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The Baltimore Sun

Charm City still challenges cyclists

The Sun's editorial notebook "Baltimore should be biking" (June 21) encouraged readers to park their cars and commute to and from work on their bicycles. But there are a couple of problems with that notion.

As with camping, the idea of commuting by bicycle is better than the reality.

Camping sounds wonderful until you are confronted with a reality that includes clouds of ravenous mosquitoes, ankle-deep mud and fellow campground users who blast obnoxious music until 4 a.m. and then come to visit asking whether you can spare any marijuana.

The idea of biking to work is great. It conjures up images of a brisk, invigorating ride, of sharing the road with cheerful motorists who admire your commitment to improving your health and the environment and seeing Baltimore as it cannot be seen from within a car.

The reality is that many motorists view bicyclists as impediments to the timely completion of their commutes and seem to delight in making turns directly in front of them.

Passing through some neighborhoods, cyclists must negotiate bands of surly teenagers who hurl insults if not rocks and empty bottles.

Finally, Baltimore's terrain is not really conducive to regular commuting by bicycle. It is just too hilly. It will punish the muscles and joints of any daily bicycle commuter who is not in Tour de France-ready physical condition.

Such a rider will arrive at his or her destination tired, achy and sweaty.

I am a fairly serious recreational cyclist, but I know my limitations and have a pretty good idea of the risks faced by frequent bicycle commuters. I cannot imagine myself ever attempting a daily commute through the streets of Baltimore by bicycle.

All the wishful thinking in the world cannot make it practical for the vast majority of people.

John R. Yates, Baltimore

I agree with the editorial notebook "Baltimore should be biking." I have been riding a bike in Baltimore for many years and I have seen a lot more bikes recently around the city lately after the increase in gas prices. This is good news. And the new bike lanes are a godsend. (Thank you, Mayor Sheila Dixon.)

However, the pavement on city streets is worse than it has been for a long time. We also need more bike lock-ups, not necessarily in parking garages but on the street.

The best way to lock up your bike is with a U-shaped lock to a parking meter. But the city is replacing the old meters with the kind that take credit cards. They don't work for bikes.

Why not add a bike lock-up next to the new meters?

James D. Dilts, Baltimore

The writer is the co-author of "A Guide to Baltimore Architecture."

Strategies to save historic homes

As one of the many renovators who studied the possibility of purchasing and restoring the Hawks house in Ruxton, I agree that the 1900-era Shingle Style home was in serious need of major renovation ("Neighbors mourn a house's demise," June 22).

Difficulties aside, the Hawks house, one of Ruxton's earliest and best-known cottages, could and should have been saved as a tangible reminder of the Hawks family's rich history and the original architecture of old Ruxton.

While one can only speculate as to the recent owner's intentions, it seemed apparent that over the past six months or so, the property had been largely abandoned in a manner intended to cause rapid deterioration.

When a house is stripped of all of its siding and has hundreds of gaping holes open to the interior, it does not take long for nature to do its work.

The loss of the Hawks house might have been prevented if the family had gotten more help from preservationists using an appropriate strategy.

Three key elements to a strategy that could have saved the house would have been finding a buyer who would execute a contract ensuring his or her intent to restore the property, making the buyer demonstrate access to the funding needed to complete the renovation, and verifying that the buyer had the experience and credentials to complete the project.

Further protections are available to such properties if they are on the Baltimore County Landmarks List and the National Register of Historic Places.

Lauri FitzGerald, Baltimore

The writer is a former chairwoman of the Baltimore County Historic Trust.

Multiple exes mock marriage

Bonnie Ashley's 11 marriages to seven men provide further evidence that heterosexuals have no need to fear that gay marriages in Massachusetts and California will undermine or mock traditional marriage ("Exes and Uh-Ohs," June 24).

Straight people continue to prove that they can make a travesty of that venerable institution without any assistance from the gay community.

Ed Schneider, Baltimore

Real ID imposes big burden on Md.

It was disappointing to read the misleading statements by Stewart Baker, assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, in his letter "Real ID offers real protection" (June 22).

As a Maryland state legislator who has been working closely with our Motor Vehicles Administration as well as with national state advocacy organizations on driver's licensing issues, I know that the Real ID Act is one of the largest unfunded federal mandates ever imposed on the states.

Furthermore, Real ID is not "simply a set of minimum security standards," as Mr. Baker claims.

The Real ID Act requires states to undertake expensive and substantive changes in the ways they license drivers.

But neither the act nor the federal government's final regulations on its implementation set out data security standards. Instead, they leave it to the states to determine and pay for the yet-unspecified level of security that will be required to protect residents' personal information.

In recent years, Maryland has invested more than $40 million to make our driver's license one of the most secure in the nation.

The Real ID law would force us to throw away that investment by Maryland taxpayers and supplant our existing security system with one that uses less-secure national databases and provides less protection of drivers' personal information.

Last week, Arizona became the 10th state to opt out of Real ID when Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat, signed a bill passed by a Republican-led legislature.

Next year, I hope that Maryland will act in a bipartisan manner and follows the lead of our sister states that have said no to Real ID.

We can and should provide more secure driver's licenses without the costs and threats to privacy posed by the Real ID law.

Ana Sol Guti?rrez, Chevy Chase

The writer represents District 18 in the Maryland House of Delegates.

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