Ciclovia gives nondrivers the right of way

Mile-long stretch of Roland Ave. shut down for annual event

  • Avery Goldstein, 6, of Roland Park, in front, leads a cluster of riders, including Lynn Heller, also of Roland Park, in a pumpkin costume, at right. Cyclists, walkers, joggers, kids on scooters, and pets came out for Roland Park's second Ciclovia event, in which the southbound lane of Roland Avenue was closed between Northern Parkway and Cold Spring Lane from 8a.m. until 1p.m.
Avery Goldstein, 6, of Roland Park, in front, leads a cluster… (Baltimore Sun photo by Amy…)
October 31, 2010|By John-John Williams IV, The Baltimore Sun

Joanna Willner and her boyfriend Will Murdoch slowed to a walk after completing an early morning run along the southbound lane of scenic Roland Ave. The pair wanted to know how it felt to run through the middle of a city street without the worry of being hit by a car.

"It's great to be able to get out," Willner, of White Marsh, said as a brisk gust of wind stirred multi-colored leaves along the streets of the tony Roland Park area. "This is a great neighborhood."

Runners, walkers, skateboarders, and people traveling on other forms of wheeled contraptions had the right of way Sunday for an entire mile-long stretch of Roland Ave. extending from Northern Parkway to Cold Spring Lane. The five-hour event called "ciclovia" attracted almost 2,000 people to the Roland Park neighborhood of northern Baltimore. It was an opportunity for participants to get some exercise while socializing.

"The kids can let down their guard. The parents can let down their guard," said Anne Stewart Palmer, a Roland Park resident who walked side-by-side with her husband, Charlie Palmer. "It would be interesting if it spread to other parts of the city."

Sponsored by the Roland Park Civic League, organizers hope to increase the frequency of the event to four times next year, and to expand the route to a seven-mile stretch that would run from the existing route to Lake Montebello.

"This is the kind of thing that every city should be doing," said organizer Michael McQuestion, a resident of Roland Park. "This is bringing exercise to everybody's doorsteps."

Baltimore is one of 30 cities in the United States to host such an event. Los Angeles' ciclovia attracts 100,000 participants, according to McQuestion. Portland, Ore., hosts four ciclovias throughout the year. New York City and San Francisco receive local government funding. McQuestion hopes to mirror the other national efforts. Baltimore's ciclovia costs a little more than $3,000. McQuestion hopes to attract funding from the city or from the private sector in the future.

"This is such a positive experience," McQuestion said, motioning toward the clusters of people congregating along Roland Avenue, where cars ordinarily speed by. "We need each neighborhood to buy into it and know that this is their production. You've got people talking to each other who have not seen each other for months."

Many of the participants said they would favor an expanded version of ciclovia.

"It's a great idea," said Palmer, a lawyer. "I don't think it affects traffic one way or another."

His wife Stewart Palmer, a local artist, added: "On Sunday there is barely any traffic even though it will be hard on churches along Roland Avenue."

Baltimore Police didn't report any major traffic disturbances as a result of ciclovia.

"The people have been pleasant," said Officer Martha Sprinkle, who monitored traffic midway through the route. "This is very good for the neighborhood."

Stuart Wolffe, who walked his three statuesque greyhounds past Sprinkle, said he would continue to support the event. He walked his dogs along the route last year.

"Thank you for doing this," he said to Sprinkle.

Amy and Stuart Berman walked with their two children, Bella, 2, and Benjamin, 4. Bella was riding a contraption called a Kettler tricycle, which was steered by the mother. Benjamin rode a training wheel-aided bicycle under the watchful eye of his father.

"He wants to be in the street as opposed to the school parking lot," Berman said as her son sped ahead. "The kids are really happy to have this space."

Willner and Murdoch said they usually ride bicycles near their suburban home. But the lure of being able to explore unfamiliar surroundings drew them to Baltimore.

"This way I also won't feel guilty about eating candy tonight," Willner said with a laugh.

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