The Department of Transportation met with residents to discuss concerns and inquiries about the announced plans for protected bike lanes on S. Potomac St.
The two-way bike lane will be on the west side of S. Potomac St., running from Boston St. to Eastern Ave.
“We want to see biking increase,” said Caitlin Doolin, the Bicycle and Pedestrian Planner for DOT, who called the bike lanes a “mini two-way street for bikes.”
One of the biggest concerns citizens had was the loss of parking spaces due to the bike lanes. Doolin said that only 5-7 spots will be lost, less than one spot per block, and that the DOT is still working to minimize this. Many said that they were upset they weren’t consulted about this plan.
Councilman Jim Kraft reiterated that this was a 6-year-long process, where he and the DOT had hosted several meetings with residents and other affected parties.
“This was very lengthy and involved process over a period of well over 2 and a half years. We’re ready to roll with it finally,” he said, explaining that it was a matter of gathering enough funding.
“This wasn’t something we thought up on our own, you guys thought of it. It’s a really great project,” said Doolin.
The project will cost approximately $750,000 and be done in two phases. The first phase will begin at the end of summer with the installation of flex posts and lane designations. This project will take approximately 90 days. Phase 2 will focus on greening, and turning the bike lanes into a community asset with aesthetic additions like sculptures or plants
The DOT will be holding meetings starting this summer to gather community feedback on the design for Phase 2.
A concerned Cantonite questioned why the lane had to be two-way rather than just one, saying that it wasn’t worth the loss of parking.
Doolin said that no additional parking was removed to make it a two-way, explaining that a one-way lane is 7 feet wide, and two-way is only 10 feet wide.
“These projects just aren’t for bicyclists, they change how a street feels, they calm traffic, they reduce crossing hazards for pedestrians, a lot of really great things that make the streets human-friendly,” said Doolin.
Many residents raised their concerns, saying that there aren’t enough bikers to justify the bike lanes.
“The whole point of building a bike lane is to give bikers a safe place, to take them off streets. It’s not about how many people are there now, it’s about who will be there in the future,” said Adam Aviv, a Highlandtown resident.
Doolin agreed with Aviv, saying that the bike lanes give residents other options and create safer ways for people to commute.
Other community members worried about safety and enforcement. Doolin said that the DOT has its own enforcement officers who will monitor the streets’ changes. As for safety, the S. Potomac St. bike lanes are protected, meaning that it will be separated by vehicular traffic with flex posts and blockages. The Hudson St. lane will have several signs and street markings. She also stressed the importance of telling one’s neighbors and friends about the changes.
The DOT also announced another biking lane scheduled along Hudson St. Greg Young, the deputy chief of the traffic division, called this an “opportunistic project” due to Hudson St. being wide and low-stress. They will install a five and a half foot contra-flow biking lane, a lane that goes against the flow of vehicular traffic, as well as reverting the parking to back-in angled spots.
In terms of change to parking, the parking loss isn’t due to the bike lane, but it is due to upgrading the width of the parking spaces,” said Young.
The parking space removal is due to a city law that says back-in angle parking spaces have to be expanded from their current width of 7.5 feet to 8 feet.
“We’re not going to be putting something in concrete until we really understand how it’s going to work and feel. Cities are getting really creative with what they’re doing,” said Young.
By Gianna DeCarlo