Bikemore drops lawsuit after city pledges not to demolish Canton bike lane

Cycling advocates dropped their lawsuit against city government on Wednesday after Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh pledged not to demolish a protected bike lane in Canton.

Both sides said they were working on a compromise that would preserve the bike lane and parking spaces and also ensure the narrow Potomac Street, where the partially installed bike lane sits, provides enough driving space for emergency vehicles.

Once the compromise plan is formalized, there will be a two-week public comment period before the city makes any changes to the street, both sides said.

"I think it's a victory for everybody," said lawyer H. Mark Stichel, who represented the advocacy group Bikemore.

Pugh said the compromise involves converting spaces on one side of the street to angled parking and eliminating parking on the other side, creating enough driving space for emergency vehicles and the protected bike lane.

The working agreement, pending community feedback, is to add the angled spots on the street's east side and remove the row of parking that runs along the bike lane on the west side. Adding angled parking adds more spaces than were previously on the east side of the street, she said.

"One of the things that was very concerning to us was the fact that the Fire Department told us they needed a certain amount of feet," Pugh said. "We were able to squeeze [in the bike lane] if we are able to angle park and that is acceptable by the community.

"It gives them additional parking spaces, but it also protects the bike lane. ... I am glad that we've come to this point, and as I said to people initially, I have a responsibility to protect the bikers, but I also have a responsibility to protect the neighbors."

Steve Bloom, spokesman for the group Canton Neighbors for a Better Potomac Street Bike Lane — which opposed Bikemore's lawsuit — called it "problematic" that the city negotiated with Bikemore and not area residents.

"We understand that we're going to be involved in any negotiations and planning what comes next. We look forward to having a seat at the table and reaching a design that works for everybody," he said.

Bikemore sued the city after officials announced plans to tear out the newly installed protected bike lane from Patterson Park to Boston Street after hearing residents' concerns that it would make it harder for emergency vehicles to travel down the street.

Bikemore won a temporary restraining order this month preventing the city from demolishing the lane, which cost about $100,000 to install. The matter was set to go to court on Wednesday. Instead, bike advocates stood outside the courthouse Wednesday morning handing out coffee and donuts to supporters to thank them.

The suit came as Pugh ordered a review of all city bike lanes and parking spaces to ensure compliance with an international safety standard that calls for street widths of at least 20 feet for fire apparatus.

Cyclists and their advocates have feared a rollback of what they see as gains in making Baltimore more bike friendly. They also point out that millions of dollars in planning and construction money would be wasted.

But neighbors near some of the bike lanes argue they actually make streets more dangerous due to bad design. They say the design encourages crashes, eliminates parking spaces and inhibits emergency vehicle travel.

Pugh said she is continuing her review of the city's bike lanes, and said she doesn't see problems on the city's most prominent protected bike lane on Maryland Avenue.

"We want to make sure we're protecting all of our citizens all around," Pugh said. "On Potomac, we did not dot all of our I's and cross all of our T's. But we will protect that bike lane. It will not be removed and if we angle the parking, we provide emergency vehicles the access they need."

Mark Edelson, another lawyer representing Bikemore, said the group will continue to work with the city on expanding bike infrastructure around Baltimore. He said the advocates want to bring bike lanes to West Baltimore next.

"This has never been about one bike lane in Southeast," he said. "This is about that one third of our residents can't afford a vehicle and we have to make sure that they can get around in an affordable, healthy way."

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