Lisa Harbin hasn't yet made the plunge and started bicycling from her home in Hampden to her job as a technical writer in Fells Point. But she's seeing more people ditching their cars, devising commutes that don't come with a price tag of more than $3.50 a gallon - and she admits she's inspired.
"It's getting a lot easier to ride through Baltimore," she said. "In the last few months I've seen way more people out on bikes than ever before. When people see more people out on bikes, it makes it seem more feasible and safer."
Harbin and her boyfriend, Bob Atkinson, a Web developer from Chicago, were up early yesterday, checking out some of what they miss in the city when speeding by inside a car at 30 mph. They were among roughly 1,350 participants in the 15th annual Tour du Port, a fundraiser for One Less Car, a nonprofit dedicated to advancing alternatives to automobile use. Riders began and ended their morning at Canton Waterfront Park and meandered through such spots as Dundalk, Patterson Park, Fort McHenry and Rash Field. They could opt to ride 15-, 21- or 43.5-mile routes.
"In America, you have a car," said Charina Chatman, events director for the nonprofit organization. "That's luxury. That's the lifestyle. ... This event is about advocacy and making people aware that there are more than cars on the road."
Chatman said the city has made great strides in making its streets more bike-friendly, adding more bike paths and lanes. She said walking can also be a great alternative to driving.
Mary Ryan, president of the Baltimore Bike Club, said she loves events where people are encouraged to leave their cars parked.
"They're a great way to get people out who normally would not ride in the city or on city streets," she said. "A lot of people are intimidated by riding in traffic, so riding in a group is a good way to do that and to see parts of the city you might normally not see if you're just driving past."
Sean Kinsman and Lindsey Lear, who both live in Ridgely's Delight, said they were eager to find a new route for bicycling in the city. "Baltimore was never really a bike-friendly city for us," said Kinsman, a certified public accountant. So the pair would head down to Anne Arundel County and ride the B&A; Trail instead. But yesterday did not persuade them to keep biking in the city. "The roads are horrible. Potholes, cracks, everything," he said - even with the new bike lanes.
"We had a great time, though," said Lear, who is studying to be an optometrist.
Attorney Bill Lockwood and his wife, Ellen, a couple in their 60s from Silver Spring, stood around after riding the medium-length route, eating pizza and enjoying the live music. They have been participating in the Tour du Port for years. "It's the best ride around," he said. "I saw some of the scenes I saw in The Wire - and some of the characters, I think."
They mostly ride on trails or in Rock Creek Park. They don't feel comfortable riding on the streets near where they live. "You take your life in your hands to do it," he said.
Biking buddies Kathryn Holmes Johnson and Jean Moss drove from Glenn Dale in Prince George's County to ride in Baltimore yesterday. About two years ago, Holmes Johnson said she stopped driving and started taking the Metro to work, figuring the out-of-pocket cost would be about the same but knowing the cost to the environment would be smaller if she took public transportation. She has considered riding her bicycle to the Metro but isn't sure that step will ever really work for her.
"As a woman," said the marketing manager for a Washington law firm, "it's the logistics of hair, makeup and wardrobe in addition to the biking that's problematic."