Baltimore County has listened to "spokes-persons" who pushed for designated bicycle routes in and around Towson, and on Wednesday county officials and bicyclists celebrated the opening of a 4.23-mile Bike Beltway.
Cyclists joined County Executive Kevin Kamenetz for an inaugural trip around the network, which loops around central Towson, passing Towson's shopping district, government center, two universities, Towson High School and numerous residential neighborhoods.
"Towson is dense enough, it's walkable enough that you shouldn't have to drive from [Towson] university to the Towson Marketplace," said Nate Evans, executive director of Bike Maryland.
Evans said the Bike Beltway does not just benefit bicyclists.
"We're not just improving safety conditions for cyclists," he said, "we're improving safety conditions for everyone — pedestrians and motorists alike."
The bike route cost the county $22,000 per mile, Kamenetz said. Some of the cost was offset by a grant from the Maryland Bikeways Program. The route includes dedicated bike lanes where possible, bike lanes next to parking lanes and routes that are not marked but have signage to remind drivers to share the road with bicyclists.
The 5th District Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee, a group of 5th District citizens formed by Councilman David Marks, drew up the plans for the beltway and submitted the initial plans to the state in May 2012.
Marks said that other bike projects in his district are "not as extensive as this."
"This is the most urbanized part of Baltimore County, and it's going to have the most extensive bike route," Marks said.
Marks said a second phase is planned for the bike network, which would include some other "spokes" along Kenilworth Avenue, Fairmount Avenue, Burke Avenue and Cromwell Bridge Road near Loch Raven High School. The second phase costing $90,000 and funded by the state, should be done in a year, he said.
In addition to the Bike Beltway, Marks said he would like to see planned spurs added to the route to destinations like Loch Raven Reservoir and Drumcastle Center.
The need for bicycle accessibility and parking has been the subject of a continuing dialogue in Towson in the past couple of years.
"With the expected growth in Downtown Towson, we need to do whatever we can to improve mobility," Marks said last year in a statement. "Bike lanes and bike parking requirements for new construction are absolutely essential."
Marks introduced legislation last summer that mandates bike parking for new developments in Towson. Under the terms of the bill, which passed last summer, new developments are required to provide 4-percent of the off-street parking spaces required for cars for bicycle parking.