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Bike Maryland choses Feldmark as new leader

Wilde Lake resident Joshua Feldmark was named the executive director of Bike Maryland.
Wilde Lake resident Joshua Feldmark was named the executive director of Bike Maryland. (Doug Kapustin/Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Joshua Feldmark admits he's not an avid bicyclist but says he loves the outdoors.

So it came as a surprise, he said, when he was selected as executive director for Bike Maryland, a nonprofit organization that promotes bicycling and safety. He replaces Steve Miller, who will remain a volunteer for the organization.

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Feldmark, who owns his own consulting firm called Resource Evolution, has provided support and training to renewable energy developers and water resources management contractors.

"I don't have a history in cycling. It's not my background," said Feldmark, who lives in Columbia with his wife, Jessica.

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A former director of the Howard County Office of Environmental Sustainability, Feldmark said he does bring a wealth of leadership experience working in environmental organizations and managing nonprofits, something board chairman Steve King finds valuable.

"Josh will bring leadership and creativity to Bike Maryland's programs and a deep sense of commitment to our state and our work as bike advocates. He has served at program, fundraising, executive and leadership levels and has a wide breadth of perspective and experience," said King.

Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman is proposing $600,000 in county funds for the bikeway next year — a number advocates say is $2.4 million less than what is necessary to implement the route.

Feldmark received his bachelor's degree in human ecology from Rutgers University and a master's degree in environmental law and policy from Vermont Law School.

His challenge will be helping Maryland become a more bike-friendly state by communicating the needs of bicyclists to state legislators and state agencies like the Department of Transportation.

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"Many cyclists will tell you we've come a long way, but we have a long way to go," said Feldmark.

Maryland ranked No. 10 on The League of American Bicyclists' list of bike-friendly states in 2015, dropping three spots from the previous year. In 2008, the state ranked No. 35. Washington State has remained No. 1 since 2008.

In Howard County, leaders adopted the county's first bicycle master plan in April 2016. The plan creates a network of pathways connecting commercial and residential areas.

"We've been pushing for a master plan for more than 10 years. If you build a safe and convenient way to get some place by bike or path, people will do it," said Chris Tsien, of Bicycle Advocates of Howard County.

Tsien said communities need to include bikeable and walkable areas.

"It is the future," he said.

According to a report by the U.S Census Bureau, more people are commuting to work on a bicycle than they did a decade ago. The numbers have increased by about 60 percent. In 2000, only 488,000 people commuted to work by bicycle. Between 2008 and 2012, that number jumped to nearly 786,000.

In May 2014, Brian McKenzie published a report, "Modes Less Traveled — Bicycling and Walking to Work in the United States: 2008-2012." In the report, McKenzie states that by having state and local agencies promote pedestrian and bicycle travel, and infrastructure changes, it can help influence people's decision about how they choose to get to work.

Feldmark says one of his goals is to meet with local bicycling activists to create a 10-year agenda for the next legislative session.

The 30- and 14-mile morning rides will start and finish at the National Wildlife Visitor Center in Laurel, Murchison said, taking riders in and around the Patuxent Wildlife Refuge and Beltsville Agricultural Research Center. A stride, or walking, option is also available for families, who can sign up for a one- or two-mile nature hike through the center's forests and around Lake Redington.

He says he wants to "keep mobilizing cyclists to bring their voice in the political process."

In the local political arena in Howard County, some advocates are voicing their concerns over a lack of funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects.

Bicycle advocates asked for $3 million over three years to help build about 10 percent of the county's masterplan, said NIkki Highsmith Vernick, president and CEO of the Horizon Foundation, a company that helps improve health and wellness for those in Howard County.

County executive Allan Kittleman recommended $600,000 in funding toward the plan next year.

"That's not sufficient to build a master plan. We would like additional funding to get all of this done," said Vernick who feels that the county is falling behind.

Vernick says Feldmark can help.

"Josh is a great pick for Bike Maryland. Josh gets community design and infrastructure. He knows how to get organizations to coalesce and get around goals," said Vernick.

Feldmark says he's looking forward to his new duties as executive director of Bike Maryland and helping bicyclists feel safe on the roads.

"We owe it to them to make sure that it's safe and reliable," said Feldmark.



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