By Laura Melamed
Citing safety as a top priority, enthusiastic students and city residents commended plans to install protected bike lanes, called cycle tracks, on Maryland Ave. The lanes will run right through campus providing UB students with another commuting option.
“I’m really excited about the cycle tracks,” UB student Heather Franz, B.A. Environmental Sustainability and Human Ecology said. “Riding bikes brings people joy. I know more people would ride and enjoy it if we had better infrastructure. Bike riding saved my life when I was going through a really rough time.”
Franz received a bicycle as a gift when she was overwhelmed with school, family illness and trying to live on a budget.
“I loved riding that bike,” Franz said. “For some reason it calmed me.”
“On the individual street level, protected bicycle paths calm traffic, which reduces automobile crash injuries and fatalities,” Chris Merriam, Executive Director of Bikemore, a local bicycle advocacy organization, wrote in an email.
Cycle tracks, which calm traffic, may save lives as well.
In 2012, 726 bike riders were killed nation- wide, and an additional 49,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes, according to a US Department of Transportation report. Across the city, cyclists may have a great deal to gain from the addition of cycle tracks in their neighborhoods.
In New York City, injuries dropped 56 per- cent as a result of a protected bike lane on Ninth Ave., according to a 2012 report by the New York City Department of Transportation.
Cycle track installation on Maryland Ave. will begin by Fall 2014 and be finished in 2015, Merriam said. The cycle track will link Charles Village to the Inner Harbor and points between, including The Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) and UB.
“For me it’s perfectly located—it’s literally my commute to school and work,” UB student Zachary Holbrook, B.A. Environmental Sustainability and Human Ecology, said.
Holbrook moved to Charles Village specifically to commute by bicycle. After two years and dropping 40 pounds, he said he feels fairly confident riding in traffic, but still has close calls with cars.
“I actually wrecked a couple of weeks ago,” Holbrook said.
He had to break and swerve when a car in front of him stopped short. Holbrook walked away with a cracked helmet, which he had to replace, and a scraped elbow.
“I was okay because I was wearing a helmet,” he said, “but if there were a cycle track there it never would have happened in the first place.”
Holbrook sees cycle tracks as essential for be- ginning and inexperienced riders. People who aren’t cycling now, but want to, will benefit from cycle tracks, he said.
“Let’s make our streets so people don’t die on them.”
“I’m afraid to ride in the street—I’m afraid I’ll get hit by a car,” UB student Ianta Allotey, B.A., Interdisciplinary Studies, said.
Allotey rides around Druid Hill Park for exercise, but wants to ride more. Leg pain accompanying a 60-pound weight gain has disappeared since she took up riding in May 2014.
Excited to hear about cycle tracks being installed on Maryland Ave, Allotey said she may use them to get to local restaurants, museums, galleries, the library and UB.
Cycle tracks, because they are safer than riding in the street, may encourage other city residents to take up cycling, as well.
After the Maryland Ave. installation, a cycle track will be built on Mt. Royal Ave. that will go from Lafayette St. at the heart of the MICA campus and extend .5 miles to the Southeast. There, the track will merge with the Jones Falls Trail at St. Paul St. across from Henderson House. The Mt. Royal cycle track is anticipated to start in 2015 and take 560 days to complete. The project, when finished, will increase student safety.
Cycle tracks presented the lowest risk of injury out of 14 types of routes, concluded a study published in the American Journal of Public Health in 2012.
“Mt. Royal can get pretty hairy,” Steven Carson, B.S., Business Administration, said while unlocking his bicycle from a rack on Gordon Plaza after class earlier this summer.
Students can expect to see more bike racks at the Student Center and elsewhere on campus this semester, UB Sustainability Planner Jeff La Noue said.
A safe cycling infrastructure in this neighborhood is critical, Megan Hamilton, co-founder of the Creative Alliance and avid Baltimore cyclist since 1990, said.
A driver running a red light hit Hamilton while she was riding her bike in 2008. She had to have four separate surgeries as a result.
Hamilton insists cycle tracks are essential. The University of Baltimore is at the heart of the cycling community, she said, stressing the urgency of building protected bike lanes for both students and local commuters.
Photo Credit: thisisbossi on Flickr.com