Bollards beheaded on new bikeway

bollards 2

On the Fallsway north of Chase Street, the city’s bikeway bollards have taken a beating.

Photo by: Mark Reutter

Decorative metal bollards that line the newly finished Jones Falls Bike Trail downtown have taken a battering from unknown assailants, according to the city’s Department of Transportation.

Kathy Chopper, of DOT, says the agency suspects hit-and-run drivers are responsible for the severing of a half dozen bollards, or vertical posts, on the Fallsway north of Chase Street and at Guilford Avenue and Biddle Street. The beheadings took place over the last three months.

The roughly 28-inch-high bollards were installed last summer as the crowning design element of Phase II of the bike trail, which runs 2.5 miles between the Inner Harbor and Penn Station – and cost $2.62 million (including $77,901 in extra work orders from contractor Civil Construction).

The bike trail is separated from car traffic by raised curbing with heavy paving stones and closely-spaced black bollards with ornamental ball tops and fluted shafts.

Chopper could not provide a price for replacing the bollards. “At this time, we are still negotiating the cost,” she said. Similar bollards sold by suppliers on the Internet range from $600 to $750 each.

DOT officials expect the replacement bollards to be installed by spring 2013. By then, they’re likely to need more given the current fatality rate.

Two bollards recently went missing near the intersection where traffic on Biddle Street turns north onto Guilford. (Photo by Mark Reutter)

These bollards were destroyed about two weeks ago near where motorists on Biddle Street turn north on Guilford. (Photo by Mark Reutter)


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  • Gerald Neily

    Those bollards are only as incongruous as the rest of that bikeway, to call necessary attention to the fact that it’s totally out of place on a major arterial highway. Another new oddity is the bike “speed humps” which have been installed to allow the bus stops to be relocated out into the road. Still, it’s better for cars to behead bollards than bicyclists. And it’s fitting that the bollards resemble chess pawns, to remind us that the bikers are just pawns in the larger game which pits communities and the city against each other. It’s always necessary to knock off some pawns to protect the queen and king.

    • dukiebiddle

       ” out of place on a major arterial highway.”  It’s not an arterial highway.  It’s a ridiculously overbuilt ramp that connects an underused Fallsway to a residential street, which isn’t even a throughway.

      • Gerald Neily

        Strengthening neighborhoods is the key to about 90% of the challenges this city faces. Yes, Fallsway is “underused” because the heavy traffic that ought to be using it is tormenting Mount Vernon instead. Right now, a $16M investment is being sought for the vacant mansion at the corner of Calvert and Biddle. All street planning must support this kind of crucial community redevelopment.

        • dukiebiddle

           ” Right now, a $16M investment is being sought for the vacant mansion at the corner of Calvert and Biddle”

          I mere block away from the cycletrack.  Actually, only half a block away from the back side of the Government House site.  I think the cycletrack helps support investment in the property splendidly.

  • Aaron Mirenzi

    where do you think the bikeway should be?

    • Gerald Neily

      The bikeway should be in Mount Vernon, Aaron. Bikes and liveable communities should go hand in hand. Get the obnoxious heavy traffic out of the community and onto Fallsway where it belongs. Yes, Rick and Bmorepanic, you’re consistent with this too. With livable community streets, there’s less reason to resort to design and engineering gimmicks to try to accommodate all cyclists, who vary quite widely in skills, behaviors and desires. See my blog:

      • Aaron Mirenzi

        Agreed mostly. A bike lane would be nice on Charles. The fallsway has a benefit of hooking up with Guilford, which is I think the easiest road to bike on in the city going north-south

  • RickFromBmore

    You know, I’m all for bike lanes, but I really do believe that people should ride their bikes with traffic, just like they do in most European and Asian cities. Granted, auto drivers would probably have a fit, but the way I see it, the road infrastructure already exists for cars AND bikes. You don’t need separate lanes and bollards. Motorists just have to learn some patience and cyclists need to learn the rules of the road.

    • dukiebiddle

       RickFromBmore, for decades now the European and Asian cities have been building separated infrastructure to protect cyclists, exactly like this lane.  The belief that cyclists and motorists should be separated is MUCH MUCH stronger in Europe than it is in the United States.  We’re currently 25 years behind the European trend, and trying to catch up.  The overwhelming majority of safety experts strongly support separation.

    • GXWalsh

      Most European cities keep bikes and pedestrians off roads. I was just in Germany and different kinds of traffic are very separated there.

      • lanas

         that is false. Most german streets accomodate but mark bicyles on the road surface.

        • GXWalsh

          In the towns I visited, bike traffic and pedestrian traffic were on the same paths OFF the street. 

  • bmorepanic

    Actually, I think it’s just poor engineering/design in not designing for the size vehicles that use Fallsway.  With a slalom of turns like that, a large truck  isn’t going to have enough room.  Something like a city trash truck, private dumpster dumper or a tractor trailer is not going to fit well and will win any contest with a bollard.  One imagines speed is part of the issue.

     I dunno, never been exactly been there
    but it’s not looking like the outside lane is the desired 15 feet wide and the bollards themselves should be offset at least 1 foot from the curb edge (not just on center, every part of them should be back a foot).   I haz read the mutcd a while ago, and I’d think there was a duty to be even more generous on those turns. 

    Hain’t they got no traffic cams on Chase or Biddle that shoot that direction?   I hate it when they just recently spent a ton of money on new traffic cams with the signally system and they don’t even look at the footage.

    • dukiebiddle

       ”but it’s not looking like the outside lane is the desired 15 feet wide”


    • dukiebiddle

       bmorepanic, I can assure you your concerns about the engineering are unfounded.  The lanes are more than wide enough for even the largest trucks to be able to navigate at the maximum speed limit without there being any valid concern about their ability to avoid the bollards.  The photos are with a telephoto lens, which condenses the depth of field.  Those are very gradual turns, with unnecessarily wide lanes.

    • Barnadine_the_Pirate

      You would have to be blind drunk and half-dead to hit those metal bollards by accident even if you were driving a big semi — and there is no reason on Earth why anyone should ever be driving a big rig on that stretch of the Fallsway, because anyone coming from downtown would be on 83 by that point.

      The only satisfaction that can be derived from this is the knowledge that hitting these things had to do major, expensive damage to the cars of whatever dumbass managed to drive into them.

      • Lars Peterson

         The first time they were struck, it was by a midsize SUV which left a lot of its trim and a puddle of oil in the lane. I don’t know if the driver fled the scene of the accident or not.

  • dukiebiddle

    Seconding Kate.  I’m staring out my Guildford St window, from my Guilford Ave apartment, in my community, at the bikeway.  And, I’m counting one, two, three cyclists using it at this very moment – while there is only one car using it.  That’s a 75% modal share.  I myself was using it just 10 minutes ago.  It’s hardly what I would call “gimmicky.”  Don’t get me wrong, in a perfect world where Baltimore DOT was willing to take out a lane of parking or traffic on Charles, connecting the Harbor with North Baltimore, I would take that over the Fallsway/Guilford cycletrack.  But in the real world that I live in that is not going to happen for decades.  In the absence of that wholly unrealistic desire, I commend the DOT for improving a hugely overbuilt and underutilized section of infrastructure to provide a safe route all the way from the Harbor to University Parkway, providing a safe and viable transportation route serving all of central Baltimore as wall as residents of North Baltimore Communities from Waverly, Homeland, Charles Village, Hampton, Guilford, Roland Park and beyond. 

    “there’s less reason to resort to design and engineering gimmicks to try
    to accommodate all cyclists, who vary quite widely in skills, behaviors
    and desires”  I have to say that is the most baffling argument that I have ever seen presented to criticize a segregated bikeway.  It runs contrary to all the needs of cyclists and their varied skills.  “Varried skills” are precisely why we need to build segregated bikeways, so that cyclists of all skill sets, and aged between 8 and 80 can cycle both recreationally and for transpiration.

    • Gerald Neily

      Duke, I’ll concede that if I was a bike advocate rather than a city planner, I’d have the same attitude as you. My priority would be to make the overall environment of Mount Vernon nice enough to support places like a $650 per night hotel to replace the defunct Govt House. But the city has given only fleeting attention to creating livable neighborhood streets such as in Mount Vernon, so if I was you, I’d take what I could get, which is the Fallsway Prison District bikeway. The city just wants to keep its various interests lined up. I’m also not against segregated bikeways per se, and it doesn’t make a whole lot of difference whether the bollards were wrecked or vandalized.

  • Jed Weeks

    There’s been a significant increase in cyclists along the guilford/fallsway corridor after installation of the bike boulevard and JFT. That alone proves this was a worthy investment, and it is allowing folks to safely navigate downtown.

    The lanes have to be almost 20ft wide along there. The only issue present is an abundance of folks that are undeserving of a driver’s license.

    • bmorepanic

      I’m not against the bollards and for the record, I like separated bike lanes and strongly support biking for all abilities.  And I  agree with everyone actually – having something is sometimes better than nothing but the best way would be to have the same type of bike facility take lane space where its easier to get to. 

      BUT either the traffic is hitting the bollards or they are good income.  If they made great income, it seems weird to me that only those few in the bend are broken.   I  have difficulty believing in the vandal thing – are they thinking they a group of bike haters decide to spend saturday nights knocking over a bollard or two for fun?

      Traffic stuff is usually designed to either be traffic stopping or to break away.  My guess is these guys are breakaway and not traffic stopping.  If they were traffic stopping, they would be installed like this diagram –  - big iron pipe filled with concrete set into a deep dug base.  But the ones they bought look like power coated aluminum or some other light weight metal?  Again, I’ve never been there but they look breakaway.

      Since its called “trail”, my guess is the engineering was done by the parks department.  And the two lanes look like 12-13 feet to me.  The outer one is supposed to be wider.

      • dukiebiddle

         12-13 ft lanes are at least 2 feet too wide.  This isn’t a freeway.  It’s an overbuilt city street, with a 25 mph speed limit; and prior to the cycletrack’s construction the outside lane (currently cycletrack) was a parking lane.  The outside lane of that street is wider than the outside lane of St. Paul between Penn Station and University Blvd., and in the absence of potential opening doors there is no need for the outside lane to be any wider than the inside lane.  If contemporary roadway design manuals are still recommending 15 foot lanes for 25 mph city streets than then those manuals are both hideously out of date and dangerously facilitating driving speeds well above the posted speed limit.

        • bmorepanic

          In goofy transportation speak – lane width is partly about the size of vehicles expected and how much room they need to navigate.  

          I know the theories you believe in and I don’t disbelieve them as much as  seen big vehicles trying to navigate tight turns in small places.  They need some pretty big turning areas. It looks like they have trouble seeing stuff less than 5 feet high, too.

          I’ve been disappointed that narrow lanes do not mitigate traffic speed as much as I’d like them too.  Drivers adjust after a while and speed up again.  I live near Harford road where the “pedestrian refuges” actually have little ramps leading the cars to safely mow down the pedestrians in the target area. Traffic regularly leaves the road surface and jumps the curbs because of people driving too fast and occasionally under the influence of “stuff”.

          For Fallsway, I imagine it becomes Speedway after dark.  My personal preference is to reduce the number of travel lanes but keep the parking.  Then the bike lanes would be behind a protective layer of parked cars as well as the bollards and the bollards could be traffic stopping as opposed to breakaway.

          I imagine the SUV had low clearance.

  • Gordon Steen

    Out where I live I have been watching cars hit the same brick wall for 20 years. I would guess that the same thing will happen here. I don’t see any need for bollards that will have to be continually replaced.

    • snarkycomments

      Better a bashed bollard than a bruised and bleeding bicyclist.

      • Gerald Neily

        Snarky, Comment Talley Vous? With Comment 25 we go full circle back to my Comment 1: “It’s better for cars to behead bollards than bicyclists.” But better still to  stick the crazy heavy traffic in the JFX corridor and put the civilized local traffic in a civilized neighborhood.

        • dukiebiddle

          But that isn’t going to happen for decades, if ever.  Redesigning the Fallsway and Guilford to reroute the arterial traffic out of central Mt. Vernon and Mid-town Belevedere would require an investment of hundreds of millions, maybe a billion or more, dollars.  (It should be pointed out that the U.S. Department of Transportation is no longer funding the construction or enlargement of urban megahighways.  Cities are actually trying to tear down their Embarcadaros, not make them bigger) Not only that, it would transfer the arterial traffic from Mt. Vernon/Mid-town Belevedere to other residential neighborhoods with comparable residential density, such as Greenmount West, Barkley, Harwood, Abell, etc. (referencing your article against the filtered permeability on Guilford – written before all the vacants were rehabbed and the real estate values on went up – after the Bicycle Boulevard improvements were completed, which is tangentially related to the Fallsway/Guilford cycletrack project)  Regardless, this is all a detraction from the issue at hand, the bollards on the Fallsway/Guilford cycletrack; not a bully pulpit for your favorite issue, transforming Mt. Vernon into an arterial traffic free utopia.  I agree that your vision of Mt. Vernon is a noble one, but I don’t think it is realistic, and I certainly don’t think we should be discussing destroying every bicycle safety improvement in central Baltimore, or turning every discussion about the bicycle infrastructure in Central Baltimore into a Gerald Neily Vision of Mt. Vernon hijack thread.

          • Gerald Neily

            Aha, Dukiebiddle, you’ve got me pegged. Yes, I like to escalate smaller issue discussions into bigger ones. Baltimore’s big problem is that our small projects DON’T set the foundation for our larger city visions. Yes, I want a Mount Vernon “utopia”. It’s still Bmore’s irreplaceable “signature neighborhood”, whose rise would raise the entire city. And the core project of this “utopia” is a Fallsway-Greenmount-Loch Raven connector road, which would NOT be a megahighway costing hundreds of millions. And the first step is extremely cheap and easy – closing the JFX ramp onto St. Paul Street. (On the other hand, knocking down the JFX would indeed be the billion dollar proposal.)

            And all the new activity you speak of in Station North, Barclay, etc., including the visions in the new Hopkins McNeely report, still treat Greenmount Avenue as an urban seam or boundary, to be used as an arterial in a hierarchical street system. My proposals are more consistent and supportive of these real ongoing trends than is the bollarded bikeway.

  • raygunlogics

    the huge orange guardrail that used to be along pratt and light was the best protection. look at the jersey walls on 83 in the city – they’re beat to hell and a good indicator that people are always going to nail barriers, so you better make them sturdy and not just giant pawns.

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