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DOT plan for Roland Avenue is not acceptable

There are clearly more pressing issues facing the residents of Baltimore City than the design of our streets. However, Baltimore City DOT’s latest move in the ongoing saga of the Roland Avenue bike lane is emblematic of the ineptitude of our local government in addressing any type of problem, big or small (“Then and Now photos: Roland Avenue,” Dec. 26). Residents of Roland Park and surrounding neighborhoods have become weary of this issue that has dragged on now for more than four years, and with no end in sight. The ill-designed bike lane has proven unsafe and unpopular for residents and visitors, cyclists and pedestrians, businesses and schools – essentially, everyone except the people at DOT who oversaw its installation and continue to ignore pleas from the community to remove it.

DOT has now announced its plan to conduct a “road diet” lane reduction test on Roland Avenue next month. This plan, which involves placing large (2-foot by 3-foot) drums in one lane of the avenue to reduce traffic to one lane, is supported by neither the community nor federal guidelines. Safety is of foremost concern, with many residents worrying how the local fire department vehicles will safely navigate the affected stretch. DOT has inexplicably chosen to close off the lane closest to the center median, sandwiching the travel lane between the drums and the too-narrow parking lane, which will no doubt make entering and exiting vehicles even more precarious than it currently is. DOT’s plan will also result in increased traffic on side streets, which are not designed to safely handle through traffic.

As was the case with the installation of the bike lane, DOT has no data supporting the design or implementation of its plan. Despite hiring a consultant last fall, it has conducted no feasibility studies, no comprehensive engineering surveys and no traffic studies — all of which are not only standard practice, but have been repeatedly requested by the community. Representatives from schools, businesses, community organizations, and residents themselves have all implored DOT to take a step back and implement a thoughtful approach, but our appeals have fallen on deaf ears.

The question is ultimately this: since DOT’s goal here is clearly not to implement a solution backed by data or community support, then what exactly is it? It is time for Director Michelle Pourciau to be transparent about this. This is, after all, a representative democracy, and if our elected officials refuse to represent our interests as citizens, then we must hold them accountable.

Margaret Black, Baltimore

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