia”-type event is planned for four consecutive weeks this spring; and the city will also hold two bike summits this year in an effort to create a cohesive bike community.
And there’s nowhere to go but up: In the 2000 census, just .034% of Baltimore residents said that biking is their main way to get to work. Evans projects that number will jump to 2% in 2010 if he is able to reach his goals (for comparison, that percentage is 5-8% (depending on where you look) in Portland).
Evans’ long term goals for the city are even more ambitious — and inspiring. He wants the city to have 350 bikeway miles (lanes and sharrows), 2000 bike racks, 30 on-street bike corrals, 10 annual ciclovia events, multi-use paths connecting the region, several carfree plazas in the central city, 15% bike mode share, a bike sharing service, and more.
Here are some photos I took of bike infrastructure on various rides around the city:
Baltimore is an inspiring example of how a city which has been experiencing extremely rough times since the 1950s is trying to rebuild itself with new parameters for a new era. I’m sure we’ll hear much more about Baltimore in the years to come.
— Read more of Elly Blue’s travel dispatches — including a visit to Washington D.C. and New York City — on her East Coast Tour page.