Bike network plan approved

Shared roadways, designated lanes in city would span 400 miles


A master plan that would create an extensive bicycle network of shared roadways and bike lanes across Baltimore was approved unanimously yesterday by the city Planning Commission.

Upon its completion, over a period that could take 20 years, the network would span more than 400 miles and be integrated with public transportation.

The project is designed to increase bicycling - not just recreationally, but as a mode of transportation, said Peter Auchincloss, chairman of the Planning Commission. Census statistics show that less than half of 1 percent of Baltimoreans commute to work on bikes.

"I think it fits very well in the comprehensive master plan when it comes to transportation," Auchincloss said. "It has to be more than cars."

A groundbreaking on the Collegetown Bike Route, the first leg of an introductory network, could take place within a year.

The route would link the Johns Hopkins and Morgan State universities with St. Mary's Seminary and the Loyola-Notre Dame campuses. The complete introductory network, spanning more than 150 miles, including bike lanes, signed routes and storm drains safe for riders, is expected to cost about $3.5 million.

A major component to the network calls for the addition of explanatory signs along the network to ease the confusion that many area drivers may have concerning the rules of bicycling.

"The car is not king," said Otis Rolley III, director of the city Department of Planning. "This plan's innovative approach of installing a comprehensive and continuous network of biking accommodations is what you would expect from a progressive city like Baltimore."

The master plan passed after two years of discussions, including public meetings in which hundreds of avid bicyclists decried what they described as deplorable conditions for them in the city - uneven roadways, a lack of signage and a culture of disrespect from automobile drivers. Planning for a bicycle network in the city dates to 1978.

"We're thrilled that it passed, and now the challenge before bicycle activists is to get funding and make sure it accomplishes the goals that it set out," said Stacey Mink, executive director of One Less Car, a statewide advocacy group for bicyclists and pedestrians.

Key to the plan's viability, Mink said, is the hiring of a bicycle coordinator for the city so "there's somebody within the system saying, `Hey, what about the bike plan?'"

The plans also include an increase in bicycle racks and an education campaign for drivers.

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