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Mar-17-16 12:20 pm
Three Foot Passing Law Passed Committee w/Amendment; Call your delegates today
Category: Social
Forum: Advocacy

     HB 214 the three foot safe passing law, with an Amendment, has passed the House Environment and Transportation Committee and is going to the House of Delegates floor TODAY.  This Bill mandates that if the driver cannot give three feet then they have to SLOW DOWN to not interfere with or endanger the cyclist or anyone else on the road.  While this change doesn't give us everything we want, THIS IS AN IMPROVEMENT.  Please Call(best) or email your delegates today.

Jeffrey H. Marks

Mar-03-16 02:33 pm
Cycle Track Causes Confusion
Category: Social
Forum: Advocacy

     I too would like to see an engineering evaluation of the Roland Ave Cycle Track.  On my bike rides, I sometimes  pass this section of Roland Ave, and have to select the least bad choice - road or Cycle Track.  Usually I opt for the road, though without the bikelane cars now have to change lanes to safely pass.  One problem I find when I use the Cycle Track,  as Janet and others have mentioned, is its narrowness - 2' buffer and 4' riding area.  The City Bicycle Master Plan calls for a 6' riding area and a 2 - 3' buffer.  And to make matters worse , the parking lane is only 7' wide.  Parked cars shy away from the traffic lane and encroach on the buffer - narrowing the Cycle Track to just 5' or even 4'.  And I also encounter delivery trucks that are over 8' wide.  Since they won't fit in the 7' parking lane, trucks also intrude into the buffer.  Consequently I encounter a Cycle Track, some of which is only 4 -5' wide from parked cars/trucks to curb, without any door zone buffer.  Riding my bicycle in this substandard width facility is like driving my car in half a lane, as I had to do in the blizzard.

      Unfortunately the City promised the Roland Park Improvement Association a riding area with a separation barrier from moving traffic.  The fact that the community wants to also retain parking and the City  insists on retaining two traffic lanes - and much of the street is only 34' wide in each direction - didn't stop the City from saying NO to the Association's request.  So after marking two 10'6" travel lanes (minimum width required by state law), there's only 13' feet remaining for a combined parking lane and Cycle Track.
And to make matters worse, this section of Roland Ave has many intersections, as Ellen Hochman mentioned, requiring the Cycle Track to continually switch from the curb to the traditional bikelane position.  Sound confusing???? And has anyone thought of prohibiting parking on certain days to allow street sweeping, so the  Track can be cleaned of glass, leaves, and sticks? 

       Now that the City has put in the Cycle Track, they should evaluate its safety and see whether children will  start using the Track to bike to school, which is the reason why the Improvement Association said they want it.  For legal purposes,  the City has defined the Cycle Track as a Bikepath rather than a bikelane; thereby allowing cyclists the option of using the roadway.  Now the City needs to let the public know that cyclists may use the roadway, so law abiding cyclists aren't harassed.  With spring approaching, I say let's objectively evaluate the Cycle Track with the new Charles Street buffered bikelane along JHU campus - and see what works better.

Jeffrey H. Marks

Feb-02-16 10:34 pm
Cycle Track Causes Confusion
Category: Social
Forum: Advocacy

ROLAND AVE CYCLE TRACK

     The Cycle Track has many shortcomings and is very confusing.  Residents with small children felt that putting cyclists between parked cars and the curb would make it safer for their children to bike to school.  However, as Ellen Hochman pointed out, Roland Ave with 13 -15 intersections in this 1.2 mile stretch, doesn't lend itself to squeezing cyclists between the parked cars and the curb.  First there's insufficent room.  Although the City Bicycle Master Plan calls for a width of 8 - 9' for a one way Cycle Track - where parked cars are the separation barrier - the majority of the Track is only 6' wide, putting the cyclist in the door zone.  The second shortcoming is the many intersections and the need to preserve parking.  Cyclists are safer at intersections where they are near the traffic flow, away from the curb.  A proper Cycle Track has a "Mixing Zone" , where right turning traffic merges to the RIGHT of through cyclists prior to the intersection.  Roland Ave doesn't do this.  Instead,  Cyclists abruptly move from the curb to close to the traffic lane.  Where  there are several intersections/driveways in a short distance (i.e - near Le Petite Louise), the bikeway stays to the LEFT of parked cars rather than continually moving to/from the curb. This design is the least bad of several choices.  However, the need to constantly shift the cyclist from near the curb to close to the traffic lane is very confusing.  The third shortcoming is leaves, branches, glass, and now snow and ice.  These hazards tend to pile up near the curb, and unlike a conventional or buffered bikelane there's no easy way to leave a Cycle Track to avoid these hazards - or to make a lefthand turn.

        Only the cheer leaders for the Cycle Track came to public meetings.  However, once the Track opened and people were told to park 6' from the curb, there was tremendous controversy.  Drivers now had to open their car doors directly into  traffic.  Drivers removing children from car seats are now in the Cycle Track, instead of the sidewalk.  Eddie's and the pharmacy strenuously objected, but to no avail.

       Several club members turned out in the summer meeting to oppose the Cycle Track.  But the City had made up its mind.  The one thing that we were able to accomplish was for the City to agree to legally designate this one way Cycle Track as a BIKEPATH, with its physical separation barrier of parked cars, rather than a BIKELANE, making cyclist use OPTIONAL. Sound confusing???  Just like a business or nonprofit may have a common and a legal name (i.e - League of American Bicyclists vs League of American Wheelmen), the same goes for a bicycle facility. 

       We recall how cyclists vigorously fought for the right to the road and to be treated like vehicles.  We resisted efforts to require us to use bikepaths - especially paths that parallel a road with many intersections.  Federal Guidelines were drawn up for proper design of Bikelanes. While I'm glad that there are new cyclists, they lack experience and education.  There's more to cycling than clicking on Mapquest.  Cycle Tracks are a hot item.  Bikemore is one of the leading proponents.  Cycle Tracks, to be done correctly, require more space, complex engineering, parking restrictions, increased maintenance and sweeping/plowing, and a lot of cyclist and motorist education. Roads with mixed traffic like Roland Ave don't lend themselves to a Cycle Track. We don't live in Denmark where half the people bike. Cyclists need to ride where they can be easily seen by traffic entering the roadway and making right and lefthand turns.  There needs to be greater thought, so good cycling routes like Roland Ave aren't ruined by Cycle Tracks.

Jeffrey H. Marks

Dec-17-15 04:09 pm
Cycle Track Causes Confusion
Category: Social
Forum: Advocacy

      Opening the Roland Ave Cycle Track should wait until spring; when people's minds are not distracted by the holidays, more cyclists are out, and a major educational campaign can be undertaken to instruct motorists where to park and to yield to cyclists.  Opening the Cycle Track prematurely without education, proper signage and pavement makings, clarification on right of way, etc causes confusion AND ENDANGERS CYCLISTS.

      The Roland Park Community is divided over whether to retain the conventional bikelane or to convert to a one way Cycle Track between parked cars and the curb.  Families with small children are the biggest supporters of the Cycle Track.  Other residents don't like  losing the bike lane that serves as a buffer between parked and moving cars.  Also, having passengers exit onto the Cycle Track makes many people uncomfortable.  Merchants like Eddie's are strongly opposed to the Cycle Track, since it impedes shoppers loading groceries and causes conflicts with cyclists.

      The tight dimensions of many sections of Roland Ave also work against the Cycle Track.  Some sections of the Track would only have 6' between parked cars and the newly raised curb.  The narrow width would leave only a 2' buffer area and a 4' bikelane; requiring cyclists to ride in the passenger door zone.  The yellow MDOT Pamphlet, "Safe Bicycling in Maryland", advises cyclists to ride 4' from parked cars, in order to avoid the risk of being hit by a car door. Also, the narrow dimensions of the Track would make it difficult or impossible to safely pass slower cyclists - say a child going 5 mph. Additionally Cycle Tracks require special engineering to slow down traffic crossing the Cycle Track; and to make it clear that the cyclist has the right of way.

     Since the Cycle Track has a physical barrier - parked cars - between cyclists and the traffic lane;  Maryland Law appears to consider the facility a bikepath
rather than a bikelane.  The City indicated at public meetings that cyclists would have the option of using the roadway. Cyclists wanting exercise, commuters, and when going fast on downhill sections should consider using the roadway.  Personally, I would have prefered a "buffered bikelane", like the well designed one on Charles Street along JHU,

Jeffrey H. Marks

Jun-02-15 02:55 pm
Ride Highlights
Category: Social
Forum: Ride Reports

Six cyclists participated in this scenic 38 mile ride that links Loch Raven Resevoir with Gunpowder St Pk.  Thanks to our group of intrepid riders and a helpful construction crew, we were able to cross the Jericho Covered Bridge that is being completely reconstructed. We enjoyed the ambiance of Palmissano's and having lunch by the stream across from  historic Jerusaleum Mill.  The scenery was definitely worth the climbs. Wanting extra mileage, Carol Russell rode the 12 miles roundtrip to the ride start. Ride was great way to start the weekend.

May-26-15 11:54 pm
Bicycle Touring
Category: Technical
Forum: Riding Style

    Taking advantage of last Saturday's perfect weather, I did an overnight bicycle trip from the East Frederick Arts District to historic Harper's Ferry.  I left Frederick by Ballenger Creek Pike.  After passing thru  new residences and schools, Ballenger Creek Pike becomes rural with mountains in background, before reaching Point of Rocks.  I then took the shady C & O Canal to Brunswick, a former railroad town that still has a nice  Museum.  I continued via road to HF, savoring the view of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers surrounded by mountains.  After lounging around HF, I returned to Sandy Hook, Md and stayed at the Hostel, where I met a large group of road cyclists who had biked from DC and N Va.  There were also several hikers who had started hiking the appalachian trail (AT) in early March at Springer Mtn GA and were approaching the midpoint of their 6 month journey to Mt Katadin. They had some interesting adventures.  Loretta, the hostel manager, and her assistant prepared a delicious dinner for $8.  After dinner some people hung out at the campfire, though the evening was chilly.  And the hostel had just been renovated.
    Sunday morning I headed into W VA and biked 12 miles to the Farmer's Market in friendly Shepherdstown.  Then I took a combination of road and Canal back to
HF and retraced my route to East Frederick. Sunday's longer mileage was 57, but the riding was easy. Great overnight low cost trip, without having to carry much gear.  Perhaps other BBC members will think about joining me next year.
Jeffrey H. Marks

May-21-15 10:50 pm
City Planning to Convert Roland Ave's Bikelanes to narrow One Way Cycle Tracks
Category: Social
Forum: Advocacy

At the Roland Ave Improvement Association Meeting, Baltimore City Transportation Director William Johnson described converting Roland's bikelanes into one way Cycle Tracks, between parked cars and the curb, on each side of Roland. What unpleasantly surprised Barry Childress and me was that each one way Cycle Track would only be 6' wide - a 4' bikelane and a two foot buffer for passengers to alight from parked cars.  Federal Guidelines, where parked cars are the buffer, call for an 8' minimum width.  The current design not only provides insufficent room for cyclists  to pass other cyclists but also too little space to avoid the door zone of parked cars.  MDOT's yellow brochure, " Safe Bicycling in Maryland ", on page 16 instructs cyclists to ride at least 4' away from parked cars, so one doesn't get hit if someone opens their door. A conventional bikelane allows the cyclist to move out of the door zone where necessary.  A one way 6' Cycle Track doesn't. Riding 4' from parked cars and 1' from the curb in a 6' space leaves only 1' for the cyclist..  At a time when I was just starting to understand Cycle Tracks, removing the bikelane on a key bicycle commuter route to shoehorn Cycle Tracks  rekindles my skepticism that the City will build Cycle Tracks where there's no room or they aren't suitable.

    Commuters prefer Roland Ave because it's more of a neighborhood street and ends at Lake Ave, making it less attractive to motorists than say Charles St that provides access to the Beltway.  Unlike Falls Rd south of Coldspring, Roland has a passing lane, allowing motorists to pass bicyclists without encroaching into oncoming traffic.

WILL CYCLISTS BE REQUIRED TO USE THE CYCLE TRACKS?

     Md is one of 8 states that require cyclists, with limited exceptions, to use a bikelane. Use of a bikepath in MD is optional.  (All surroundings states - PA, DE, DC, and VA - don't require cyclists to use either a bikelane or bikepath).  I talked to Bicycle Director Caitlin Doolin at the meeting, and she said that one way out of this dilemma would be to call the Cycle Track a Bikepath rather than a Bikelane. Caitlin said that NY City just changed their terminology of Cycle Tracks,  to avoid mandatory use. I also conferred with LAB Legal and Policy Specialit Ken McLeod.  Ken sent me Md's Title 21 Vehicle Laws - Rules of the Road 21-101 Definitions:
    " Bicycle Path" means any travelway designed and designated by signing or signing and marking for bicycle use, located within its own right-of-way or in a shared right-of-way and PHYSICALLY SEPARATED FROM MOTOR VEHICLE TRAFFIC BY BERM, SHOULDER, OR OTHER SIMILAR DEVICE.  Ken indicated that it appears the definition of "bicycle path" in MD likely encompasses a cycletrack that is physically separated from motor vehicle traffic.  While it appears the City will tolerate cyclists using the roadway, they prefer we use the Cycle Track.  Our challenge as part of the traffic calming project is to persuade the City to put sharrows on the roadway to alert motorists that we have the option of using the roadway.
Jeffrey H. Marks

     

May-15-15 04:45 pm
City Considering Converting Roland Ave's Bikelanes to One Way Cycle Tracks
Category: Social
Forum: Advocacy

Baltimore is repaving Roland Ave and seeking community input on whether to replace the traditional bikelane with a one way Cycle Track, located between the parked cars and the curb, on each side of Roland.  The Roland Park Civic Association will be holding a public meeting at 7 pm Thursday, May 21 at Roland Park Elem, 5207 Roland Ave. The meeting will discuss the best method of accommodating bicyclists. 

       Cycle Tracks are designed for slower speeds and work best when a lot of cyclists use them.  The Tracks would have cyclists use the crosswalks at Northern Pkwy and Cold Spring Lane.

       Commuters and faster cyclists need to be represented at the meeting. Roland Ave was the City's first Bikeway and has been in use for over 35 years.  With the exception of Tom Palermo's death by a drunk driver 3 times over the limit, Roland Ave has served the needs of bicycle commuters. I talked with about 8 cyclists today, Bike to Work Day, and they all favored retaining conventional bikelanes, rather than a Cycle Track.  Unlike other arterials, like Falls Rd and Charles Street, Roland ends at Lake Ave; giving the road a local feel.

       Several questions need to be asked:

1) Are there any parallel secondary streets which can be improved for children and casual cyclists?

2)  Ask parents:  Will converting the conventional bikelanes to one way Cycle Tracks result in them allowing their children to bike to school? If so, will schools be prepared for the influx of bikes?  Will schools keep textbooks, computers, and other items kids must transport to a manageable level, so they can safely bike?  Will private schools allow students to bike?  Are their any dress code issues that may preclude students from biking to school?

3) What traffic calming measures, street markings, and motorist education is planned so turning and cross street traffic pay extra attention and look for cyclists where they don't expect to see them?

4) Will there be a separate signal phase for cyclists, who are now at the right of right turning traffic, to cross Cold Spring Lane and Northern Pkwy ?

       We should sensitize the community to the different levels of cyclists. When one is commuting 10 miles to work, travel time is important.  Also people ride to get exercise.  Restricting a cyclist who normally rides at 16 mph, and even 25+ on downhills, to the 10 - 11 mile design speed is unfair.  Because Roland Ave ends at Lake Ave; Roland is  a local road and more comfortable for cyclists
than streets like Charles and Falls Rd that go out to and access the Beltway.  People should accept that faster cyclists and long distance commuters will often need to use the travel lanes, especially on downhills.
'
     Again, your input is needed at the May 21st Meeting.  Questions, call or email Jeffrey Marks at 410-358-1321; jeffreym715@yahoo.com.

     I agree with Ed Hopkins that the Baltimore City Bicycle Master Plan is fair in allowing the best type of bikeway - whether it be a conventional bikelane or a separated Cycle Track - to be determined on an individual basis - rather than making separated Cycle Tracks the default bikeway, as Bikemore proposed.  Also, one way  Traditional Bikelanes can be improved is by buffering them on each side with painted hatch marks. Buffering would make the bikelane safer and more visible. Currently, many bikelanes are too narrow and placed in the door zone.  Also eliminating parking near intersections and providing a "mixing zone" for right turning traffic to cross the bikelane prior to the intersection and enter a pocket lane next to the curb would reduce right hooks.

    Now that a reasonable compromise has been reached on the Master Plan, we turn our attention to working together to improve bicycling.  I attended Bike Maryland's Symposium and met with Legislative assistants of the 41st District to fully support Bike Maryland's Agenda.  My talking points included supporting legislation (HB 588/SB 547) to improve safety by closing a loophole in the 3' Passing Law that  allows motorists to pass closer when the roadway is narrow, instead of waiting until it's safe to pass.  I also supported the demonstration two way Cycle Track on Maryland Ave that will link Charles Village with Universities and the Inner Harbor.

    In the afternoon Bill Schultesis from Toole Design spoke about Cycle Tracks. He felt that properly designed Cycle Tracks would attract more riders and improve safety, especially for less experienced riders. However, Bill recognized that there are different levels of cyclists and indicated that Cycle Tracks are designed for slower riders and that faster riders should NOT be pressured into using Cycle Tracks.  Bill showed a slide of a Cycle Track along with a Sharrow in the middle of the traffic lane for faster riders.  Bill also said that it's vital that cyclists respect and be careful around pedestrians.  He pointed out that cyclists killed two pedestrians in NY City, causing a backlash against NY's bicycle program.  Bill said he wants pedestrians to be our allies.  With that thought in mind, I resolve to carefully control my speed on Bike Paths and Cycle Tracks (or else use the traffic lanes; where children may abruptly alight from parked cars onto the Cycle Track.

Jeffrey H. Marks

Feb-20-15 01:23 pm
BBC Opposition of Protected Bikeways
Category: Social
Forum: Advocacy

I live in the City and support the Master plan that includes Cycle Tracks, but as Charlie says, I have a problem with Bikemore's Amendment that makes Tracks the default accommodation on not only high speed but also low speed (25 mph) arterials. I too would have liked for Bikemore and Bike Maryland to have approached the BBC and to discuss the Amendment with us. Our Pres had three conversations with the Director of Bike Maryland (BM), and BM never mentioned the Master Plan or the Amendment. Let this be a learning experience for everyone.  (Incidentally, I strongly support Bike Maryland.  The new director  works hard, is knowledgable, and has his hands full with the legislative session, and working with the new Governor and legislature to not only get improvements but also to keep from losing what we have. I also support Bikemore  being a lobbying and advocacy group for beginning cyclists and for promoting bike culture.)  I belong to both groups, as well as the BBC..

      There are different levels of cyclists.  When I grew up the debate was over bikepaths vs wide curblanes vs bikelanes. Generally speaking Begineers and slower cyclists wanted bikepaths, and more experienced and faster cyclists preferred wide curblanes, with conventional bikelanes being a middle ground. Maryland Law made Bikepaths
optional, and bikelanes with limited exceptions were mandatory. Now Cycle Tracks, that are a hybrid of bikepaths and conventional bikelanes, have come into the picture.  Bikemore points to Cycle Tracks in countries like Germany and Denmark, where half the population cycles.  After being destroyed in WWII, many European Cities rebuilt with cyclists in mind and made cycle tracks part of the new infrastructure.  In the U.S we have to fit Tracks into our existing street grid and residents desire for on street parking. In the City people get upset when they lose parking.

      It's natural for different cycling groups, and cyclists within the BBC, to have different preferences; and for experienced cyclists to want to retain wide curblanes and conventional and buffered bikelanes (Painted buffer - not a physical barrier).  Bikemore also has a right to lobby for their constituents who want more emphasis on separate facilities.  Representing all cyclists Bike Maryland should consider the preferences of all its member clubs and if they are divided take no position.  The "gold standard" would be for the clubs to hear each other's positions and try to reach a middle ground.  Negotiations often require an honest broker, as REI did between mountain bikers and the Sierra Club to reach a compromise on cycling on trails/fireroads in the Marin Headlands, CA  and our national forests.

       The BBC should encourage members to read the Master Plan and the Bikemore Amendment and become part of the process. This is our civic duty.  To comment you may email City Bicycle Coordinator at caitlin.doolin@baltimorecity.gov through Thursday, Feb 26.

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