Good news gets better about Towson Bike Beltway [Editorial]

A plan in the works for a Towson Bike Beltway in Towson was good news. A plan to expand that beltway is even better news.

The proposed beltway will more than double in size after grant money was awarded recently through the Maryland Bikeways Program. Five extensions from the original loop made possible with the $90,000 grant will add bike lanes, road painting and signage to 4.5 miles of Towson roads in addition to the original 4.2 mile loop currently under construction.

Although "procurement issues" have delayed completion of the original loop, County Councilman David Marks said commitment to the project's completion is assured.

With a construction boom just beginning that will transform the York Road corridor from the traffic circle to Towson University within two years, it is the perfect time to overlay the Towson traffic grid with designated lanes for pedal-powered two-wheelers.

News about major development coming that will make Towson a shopping, entertainment, office and residential hub has aroused nervousness as much as satisfaction. Much of that concern centers on traffic issues — congestion readily visible in Montgomery County cities that have already built up their downtowns.

A bike beltway could go a long way toward easing that traffic. Will such a beltway turn nonriders into riders? Experience suggests it will.

In Marin County, Calif., where bicycling has grown 125 percent in the past decade because of bicycle infrastructure improvements, the Marin County Bicycle Coalition reports, "It is well documented through research that improved infrastructure results in new riders and an increase of bicycle traffic ..."

Even better, bikeways have been shown to be a sparkplug for economic redevelopment in cities like Pittsburgh, Portland, Ore., Madison, Wisc., and Davis, Calif. The reason? The Marin County Bicycle Coalition notes, "Cyclists will frequently stop to shop, investigate and/or discover the area that they are in. Inevitably, this leads to more money being spent within a community."

And, of course, there are health benefits, too. Bicycle riding is perfect aerobic exercise.

A bike beltway may not be the perfect antidote to the increased traffic and parking garage use bound to arise in Towson. But as a hedge against such gridlock, a way to put shoppers on the streets and a means to improve the community's health, it's a win-win-win.

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