Hundreds of Howard pedal pushers ditch their cars, bike to work

Howard County Times

On the days John Brandt opts to bike to work instead of driving, he said he feels “pumped” all day long.

“For me personally, it lets me get in a bit of a workout … but also the days I cycle are usually my best days at work,” said Brandt, the safety and security manager at the Universities of Shady Grove in Rockville. Brandt bikes about 12 miles each way to and from work, first driving partway from his Sykesville home to Olney and then pedaling the rest.

Brandt took a day off from work on Friday to participate in Howard County’s annual Bike to Work Day and support other cyclists. He also sits on the board of Bicycling Advocates of Howard County board, a 10-year-old coalition of community cycling clubs and bicycle riders working to improve the safety and visibility bicycling.

Friday morning marked the 21st annual Baltimore Metropolitan Council Bike to Work Day. There were about 45 pit stop events throughout Howard, Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll County and Harford counties and Baltimore City.

About 300 registered riders were at the Howard County’s pit stop at the Whole Foods grocery parking lot in Columbia. Each year, 300 to 350 participants register.

The pit stop featured a raffle, a crêpe truck, snacks and tents with information about biking in the county.

“We try to make it a party,” said Allison Calkins, county transportation demand management specialist. “Howard County has been participating for the past decade in demonstrating the benefits of cycling as a commuting choice … the first benefit is health, the environment and mostly it’s fun.”

Calkins said that the county recognizes that biking isn’t an option for everyone but for those with short commuting trips, it’s a feasible option.

The county participates in Guaranteed Ride Home, a free program that provides transportation home to anyone who carpools, walks, bikes or takes public transit to work at least twice a week. The program is used an event of personal illness, unscheduled overtime at work or a family emergency.

Making biking a more accessible option is on the county’s mind. The county has a bike sharing program, allowing for residents and visitors to ride around and new bike lanes are appearing, said Chris Eatough bicycle and pedestrian coordinator.

The county is also working on its BikeHoward Master Plan which includes BikeHoward Express, a three-year program to bring even more bike lanes and shared roadways to the area, Eatough said. BikeHoward Express is a proposed 48-mile network of both bicycle and pedestrian routes.

About half of the 48 miles has been built but it’s not a continuous bike path at this time. As the remaining miles are built, some of those areas will be to fill in gaps where bike paths already exist, Eatough said.

On Thursday, the County Council approved $1.45 million in bike spending that was proposed by County Executive Allan Kittleman in his 2019 budget. Funding will be used for designing, engineering and constructing bicycle infrastructure in the county, including adding more bike lanes and pathways, Eatough said.

Fellow bikers Sue Mangan and Mary Schiller first hit the pool at 5:30 a.m. on Friday before participating in Bike to Work Day.

Mangan, of Kings Contrivance, works for Columbia Association and is all about biking to work.

“We have an amazing trail system,” Mangan said. “Generally I bike about nine miles to work but I can stretch it about 25 miles some days.”

Mangan coaches the Columbia Masters Swimming Program and many of her swimmers, including Schiller, joined her Friday morning after practice.

A Glenelg resident and a Howard County Public School Systems employee, Schiller said she has participated in more than 20 triathlons. Friday marked her first bike to work event.

“I came out today in support to make the county more bikeable,” Schiller said.

jnocera@baltsun.com

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