More cycle track, please.
That was the message from bicycle advocates at a public meeting Thursday evening at the Midtown Academy near the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA).
It won't be completed overnight, but the Baltimore City Department of Transportation presented the next step in a suddenly expanding downtown bicycle network—the Mount Royal Avenue cycle track.
The dedicated, two-lane bicycle route (cycle tracks physically separate bicycles from auto traffic) will run on the north side of Mount Royal Avenue from McMechen Street, near North Avenue, down to Charles Street.
The design, which is 65 percent complete, officials said, will be finished this fall. Construction is scheduled to begin next spring, with the cycle track opening some time in late 2016. When completed, it will particularly help bicycle commuters in the MICA, University of Baltimore, and midtown corridor link with Penn Station, for example, and the forthcoming Maryland Avenue cycle track project. About 45-50 parking spaces will be removed along Mount Royal Avenue to make room for the bicycle track.
At a standing room-only public meeting at the Pratt Library two weeks ago, BDOT
representatives presented plans for a dedicated, two-way cycle track that will run north and south on Maryland Avenue from 29th Street to Pratt Street. That project, expected to be implemented this fall, also includes several new east-west painted bike lanes.
The Mount Royal Avenue cycle track is part of a broader, $6 to $7 million infrastructure upgrade to Mount Royal Avenue that will include dedicated electrical conduits intended to assist Artscape, water main improvements, street and landscaping, new traffic signals, and enhanced handicap accessibility.
Currently, the only cycle track in the city is the short, north-south Fallsway bike lane east of Charles Street, which starts near the Inner Harbor and links to the Guilford Avenue bike route. Light Street Cycles bike shop owner Penny Troutner and Chris Merriam, executive director of Bikemore, a Baltimore nonprofit bicycling advocacy organization, as well as others in attendance—while pleased to hear the city is building additional cycle track for bike commuters—also strenuously requested that city officials extend the Mount Royal cycle track three blocks more to Guilford Avenue.
According to the current plan, bicyclists are supposed to use the eight-foot sidewalk between Charles Street and Guilford Avenue when either heading north on Guilford or south on the Fallsway cycle track, which is also part of the larger Jones Falls Trail. But an increase in pedestrian traffic and the speed of cars coming off I-83 in that area will remain a hazard without the extension of a dedicated cycle track, Troutner and Merriam said. They also stressed the benefits of a fully connected bicycle-friendly route that sweeps across a large swath of the downtown commercial area.
"This is such a short distance to go [to extend the cycle track to Guilford Avenue]," Troutner said. "We need to complete the thought."
"I strongly recommend continuing the cycle track down to Guilford Avenue," Merriam said, noting that the bike path in front of the Inner Harbor, which isn't physically separated from pedestrians, hasn't worked for bicyclists because of the heavy foot traffic there.
Still, despite the desire to extend the Mount Royal cycle track by several blocks, as well as concerns about crossing North Avenue and turning onto Charles Street—the planned project, though not yet completely designed—was generally well received.
"I think this is great," Troutner said. "The more cycle track, the better."