Baltimore passes 'Complete Streets' law requiring more bike-, pedestrian-friendly road design

Baltimore officials celebrated Thursday the passage of the “Complete Streets” law, a broad set of regulations requiring the city’s Department of Transportation to design roadways, sidewalks and bike lanes in a way that promotes walking, bicycling and public transit, beyond just cars.

Mayor Catherine Pugh signed the bill into law late last week, and Councilman Ryan Dorsey, who sponsored the legislation, held a news conference Thursday at City Hall Thursday to commemorate it.

Dorsey said the law will set up Baltimore for success and improved equity in the future by encouraging “designing for a more human-scale city.”

In addition for prioritizing use by pedestrians, bicyclists and others in street design, the law requires the transportation department to spend the next 13 months implementing the new guidelines, developing community engagement plans and drafting a Complete Streets manual outlining street design and investment priorities.

“These things actually do make a difference in how drivers drive,” Dorsey said.

The law requires the city “to the greatest extent possible, [to] promote walking, biking, and public transit" and “ensure equity by actively pursuing the elimination of health, economic, and access disparities.”

With 30 percent of Baltimoreans lacking access to a car and a small percentage of the area’s jobs easily accessible by public transportation, it is critical for the city to design roadways with more bicycle and bus lanes to make such modes of transportation more practical for more users, Dorsey said.

Michelle Pourciau, city transportation director, thanked the councilman for “giving us this charge.”

“We stand ready to do implementation,” Pourciau said.

The law emphasizes the importance of safe access for all users of Baltimore’s transportation network, she said.

“Our Complete Streets legislation will ultimately provide citizens with additional transportation choices, improved accessibility, and a more welcoming street environment for better livability throughout all communities,” Pourciau said.

Jon Laria, chairman of the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Commission, who helped author the legislation, called the law “cutting-edge.”

“Safe passage on and through our streets is critical to Baltimore’s livability,” Laria said in a statement. “We must continue to work together to make our streets welcoming for residents, businesses and visitors alike.”

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