Official who oversaw scooter pilot program leaving Baltimore DOT, citing 'bullying, intimidation, and outright harassment'

The official who oversaw Baltimore’s dockless electric scooter pilot program and the shutdown of its bike share program has resigned from the city Department of Transportation, citing “bullying, intimidation, and outright harassment, originating from the highest level of leadership.”

Matt Warfield announced his resignation before Monday’s rollout of a controversial draft bill to codify rules for scooters that included criminalizing improper riding with a $1,000 fine and a month in jail. After being roundly criticized, those criminal penalties were quickly removed from of the bill.


Warfield, who was not involved in writing the proposed law, declined to comment Wednesday about his resignation. But in his Jan. 9 resignation letter, obtained by The Baltimore Sun, he attributed it to the Transportation Department’s leadership.

The Baltimore transportation department will amend legislation that could have exposed people who ride a rental scooter too fast or on some city sidewalks to a month in jail and a $1,000 fine. Spokesman German Vigil says the department never expected scooter riders to face jail time.

His departure follows an exodus of senior department staffers, including both former deputy directors, which raised City Council concern last year.


“My work has been ridiculed in public, and my core character traits and worth as an employee have been called into question in open meetings,” Warfield wrote in his resignation notice.

“This is a work environment of bullying, intimidation, and outright harassment, originating from the highest level of leadership,” he added. “It is not a work environment anyone should have to endure, and I hope for the sake of this department, and the City of Baltimore, that changes are made.”

In a statement in response Tuesday evening, Transportation Director Michelle Pourciau called Warfield’s departure a personnel matter but said the department “require[s] and insist[s] on respect for every individual working to ensure that our City's transportation improvements reflect a truly 21st century city.”

Four top officials, including both deputy directors, have left the Baltimore City Department of Transportation in the past year, and a fifth left this week — a near-complete turnover in the senior staff that is drawing renewed City Council concern about the agency’s leadership.

"I regret that this employee with the Department of Transportation concluded that his contributions have not been sufficiently appreciated,” the director said in a statement. “We will, of course, assess the issues that this employee has raised and where we can make improvements, we will. In the meantime, I wish him only the very best in his future endeavors."

A spokesman for Mayor Catherine Pugh did not respond to a request for comment.

Warfield is moving to Boston for a job as a new mobility planner for the Boston Transportation Department, and his resignation is effective Friday.

“We’re working to find the person to replace him,” Baltimore DOT spokesman German Vigil said. “Matt is an extremely important piece to our agency. We wish him well, and we hope to find a replacement to match his skills and abilities.”

Baltimore doctors say that they are starting to see many injuries from the popular Bird and Lime electric scooters.

As the city’s top bicycle planner, Warfield oversaw the replacement of the beleaguered Baltimore Bike Share program with the pilot allowing Bird and Lime to place fleets of dockless scooters and bikes on city streets, and he pushed for the expansion of its Downtown Bicycle Network. He also navigated the fight between the Fire Department and bike-lane advocates over street-width requirements.

Bicycling advocates praised Warfield’s efforts and raised concerns about the turnover of bike planners at the Department of Transportation. His resignation comes just over a year after his predecessor, Jay Decker, who oversaw the city’s bike share program, left for a job with the vendor of that program.

Jon Laria, chairman of the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Commission, called Warfield “a terrific professional” who brought an urban planning background to his role.

Warfield’s departure is “definitely a step in the wrong direction,” Laria said.

Liz Cornish, president of Bikemore, said the advocacy group is disappointed to see the city transportation department lose another bicycle planner.


“Matt Warfield did a lot of good work for the city and really helped advance bike infrastructure,” she said. “We hope DOT moves quickly to fill the vacancy so we don’t lose any of the momentum from Matt’s good work over the last couple of years.”

His departure comes as the Department of Transportation proposed this week to significantly scale back its plans for separated bike lanes over the next few years.

Baltimore officials on Thursday announced the passage of the “Complete Streets” law, a broad set of regulations requiring the city’s Department of Transportation to design roadways, sidewalks and bike lanes in a way that promotes walking, bicycling and public transit, beyond just cars.

Under its 2017 Separated Lane Network Plan, the city had committed to building 77 miles of bike lanes by 2022. Instead, DOT officials told the Planning Commission on Thursday that they plan to build only 16 miles of bike lanes in that time — although they counted it as about 31 “lane miles,” or the distance in both directions.

“We’re really far behind with this plan,” Pourciau told the commission.

In its presentation, the department proposed to build fewer miles of new bicycle lanes over the next six years than the original plan had called for each year, said Jed Weeks, Bikemore’s policy director. Some of those miles, he noted, include adjustments to bike lanes that already exist, including those on Maryland Avenue and Potomac Street.

“We’re planning to spend about $5 million to do that, when the plan called for $5 million alone in local funding to leverage $27 million [in grants and other outside funding] to build out the entire 77-mile plan,” Weeks said during public testimony. “We’re getting 16 miles instead of 77 miles.”

Communication also has been a concern. The department’s botched scooter policy rollout on Monday could have been avoided, Laria said, if the Department of Transportation had allowed its Dockless Vehicle Committee to review the bill and give feedback, which was the purpose of creating the group.

Despite the misstep, as well as Warfield’s departure, Laria remains bullish about the future of the Bird and Lime scooters in Baltimore.

“I’m still confident we’re on a good path and we’ll come out of it with long-term dockless vehicle program that really could be one of the best in the country,” Laria said.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun