A panel of bicycle and pedestrian advocates have submitted a grant proposal to the state for a "Bike Beltway" around downtown Towson — a collaborative proposal from the panel, the county's Department of Public Works and members County Executive Kevin Kamenetz's staff.
Stuart Sirota of Rodgers Forge, who co-chairs the 5th District Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee — which was formed by 5th District County Councilman David Marks — said the project represents "low-hanging fruit" that could be easily accomplished given time and budgetary constraints.
"We're very happy with the application," Sirota said. "It makes a very strong case.
"Basically, it connects many important destinations in the Towson area," he said. "It was a very easy case to make."
The application requests $100,000 in funding from the Maryland Department of Transportation under a new Maryland Bikeways program. It requires a $20,000 match from the county, and would fund bike lanes and signage in the downtown Towson area.
Working from the Eastern Baltimore County Pedestrian and Bicycle Access Plan, the committee met every other month for a year to form a wish list that comprised projects they hoped to accomplish.
Sirota said they went to the county Department of Public Works with that list, where the county presented the idea that a bike route could be built to link Towson University and Goucher College.
"We talked about it further, and said it would be great to link two college campuses if they could go in or near the downtown area," Sirota said. "From that meeting, we went back to our list, looked at the plan again, and said 'what about this loop?' It just gelled."
Beginning at its easternmost point —Towson Place shopping center — the loop would extend north, then west up Goucher Boulevard and continue up Fairmount Avenue to Bosley Avenue, where it would turn south.
The proposed loop would then down Bosley Avenue to West Towsontown Boulevard, and continue east on Hillen Road to the shopping center.
"For this particular loop route, our goal was to make it as much dedicated bike lanes as we possibly could," Sirota said. "As it turned out, the beltway route would be about 75 percent dedicated bike lanes."
In those instances, the lane lines on the road would be scraped off and narrowed slightly to accommodate a bike lane, which is typically 5 feet wide.
"It's possible to reduce the width of the existing travel lanes of the cars without reducing the number of lanes," Sirota said.
In the remaining quarter of the loop, where the road is not wide enough to reduce the width of the lane, "share the road" signs would be installed.
Additionally, "shared lane" painted markings could be placed on the roadway every 50 to 75 feet to remind drivers to accommodate bicycles in their lanes.
Both Marks and Sirota praised the county executive and his staff, as well as the county DPW, for collaborating on the project.
In a statement to the Towson Times, Kamenetz said the county DPW and Planning Department have worked to make the bike route in Towson a priority since the eastern bike plan passed in 2006.
"The plan established the framework for improving the biking environment in Towson," Kamenetz said in the statement. "This project and others will contribute to improved health, transportation and recreational needs of our citizens."
According to Marks' email, there will be "significant outreach" if and when the project is finalized, but because the deadline for the application to the state Department of Transportation was Friday, May 4, the application was submitted without it.
Marks cautioned that the project might require more money than the $120,000 in total funding that the state and county would provide, but said the committee ultimately decided to submit the application and will seek input from Towson community organizations on how to proceed.
"I think Towson could be a very bike and pedestrian friendly community," Marks said. "It has a lot of the characteristics of a small city, and this is something that could really improve the quality of life here."