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Plan proposes 34 miles of bicycle routes around Annapolis

An off-street bike trail links Truxton Park in Annapolis to the Bates Sports Complex. A bicycle lane runs along Edgewood Road between the Back Creek Nature Park and Bay Ridge Road. A snippet of shared bicycle-motor vehicle lane cuts the angle from Bladen Street to Northwest Street.

There are six miles of trails in the city, but few connections between them, and almost no markers to point out routes to popular destinations.

The city council is considering a plan to create a network of 34 miles of marked bicycle routes: a mix of bike lanes on city streets, shared-use lanes for drivers and cyclists, and off-road paths.

In addition to routes that avoid the busiest sections of major roadways, said Iain Banks, the city's personal transportation and parking specialist, the plan also includes safety and educational programs, promotion of bicycling, links to other forms of transportation and bicycle parking.

Bicyclists praised the plan, an 86-page document that lays out a long-term strategy, and officials say the point is to create an environment that allows bicycles to be used safely for transportation and recreation.

But the larger issue may be whether the cash-strapped city will be able to implement it. The price for turning the plan into reality is $2 million in the first five years, with a total of $3.4 million over a decade.

Mayor Josh Cohen said he hopes that much of that can come from grants and sponsorships, some of which are identified in the draft. The city won't be eligible to compete for them without an approved plan in place, he said.

Cohen said he would like to see "minimal funding in place" next year to set the improvements in motion and seek matching grants. He said it's too early in the budget process for him to identify an amount.

"Even if the council adopts the bicycle master plan, it's unlikely we are going to have great strides in the near future," he said, pointing to the city's financial straits.

Nevertheless, he said, many improvements, such as pavement markings, might be completed as part of other capital projects. That would allow the city to wrap them into bonds for long-term repayment.

Alderman Ross Arnett of Eastport, who favors having a bike plan in place, said setting aside even small sums in the budget for it will be difficult.

"What part of 'we're broke' do people not understand?" he said. "Obviously, we would take it one case at a time. But we are trying to keep ourselves in police, water and sewer."

Alderman Fred Paone, who represents the Admiral Heights and West Annapolis areas, said, "I think it's something that will reduce pollution and reduce congestion, but it may depend on whether we can afford it."

He pointed to a need to address bicycle safety: "We're dealing with sharing the road, and motorists don't do that very well."

Police Department figures show that a dozen bicycles and mopeds were involved in traffic accidents in the city last year.

The plan would create four routes, their locations identifiable from their names: Forest Trail, Poplar Trail, Spa Creek Trail and the West Annapolis/Hilltop/Bay Ridge Loop. Some intersect. On the others, bicyclists would travel a short distance on an identified connector street.

They would link to Anne Arundel County bike routes. The county is about to begin work on updating its plan for bicycle and pedestrian needs.

Tight funds aside, cyclists say they'd like to see the Annapolis plan adopted. That way, the city could finish parts of the trail as money becomes available.

"I think one can be cynical and say that an unfunded plan may not accomplish a lot," said Ali Meller of Eastport, a computer analyst who races. He noted that despite bicycling in the city five days a week, he's uncomfortable doing it on many city roads because they have no marked bike lanes and he's had some close calls.

"I like to be more optimistic. When the opportunities come to do something, maybe the cycling aspect will be considered," he said. "Whenever the city goes and looks at repairs to roads, widening, anything that changes traffic patterns, they will look at it and say, 'Is there anything we can do that will make the cycling better?'"


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