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Cycle tracks aren't necessarily the answer for Baltimore

Baltimore bike lane battle continues In Canton, redesign coming. (WJZ video)

Being an enthusiastic road bicyclist, I feel that Baltimore City's bicycle program should be more flexible and select what works best, rather than squeezing in separate cycle tracks where there's no room ("Pugh to review Baltimore bike lanes, parking spaces to see if they comply with fire code," June 7). The section of Roland Avenue between Northern Parkway and Cold Spring Lane comes to mind.

Roland Avenue had a decent conventional bike lane located between the parked cars and traffic lanes. Then the city relocated the bikeway between the parked cars and the curb. This cycle track was only 4 feet wide with a minimal 2-foot buffer — far below national guidelines that call for a 6-foot track and a 2-foot to 3-foot buffer from parked cars.. Even to get this narrow cycle track, the parking lane has been narrowed to 7 feet.

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As the Roland Park Civic League pointed out at their May 24 annual meeting, this cycle track failed in its objective to slow down traffic and persuade more children to ride their bikes to school. The track, however, has resulted in five cars totaled plus numerous side swipes and five cyclists hit by turning vehicles. The RPCL said that the track has resulted in conflicts between bicyclists, motorists and pedestrians — which I have experienced when riding in the roadway to avoid shoppers loading groceries from Eddies', debris, and car doors. The RPCL has recommended that the city restore curbside parking and revert to a wider, conventional bike lane while studying the possible removal of a traffic lane.

Baltimore is an older city whose residents depends upon parking on its narrow streets. It sounds noble for some millennials to vow to forego cars, but how do families get their children or aging relatives to the doctor? While fire trucks don't require 20 feet of clear space, they do need room to avoid hitting parked cars when rushing to emergencies. Narrowing the parking lane to 7 feet on both sides of portions of Potomac Street to create a 10-foot travel lane, assuming everyone parks against the curb, is risky. While some opportunities for cycle tracks exist, there are many other better ways to accommodate bicyclists besides walling off part of the street. Creating buffered bike lanes, like the ones along Johns Hopkins University on Charles Street, is one way. Traffic calming, very gradual speed bumps, and pavement markings like Share the Road Sharrows are another. Speed enforcement is helpful. Directing cyclists to secondary streets and installing traffic lights to enable cyclists to safely cross busy roads works. Cyclist and motorist education should be included.

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Having bicycled 16 miles round-trip from my home in the northwestern part of the city to the state office building before retiring, I can empathize with those millennials who use their bikes for transportation and want better bicycling. However, I ask them to learn the craft of cycling and pay attention, rather than demanding that the streets be sectioned off for cycle tracks. Use rechargeable lights to be conspicuous and select those streets more favorable for cycling.

Jeffrey H. Marks, Baltimore

Send letters to the editor to talkback@baltimoresun.com. Please include your name and contact information.

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