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Police close lanes on Reisterstown Road to stop dirt bikers

Police closed four lanes of Reisterstown Road near Druid Hill Park Sunday to stop dirt bikers.

Baltimore police closed six lanes of Reisterstown Road at Druid Hill Park for much of Sunday in an attempt to thwart the dirt bikers who ride the stretch of road each week.

More than a dozen police vehicles and a pair of tow trucks sat in and around the street, while hundreds of traffic cones narrowed both sides of the eight-lane road to one lane each way. Police said the method is known as "traffic calming."

"We know that this is a minor inconvenience for the community, but the community has expressed a major inconvenience with having the dirt bike riders out riding up and down the street recklessly," said police spokesman T.J. Smith.

Tensions at the weekly Northwest Baltimore gathering have risen recently. The slowdown followed an incident last weekend in which an officer was placed on restrictive duty after he allegedly waved his gun at a group of people who police said threw rocks and other objects at them when they confiscated a dirt bike.

For most of the day, the slowdown tactic worked. The usual group of hundreds of dirt bikers, bicyclists and spectators who gather each Sunday in the block were nowhere to be seen as of 3 p.m., when they usually arrive.

But when the sun set and some police left, the riders returned, performing wheelies up and down the block from Liberty Heights Avenue to Druid Park Drive. Police were called back to the scene and eventually cleared the crowd that had gathered.

The dirt bikes are illegal on city streets. Smith said police don't want them riding in the road because of public safety concerns.

"We're not going to chase after these riders, but at the same time we don't want them recklessly riding around in the community," he said.

The slowdown isn't a permanent solution, but a long-term plan is still in the works, Smith said.

"We can't arrest our way out of this problem," he said. "We can arrest bicyclists out here today. That's not going to solve the problem. It might further exacerbate the problem.

"The dialogue has to continue with the stakeholders, because we can't have the dirt bike riders just randomly violating the law out here on Sunday afternoons."

Baltimore Sun reporter Justin Fenton contributed to this article.

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