Back in 1993, 500 cyclists came out to bike seven miles in conjunction with Port Fest, the city’s annual celebration of its ports.
“It was a very simple ride and basically just a family event,” says Bob Carson, who worked for the League of American Bicyclists, which put on the nascent event.
Fast-forward 20 years, and Tour du Port, September 29 this year, attracts around 2,000 cyclists—from amateurs to fitness buffs—biking through ports, neighborhoods, and parks.
“After the ride, so many people say, ‘This is a way I get to see the city that I never would have gotten to see from the seat of my car,’” says Carol Silldorff, pictured, executive director of Bike Maryland, which now holds the event. For its first eight years, Tour du Port left from Rash Field, but now it kicks off at Canton Waterfront Park. Over time, the event has attracted participants such as Gov. Martin O’Malley, then-mayor Sheila Dixon, and U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin.
Bicyclists can choose to ride one of many routes, covering anywhere from 14 to 63 miles, and get to see various parts of the Baltimore area depending on the distance. There are more well-known spots—Patterson Park, the National Aquarium, and Fort McHenry—and then hidden gems, like North Point State Park in Edgemere or Stansbury Park in Dundalk. “I think seeing those parks really surprises people,” Silldorff says. “There are these beautiful stretches of road that are not that far away from the city.”
As the popularity of biking has increased in Baltimore—bicycle commuters have increased 51 percent in the last three years—Silldorff says that the need for better safety is more important than ever. Tour du Port’s proceeds benefit Bike Maryland, which helps improve bike infrastructure and legislation. “There aren’t too many events that fund bicycling,” she says. “We’re hoping people in the community get out and hop on to support the cause.”