State and local officials joined other partners at a news conference Wednesday about National Bike to Work Day, encouraging people to consider swapping their cars for bikes for the commute on Friday. (Colin Campbell/The Baltimore Sun)
More than 1,000 bicyclists are expected to take to the streets in Baltimore and other areas around the state Friday for the 19th annual Bike to Work Day, which encourages bicycling as a commuting alternative to driving.
Bike to Work Day grows each year as biking becomes a more common mode of transportation, particularly for commuting to school and work, said Michael B. Kelly, executive director of the Baltimore Metropolitan Council, which coordinates the event.
"It's no surprise that biking is so popular," he said. "It can save time and money as well as improve our health and reduce our negative impacts on the environment."
The event Friday will consist of 30 meetups for participants around the state, from Annapolis to Aberdeen and Columbia to Towson, Kelly said.
Most of the rides are planned between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. for the morning commute. A full list of locations and times, and registration for interested riders, is available here.
In Baltimore, meetups will take place at 13 locations: City Hall; Baltimore Bicycle Works; Bikemore; Joe's Bike Shop; Johns Hopkins University's East Baltimore campus; Merritt Athletic Clubs in Canton and Mount Vernon; MedStar Union Memorial Hospital; 750 E. Pratt St.; University of Maryland Medical Center; Waterfront Partnership locations in Harbor East and the Inner Harbor; and Zipcar in Fells Point.
A "B2WD After Party" is scheduled from 4:30 to 6 p.m. at the Handlebar Cafe, 511 S. Caroline St.
At a news conference Wednesday, officials highlighted not only the health and environmental benefits, but the risks bicyclists face on the roads, which can be prevented by more attentive riding and driving, they said.
Fatal bicycle-involved crashes statewide nearly doubled to 11 last year from six in 2014. In roughly 3,800 bicycle crashes in Maryland over the past five years, 30 bicyclists were killed and 3,100 people were injured, officials said.
"Bicycling throughout the country has really increased as a mode of transportation, so as we see that increase, the safety and balance of all the users working together becomes more and more important," said State Highway Deputy Administrator Greg Slader.
Most bicycle crashes happen in the warmer months, when more people are out riding, and nearly half of all crashes involving bicyclists happen around the afternoon rush hour, between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m., Slader said.
With the average bicycle weighing 20 pounds and the average car weighing 4,000 pounds, more than 80 percent of bicycle-car crashes result in injury or death for the bicyclist, he said.
In a separate event Wednesday night, the Ride of Silence, a nonprofit that advocates for bicycle safety on behalf of riders who have been killed in crashes, held several group rides in Baltimore, Frederick, Annapolis, Olney and Rockville. These rides sometimes visit sites where cyclists have been killed by drivers.
Last year, AAA Mid-Atlantic launched bicycle roadside assistance, a program that has come to the aid of 87 bicyclists throughout the region, 27 of them in Baltimore, according to Ragina Cooper Averella, public and government affairs manager. The organization has helped move bicyclists 856 miles, she said at the Wednesday news conference.
"While many people know us as an advocacy organization for motorists, we're also all about traffic safety overall, not only for motorists but for bicyclists, motorcyclists, pedestrians, all road users," Averella said.
The state of Maryland has budgeted more than $204 million in its current six-year transportation plan for bicycle and pedestrian facilities, according to the State Highway Administration. Baltimore has $3 million worth of bicycle-related projects planned this year downtown and in Canton, Department of Transportation acting director Frank Murphy said.
"Biking is really important for a lot of reasons," said Caitlin Doolin, the city's bicycle and pedestrian planner. "It's a huge part of our urban fabric, making transportation more sustainable, more healthy. People who bike tend to have higher attention spans at work, take less sick days, have better health ... and also it's fun."