Sure, we’ve all snuck out the front door and grabbed the newspaper off the stoop in our pajamas. But when was the last time you rode your bicycle in your PJ’s?
Here’s you chance.
Baltimore’s last-Friday-of-every-month Bike Party embraces a new theme each month — July’s was a “Beach Blanket” ride, October was for Halloween costumes, of course. Tonight riders are encouraged to “throw on their best footie pajamas" for a group "pajamboree."
Weather reports call for clear skies and temperatures in the mid-to-high 40s, so wool jammies (and scarf and gloves) might be a good idea.
The popular Bike Party rides, part social event, part bicycle advocacy, have grown dramatically since first launched in April, with 1,300 riders joining in last month. Bicyclists will start congregating around the north side of the Washington Monument in Mt. Vernon at 7 p.m., with the Bike Party leaving promptly at 7:30 p.m.
This month’s ride is a little shorter than in the past, about 10 miles, with one stop, and wraps up at the Pratt Street Ale House, where, participants can also likely accomplish another first — drinking beer in public in ther pajamas. (Or maybe some of us have done that before).
This past weekend I rode the York County Heritage Trail from New Freedom, Pa., just over the state line, directly up to the town of York, maybe 40 miles round trip. I'd rented a nice mountain bike for the trek from my friend Penny Troutner at Light Street Cycles and it proved a good workout — but with a hybrid the flat cruise would be a breeze for most recreational cyclists.
I'd biked the lower half of the NCR trail previously, starting outside Cockeysville, but had never traveled above the Mason-Dixon line. I actually enjoyed the ride a lot more in Pennsylvania — lots of farms, babbling brooks, old trees, country houses and places to stop.
The NCR Trail, which I do really like, too, seems denser than the York County portion of the trail, which officially changes names at the state line. I found more small surprises — and some big (see above photo) — along the York County route.
Together, the North Central Railroad and York County Heritage Trail combine for a 41-mile stretch of rural terrain, much of it following the Gunpowder Falls River. From the Ashland entrance outside Cockeysville, it's a 20-mile trip to the Mason-Dixon Line, from there it's another 21 miles to York.
Last weekend, with a friend, we basically rode straight up from New Freedom to York and then back. Next time, I'd like to take a look around the small Pa. towns of Glen Rock and Hanover Junction and maybe — instead of just snacking on protein bars — grab coffee and some lunch in York before turning back.
As part of his Cycle Maryland initiative and plan to expand the state’s off-road network of recreational trails, Gov. Martin O’Malley announced Friday more than $1 million in 2013 grants for the State Highway Administration’s Recreational Trails Program.
Eleven counties, 12 municipalities and eight nonprofit associations received grants to support projects that will include the construction of new trails, the maintenance of existing trails, and the purchase of needed maintenance equipment.
In Baltimore City, the Cylburn Aboretum Association will receive $37,200 for its trail improvement project. The Baltimore County Department of Recreation and Parks will received a total of $60,000 to stabilize both the West Towson Trail and the Northeast Trail at Indian Rock. Also, the Cromwell Valley Park Council will receive $30,000 towards stabilizing the Blue and White Trail.
“Trails provide connections and help people enjoy Maryland’s natural treasures, reducing the impact on the land and improving fitness and well-being,” said O’Malley said in a statement. “These funds will support the development of a statewide trails system that complements Smart Growth, sustainable communities and enhanced quality of life for all of Maryland’s citizens and visitors.”
Other projects receiving funds include maintenance equipment purchases for the Great Allegheny Passage in Allegheny County, extending the Easton Rail Trail, and improving trail accessibility at the Howard County Conservatory.
A total of $1,066,616.51 was awarded, which a large chunk, $283,065, going to 13 Maryland Department of Natural Resources projects across the state.
Overall, the grants range from $5,000 to $64,000 for maintenance for all types of trails, including “bicycling, pedestrian uses (hiking, running, wheelchair use), in-line skating, equestrian use, cross-country skiing, off-road motorcycling, all-terrain vehicle riding and four-wheel driving,” according to the State Highway Admistration’s press release. The grant funding will be used to improve off-road bicycle route connections, restore trails, add bike route signage, make safety improvements and update trail guides.
The entire list of projects receiving grant funding can be found here.
More than 40 people, including staff from the Maryland Department of Transportation, the State Highway Administration and Motor Vehicle Administration — as well as planners and citizen bicycle advocates from a number of Maryland counties — turned out for a bike community meeting Tuesday night at MDOT headquarters in Hanover.
One reason for the meeting was an opportunity to introduce Darrell B. Mobley, MDOT’s still-new acting secretary, to the transportation, bicycle and pedestrian community.
A potentially good piece of news for bicyclists is that Mobley, as well as State Highway administrator Melinda Peters and Motor Vehicle administrator John Kuo, all of whom made brief presentations, described themselves as recreational bicyclists. Mobley spoke of tackling the Great Allegheny Passage this summer; Kuo mentioned that he was a weekend C & O Canal rider in Montgomery County; and Peters added that she was a dedicated cyclist, training for an Ironman triathlon and regularly taking long rides in Carroll County.
Peters noted that the over the summer the state had put a Complete Streets policy into effect for all projects, focusing on enhancing designs for bicyclists and pedestrians, particularly in urban areas.
Perhaps most noteworthy, State Highway officials also said they are preparing to update Maryland’s 20-year Bicycle and Pedestrian Access Master Plan. The updated plan will be completed on the same schedule as the overall 2035 Maryland Transportation Plan, as now required by state law, according to an MDOT handout last night.
An MDOT website with information on the update plan and project is scheduled to be launched by Nov. 30, 2012. MDOT plans to announce public engagement opportunities at that time as well. Over the next few years, MDOT will assess current conditions, goals, trends, needs and financial resources — and develop investment and implementation strategies.
Kuo said that the MVA has begun coordinating with the SHA, in particular, on safety and education issues, emphasizing work on reducing distracted driving — and promoting the state’s “3-foot” law,” designed to protect cyclists. Kuo pointed to the MVA’s recent public service announcement about safe driving and bicycling, as well as MVA driver renewal envelopes sent out this fall that highlight the 3-foot law.
Carol Silldorf, executive director of Bike Maryland, responded, however — after praising MVA’s efforts — that the agency still needs to expand its education efforts, suggesting 3-foot law educational messages could also be placed on emissions testing envelopes and other public communications. And not just over the course of one month, “but six months or a year,” she said.
The D Center, the nonprofit Baltimore bicycle advocacy group Bikemore and the City Department of Transportation, Planning Division will host a charrette this month to develop ideas for improving street conditions for local cyclists and encouraging more bicycling in the city overall.
The event is scheduled Nov. 13 at 6 p.m. at the Windup Space in Station North and open to the public. According to the Facebook page for the event, the design charrette is intended to “create user-generated information that will help inform Baltimore’s Bicycle Master Plan.”
It’ll give people a chance to talk about bicycling issues that remain in the city and making bicycling safer for everyone — people of all ages and races,” said Bikemore executive director Chris Merriam, who is facilitating the event. “It’s a town hall meeting about bicycling
Nate Evans, Baltimore City’s lead bike and pedestrian planner, will also attend and make a presentation, Merriam said.
The event is a part of D Center Baltimore’s ongoing, monthly series of curated design discussions. More information about the D Center design conversations can be found here.
Also coming up for bicycle and pedestrian advocates: The Maryland Department of Transportation, and the State Highway and the Motor Vehicle Administrations will host a public meeting Monday, Nov. 5.
The public meeting is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. in the Harry Hughes Suite of the Maryland Department of Transportation, 7201 Corporate Center Drive, Hanover, MD 21076. According to Cycle Maryland’s Facebook page, the meeting will introduce acting MDOT Secretary Darrell B. Mobley and as well receive presentations from MVA administrator John Kuo and SHA administrator Melinda Peters on "recent and planned initiatives designed to promote bicycle and pedestrian access and safety."
The meeting will also provide bicycling and pedestrian advocates an opportunity to express concerns regarding bicycling and walking in the state. More information on the meeting can be found here.
The pure, mad joy of bicycling in Halloween costume with 1,300 adventurous friends through the streets of Baltimore on a Friday night is impossible to capture in word, photos — even video. Unless, maybe, you spend the entire ride shooting with a great camera, and then editing it all later into something coherent. But who wants to do that when it’s so much fun basking in the glow of the wild scene — the mermaids, monsters, killer bees and bearded men in drag — surrounding your bike.
The short video at the top of this post was shot at the start of the ride as bicyclists rolled out from Mt. Vernon Square.
There are a couple iPhone pics below from the ride and after-party at the Union Craft Brewery in Hampden. The outdoors after-party, with good beer, awesome food trucks, D.J., dancing, photos and a rockin’ moonbounce that looked ready to topple several times, was a blast. As someone next to me noted, everyone just seems friendlier and more outgoing in costume.
The absolute best part of any last-Friday-of-every-month Baltimore Bike Party is the reaction along the route. More taxi, truck, delivery and automobile drivers honk and toot in support than you’d think — but even better are the kids, teenagers and adults in every neighborhood, East to West, North to South, who leave their rowhouses, come off their porches, step out of local bars and restaurants, and stop whatever they’re doing to high-five Bike Party bicyclists, shout encouragement — and often, shoot their own cellphone pictures and videos.
It’s also interesting to listen to Bike Party riders as they pedal. The bicycling culture in Charm City and the Bike Party, only six months old, seems to be growing so fast now, that it’s almost hard to grasp at times.
“How is it possible,” asked one 20-something bicyclist, “that this is the most fun thing I’ve ever done.”
Another: “It’s like everything I love rolled into one: there’s an element of activism, it’s bicycling, there’s the extroverted, outrageousness of it all, and it’s going out on Friday night to a great party.”
For those unfamiliar with the loose guidelines/mission of the Baltimore Bike Party, it’s an informal recreational ride, about 12 to 13 miles, informal and fun while hopefully spurring city bicycling. It’s evolved from the old Critical Mass rides into something safer and traffic friendly, and has a different theme each month. July’s theme was a beach party, for example, and June’s was an 80’s party. The August theme was lights. October, naturally, Halloween.
The Baltimore Bike Party website can be found here. The Halloween Bike Party ride’s Facebook page — and more pictures — is here.
The Business Insider website, of all places, and by that I mean not Bicycling magazine or the Sierra Club, ran a good piece Wednesday with 13 solid reasons to bike to work. Reasons include lower health care costs and greater productivity, but some are more surprising.
You can find the entire piece here. Below are the highlights. Also noted: Since 2000, bicycle commuting has risen 40 percent in the U.S.
No. 1: Way cheaper than driving. According to a recent study by AAA, the annual cost of owning and operating a car bumped two percent last year to $8,946. Average cost of operating a bicycle: $308.
No. 2: Free gym on wheels. The average bicycle commuter loses 13 pounds their first year biking to work.
No. 3: Skip morning traffic and parking woes. Rush hour commuting can take twice as long in big cities. "Half of the working population in the U.S. commutes five miles or less to work, with bike trips of three to five miles taking less time or the same amount of time as commuting by car," writes Kiplinger editor Amanda Lilly.
No. 7: More the merrier: “Unlike cars, the more bicycles on the road, the safer it becomes for cyclists, research shows,” according to Business Insider.
No. 8: Sick of — or from — the bus? Not to discourage public transportation, but a British study “found public transit riders are six times more likely to suffer from acute respiratory infections — and occasional riders are most at risk,” according to the New York Daily News. Fresh air = good.
No. 11: No. 8: We inhale more harmful exhaust in our car than on a bike. Fuel emissions are bad for any set of lungs, but drivers are actually more susceptible to harmful air than bicyclists, according to a recent Grist post.
The much-anticipated Red Line transit project, the proposed 14-mile, east-west, light rail system, took another step forward today.
The Baltimore City Board of Estimates approved a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) Wednesday with the Maryland Transit Administration outlining the City’s commitment to the project, according to a statement from Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s office. An estimated $2.1 billion project, the proposed light rail line will connect Woodlawn through downtown Baltimore to the Johns Hopkins Bayview Campus.
When complete, the Red Line is expected to run every 8 to ten minutes, taking 44 minutes each way while carrying more than 50,000 riders daily. In the best case scenario, according to the project's most recent timeline, a federal funding commitment in 2015 would lead to six years of construction, concluding with operation in 2021.
From the Mayor’s press release:
“The agreement commits the City to constructing projects necessary to building the Red Line such as a widening of the Edmondson Avenue Bridge over the Gwynns Falls in West Baltimore during its planned reconstruction, and constructing the Boston Street-O’Donnell Street connector road in Southeast Baltimore. The City will also donate land currently occupied by the Departments of Public Works and General Services and acquire land for a new Red Line/Bayview MARC station.
MTA has also committed to an aggressive local workforce and contractor development program and to incorporate extensive sustainability measures in the project. MTA will also reimburse the City for certain costs related to land acquisition and technical design reviews, while the City will waive permit and document retrieval fees…
The agreement is signed for the City not only by the Mayor, but also by the Directors of Planning, Public Works, Transportation, General Services, Housing and Community Development, and Recreation and Parks, each of which will play an important role in making the Red Line a reality.”
“The Red Line will play a pivotal role in helping to grow the City,” said Rawlings-Blake. “Providing safe, attractive transportation choices – biking, walking and transit – for residents, visitors, and businesses will help to transform communities across the city, and will pay dividends for years to come.”
The Red Line has been designated for expedited review by the federal government, the Mayor’s press release noted, which will allow MTA to receive final environmental approvals by February. If approved, the federal government will cover up to 50 percent of the constructions costs. The State of Maryland would be responsible for the other 50 percent of the construction costs, according to the Baltimore Red Line project website.
According to www.gobaltimoreredline.com, MTA's current policy encourages bicycles on the entire MTA system and bicycles will be allowed on Red Line light rail cars as well.
The League of American Bicyclists (LAB) announced today, that among other communities, Rockville has earned official “Bicycle Friendly” status.
The recognition of Rockville’s strides in bicycle education, infrastructure improvements, encouragement and enforcement of safety regulations, makes the Montgomery County city the fourth Maryland community to earn the national distinction. Baltimore, Bethesda and Frederick also LAB Bicycle Friendly communities.
All the Maryland communities have earned “bronze” level recognition from LAB.
Rockville has a long-active citizen bicycle advisory committee.
Baltimore City earned Bicycle Friendly status two years ago, with infrastructure work, contributions by nonprofit Bike Maryland and the Mid-Atlantic Off-Road Enthusiasts, as well as events like the Kinetic Sculpture Race and Patterson Park’s annual Bike Jam, receiving shoutouts. The Baltimore City-based Knott Foundation and Baltimore-metro area Race Pace Bicycles are two of eight "Bicycle Friendly" businesses in the state. The University of Maryland College Park is the only state college or institution with a LAB "Bicycle Friendly" distinction.
According to the League of American Bicyclists’ 2012 “Bicycle Friendly” state rankings, Maryland currently ranks 8th nationally. Washington and Minnesota rank first and second, respectively; New Jersey [against stereotype, perhaps] ranks just ahead of Maryland in 7th place.
From the League of American Bicyclists’ press release:
“Showcasing the progress and potential of major U.S. cities to make bicycling safe and accessible for millions of Americans, Los Angeles (Calif.), Nashville (Tenn.), and Miami (Fla.) are among the 28 new cities to attain BFC status from the League of American Bicyclists.
"This latest round of BFC awards proves yet again that any city — regardless of size or geography — can take cost-effective steps to increase bicycling in their community," said League President Andy Clarke. "From Bentonville, Arkansas, to Bethesda, Maryland, cities are embracing biking as a means to save money, reduce congestion, improve health and boost their economy."
The League awards Bicycle Friendly Communities at five levels (Diamond, Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze) and, with this diverse round of applicants, there are now 242 BFCs in 47 states. With the guidance and expertise of the BFC program, these communities are propelling the growth in bicycling nationwide. According to recent census data, bicycle commuting grew 80 percent in the largest BFCs, but only 32 percent in non-BFC cities, from 2000 to 2011."
Anticipated plans to bring bike sharing to Baltimore are now in full reset mode.
Baltimore City’s efforts to implement a bike-sharing program in the city by this fall suffered a set back this summer when an exclusive negotiating agreement with B-Cycle — a bike-sharing company operating in 15 cities — expired without a deal. Any future bike-sharing program in Baltimore is now at least another year away, according to the Department of Transportation.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced an exclusive negotiating agreement with the Wisconsin-based B-Cycle last November. That deal expired because B-Cycle was unable to secure enough local sponsorship to move forward with implementation, B-Cycle’s Brian Conger told Baltimore.
“There’s some great community support for bike sharing, but to do the business side is complicated and we need a certain number of [private] sponsors and financial support,” Conger said. “There weren’t enough dollars committed for us to feel comfortable going forward.”
(Bike-sharing programs, for those who haven’t seen the initiatives in other cities, offer short-term bicycle rentals via strategically placed stations throughout downtown areas, offering another form of inexpensive transportation for short trips.)
Conger said B-Cycle looks to the local corporate and business community, as well as institutions like universities, for financial support, which can include, for example, hosting bike-sharing stations. Advertising at bike stations and on the bikes themselves are also offered to businesses and institutions in return for financial support. Conger said B-Cycle needed an overall commitment of roughly $1.25 million over five years to move forward, which wasn’t reached.
Adrienne Barnes, of the Baltimore City Department of Transportation, noted in an email that the City, with the support of a state grant, has committed $1.3 million to the start-up and construction of bike-sharing stations. The City will not be funding the operation of any bike-sharing program, however. She added that Baltimore City’s DOT is currently in discussions with Alta Bicycle Share, Inc., the same company that runs Washington D.C.’s successful Capital Bikeshare, to provide bike sharing here.
“We continue to work with potential vendors to operate the system at no further cost to the City,” Barnes wrote. “We are committed to bringing bike sharing to Baltimore. Given the delay, we hope to have the system operational in September 2013.”
In two years of existence, the Capital Bikeshare program, now with 189 stations, including those in Arlington and Alexandria, has accounted for 2.85 million trips by bicycle. The Capital Bikeshare program now has more 18,000 monthly and annual members, averaging 50,000 rides a week. The annual membership in the Capital Bikeshare program is $75; the first 30 minutes of any ride are then free.
Montgomery County expects to join the Capital Bikeshare system next year.
Alta launched Boston’s Hubway bike-sharing program last year and recently was recently awarded a contract to start a program in Portland. B-Cycle runs bike-sharing programs in Denver, Chicago and Madison, among other cities.