Baltimore will remove the protected bike lane next to the curb on Roland Avenue, replacing it with a green painted lane adjacent to automotive lanes, Mayor Catherine Pugh announced late Friday.
The city also canceled a pilot plan to test reducing traffic along the road to one lane each way from two, the mayor said in a statement. The cycle track will be removed and curbside parking will be restored “as quickly as possible.”
Pugh’s announcement comes after several years of controversy over the Roland Avenue cycle track, which many criticized as being poorly designed. The city installed the protected bike lane in 2015 as part of a road resurfacing project.
“No matter how good the intentions were, this is just not a good bicycle facility,” said Pugh, citing complaints that the bike lane was too narrow and tough to navigate. “There isn’t enough room on Roland Avenue for a proper cycle track, a buffer area, parked cars, and travel lanes.”
Pugh’s statement didn’t address how much it would cost to remove the cycle track, which uses parked cars to separate the bike lane from traffic.
The city had been set to test a “road diet,” in which it would reduce a portion of Roland Avenue to one lane of traffic, creating more room for parked cars and bikes. Pugh said she was canceling that proposal because she concluded that it “is likely to create more problems than it solves.”
The advocacy group Bikemore had supported the pilot program. In a statement on its website Friday, the group said it believes the pilot still should move forward and that many Roland Park residents supported it.
After years of lagging behind other U.S. cities in bike infrastructure, Baltimore started to catch up: building protected bike lanes on Roland Avenue, Maryland Avenue and Potomac Street. Then came the pushback.
Bikemore also pointed to the 2014 death of Thomas Palermo, who was struck and killed by Heather Cook in an unprotected bike lane on Roland Avenue north of where the cycle track was installed.
“Safety should not have been allowed to become political,” said Liz Cornish, Bikemore’s executive director, in a statement. “National guidelines on building bike facilities clearly state that the safety of people must always take precedence over the convenience of others.”
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The league’s current president, Bob Connors, wrote in a recent letter to members that he believed the road diet concept was inappropriate “because it’s experimental, not based on best practices or data.” Connors couldn’t be reached for comment Friday.
A Baltimore Circuit Court judge on Friday halted the city's plan to demolish a protected bike lane in Canton over concerns that it would make it harder for emergency vehicles to travel down the street, attorneys representing bike advocates said.
City Councilwoman Sharon Green Middleton, who represents the district where the bike lane is located, said she was pleased with the decision to cancel the pilot because she believes that’s what the majority of her constituents supported.
“For the last four years … it’s been experiments the whole time,” she said. “The community just had enough of these experiments.”
As part of the announcement Friday, Pugh also said the city will extend the painted bike lane south on University Parkway and paint over the existing bike lane on Roland Avenue north of Northern Parkway.