A Baltimore firefighter pleaded guilty this week to assaulting a bicyclist during an argument at a neighborhood meeting in May and was sentenced to a year of unsupervised probation.

Charles Mudra, who has worked for the department for 10 years, grabbed and tackled Austin Davis, a city employee and bicycling advocate, at a meeting May 14 at the Baltimore School for the Arts to discuss a bike lane, according to court records.


Neither had been attending the meeting in his public capacity, but the incident was one of several clashes between the Fire Department and bicycle advocates over the installation of bike lanes.

The feud began with last summer’s fight over the Potomac Street bicycle lane in Canton. Neighbors raised concerns about a lack of room for emergency vehicles, which led city officials to announce plans to remove the bike lane, until the bicycling advocacy group Bikemore sued the city to stop it.

The Baltimore City Council voted unanimously Monday to repeal parts of the fire code that officials say were preventing the creation of bike lanes and new development projects.

Fire Department officials recorded a video in June to demonstrate the difficulty of maneuvering a firetruck on a street narrowed by bike lanes — which Bikemore executive director Liz Cornish said they filmed outside her house as a means of intimidation.

Fire Chief Niles R. Ford said he had no idea where Cornish lived and there was no intention of intimidating anyone.

The Baltimore City Council held hearings expressing its frustration with the issue once the feud began stalling other development projects.

Another cyclist, a lawyer named Alyssa Domzal, testified in front of the council that a person in a pickup truck with a Fire Department decal swerved at her June 2 while driving at high speed, stopped the truck in front of her, and screamed, “I still hate you.”

The council unanimously passed a bill last week to strip out the section of the fire code that mandates 20- and 26-foot street clearances, with which most city streets already do not comply.

Mayor Catherine Pugh has not signed the bill. Her spokesman declined to comment on the assault case, and did not respond to a question about whether she would sign the bill.

The Baltimore City Council on Wednesday issued city agencies an ultimatum: make “demonstrable progress” on roughly 20 to 25 stalled developments and a handful of bike lanes by Monday, or the council will strip a section from the fire code that the Fire Department has been citing to hold them up.

The fire code was the topic of discussion during the May meeting that prompted Davis and Mudra to get in an argument after Davis began recording him with his phone.

Chaz Ball, Mudra’s defense attorney, acknowledged that Mudra slapped the phone out of Davis’ hand, grabbed him, and they fell to the ground together.

Davis, a former Planning Department employee who now works as a CitiStat analyst in the mayor’s office, declined to comment Tuesday.

Fire Department spokesman Chief Roman Clark said Mudra remains employed by the department as an emergency vehicle driver.

Baltimore bicyclists may have to wait another year for protected bike lanes on Monument, Centre and Madison streets.

Like any employee charged with an offense, Clark said, Mudra will be required to submit court documents to determine whether additional departmental charges are warranted.

Any such punishment would be considered a personnel issue, he said, and would be against policy to discuss publicly.


Mudra, a lifelong firefighter in New York and Baltimore, is penitent and attended anger management counseling after the incident, Ball said.

“He’s taken responsibility for this,” said Ball, an associate at the Schlachman, Belsky & Weiner law firm. “He looks forward to moving forward with his life.”

For Cornish, that’s not enough. She wants Pugh and the Fire Department to take action.

“A firefighter pleaded guilty to assault. Another ran a bicyclist off the road,” Cornish said in a statement. “As far as we know, they're still employed despite [the Fire Department]'s pledge to the City Council these matters would be addressed.”

By signing the City Council bill, Cornish said, the mayor could end “this unnecessarily contentious process.”

“Until then, hundreds of millions of dollars in economic development and transportation projects are in jeopardy and the lack of action will continue to embolden bad actors,” Cornish said.