A day after the city canceled a meeting that bike advocates hoped would save a bike lane in West Baltimore, the lane was rubbed out and the old vehicular traffic pattern restored.
Paving crews were out in force on Saturday scraping off the white stripes and sharrows installed on Monroe Street five months ago – quick work aimed at appeasing a community association whose president was at pains today to say he’s not anti-bike.
“If the point was to establish as many bike lanes for the safety and health of the community as possible, then I would hope it doesn’t end with us simply taking out the lane on Monroe,” said Franklin Lance, president of the Greater Mondawmin Coordinating Council.
“I’m asking bike enthusiasts and avid readers of your site: ‘What are the attributes of a good bike lane so we can come up with three or four possibilities and say, ‘DOT [Department of Transportation] put a bike lane here?’”
Lance has emailed biking activists, as well as community members and city officials, to try and rally a continuing dialogue.
Let’s Talk About New Lanes
He even thought of some places – Pulaski Street, Warwick Avenue and a part of Wabash Avenue. “I don’t want it to be Greater Mondawmin against the bicyclists.”
But Penny Troutner, interim chair of the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Committee, seemed less than enthusiastic about debating future bike lanes when the city canceled a meeting Friday in which cyclists and community leaders were to sit down and hash out the fate of the existing lane.
“I’m disappointed in Dr. Lance for not taking the meeting on Friday,” she said. (Lance confirmed that he declined to attend the meeting because keeping the Monroe lane open was not an option, he said, when DOT had already pledged to the community to remove it.)
Asked why the bike lane was removed Saturday, just days after The Brew wrote that some local residents supported the lane and others felt the city could make it more useful, DOT spokeswoman Adrienne Barnes said today, “We told you – there were some safety issues. And a decision was made to do these things differently. We need to talk to the community folks first [before installing a lane].”
Accidents Under the Old Traffic Pattern
Marsha Franklin scoffed at the argument that the bike lane was causing safety problems. The longtime Monroe Street resident said today, “We had a lot of accidents before they put in the lane. Just this year, three children on bicycles got hit by cars. And one adult. A couple of these were hit-and-runs.”
Franklin said these accidents were not hearsay. “I saw them. I sit on the stoop and read my book. It was safer having the bike lane. Taking it away isn’t right.”
Another resident, Arthur McDowell, said that restoring both traffic lanes for cars will cause traffic to flow more smoothly.
“This is a main thoroughfare. I’m not at all sure a bike lane was right for Monroe Street. But I am sure the city never did handle this right. First they put it in without anyone knowing about it. Then they took it out without anyone knowing about it.”
Conaway Says Advocates Didn’t Reach Out
Councilwoman Belinda K. Conaway, whose opposition to the bike lane was considered instrumental in getting DOT to remove it, today praised Dr. Lance for vowing to discuss other places where a bicycle lane would be more appropriate.
She criticized bike advocates for not reaching out to the community earlier. “Instead of taking the time to reach out to the community, they never got back to them,” Conaway said. “That was their error, not reaching out to the affected community. They were pretty late in the game reaching out to us.”
Troutner said she had been in touch with members of the Greater Mondawmin Coordinating Council and did what she could to alert them to her position that the bike lane would help save cyclists’ lives.
“I would have liked to have seen the city take a leadership role and bring us together,” Troutner continued. “They could have required a meeting before that lane was lifted. Now it’s gone, and cyclists are back out on the road with no protection.”
- Fern Shen also contributed to this story.