Cyclists ride to downtown Towson for Bike to Work Day

Biking enthusiasts and advocates from all around the Towson area took advantage of a warm, clear morning Friday to participate in the 10th Annual Baltimore County Bike to Work Day Rally at the Towson Courthouse.

"I think it was really successful," Ralph Wheeler, an organizer who works in Baltimore County's Department of Public Works, said.

The Towson rally was one of several bike-to-work events in Baltimore County, including a long-standing ride in White Marsh which ends at the Ikea store, as well as a new event this year in Catonsville. The area-wide events are sponsored by the Baltimore Metro Council.

Wheeler and fellow organizer Kathy Schlabach, who works in the Department of Planning, said the event attracted several different groups of bikers. A group of 50 students from Loyola Blakefield High School arrived early in the event with some of their teachers. Other bikers, like Baxter Smith and Evie Reinsel, are retirees who are simply showing support for fellow bikers.

Smith, a retired newspaper editor from Roland Park, said he has always been a cycling advocate. He said he appreciates events like Bike to Work Day because they bring attention to cyclists and bicycle rights.

"It takes a while, just as campaigns and advocacy on the dangers of smoking took a while, but look how far society has come on that issue," Smith said. "It's an education process, but events like this help."

Reinsel recently retired from the Baltimore County Department of Health and made the ride to the courthouse her daily bike ride for Friday.

"I've been riding on these roads in Baltimore County since 1975," Reinsel said.

She, too, said the key to growing the number of regular cyclists is educational programs that teach safe cycling and safe driving around cyclists.

"We just need to make it safer and move forward," Reinsel said. "A lot of people say it's too dangerous."

Reinsel rode up from her Anneslie home through the neighborhoods on the east side of York Road, just as Rodgers Forge resident Rick Martell did.

Martell said he began riding from Rodgers Forge to his Towson law office around three weeks ago.

"Between work and taking care of the kids, I don't have much time to ride," he said.

Martell said he crosses York Road twice on his ride to work, cutting through University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center, across York Road and past Towson High up to the District Courthouse before crossing York Road again.

He said he's been monitoring the progress of the planned Bike Beltway in Towson, which will expand the network of bike lanes and signage around the downtown Towson area.

On Friday, Councilman David Marks said a second round of state funding was already requested for extensions to the Bike Beltway.

Marks, who represents the 5th District including Towson, also recently announced legislation that would require new developments in downtown Towson to provide bike parking.

Marks and Councilman Tom Quirk, who represents the 1st District including Catonsville and Arbutus, attended the rally in Towson Friday, and organizers praised the pair for their bike advocacy.

The two first-term councilmen formed the Baltimore County Bicycle and Pedestrian Advocacy Committee as their first legislative act, and Marks said they plan to introduce a council resolution urging the committee to explore a bicycle-sharing program.

"We need to keep pushing the envelope," Marks said.

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