Mayor opens Inner Harbor up to bikes

Dixon kicks off Bike to Work Week with a ride from City Hall

May 15, 2007|By Anica Butler | Anica Butler,Sun reporter

Residents and tourists traveling on two wheels will now be welcome on the Inner Harbor promenade, Mayor Sheila Dixon announced yesterday while kicking off the city's Bike to Work Week.

Dixon rode from City Hall to the harbor at 6:30 a.m., where she said that, for the first time, bikes will now be allowed on the former pedestrian-only thoroughfare from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Saturday and from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. Sundays.

"Visitors and residents can now experience the Inner Harbor like never before," she said.

"Obesity has been increasing," she said, and biking can help people "stay in shape while you commute."

Dixon also encouraged residents to make use of the city's bike trails, both as recreation and to commute to work, to reduce traffic congestion and air pollution. She pointed out that a 30-minute ride can burn 250 calories.

To make her point, Dixon biked the few blocks from her office on Holliday Street to the waterfront. But she decided that wasn't enough. Leading 25 other cyclists, including members of her Cabinet, she donned a blue-and-white helmet, matching her blue fleece jacket and blue bike, and rode to Fort McHenry.

Dixon, who was riding a borrowed Cannondale, said she hopes to start biking to work one day a week as her schedule allows. The ride on the Gwynns Falls Trail would take her about 30 minutes, she said.

Supporters of Dixon's announcement said that the opening of the Inner Harbor to bicyclists will be a boon to others who want to ride to work.

"I think at first, it will be people who commute who will take advantage of it," said Penny Troutner, owner of Light Street Cycles. "There are people who need to get around there to get to work and school."

Troutner added that tourists and families on bikes are sure to follow. Her Federal Hill shop rents bikes, and for many, getting from South Baltimore to the other side of the harbor on two wheels can at times be difficult or dangerous. Now the ride will be safer and more scenic, she said.

"My customers are really, really happy," Troutner said.

Barbara Park, a member of the Baltimore Bicycling Club since 1977, said she and fellow cyclists used to routinely ride down to the harbor before Harborplace was built. She said she's looking forward to being able to ride to and around the harbor again. She also said she hopes families will take advantage of the opportunity as well.

"I think it's just great," she said of the mayor's announcement.

City officials also announced that next year, $2.5 million will be spent to begin to implement the bicycle master plan. In addition, the city hired a bicycle coordinator last month who will oversee that implementation.

The master plan, approved by the city Planning Commission last year, would create an extensive bicycle network of shared roadways and lanes across the city, complete with signed routes. The project could take up to 20 years, and the network would span more than 400 miles.

The chairman of the Planning Commission said last year that census statistics show that fewer than one-half of 1 percent of Baltimoreans commute to work on bikes.

Alfred H. Foxx, the city's director of transportation, added that beyond the $2.5 million, additional funds are already being spent on projects that include the addition of bicycle lanes and new signs.

"There is a lot more being done to be pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly," Foxx said.

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