The goal of providing more paths for bicyclists and pedestrians in an area that stretches from Arbutus to Lutherville moved a step closer last week with the Baltimore County Council's approval of an access plan.
"That's a big win," said Councilman Tom Quirk, who represents the 1st District that includes Arbutus and Catonsville, two areas covered by the Western Baltimore County Pedestrian and Bicycle Access Plan.
Quirk was a co-sponsor of the resolution for council approval.
The plan offers a long-term look at the infrastructure and steps necessary to make roadways safer for children walking to school, commuters pedaling to work and recreational cyclists on a weekend ride.
"This is key for improving the quality of life," said Tom Ajluni, president of Catonsville Rails to Trails. "It makes the neighborhood so much better."
With the approval of the County Council, the plan now becomes part of the county's Master Plan, according to Kathy Schlabach, chief of the Department of Planning and project manager for this plan.
"It's basically a blueprint for how we want to move forward," she said, adding that the budget restraints will play a part in the process.
The plan outlines possible steps to take whenever new construction is planned. Those steps could include adding striping or bike lanes as part of a repaving project or asking a developer to add sidewalks or other walker-friendly improvements to a new project, Schlabach explained.
The goal is safe travel for anyone walking or riding a bike so the needs of pedestrians and cyclists are considered with new or retrofitted sidewalks and bike lanes, transportation and road planning, signs and training.
One local example is bike lanes that will be designated along Edmondson Avenue in Catonsville, probably in the spring, she said.
Thanks to the efforts of Catonsville Rails to Trails, a bike lane was added to the Frederick Road bridge over the Baltimore Beltway as part of that construction project.
Some streets will be considered "signature streets" designed to accommodate many modes of travel as well as provide amenities that will make them more aesthetically pleasing. They should be walkable, ridable and be on transit routes.
Rolling Road in Catonsville is one of three designated signature streets in the county.
The plan takes a comprehensive look at many of the 1st District's roads, prioritizing them for bike lanes and signage, sidewalk improvements and upgrades to shared use paths.
Annapolis Road in Baltimore Highlands and stretches of Sulphur Spring Road, Wilkens Avenue and Maiden Choice Lane in Arbutus received top priority for bike lane designation. So did parts of Hollins Ferry Road in Lansdowne.
In Catonsville, sections of North Rolling and South Rolling were listed for bike lanes, as were Winters Lane, Edmondson Avenue and Bloomsbury Avenue.
Roads that connect to parks, bus stops and train stations, schools and existing bike paths also were given a number one priority for bike lanes and signage.
Sidewalk improvements got top priority in Catonsville on parts of Frederick Road, North and South Rolling Road, Old Frederick Road, Edmondson Avenue and Ingleside Avenue and parts of Sulphur Spring Road, Leeds Avenue, Maiden Choice Lane, Selma Avenue and Winans Avenue in Arbutus.
Among the paths listed for needing improvements to make them attractive to both cyclists and pedestrians were the three converted trolley trails in the area, trails in Patapsco Valley State Park, the Catonsville Park Trail and Banneker Community Center Trail.
In addition, other needs identified included bus shelters, crosswalks and ramps in neighborhoods as well as on the campuses of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and the Community College of Baltimore County, Catonsville.
The comprehensive look at area roads came during four workshops with local residents, according to Schlabach.
"They knew where they'd like improvements to go," she said.
Richard Layman, a Washington, D.C., planner who worked on the original plan, applauded the work of Quirk and 5th District Councilman David Marks, for their pro-biking efforts that made the idea of a western plan gain county approval in less than two years.
"It's moving forward. It's pretty remarkable," Layman said.
Efforts in Catonsville that turned abandoned trolley trails into the now popular No. 8 Streetcar Path, No. 9 Trolley Line Trail and the Short Line trail were also important, Layman said.
"There's really no infrastructure like that anywhere else in the county in a substantive way," he said.
Challenges remain, including the growing traffic on Rolling Road and other busy thoroughfares in the area and deciding how to encourage biking without eliminating parking spaces.
"You have to balance these multiple, sometimes conflicting, issues," Layman said.