The soundtrack of summer in Baltimore typically includes the revving of dirt bikes up and down city streets. A community organization hopes to assuage the city’s tumultuous relationship with the vehicles and their riders, known as the 12 O’Clock Boys, by teaming up with another American city with similar problems.
“You can’t live in West Baltimore and not be aware of dirt bike riding in the city,” City Councilman Leon Pinkett III said.
B-360, an organization that uses dirt bike riding to connect Baltimore’s black youth to STEM programs, met with city officials from Cleveland to discuss potential solutions for dirt bikers in both cities.
Founder and CEO Brittany Young and 23 former dirt bike riders teach children how to build, design and 3-D print model dirt bikes.
The organization took representatives from Cleveland, including Department of Public Works director Michael Cox, on a tour of Baltimore from Lakeland Elementary-Middle School to City Hall on Monday.
In 2017 former Mayor Catherine Pugh established a dirt bike task force where city officials and community advocates discussed potential solutions, one long-shot being building a dirt bike park in Baltimore.
Rashad Staton, a youth engagement specialist with Baltimore City Public Schools, began working with the task force as soon as it was formed. The West Baltimore native has memories of members of his own family riding dirt bikes in the city.
When Pugh resigned amid mounting scandal earlier this year and Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young took her place, the task force stalled, according to Staton.
Young’s spokesman Lester Davis said that reviving Pugh’s dirt bike task force is not on the mayor’s immediate agenda.
“That’s not something that we’re engaged with right now,” he said.
The organization B-360 has ongoing partnerships with popular brands including Red Bull, Monster Energy, Toyota and even Marvel. While these partnerships have helped their organization grow, lack of communication between city officials has set them back, Pinkett said.
Currently, the organization works with over 5,000 students in the city.
“Like Cleveland has shown, we’re not the only city that has this issue,” B-360′s Young said.
Dirt bike advocacy organizations in Cleveland like the Bob Burton Foundation have been working closely with their city council to develop a dirt bike park.
Foundation founder Johnnie Burton met with Young in June to discuss that city’s progress.
Burton said that Marion Motley Park — a former landfill and the original proposed location for Cleveland’s dirt bike park — was deemed unsuitable due to contamination. They are now looking for a new location.
“We’re just trying to make something happen,” Burton said.
Dirt bikes have been illegal on public property there since the 1980’s, causing dirt bike riders to move to the streets. In 2000, the city passed a law that banned riding dirt bikes on city streets after two riders were killed in a crash.
The Baltimore police department created a dirt bike violators task force in response to an increase in bike-related attacks. They have seized more than 400 dirt bikes since 2016 with most of the activity happening during the summer months.
Cleveland officials have been working on creating a park for dirt bikes for the past two years.
Young believes that while Baltimore may not be ready for such a park yet the partnership with Cleveland can be mutually beneficial.
“I think people get afraid when you start talking about a park because of all of the history that has happened before,” she said. “I think [Cleveland’s] mindset is ‘We want something, we want a legacy.’”
A previous version of this story mis-identified the organization Rashad Staton works for. He is employed by Baltimore City Public Schools. The Sun regrets the error.