Getting in gear for spring

The UB Bicycling Club is planning rides around Baltimore in April and May

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Laura Melamed and Scott Thomsen get ready to go to Baltimore Bike Party last Halloween. Poe stayed on campus. The UB Bicycling Club will ride to Bike Party this Spring on April 29. Photo credit: Curtis Stith

Are you ready to get outside and have some fun, this spring? If so, check out what the bike club is offering.

Canton Waterfront Ride

The UB Bicycling Club is planning a ride to Canton Waterfront Park on April 2nd. The ride will leave Gordon Plaza at 2:30 p.m. and head down the Jones Falls Trail, riding along the water through the Inner Harbor and Fells Point. 

  Riding along the bay downtown is one of my favorite things to do in Baltimore. Looking out across the water, checking out the boats and enjoying the peace, quiet, and absence of cars in the company of friends is a great way to spend a Saturday morning. Even alone, the ride is a good way to commune with nature and get some exercise.

  The ride to Canton starts out heading downhill and once you hit the Inner Harbor, it’s flat all the way to Canton. The only uphill section is going north on the Jones Falls Trail back to UB.

Farmer’s Market Ride

Look out for a farmer’s market ride on April 16th.  Meet the club at 9 a.m on Gordon Plaza. 

Last November, the club rode to the Waverly Farmers Market and loaded up with fresh vegetables and Zeke’s coffee and at least one of us stocked up on homemade pot pies. Okay that was me, but it was at the top of a hill at closing time and they were going for a great price!

 BWI Trail Ride

On April 23rd the club is planning to take the MARC train to the BWI Trail. For a 10-mile loop, the trail is fairly flat with some moderate hills. The trail is near Baltimore and Washington airport, hence the name. The ride will be be a fun way to get to know people and check out planes flying overhead.

Bike Party Ride

On April 29th, the club will ride with Baltimore Bike Party. If you’ve never checked out Bike Party, this may be the perfect time, with warmer weather and people you may know.

  Baltimore Bike Party is a sight to behold. With thousands of bicyclists riding en masse, it’s like a traffic jam that actually moves. There’s music, costumes, and people of all ages riding together. Generally a two or three-hour slow paced ride, there’s a break in between. At Bike Party’s final destination, which is different every time, there are usually plenty of food trucks, which I’m usually more than ready for, after a few hours of riding. Although I’m particularly partial to post-ride falafel, there are often many choices.

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UB student Curtis Stith rides with Baltimore Bike Party Photo Credit: Laura Melamed

Bike to School Day and Ride

For even more food, you might want to try Bike to School Day on May 4th. Ride your bike to campus and check-in at Gordon Plaza in the morning or evening.

  Bike to School Day is celebrated nationally to promote healthy commuting that’s good for people and the environment. Also, it’s more fun than driving or waiting for the bus.

  Last year on Bike to School Day, people who rode their bikes to UB got free coffee in the morning as well as pizza in the evening, depending on when they arrived at school. Fun t-shirts especially designed for the occasion were also available. Maybe you’ve seen people wearing them around campus!

  A noontime discussion on the state of bicycling in Baltimore was informative and interesting, as part of Bike to School Day. UB Sustainability Planner, Jeff La Noue, discussed Bike to School Day and Baltimore City Bicycle and Pedestrian Planner, Caitlin Doolin, and Executive Director of Bikemore ,Greg Hinchliffe, gave an enlightening presentation. UB Police Officers Kemp and Shaw joined the discussion, as well.

  An afternoon ride up the Jones Falls Trail, later that same day, was a fun way to exercise and get to know new people.

Ride Details

For more information about Bike to School Day and other upcoming rides, email Scott Thomsen at Scott.Thomsen@ubalt.edu . Feel free to join the UB Bicycling Club on Org Sync and visit us on Facebook, too!

Being green gets easier: improvements are planned for Baltimore’s bicycle network

UBGreen encourages alternative transportation, including bicycling, to reduce the university’s carbon footprint. Over the next two years there will be extensive improvements to the bicycle network around campus. Baltimore’s new Downtown Bicycle Network will consist of improved bike lanes running east and west as well as north and south. Also, a city-run bike-share system is coming later this summer. Bicycling will become a safer and more practical transportation choice.

Bike lanes coming

A cycle track is planned for Maryland Avenue, with a June start date for construction. A cycle track is a protected bike lane, with a physical barrier between the bike lane and traffic. Several of these facilities already exist in Washington DC, a city with fast rising cycling rates. The Maryland Avenue project is expected to take 90 days to complete. The cycle track will run right through campus to the Inner Harbor southbound and north to 29th St. in Charles Village near Johns Hopkins University.

183 UB students live in the 21218 zip code, 239 live in 21201 and 205 live in 21202. All three zip codes will be a short distance from the new cycle track, putting at least 627 UB students within easy biking distance of UB.

Additionally, students biking to UB from zip code 21211, where 89 students live and which includes Hampden and other northwest locations, will be able to bike the Jones Falls Trail and connect directly with the Maryland Ave. Cycle Track and take it south to campus.

“I would definitely use that route,” said UB student Mia White. “It would give me a safer, more populated route back up to Hampden after dark. And it will mean I can get from my house to campus without having to use any major roads!”

“Charles Village residents would be able to get to UB pretty much instantaneously—and safely, of course–using the cycle track,” said UB student Zachary Holbrook, who commuted to UB by bicycle, regularly, when he lived in Charles Village.

“It’s quicker by bike than car,” said Joshua Davis, assistant professor of history at UB. Davis currently commutes to UB by bicycle, from the Charles Village area, whenever weather allows. “I think the main reason it’s quicker is that it takes a decent amount of time to find a parking spot in the garage and then walk a few blocks back to campus. So a lot depends on where in Charles Village one’s coming from but also where one would be parking.” Davis currently commutes down the bike boulevard on Guilford Ave. and would actually benefit from a second cycle track, planned for Mt. Royal Ave.

The Mt. Royal Streetscape/Cycle Track is another bike facility that will connect our campus with MICA and Bolton Hill. It is scheduled to break ground in 2017, according to a news post by Bikemore, Baltimore City’s bicycle advocacy group. The post appeared on the organization’s website Jan. 7.

Advocating for safe bicycling

Bikemore wants more students to join the campaign to make Baltimore safer and friendlier for bicycles. Adding members helps Bikemore be persuasive with politicians who sometimes don’t realize many people want safe and convenient bike routes. Bikemore offers a $25 student membership for any student who wants to get on board.

Bikesharing

In addition to the cycle tracks, a Baltimore bike-share system is sched- uled to launch this fall. Bike-share is a public system that rents bicycles for short-term use. $500 thousand for a bike share system implementation is part of Baltimore’s new public transit plan. With UB right across the street from Penn Station, students are likely to have ample opportunity to participate in bike-share. Baltimore City estimates 300-400 bicycles to be available, initially. UB is evaluating adding a bike-share station directly on campus, according to Jeff La Noue, UB’s sustainability planner.

New at UB

UB recently installed covered bike parking in the Maryland Avenue Garage (MAG). The rack is geared for UB students living in the Mt. Vernon area who may not want to lug their bikes to upper floor apartments, but still want to keep their bikes in a safe, covered area. However, bicycle parking at the MAG is not meant to be treated as an attic. UB commuters are welcome to it as well. Bicycle parking in the MAG is free.

Look out for a bicycle-commuter class this semester. The UB Student Government Association (SGA) and the UB Bicycling Club are working to bring you this event to help make your trip to campus easier.

UB has free showers and lockers at the gym on the third floor of the Academic Center. There are additional state-of-the art showers located in the basement of UB’s Law Center. Showers on campus help make bicycle commuting convenient. There is bicycle parking, outside and under cover, near most of UB’s major buildings.

Join the UB Bicycling Club and get to know the local routes with a group. Scott Thomsen, president of the club, plans to use the Maryland Avenue Cycle Track frequently for club rides. “We could definitely make use of it whenever we go north, or even south for that matter,” he says. To join the club or find out more, visit Org Sync or search the University of Baltimore Bicycling Club on Facebook. Additionally, you can contact Thomsen at Scott.Thomsen@ubalt. edu. Thomsen is a freshman at UB and plans to commute to campus by bicycle for the next three years.

Can UB be a “Bike Friendly University?”

Bicycle Friendly University (BFU) is an official designation given by the League of American Bicyclists with awards ranging from bronze to platinum.

BFU awards are official recognition that a campus creates safe and convenient places to ride and park bicycles, teaches people of all ages and skill levels, builds a strong bike culture that welcomes and celebrates bicycling, ensures safe roads for all users and plans for bicycling as a safe and viable transportation option, states the League of American Bi- cyclists on its website. In Maryland, designated BFU’s include Towson University (bronze) and University of Maryland (gold). UB, Salisbury University, and UMBC are expected to apply for official Bicycle Friendly University Status in August. UB’s 2011 BFU application fell short. “Progress is happening so we have more to offer in our application this time” said Jeff La Noue. If UB gets official BFU status, we will be the first Baltimore City university to achieve that goal.

It seems like a practical choice to me.

Riding in a winter wonderland: Stay safe after dark, in the cold, rain and snow

Copy of Melamed_BikeColumnWinter“Don’t skimp on being seen,” says UB Sustainability Planner, Jeff La Noue. You’re more likely to be riding in the dark during the winter because of shorter days. Windshields can be foggy or icy. Visibility is reduced on the road. Sometimes it’s raining, sleeting or snowing.

Wear bright and reflective clothing, lights on your bike–both front and back, as well as lights on your helmet or backpack, says La Noue, who commutes to UB by bicycle.

“Reflective tape on the bike is a cheap way to increase luminescence.”

“The more you glow and light up the dark the more likely it is you will be seen,” says La Noue.

“Lights are the biggest thing,” says Bernardo Vigil, who works at Baltimore Bicycle Works (BBW) a bike shop two blocks from campus on the Jones Falls Trail.

BBW sells lights that allow you to be seen–and lights that allow you to see. There are red lights for the back of your bike and white lights for the front of your bike. Some lights can be adapted to fit on your backpack or helmet. Other lights are made specifically for these locations.

I rely heavily on a 300-volt Cat Eye white light that sits on my handlebars. I don’t leave home without it. It does double duty: it lets me see on dark, wet streets, and it makes me visible to drivers and pedestrians in similar conditions.

I also wear a turquoise helmet, and sometimes even day-glow orange yoga leggings which do double duty as cycling pants. Both stand out at night and against a snowy background.

A bright orange wind jacket helped Pete Ramsey stay visible whenever he commuted from UB at night during the winter. Pete, who used to work at UB’s Langsdale Library, always set his lights to flash before he took off.

“I always use lights after dark,” says Pete. “One small flasher in each wheel, two lights forward–one flashing and one to see the ground–and one bright red flasher in the back.

Now you know several ways to stay visible. But how will you ever stay warm?

It can be done, say staff at BBW. “It’s all about layers,” says Casey McMann, who has experience bike riding through Michigan winters. Vigil agrees. Vigil is from Minnesota and bike rides in winter as well. “I’m very partial to Merino wool for everything,” says Vigil. “It doesn’t smell as bad as synthetics. It’s very warm, but still breathable.” Virgil advises not to wear a heavy jacket, as you heat up very fast once you get moving.

I’ve seen bike-riders stuck with a heavy coat, luckily accompanied by friends with backpacks. They always, without fail, pass their coat over to the person with the pack.

“I might wear a pea-coat if I were going a really short distance,” says Virgil, “but otherwise a thin waterproof shell is essential. It should be large enough that you can layer underneath.”

You also want a good cinch between your sleeves and gloves, says Vigil, to keep out the wind. A tube-like scarf can keep your neck warm, without risk of getting caught in your chain or your wheels.

About gloves, Vigil says “You want them!”

Vigil wore wool liner gloves under leather work gloves, while bike-riding through Minnesota winters, mainly because he had them around.

They need to stop wind, said Vigil of winter-riding gloves. They shouldn’t be bulky—you want to make sure you can maintain dexterity. BBW has cycling-specific gloves made for various temperature ranges, says Grace Blair, who also works at BBW.
Endura Deluge gloves are designed to keep you warm down to 35 degrees–but Blair has worn them at 20 degrees while cycling downhill 7 miles, from Towson, to BBW.

The shop also has Giro gloves for winter. According to the label, the Giro gloves (specifically the “proof” glove) will keep you warm down to 25 degrees.

BBW also sells wool caps you can wear under your helmet.

Pete Ramsey doubles up on socks when it drops to 25 degrees.

You can find winter-specific cycling shoes at BBW as well as covers you can put over your existing shoes.

Now that you’ve got the gear down, how do you get around?

Vigil recommends non-studded winter-specific tires that can handle the regular road as well as snow and ice. They are a little wider and a little softer than regular tires, but they harden when exposed to cold. These tires have a little extra tread, as well.

Another option for winter riding, says Vigil, is to get the fattest tires your bike can handle. Don’t fill them up as much. You want them a little soft, so they widen when you’re on the bike, giving you a little more traction.

Allow extra time for travel. “I leave more time so I can ride a little slower and pay a little more attention than I usually do,” says Vigil.

Fenders help, Vigil adds, but wouldn’t say they’re necessary. They do keep your drive train clean, though, which includes the chain, crank set and cogs. You need to clean your bike more often in winter, says Vigil, especially the chain. Otherwise, grit will wear things out faster.

Do you want to save money?

BBW is having a 30 percent off sale on all Endura products. Also, there may be a tune up special in February.

BBW is located at 1813 Falls Road on the Jones Falls Trail

BBW Hours:

Mondays 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Tuesday through Friday 11 a.m. to 7p.m.

Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Go visit them before you get cold feet.

 

I want to ride my bicycle

Fear, love, and loathing in Baltimore’s bike lanes

I love bike riding. Pedaling up a hill at the end of long day is a great way to burn off stress and cruising down the other side with the breeze in your face is a fantastic and exhilarating reward for your work.

It’s hard to describe how liberating it is to do something you thought you’d never do again—that you thought you were too old to do.

Since I got back on my bike after a 15-year “break,” I am in better shape than I have been in years. I can run further, I can lift more, and I lost 15 pounds while actually eating more.

And I didn’t have to take any extra time to do it.

I could do it on my way to work— the ideal exercise for a busy UB student—especially non-traditional students like myself, a Gen X mom working on a second master’s degree.

After a fun bike ride with UBGreen on the Jones Falls Trail in November 2013, led by UB Sustainability Planner Jeff La Noue and UB student Zachary Holbrook, I was more than ready to commute to school by bicycle, especially since it was mostly downhill. And until I was more fit, I could take the light rail halfway home—but I need a safe place to ride.

UB Gen X-graduate-student- mom tries bicycle commuting

Heat bounced off the SUVs racing by me, inches from my side. Riding my bike south on Falls Road, to UB from Mt. Washington, was challenging, especially north of the leafy beauty and relative safety of the Jones Falls Trail. Coming off the trail, just a block north of UB, I had to be careful to avoid crashing into the back of the Bolt Bus, often hidden from view. I was commuting by bike for exercise and stress reduction; until I realized the shoulder and neck tension I was experiencing came from dodging cars on Falls Road, north of the trail.

The drivers seemed tense, too, the way they were leaning on their horns and occasionally yelling, “Get off the road!” It wasn’t the most relaxing soundtrack.

Why not try Roland Avenue? It is 20 minutes out of my way and up a steep hill in Baltimore, but that would be a small price to pay for feeling a little safer. On the shaded Roland Avenue bike lane I got a little more peace and respect. People seemed to expect to see a cyclist, at least.

Maybe no loathing, but still there was fear—and danger

I hoped, gripping my sweaty handlebars, that I would only encounter regulars on Roland Avenue—that there would be no new drivers unaware of the bike lane.

I prayed parked cars would stay put until I passed by—and that their doors would stay closed. I had heard about people getting “doored”—at the last moment a car door opened into the bike lane and the cyclist had no time to avoid it.

Ron Cabal, a cyclist originally from Rhode Island and currently manager at Two Boots Pizza on Mt. Royal Avenue, has seen at least two cyclists hit car doors in the three years he has been in Baltimore.

But still I felt safer on Roland Avenue than a street with no bike lane at all.

I rode regularly to UB until one day in late December when I cruised past a flower-filled memorial on a hill just south of the intersection of Bellmore and Roland Avenue and thought Oh my god—someone was hit.

Tom Palermo, 41-year-old father of two, was killed by a car while riding in the same bike lane I took to UB every day. It was a shocking and tragic reminder of how, sadly, I am taking my life in my hands every time I try a healthy commute to work and school.

Cold weather set in, snow fell, and I decided to take a break from bike riding.

I want to start cycling again now that the weather is nice, but should I take the risk?

For people of all ages

A physical barrier, such as a curb, raised median or planting buffer, between the bike lane and traffic would help. Protected bike lanes, also called buffered bike lanes or cycle tracks, have been constructed in New York, Washington, DC, and Denmark.

“In Copenhagen people of all ages, including seniors, bike without fear; it’s normal,” La Noue said.

Construction of the Maryland Avenue Cycle Tracks (MACT) is planned to run from Charles Village to the Inner Harbor, passing between UB’s Gordon Plaza and the renovated UB Langsdale Library, may start this fall, after being postponed in 2014. If the cycle tracks are built to best practices such as a 10-foot wide track (and at least five-feet wide in intersections), it’s possible many, otherwise concerned, will start to bicycle.

In Copenhagen, sidewalks, streets and bike lanes are built at different levels, enhancing safety for all users. Bike lanes even have their own traffic lights. Photo by Eric Gilliland Flickr Creative Commons
In Copenhagen, sidewalks, streets and bike lanes are built at different levels, enhancing safety for all users. Bike lanes even have their own traffic lights.
Photo by Eric Gilliland
Flickr Creative Commons

Ianta Allotey, who attended UB in 2014 and lives in Reservoir Hill, said she would like to use the MACTs to visit the library, museums, and art galleries, as long as the track truly offered protection. A mother of three and formerly a professional baker, Allotey was especially excited about the prospect of cycling to local restaurants.

Allotey was thrilled with the health benefits she got from bike riding around Druid Hill Park last spring and summer, but she is scared to ride in traffic.

“I’m afraid to ride it in the street— afraid I’ll get hit by a car,” Allotely said.

Dina Varsalone, a returning student, working on finishing her BA at UB, is terrified of bike riding in Baltimore.

A couple of Varsalone’s friends were hit by cars in the city. She doesn’t want to go through what they’ve gone through.

Varsalone, who loved cycling on trails in New Hampshire, was excited to hear about the cycle tracks. She was especially enthusiastic when she found out the tracks will run through some of the more well-travelled areas of the city. “We could use them for more than just getting to school,” she said.

“I don’t like riding around Baltimore,” Tracy Dimond said, a grad student at UB. “I think drivers are doing things I can’t anticipate but might kill me, like pulling out of parking spaces without looking, at all.”

Dimond liked the flexible posts she’d seen installed recently in New York (they can also be found in DC). The posts are reflective and create a barrier between drivers and cyclists. “That would definitely make me feel safer as a biker to have those things,” Dimond said.

UB grad student Charlie Billingsley likes to ride mainly on trails and in parks.

“My last epic ride was from Pittsburgh to DC on the Allegheny passage, two years ago,” he said. “I like to ride in big open spaces.”

Billingsley once rode in New York City before cycle tracks were installed. He found himself swerving around car doors, taxis, and automobile traffic. He’d love to see cycle tracks in Baltimore.

Young children may benefit from protected bike lanes as well. Cycle tracks support public health goals, especially for children, said the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals (APBP) in a 2010 report. After seeing a young family bike riding on Roland Avenue, in the unprotected bike lane, during morning rush hour, I have to agree.

I was shocked, at first, to see a man towing his child in a cart attached to his bicycle, followed by a young girl of about 12 years old, riding her own bike.

Cars were teaming down the street beside us.

“People have to get places,” William Helman said, Digital Services Librarian at Langsdale and a bicycling commuter. Helman is right. Not everyone in Baltimore can afford a car.

The city says it’s committed

Several days after Palermo’s death was reported in the New York Times, the Maryland Department of Transportation announced it was committed to the construction of the MACTs.

There was a bike lane on Roland Avenue where Palermo got hit, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said, as reported in the Baltimore Sun. “It motivates the work we are doing to have more protected lanes for bicyclists to ride.”

“We have a long way to go to catch up, but we’re going to get there very quickly,” said City Transportation Director William Johnson as quoted in the Baltimore Sun. “This is a top priority of the mayor’s office. It’s been made very clear to us.”

Also running through UB’s campus, a buffered bike lane is planned for Mt. Royal Avenue. Called the Midtown Streetscape, it seems this cycle track, if built to best practices, can make UB a safer spot for student commuters.

Safety second? New Maryland guidelines

The Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) just released new bike lane construction guidelines in January 2015.

While it’s a step in the right direction, allowing raised bike lanes and other safe bike lane construction initiatives, it doesn’t actually require them.

The absence of designs for two- way protected bike lanes, is a concern, said health economist Jeff Lemieux and bicycle advocate Gregory Billing in the Washington Area Bicyclist Association Blog.

Since the MACTs are supposed to be a two-way protected bike lane, I’m concerned, as well.

Protecting bike riders from buses also needs to be addressed, say Lemieux and Billing, since many bike lanes run next to bus lanes.

The #11 bus runs on Maryland Avenue along with the aforementioned Bolt Bus.

Also missing from the plan, stated Lemieux and Billings, is a plan for intersections, where most collisions occur between bicycles and cars.

And high-speed roadways are a major issue, as well. The good news is SHA requires new roads to include bike lanes.

The bad news is, painted bike lanes are often too narrow for high-speed roads—yet that’s where they appear, say Billings and Lemieux.

Another safety issue concerns cars traveling above the posted speed limit. So you’ll find bike lanes designed for 30 mph streets where people are really traveling 40 or 50.

Broken bicycles—will Baltimore’s bike lanes really be safe?

Cycle tracks are essential for streets with high-speed traffic, insisted Baltimore advocacy group Bikemore, in a proposal urging Baltimore City to upgrade the Baltimore City Master Plan to make city roads safer.

The MACTs top the plan’s priority list, the first of several lanes that are part of the planned Baltimore City Bicycle Network.

We need to make sure the cycle tracks are built properly in order for them to be really safe.

Bikemore board member and Director of External Relations of the UB School of Law, Jedediah Weeks, is concerned that the physical “barrier” planned to separate cyclists and traffic on Maryland Avenue, is none other than parked cars.

“You know what’s going to happen,” Weeks said, who is also a founding member of Bikemore. “People are going to be driving and parking in the bike lane.”

Parking and driving in a bike lane is more than just an inconvenience. It’s dangerous. Cyclists run the risk of hitting the car—especially if there is nowhere to swerve to. With the MACTs that will be the issue. The bike lane will be between the parked cars and the sidewalk.

Pittsburgh initially had that problem and learned from its mistake. Bikemore members suggest we learn from Pittsburgh’s mistakes instead of having to experience them ourselves.

“We’re working to convince the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) to install flexible posts at least at the beginning and end of the cycle tracks,” Weeks added.

“We want construction to start early in the spring,” Weeks said.

“The Mt Royal [Avenue] Cycle Tracks (MRCT) have three critical flaws,” Weeks said of the other protected bike lane planned to run through UB’s campus. “It starts at the MICA Brown Center and runs to the UB Law Center. Basically from glass building to glass building.”

This may be an interesting aesthetic touch but safety-wise it falls seriously short. The track should really start in Reservoir Hill or, at the very least, at the MICA dorms on North Avenue so students don’t have to ride in traffic. Weeks is hopeful that with a new president at MICA, the plans can be reconfigured.

Another problem with the MRCTs is they run right by the Interstate 83 exit ramp.

“It’s unsafe,” Weeks said. “The highway off-ramp needs to be redesigned. Cars come off at highway speeds.”

Bikemore is working with MDOT to create a safer highway crossing for both pedestrians and cyclists.

Part of the MRCTs is slated for the sidewalk, which is unsafe for pedestrians. Bikemore is working with MDOT to resolve this issue as well.

The intersection of the MRCTs and the MACTs needs to be re- thought as well, Weeks said.

To ride without fear

I’m happy a resolution is in the works. Riding in unprotected lanes can be scary and dangerous.

The JFT, right near UB, is also a safety issue. Part of the JFT is on a sidewalk, which is dangerous for pedestrians. Part of the JFT is in the street,which is dangerous for cyclists. People have been hit by cars while bike riding on the JFT as well as in other unprotected bike lanes.

Personal responsibility is essential when driving a car. Driving drunk is immensely irresponsible and extremely dangerous. Texting and driving is an omnipresent hazard.

Accidents happen, even under the best of circumstances, and when a driver is using the utmost caution. Distractions are unavoidable: a baby in a car seat suddenly starts crying, a bird hits a windshield, an unexpected pothole appears after the previous day’s snowstorm. When I ride my bike, I need the same protection as pedestrians.

Maintain the lanes

Once they’re built, bike lanes need to stay paved and free of debris.

I’ve encountered potholes so large I had to leave the bike lane and ride in the street—and that’s with tires on my bike so thick they rub against my brakes unless I’m in a low gear.

I’ve had to ride around wet leaves, storm debris like tree branches, and chunks of pavement that end up in the bike lane.

Sometimes the mess is so uniform it looks suspiciously like it was swept there—like someone coloring in the lines—as if the bike lane were a drawing in a coloring book or an official dumping ground.

Once I even came across a dead deer lying in the bike lane. Okay, that was probably an accident, but did it have to stay there for three days? Finally, I called Baltimore City and it was removed.

Baltimore City needs to purchase an appropriate-sized snow plow for bike lanes as well, Weeks said. The city needs to realize bike lanes are for commuting, not just recreation. Many people can’t take the day— or the winter—off, just because it snowed.

Hope for the future—will Baltimore be as bike friendly as some cities?

Copenhagen is world famous for its biking culture and now officially the first Bike City in the World. Last year, it was voted “Best city for cyclists” and the “World’s most livable City”. Cities around the world aspire to be like Copenhagen. Copenhagen has over 240 miles of high-quality, designated bike lanes, according to Denmark’s official website. Wouldn’t it be great if Baltimore could say that one day, too? Baltimore currently rates as a Bronze-level bike-friendly city, but if improvements are not made, Baltimore may lose this level. Other cities are surpassing Baltimore and the standards are going up. There is evidence that Baltimore is falling behind.

Bikemore is working to make sure Baltimore keeps its Bronze rating, but needs help from the city. The Downtown Baltimore Bicycle Network is part of that plan.

We need to start construction right away, Weeks said. “Before young people decide they’re not going to live in Baltimore.”

Older students, like Ianta, Dina, and I, want Baltimore to be bike-friendly, too.

Bike-friendly UB

The newly formed UB Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee hopes to make UB the first accredited Bicycle Friendly University in Baltimore City. In order to be Bicycle Friendly, according to the League of American Bicyclists, a school needs to be working towards:

• Creating safe and convenient places to ride and park

• Giving people of all ages and abilities the skills and confidence to ride

• Creating a strong bike culture that welcomes and celebrates bicycling

• Ensuring safe roads for all users

I’m happy to report UB has bike racks at Gordon Plaza, the LAP building, and the Angelos Law Center.

UB also has a small but growing cycling community encouraged largely by UB Sustainability Planner Jeff La Noue.

Students can find out more at Bike UB’s Facebook page.

Bike riding saves you money. UB student Heather Franz sold her car and was able to buy four bicycles.

Bicycling is good for the economy. “Businesses on Eighth and Ninth Avenues in New York saw a 50% increase in sales receipts after protected bike lanes were installed on the corridor. On San Francisco’s Valencia Street, two-thirds of the merchants said bike lanes had been good for businesses,” reported Streetsblog USA.

Properly built protected bike lanes would improve student safety at UB.