Hit the trail without leaving the city


As the green comes back to the Gwynns Falls Trail, regular bike treks also begin again. The first of the season is 10 a.m. Saturday. Weather permitting, it's a chance to see a less-urban cut of the city for five bucks.

The trek starts at the Carrie Murray Nature Center and weaves through 32 neighborhoods. There are 14 miles total, though bike tour groups might not cover all of them in one day, said park manager Mike Strawbridge. It all depends on the size and age of the group, but usually it takes two to three hours. "People come in all different sizes and shapes," Strawbridge said.

Strawbridge and naturalist Nate Payer take turns as tour guides (Payer leads Saturday's trek), offering informational snippets on landmarks they pass.

"If there's any unique things we're [biking] by, we'll try to give them a little history, a little bit of the environmental stuff," Strawbridge said. "There's a lot of neat things to see as you go down the trail."

The Carrollton Viaduct, at the western edge of Carroll Park Golf Course, is one of them. It is the country's oldest continuously operated railroad bridge of its kind. The remnants of a series of mills, which once helped power the city industries, is another.

"It's hard to believe you're still in Baltimore," Strawbridge said.

The treks usually go in groups of 15, and pre-registration is a must. Riders can pick through the fleet of about 30 loaner bikes or bring their own, he said.

In the next several months, the 10-foot-wide pavement trail will be more accessible for cyclers, Strawbridge said.

Last year, Dasani, the bottled water company, donated 20 bikes to the trail, which will be stored in three locations, he said. The bikes will be available at Carroll Park, the Winans Meadow trail head and Druid Hill Park, though these three spots are still tentative, he said.

For $10, riders will receive a magnetic swipe card, which they can use to check out a bike, ride and return it, he said.

"It's a great chance," Strawbridge said. "You don't have to worry about anything - you just bring your helmet, borrow a bike and put it back."

The new system relies on the honor code and the registration cards to keep the bikes from disappearing, Strawbridge said. Still, he'd rather see them in use than sitting idle in storage.

"They're not doing any good there," Strawbridge said. "We'll roll them out and hope for the best."

The Gwynns Falls Trail Bike Trek starts at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Carrie Murray Nature Center, at 1901 Ridgetop Road. Admission is $5. Bikes and helmets will be provided, or you can bring your own. Pre-registration is required. For more information, call 410-396-0440.


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