Is Baltimore bike-friendly enough for Amazon?

Baltimore, Md -- A cyclist rides in the northbound Roland Avenue bike lane.

As Amazon seeks a site for a second North American headquarters, the Seattle-based online retail giant twice mentioned bike lanes in its request for proposals as an expectation for cities vying for the facility.

"Include connectivity options: sidewalks, bike lanes, trams, metro, bus, light rail, train, and additional creative options to foster connectivity between buildings/facilities," Amazon wrote.


"For each proposed site in your region, identify all transit options, including bike lanes and pedestrian access to the site(s)," the online retail giant wrote in another section of its request for proposals.

City and state officials leapt at the opportunity to pitch Baltimore as a second home for Amazon and the expected 50,000 new jobs that would accompany the $5 billion second headquarters.


"Baltimore is a bike city, and we are leading tremendous efforts to not only build sustainable transit infrastructure, but to do so in a way that is inclusive of our diverse neighborhoods, communities and resident needs," Mayor Catherine Pugh said in a statement. "We are currently in the process of improving our bike share program, the Department of Transportation also has multiple projects underway, including projects at Potomac, Centre, Monument, and Madison streets that broaden safety and accessibility for bikers and pedestrians."

At Port Covington, the site city and state leaders are touting for Amazon, Sagamore Development already planned to build bike trails and add bike lanes to the massive redevelopment project that also will be home for a new Under Armour campus.

But the city's leading bicycling advocate worries the city hasn't moved swiftly enough on its 15-year bike lane master plan to be seriously considered, and that the type of opposition that almost prompted the city to rip out a bike path in Canton is holding the city back from becoming truly bike-friendly.

The bike share program has been suspended temporarily to make the docking stations and bikes more secure from thieves.

The city's master plan calls for the construction of more than 250 miles of on-street bike lanes, about 17 miles per year from 2015 to 2030, according to Liz Cornish, executive director of Bikemore, the city's bicycling advocacy nonprofit.

In the first two years of the plan, the city has built a roughly 10-mile downtown bike network, Cornish said, "but currently there is not a single project in the package that is fully constructed."

The bike lane on Maryland Avenue in North Baltimore, for example, is missing flex posts and signage, and the lanes on Madison, Monument, Preston and Biddle streets all sit incomplete, Cornish said.

"We're in a 20-mile deficit going into 2018 if you count the [downtown business network], 30 if you only count fully constructed facilities," she said.


The mayor said that, to date, the city has installed 125 miles of a network of bike lanes and trails.

"I stand by our commitment to continue building and improving Baltimore's bike infrastructure," Pugh said.

On-street bike lanes aren't the only ones in the works. The Baltimore Greenway Trails Coalition is working to connect the city's various off-road biking and walking trails into a 35-mile network.

The plan, which could cost as much as $25 million, includes four legs totaling about 10 miles: from Leakin Park to Druid Hill Park; from Wyman Park to Lake Montebello; from Middle Branch Park through Port Covington to the Inner Harbor; and from Canton Waterfront Park to Herring Run Park.

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Jim Brown, the coalition's head, said the trail system could be built in the next two to three years — and become a major drawing card for Amazon, accustomed to bike-friendly Seattle.

"The groundwork is there," he said. "The right lines are drawn on the map. It's really about figuring out the mechanisms to build the bike network and trail network in a cost-efficient way."


For Baltimore to become the type of city where Amazon and other tech-sector businesses want to move, city officials must stand up for bicycling and devote resources to support a comprehensive network, Cornish said.

"If Baltimore is gonna be competitive," she said, "it's imperative we make some huge strides over the next several years so we don't miss out on opportunities such as this one."

Luke Broadwater contributed to this report.