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Longest ciclovia yet runs from Roland Park to Druid Hill Park

Pedestrians and cyclists thrilled, but some motorists aren't

By Larry Perl, lperl@patuxent.com

1:28 PM EDT, May 6, 2012

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Saturday's fifth and largest ciclovia, a three-mile walking and biking event that closed southbound Roland Avenue and several other roads to cars between Roland Park and Druid Hill Park, was billed as going "where no ciclovia has gone before."

But that meant crossing the great frontier at West Cold Spring Lane and Roland Avenue, because four previous ciclovias ran only between Northern Parkway and Cold Spring on southbound Roland.

It was a big step for Angie Miller's family of four to take, and as they did at around 12:40 p.m, no less than eight Baltimore City police and Department of Transportation officers were directing traffic in the busy intersection.

A long line of cars sat in the left turn lane on northbound Roland waiting to turn onto westbound Cold Spring Lane. Several motorists honked impatiently as police gave bicycle riders and pedestrians priority in crossing the street.

"They get upset because they can't go, but we have to make sure pedestrians are safe," said Lt. LaTonya Lewis, who said 30 officers were working the ciclovia route.

Phil Spevak, president of the Roland Park Civic League, a co-sponsor of the event, wondered aloud last week if the city needed that much police presence, and the $6,500 it would cost organizers in overtime pay for police.

But Miller, of Rodgers Forge, said she wasn't surprised to see so many officers, especially after she saw a car make a U-turn in the intersection.

'So far, so good'

"It's actually a little quieter than I expected," said Miller, who was with her husband, John Komosa, their daughter, Maxine Crump, 14, and their son, Nicolas Komosa.

"So far, so good," said Lt. Lewis.

"We're trying," said an officer across the street.

Some motorists were put out by the event. Parking was banned along the main route for the four-hour event, and the civic league arranged for residents on the route to park their cars at the Rotunda mall and other central locations for free. Traffic was also backed up at 40th Street and West University Parkway, where a cacaphony of horns honked in frustration at the start of the ciclovia.

But for hundreds of pedestrians, cyclists, environmental activists and jugglers, the event was pure pleasure. People came from as far away as Halethorpe and Pikesville. Miller and her family watched liked tourists. Maxine took photographs of the houses on Roland.

"I think it's cool," Miller said. "I love the whole idea."

But she couldn't get used to being able to walk in the middle of the street.

"My husband asked, "What are you doing walking on the sidewalk?"

All along the water tower

The family was on its way to see the old Roland Water Tower, at Roland and West University, site of Tunes @ the Tower, a festival with food and live music that was held in conjunction with the ciclovia.

Performers included Ken Winkler, a civic league board member, who ended with "All Along the Watchtower."

Several hundred people showed up, many on their bikes, to see the historic, 140-foot tower, which the civic league is raising money to restore and build a park around. The festival also had a green focus. Making their presence known were groups such as the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, some of whose supporters donned surgical masks, and Wind Works for Maryland, a coalition of environmental, business and faith groups that advocates development offshore wind energy.

Community leaders announced at the festival that they have raised $250,000 to match a $250,000 state bond bill that the state legislature approved last month for restoration of the tower.

Spevak said $1.1 million to $1.2 million is needed to restore the tower and build the park.

"We are in discussions with the city and foundations to try to close the gap," Spevak said. But he estimated that the fundraising effort will end up $100,000 short, and made an appeal at the festival for private donations.

As the crowd milled around the grassy plateau in front of the fenced-off, decaying tower, Martha Marani, a Roland Park resident and editor of its quarterly newsletter, liked what she saw, a park-like setting that evoked the tower's possible future.

"What could be," Marani said.