A few odds and ends on the city’s transportation pecking order

Written by on November 9, 2011 in Baltimore Voices - 5 Comments

There is a transportation pecking order here in the city.

Cyclists in the city complain that motorists cut them off in traffic and drive with a general disregard for bicyclists’ safety.

Of course, not all motorists are that way, the cyclists are quick to say, while implying that most are.

So the City of Baltimore has marked off bicycle lanes on just about every street in the city to make riding safer for cyclists.

And still the cyclists ride on the sidewalk. Of course I am quick to write that not all cyclists ride on the sidewalk. It just seems like most cyclists do.

Just about all of us who walk any distance in the city have tales of close escapes as cyclists whiz by.

Joe Manfre did not get a close escape–he got a broken leg, and surgery, and is in for a good long stint of rehab.

Just about everyone on the east side of town knows Joe, because he volunteers for everything. He’s active in his community group, he’s a friend of the library, he’s coordinating the Highlandtown Train Garden at Engine 41 this year, along with a host of other things.

At 7:30 a.m. Joe represented the Hampstead Hill Association at the opening of Hampstead Hill Academy’s new pre-K wing. Then he had to run–he had a lot of things to do that day.
On Friday about noon Joe was walking along Eastern Avenue toward the Creative Alliance when a cyclist, going pretty fast on the sidewalk, plowed into him. Joe went flying.
To the cyclist’s credit, he stopped and called 911. But when staffers ran out of the Creative Alliance to help, the cyclist jumped on his bike and sped away.

Still on the sidewalk.

Cyclists complain about motorists not looking out for them. Motorists should look out for the little guy, they say.

The cyclists are right. But they need to look out for their version of the little guy–that is, the pedestrian–too.

Cyclists need to stay the hell off the sidewalk. Period. There are bike lanes all over the city. Use them.

Joe, who is 67, had surgery on Saturday to set his broken femur. He’s in for a good long rehab. Here’s hoping he makes it to the opening of the Highlandtown Train Garden Dec. 3–he’s been working on the project since March. It would be a real pity if he missed the opening.
More on traffic. Can we all agree that motorists and cyclists should obey traffic signals? According to the State of Maryland they should, but apparently most of them missed the memo. In the last week I have nearly been run down at Conkling and Eastern, Broadway and Fleet, and Fort and Lawrence—each time while walking with the signal. A friend often has to dodge traffic–four-wheeled and two-wheeled–at Ann and Aliceanna.

You can make a right turn on red, but you are supposed to stop first. And while you are stopped, you’re supposed to look at the crosswalks around you, not at your iPhone. It’s a law, not a serving suggestion.

by Jacqueline Watts

5 Comments on "A few odds and ends on the city’s transportation pecking order"

  1. RADgirl November 16, 2011 at 10:09 am · Reply

    I agree that bicyclists need to stay off the pedestrian walkways. Bikes are considered vechicles–and should adhere to the rules of the road as such. OK, so there aren’t bike lanes all over the city–but there ARE roads that are made to be shared between passenger vehicles and bicycles alike,

    The cyclists in Baltimore want to have the benefits of being both a pedestrian (and using sidewalks) and of being a vehicle (by using the roads). I have seen cyclists using the road as intended–and then jetting over and taking advantage of cross walks and pedestrian walkways so as not to impede their progress–regardless of the people who are walking.

    As a pedestrian, I can’t hop off the sidewalk into the flow of traffic to avoid stopping at a cross walk and waiting my turn to cross–and when I’m in my car, I can’t jump the curb and join the cross walk pedestrians to get through a light faster-and cyclists shouldn’t be able to do that, either. It puts everyone at risk.

    So Baltimore Cyclists–try to stop blaming cars for your trouble–and act like you should when you go in public on the roads. You should be riding in traffic lanes, using your hand signals for turns–and being a good citizen.–regardlessof whether or not you have ‘bike lanes’. On the streets that you DO have bike lanes–I have yet to see someone actually use them.

    So what if you have to stop at stop lights. Get over it. If you have wheels–and you aren’t handicapped–then you shouldn’t be driving on the sidewalk.

    reference that shows bicycles are considerd the same as motor vehicles in Maryland: http://www.cpabc.org/mdlaws.htm

  2. galen November 16, 2011 at 6:12 am · Reply

    Unfortunately, there is a percentage of the population that thinks the rules/laws/norms of civil discourse don’t apply to them. These people operate motor vehicles, ride bicycles and walk. At any given time you can observe them doing stupid things that endanger others as well as themselves.

    However, it is when this type of person is operating a motor vehicle that the greatest threat to others occurs. While it is justifiable to be outraged that Mr. Manfred was run down on the sidewalk by a bicycles, had he been run down by a motorist while in a crosswalk, no doubt his injuries would have been much more severe.

    And while bike lanes have been painted here and there, they have no proven benefit to the safety of cyclists. I ride a bike in urban high-traffic areas all the time where there are no bike lanes. I don’t find it to be overly problematic.

    For a civil society to function, ALL the rules must be followed by ALL the public pretty much ALL of the time. That’s a tall order, and for Baltimore, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

  3. blackeye November 15, 2011 at 12:16 pm · Reply

    Wow, this blog is written so poorly that I don’t even know where to start replying. I’m not even going to dignify the sweeping statements made in the first section with a response. Ms. Watts’ penchant for exaggeration and assumption does nothing to further a civil discourse on how we can all learn to share the streets and sidewalks of this city.

    While I feel bad for Joe, his accident is a rarity in contrast to the number of cyclists and pedestrians killed or injured by drivers in both this city and the state every year. Bike lanes are a tiny step toward reducing these accidents, and as Dukie notes above, Baltimore is still in the embryonic stages of these improvements. While riding a bike on the sidewalk is illegal in the city, until on-street riding conditions improve significantly, certain riders will likely still opt for the sidewalk in the interest of safety. Although I stick to the streets exclusively myself, I can’t say I blame them.

  4. dukiebiddle November 15, 2011 at 11:55 am · Reply

    “So the City of Baltimore has marked off bicycle lanes on just about every street in the city to make riding safer for cyclists.”

    Huh? How is marked bicycle lanes on less than 1% of city streets “just about every street?” It’s impossible to take you seriously when you employ outrageous hyperbole to drive home your point.

    The city has yet to build a comprehensive bike lane network. There are piecemeal lanes here and there, but you cannot yet use bike lanes to travel from, say, downtown to North Baltimore. Likewise, there is no way to use bike lanes to go from downtown to East or West Baltimore. Your demand that cyclist stay off the sidewalks should be a valid one; but you insist there are bike lanes in existence that make that possible, therefore you are failing to make a valid point. Hopefully one day we will have such a network, but we’re not there yet. Not by a long shot. A Baltimore cyclist typically cannot yet use bike lanes to go anywhere other than 5 or so blocks.

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