By Bruce Cohen - October 13, 2014
On Friday, October 10th, a group of Johns Hopkins Medical Institutes campus students, staff, and faculty rode down to the Department of Transportation and City Hall to deliver a petition of over a thousand signatures requesting bike lanes connecting JHMI and Downtown. Organized by Dr. David Love, the online petition and bike ride delivery were held to draw the city’s attention to simple, but important bike improvements that need to be made. These bike commuters can no longer tolerate perilous biking conditions to and from campus. The planned bike lanes on Monument and Madison Streets are part of the Downtown Bicycle Network, which has been delayed for several months.
As the group biked from JHMI to City Hall, conversation topics included the best ways to get to campus from where they lived, full shuttles, and near misses with distracted drivers. As they talked about where they had previously gone to school or lived, it was obvious that most, if not all, are transplants to Baltimore. These employees decided to move their families into the city which laments a shrinking tax base, where bike commuting is easier, but not necessarily safer.
Baltimore struggles to make the connection that people who drive to work in the city do not necessarily live there. Relatively low drive times and inexpensive parking encourages employees to live in surrounding counties and make the daily drive. This is a model that American cities are abandoning, including Washington, DC and New York City. In both of these cities, driving is discouraged through scarce, expensive parking while public transportation, walking, and bicycling are actively encouraged for visitors and commuters. They have easy to navigate subway systems and bikeshare systems for visitors and commuters alike. Even cities economically similar to Baltimore, like Pittsburgh and Philadelphia are promoting biking as a viable urban transportation mode. Administrations in both cities have made quick bike improvements by reallocating road space from motor vehicle use. Mayors across the United States are actively promoting their cities’ bikeability to attract and retain both residents and businesses.
When the JHMI commuters arrived at the Baltimore City Department of Transportation, Director William Johnson was unavailable to meet them. Instead, the department’s public information officers accepted the petition on his behalf, stating “Everyone has a passion. Between parking, bike riding, driving, and all sorts of issues that the Department of Transportation has to deal with and are trying to balance out.” From the representatives’ response, Baltimore City Department of Transportation has a long way to go before catching up with more progressive cities, like Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
Caitlin Doolin, a transportation associate at Kittleson & Associates, Inc and the current, part-time bike planner for Baltimore City, recorded Dave handing over the petition here. Thank you, Caitlin, for sharing!
Thank you to Dave Love and Kyle Metz for organizing Johns Hopkins cyclists and this petition, and a hearty thank you to the cyclists who took time on a Friday morning to ride down. See the petition and read the comments here.