Ciclovia has a bright future, but repaving Roland Avenue would help

Hudson's Corner

October 31, 2011

The Roland Park ciclovia on Oct. 23 was well attended on a cool, sunny Sunday.

For the first time, I rode a bike on Roland Avenue. This was the first time I had ridden a bike in the ciclovia and the first time I had ridden in the street itself. As a child, everyone rode on sidewalks, and I have not had a bike since.

Even without cars whizzing by, and few riders at 9 a.m., I had to be careful when riding in the ciclovia. Roland Avenue is rut city.

A small child on a bike fell over near me when her training wheel stuck in one of the long ruts that run up and down what is supposed to be the grand boulevard of the area.

Roland Avenue is currently pothole pike. Crater-like potholes dot both sides of the street. Cars dodge them constantly. On a bike I felt as if I were playing dodge'em cars. The pattern of the ride up and down the street was erratic. Kids knew that if they hit ruts or potholes, they would soon be off their bikes, scooters or skateboards and on ground. They zigzagged up and down Roland Avenue; we adult riders did the same. Everyone tried to avoid hitting each other. It wasn't hard, but vigilance was needed.

I have paving envy. I hear that someday in the not too distant future (perhaps fall, 2012) Roland Avenue south of Northern Parkway will be as smooth as it is above it. That is good news. Repaving this rutted roadway cannot come soon enough for me. Ditto some traffic-calming measures.

The bike lanes might also need some protecting from speeding cars, SUVs and small trucks. That would cost money at a time when the city does not have it, when funds should be spent to keep recreation centers open. Maybe additional funds for improved bike lanes can come from other sources.

I hope the community can encourage a citywide ciclovia. If more kids all over Baltimore City rode bikes, it would help fight obesity and give kids a recreational activity. Maybe some adult programs would produce bike-riding families. At the Roland Park ciclovia, lots of families rode bikes. Surely, some nonprofit might offer free or rental bikes on Sundays in parks, as they do at weekly ciclovias in Bogota, Columbia.

If I had a bike, I would perhaps do errands on it. The bike I borrowed from my sister for the ciclovia had a basket. I was able to pick up groceries at Eddie's. If the library had been open, I could have taken out a book or a DVD.

During the ciclovia, my little red purse was so obvious sitting in the bike basket I could not leave it behind. I have made the mistake of leaving it in our car too often recently. One night I left it in the car and forgot to lock the door. Miraculously, no one took it. If I had been riding my bike, I would have spotted the purse in the basket and brought it inside.

I have always liked to walk, but riding a bike at the ciclovia made me think maybe I could bike regularly for recreation and occasional errands. Since Roland Avenue re-opened after the ciclovia, I have ridden a few times in the Roland Park lanes (a.k.a. alleys). Some have problems more serious than Roland Avenue and hills as steep as San Francisco. When I encounter them, I head back to Roland Avenue sidewalks.

With slower cars on Roland Avenue, and maybe some better bike lanes, I could perhaps work up my nerve to join the ranks of the brave cyclists I see in the existing bike lanes every day. Maybe others would join me, too.

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