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Ciclovia briefly Amsterdam-ifies North Baltimore

Event closes off streets to cars

ciclovia 3

Two-way bike traffic on University Parkway Saturday, as bicycles (and pedestrians) rule the road for Ciclovia V.

Photo by: Fern Shen

Alexandra James and her brother were having the biggest bike ride of their lives Saturday and they were giddy about it.

“Our mother never lets us ride on the road, we’re only allowed to ride on the sidewalk in our block,” said James, 12, of Medfield, as she stood on University Parkway and watched other cyclists whiz by in two directions.

“We almost went all the way to the Zoo!” said Chris James, 14. “We actually went somewhere.”

They were participating, for the first time, in Ciclovia, an afternoon event in which streets were closed off to vehicular traffic from noon to 4 p.m. and cyclists, skateboarders and pedestrians were encouraged to enjoy them.

In its fifth year, the event had expanded from just a Roland Park affair (closing off the area from Northern Parkway to Cold Spring Lane) to this year’s roughly three-mile “park-to-park” course. The Ciclovia V route reached all the way to Druid Hill Park and included parts of Wyman Park, Hampden and Remington along the way.

There were also some one-wheelers at Ciclovia. (Photo by Fern Shen)

There were also some one-wheelers at Ciclovia. (Photo by Fern Shen)

Sponsored by the Roland Park Civic League and the Keswick Multi-Care, along with Bmore Streets for People, Ciclovia V cost $7,500, mostly to pay for the 23 police officers needed to shepherd the cyclists through intersections, according to The Baltimore Messenger.

Bands played near the Roland Park Library and the Roland Park Water Tower, where the community is raising funds to restore the tower and surrounding green space.

Sue James said she liked the “party” atmosphere and had only one criticism of the event.

“We’re actually getting some use out of these bikes,” James said, as she and her children pushed off for the rest of the return trip. “Too bad it’s only once a year.”

Saturday's Cyclovia, as always, att racted a lot of kids. (Photo by Fern Shen)

Saturday's Ciclovia attracted a lot of kids. (Photo by Fern Shen)

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  • Richard

    Neat idea. But I wish we would focus on getting people to learn how to ride bikes with auto traffic instead of reinforcing the belief that cars and bikes must be separated. The roads are for cars AND bikes. Bicycling will never be taken seriously until people see bikes and cars sharing the road.

    • Flintsparc

      Or… we could just do what they do in Copenhagen; which includes bike lanes.


      The city offers a variety of favorable cycling conditions — dense urban proximities, short distances and flat terrain — along with an extensive and well-designed system of cycle paths. This has earned it a reputation as one of the most—possiblythe most—bicycle-friendly city in the world.   
      Every day 1.3 million km are cycled in Copenhagen, with 36% of all citizens commuting to work, school or university by bicycle…  Copenhagen has an extensive network of cycle paths which sometimes have their own signal systems. There are around 350 km of cycle paths, separated from the car lanes as well as the pavement by curbs, while there are another 20 km of on-road cycle lanes, marked by a broad painted line. In junctions, the continuation of the cycle path or lane is often highlighted by a broad blue-painted band to increase visibility.”

      • Richard

        Nothing wrong with bike lanes, but Baltimore is very different from Copenhagen and Amsterdam in that it is not particularly flat here. Our topography is fairly hilly, particularly the climb north from the Harbor in teh Charles Street/Calvert Street corridor. In terms of  topography, I think the city we have more in common with is Paris. Besides being pretty hilly the bike infrastructure in Paris is spotty. But they have the wonderful Velib bike stations and hundreds of thousands take to two wheels every day (usually with no helmet). People simply hop on their bikes and wade into the insane traffic like everyone else. I know to Americans this all sounds terrifying, but I found it exhilarating. And personally, I think one of the reasons they take bicycling more seriously there is because it is not seen as an alien transportation mode used by people wearing goofy spandex, but as just one more way to get around town.

  • Anonymous

    I loved Ciclovia, it was my first time participating. I’ve used a bike as my primary mode of transportation for over a year and it was really refreshing to not be concerned about cars passing too closely on narrow streets. That said, I think it needs to terminate somewhere with more going on next time, perhaps an area with shops, as finishing at Druid Hill park was great for doing some laps around the lake, but not quite the revolution that Ciclovia was in South America. If the businesses in harbor east or mount vernon were the destination, I think there would be a more visible economic impact. Overall, it just makes you wonder what the city would be like if we aggressively expanded our bike lanes, how would the city and its residents change? Would you see people on the streets you don’t see now? I don’t think the answer is obvious to these questions, bikes aren’t a panacea, but I’d certainly like to see what happens.

  • yay bikes.

    For the cost of the event, it would have been nice if the police had bothered to close down actual major intersections an hour+ into the event, instead of placing 4 officers along Tudor Arms where there was no need for them.

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