Biking with Buckley: Annapolis mayor imagines a city connected by bike trails

Big ideas.

If two words defined the first term of Mayor Gavin Buckley’s administration, both opponents and supporters might settle on those.


He campaigned on them — environmental justice, fiscal responsibility, sustainability — and in his first two years, he’s tried to enact them to mixed results — the temporary bike lane on Main Street and a now-scrapped land swap deal to build a public works facility on Forest Drive.

But one idea has persisted throughout his tenure, one that Buckley said he hopes would change Annapolis character to include micro-transit options like bicycles and scooters and ridesharing.


The West-East Expressway, or the WEE, as he likes to call it, is a multi-use pedestrian and bike path that would connect Waterworks Park to the Annapolis Historic District. On Wednesday, Buckley, some of his staff, city councilmembers and a Capital reporter mounted their bikes in the July heat to put the mayor’s idea to the test.

The group kicked off the roughly four-mile trip at the Pearl Bailey mural on Calvert Street, passing Stanton Community Center and Bowman Place on West Washington Street and heading down Clay Street through Obery Court.

These communities will have direct access to the WEE, Buckley said, who acted as a tour guide for the group, pointing to landmarks and buildings and commenting on how they might be better served by more connectivity.

The path takes you past the Michael E. Busch Annapolis Library, the Design District, Studio 39 and the city’s art school, Buckley said.

“And it’s not just for bikes — it’s for walkers and runners and dog walkers and all sorts of things. It’s one of the most inclusive things that you can do.”

Alderman Marc Rodriguez, a Ward 5 Democrat, has participated in several of these rides with Buckley. He said a more connected Annapolis means more access and more equity for residents.

“It will mean Annapolis will take a huge step forward,” Rodriguez said. “You want a healthier community where people have the ability to get on their bicycles and bike to work or school, or just for exercise.”

Don’t expect the full pathway anytime soon. In the 2021 capital budget, the council approved $442,582 for the project to resurface and widen certain parts of Poplar Trail and add new trail markings, but completion of the route is a long ways away.


Cycling is part of Buckley’s identity. He’s known to bike to City Council meetings and other city functions, in an effort to show how the city doesn’t have to be reliant on cars to get around.

“The future is not cars. The future is how we’re going to get around on electric scooters and bikes and things like that have less impact on the planet,” he said.

The city’s new Hispanic liaison, Laura Gutierrez, said one of the major challenges she faces is connecting residents to food and other resources, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.

“The fact that anybody can get a bike, that connects all different areas of the city,” she said. “Even though Annapolis is small ... one of the things that we do is figure out those places where people lack mobility.”

Eventually, the group picked up the Poplar Trail at the Annapolis Police Department and cruised down the half-mile to Admiral Drive. The path there is narrow, only wide enough for one bike or two runners.

This is where Buckley hopes to extend the expressway — beyond Admiral Drive through a narrow gap between the Annapolis Gardens community and the auto repair shops and fast-food restaurants along West Street. There Buckley hopes to negotiate an easement with BGE to create a pathway for utility trucks that need to access the power lines in the area as well as a way for cyclists and pedestrians to reach Solomons Island Road without venturing onto West Street for too long.


An affordable housing community currently under construction off Gibralter Road near the Monarch Academy charter school will also host part of the pathway, Buckley said.

The path would continue parallel to West Street, under Route 50, around Westfield Annapolis Mall until finally the path would cul-de-sac at Waterworks Park, the city-owned property off Defense Highway. The property houses a dam and a former waterworks plant. Approximately nine miles of single-track trail was constructed around the existing park facilities last year.

As the squad of bikers caught their breath, Buckley holds court. He begins to imagine what the area could look like as a Central Park-like asset for the county. A brewery in the old waterworks building with a deck overlooking the dam. An amphitheater on the hillside.

“That might be a second term thing,” he joked.

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Rob Savidge, Ward 7′s Democratic councilmember, said the WEE could be an example to help modernize trails in his ward, many of which aren’t mapped or official.

One challenge that remains is helping change the behavior of residents, said William Rowel, community relations specialist in the mayor’s office.

“That’s the challenge,” Rowel said, to show people that when an asset like the WEE exists, the next step is encouraging its use. He envisions bike parties with food and musical events to draw people out.

The return leg of the trip was interrupted as a fast-moving storm swept through the area, stranding the riders for several minutes along West Street as gumball-sized hail pelted the pavement. Eventually, the rain subsided and everyone made it back to Whitmore Park, wet and mud-spattered but unharmed.

“Imagine how much easier that will be when it’s all connected,” Rodriguez said.