Baltimore officials opened the latest addition to the Jones Falls Trail yesterday, hoping that the pathway will provide a boost to the city's effort to become more bike-friendly.
Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin and Mayor Sheila Dixon ditched their usual business attire and strapped on bicycle helmets to celebrate the completion of a portion of the trail.
In an inaugural ride, they led dozens of cyclists - including one on a unicycle and another pair on a tandem bike - on the 2.75-mile ride through Druid Hill Park, zipping by the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, the Howard Peters Rawlings Conservatory and the park's lake.
The newest addition to the paved bicycle trail is lined with groves of oak, cherry and beech trees. It takes riders past a golf course, ponds and eateries, said Anne Draddy, the Jones Falls Trail manager. The addition will bring cyclists into the backwoods of Druid Hill Park.
"People haven't really experienced that, because it's been closed off for years," she said. "Now with the new trail, it's like the country in the city. It's the feeling of being out of the city and in a wooded area."
Jones Falls Trail now extends from Penn Station to the Woodberry light rail station.
"It's exciting to see the city on the bike - the experience and the details of the community and the neighborhood," said Dixon. "I like riding a bike, not only for exercise, but for the opportunity to get a chance to experience the city from a different perspective."
Eventually, the trail is to connect more than 25 neighborhoods and extend 12 miles from the Mount Washington light rail station to the Inner Harbor. The project is being built in phases, and a final completion date has not been set. The next plan for the trail is to connect Penn Station to the Inner Harbor, with construction set for next year.
The trail follows the Jones Falls stream valley through north and central Baltimore.
"Jones Falls is not a highway," said Cardin, a Maryland Democrat. "Baltimore is connected by greenways, and we are connecting communities of Baltimore together so neighbors can get to know each other."
Dwight Pinkney of Rosedale said he's excited about a bicycle path to the light rail stations. He frequently rides to Hampden on weekends for a cup of coffee and during those rides, he said, sometimes doesn't feel safe dodging traffic along Baltimore's roads.
"People driving in cars in the city get attitude because they're sharing the road with cyclists," Pinkney said. "We respect the cars, but sometimes they don't respect us."
Before getting on her bike yesterday afternoon, Dixon vowed to continue efforts to make the city more encouraging for those who want to ride bicycles.
"It's safer for people to ride a bike in New York than Baltimore," the mayor said. "We've got a lot to do to become a bike-friendly city."