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  1. #1
    gwd
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    Whats wrong with Baltimore for biking?

    I took the train to Baltimore yesterday and noticed a lack of people getting around by bike compared with what you see in Philly and DC. I asked some people who live there and occasionally bike commute and they told me several things that don't really add up to a full explanation. They said the bus and car drivers are jerks, the streets are bad and the old mayor who is now the governor is anti bike. What is interesting to me is that Philly and DC bracket Baltimore on the east coast and the bike transportation atmosphere is so much better in those two cities. Are there any car free Baltimore residents who can explain why I don't see more bike transportation in their city?

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    Last edited by makeinu; 11-24-08 at 07:58 PM.

  3. #3
    Isaias NoRacer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gwd
    I took the train to Baltimore yesterday and noticed a lack of people getting around by bike compared with what you see in Philly and DC. I asked some people who live there and occasionally bike commute and they told me several things that don't really add up to a full explanation. They said the bus and car drivers are jerks, the streets are bad and the old mayor who is now the governor is anti bike. What is interesting to me is that Philly and DC bracket Baltimore on the east coast and the bike transportation atmosphere is so much better in those two cities. Are there any car free Baltimore residents who can explain why I don't see more bike transportation in their city?
    Whoever you talked to just doesn't have a clue. Check these out:

    http://www.baltometro.org/content/view/472/298/

    http://www.baltimorespokes.org/

    http://www.onelesscar.org/
    2009 mileage = 14,738 miles; 2010 mileage = 15,234 miles; 2011 mileage = 17,344 miles; 2012 mileage = 11,414 miles; 2013 = 12,169

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    put our Heads Together cerewa's Avatar
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    I can't speak for DC, but Philly streets are pretty bad too.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gwd
    I took the train to Baltimore yesterday ...
    You didn't happen to lock your bike up in front of the National Building Museum yesterday did you? The reason I ask is that I was walking by and overheard a snippet of conversation between 2 guys and a girl, while they were locking/unlocking their bikes, about the train and Baltimore.

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    gwd
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    Quote Originally Posted by makeinu
    What makes you say there is a lack of bike riders? How many bike riders did you see and how many did you expect to see?
    Good questions. I saw none. I walked from Penn Station to Johns Hopkins Homewood Campus. Around noon I walked to the neighborhood around that George Washington Pillar to visit some friends and we walked to a restaurant for lunch and then around the neighborhood. I expected a few, the day was sunny and the streets were fairly clear of snow. There were some bikes parked at the train station. I just expect to see a few people cruising around. When I'm in a different city I like to check out the local cyclists rides so I look around for them. Back in DC that day there were other cyclists riding around.

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    gwd
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slow Train
    You didn't happen to lock your bike up in front of the National Building Museum yesterday did you? The reason I ask is that I was walking by and overheard a snippet of conversation between 2 guys and a girl, while they were locking/unlocking their bikes, about the train and Baltimore.
    No. I locked up at Union Station

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    Isaias NoRacer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gwd
    Good questions. I saw none.

    Well, you may have seen more if you went by the Inner Harbor. In fact, yesterday at about 2:30pm or so, I rode past the Inner Harbor on my return from a trip on the bike that took me below Annapolis (Thomas Point Park). If you would have seen me, I would have been the guy on a blue Giant TCR C2 riding smack dab in the middle of motor vehicle traffic. Unfortunately, many cyclists in Baltimore -are- scared of riding that way for their own reasons.
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    Last edited by makeinu; 11-24-08 at 07:58 PM.

  10. #10
    -=Barry=- The Human Car's Avatar
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    There is no doubt that Baltimore lags behind every major city in any metric that measures positive cycling influences or conditions (our miles of bike lanes and trails are very low for a city of this size.) Our bike crash rate is over twice that of New York City (per population) which at least shows we do have significant number of people out there riding.

    As for your observations I think our recent snow fall has scared off a lot of our bike commuters as well has the area around Penn Station seems to be a pedestrian and cyclists no-mans land despite the fact that Penn Station has the most utilized bike racks in the city. Other factors are Baltimore functions mostly as a bedroom community for the DC area which explains the large number of bikes at Penn Station during the day and most of our working force has a commute over 10 miles so between the two we have very few who live and work within the city to make cycling a viable option but we do have our cycling hot spots.

    The statement that bus and car drivers are jerks is an understatement, we have a good percentage of motorist who feel it is their moral obligation to harass cyclists. As for our current Governor being anti-bike that is simply not true. O’Malley came out with the most positive pro-bike statements during his campaign and his administration fast tracked Baltimore Cities Bike Master Plan as well as getting $3 million in the current budget to start implementing the bike master plan. I can see why people feel that way as there is currently very little that can be seen on the streets but that is going to change this year. Government general moves slowly but I think Baltimore’s Bike Master Plan moved with a great deal of speed.

    The lack of bike racks on buses is a big problem and currently MTA is saying that the bus parking lots are too small to accommodate buses with bike racks so I have been pushing for removable bike racks. So if anyone feels inclined to write to your state reps to fix this problem here are a couple of links about removable bus bike racks:

    Additional Parking Space
    What is the impact of garage parking since additional space would be needed?
    In the stowed position, the bicycle rack folds up against the face of the bus. The amount of protrusion in this position varies from bus to bus - however it is minimal, ranging anywhere from 5.5" to 7.5". For those who do not have even an extra few inches we have designed quick release accessories and brackets facilitating the quick removal of the rack or brackets.

    http://www.bicycleracks.com/busrack_support_faqs.asp
    http://www.bicycleracks.com/pdf/TSB_...duct_Sheet.pdf
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  11. #11
    Je pose, donc je suis. gcl8a's Avatar
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    My brother-in-law works downtown (8th floor straight across from the Aquarium -- what a view!). He's not car-free but commutes 2-3 times a week from Catonsville (8 miles?). I talked with him, and I rode his route with him, as well. Without having ridden DC or Philly for comparison, here's my (very limited) take:

    - The drivers were not that bad, at least coming in on Edmundson (edit: I mean Frederick) Ave/Pratt. I rode in the left-track/middle of the right lane most of the way and not a single car did anything to suggest an irate driver.
    - The roads are in _horrible_ condition.
    - Some of the neighborhoods we passed through were a little sketchy (drunks meandering across the street with loud voices, boarded up houses).
    - There are pretty good recreational facilities nearby (Patasco SP) that might draw non-commuters away.

    I suspect this is the case for other big cities on the East Coast, as well. Overall, I was prepared for commuting Hell, and was surprised at how not unpleasant the ride was.
    Last edited by gcl8a; 02-26-07 at 05:57 AM.

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    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    I am from the Baltimore area and don't think we are as bike friendly as other cities. I also think our public transportation lags behind other cities. That said, it really isn't that bad of a city to ride in and bike usage is on the upswing.

    I am not sure why bike usage is substantially lower than say Washington DC, but I would have to agree that it seems to be lower by a large margin from what I have observed.

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    gwd
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    Quote Originally Posted by cerewa
    I can't speak for DC, but Philly streets are pretty bad too.
    Cerewa, when I got off the train with my bike in Philly a few years ago I felt welcomed with the big yellow "share the road" sign right outside the station, clearly marked signage and bike lanes and other bikers riding around. Of course the furthest outside the tourist areas I got was Manyunk. The hotel where I stayed let me bring my bike into the room too.

    Thanks for the post Human Car. You make it seem like a city needs more than infrastructure but a confluence of political factors before it becomes livable. Baltimore has the density and location of amenities to make car free living easy.

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    gwd
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    Quote Originally Posted by makeinu
    I live between Penn Station and Johns Hopkins Homewood campus. I see cyclists riding up Charles street all the time. Several a day actually.
    If you see a tall white guy walking up Charles on the morning of March 10, carrying his crap in a blue and grey timbuktu bag its probably me.

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    Last edited by makeinu; 11-24-08 at 07:58 PM.

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    gwd
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    Quote Originally Posted by makeinu

    Why will you be walking instead of riding a bike or taking the bus?
    I like walking. Why take the bus when you can walk? Walking is like freedom, you can go at your own pace and stop where you like. I don't know, with my legs and feet and what not I sometimes feel like I was born and bred to walk.

    If Amtrak still let us roll-on our bikes on the Vermonter like they used to I'd bring my bike. They stopped that service sometime in the past few years. It used to be that bikers would go to the front of the line and they'd let us roll our bikes up into a baggage car before we take our seats. They wouldn't let us ride in the baggage car. We had to be quick about getting back to the baggage car to roll them off at our destination. We'd walk back to the adjacent coach car as the train pulled into the station so we could get in the baggage car and grab our bikes as soon as the conductor let us in. Those days are gone forever aren't they?

  17. #17
    put our Heads Together cerewa's Avatar
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    Cerewa, when I got off the train with my bike in Philly a few years ago I felt welcomed with the big yellow "share the road" sign right outside the station, clearly marked signage and bike lanes and other bikers riding around.
    By bad streets I really meant that they are bumpy. As far as I'm concerned, streets in Philadelphia proper (not as much in neighboring counties) are bicycle-friendly, but they are not really skinny-tire-bike friendly.
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    gwd
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    OK, today I spent over an 1 1/2 hour walking on the streets in Baltimore and saw 4 people riding bikes and one guy hauling a road bike on the roof of his car. When I got back to DC, I began counting people on bikes as soon as I walked out of the train station. I counted my fourth person riding a bike within about five minutes. This is a huge difference. It was a nice day to be out too. All the Baltimorean cyclists looked like they were using their bikes for transportation, carrying things in backpack, panniers or front basket and wearing normal clothes. The fourth DC cyclists had the poseur outfit- skin tight with the neon hightlights - the others were regular looking cyclists in normal clothes and carrying things. So even discounting the non-transportational cyclist the next one I saw was maybe at minute 7 carrying some thing in a grocery bag from his handlebars. It fascinates me that two cities so close in climate, geography and infrastructure could have such different transportational cyclist densities. Off and on over the years I've toyed with the idea of moving to Baltimore as opportunities knocked but simply counting cyclists has made me think that I would be really out of place there.

  19. #19
    Villainous huerro's Avatar
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    I used to live in Baltimore and often did my very short (Mt Vernon to Downtown) commute on a bike or on foot.

    I think the biggest difference (compared to DC, don't know about Philly) is that it is easier to drive in Baltimore. Traffic is nowhere near as bad, parking in the residential neighborhoods is seldom a problem and parking downtown is comparatively cheap. Also, the cheaper cost of living in Baltimore leaves more money for a car in people's budget.

    I would add that transportation cycling seems to follow certain demographic lines. (See link: http://www.humantransport.org/bicycl...cyclinguse.htm)
    Williams and Larson [1] use data from the US Census Bureau to study the demographics of US cycling commuters. Not surprisingly, analysis suggests that the cycle-commuting public consists largely of two groups: young, lower-income commuters who do not have ready access to a personal automobile, and older, more affluent commuters who own automobiles but frequently choose cycling. The younger "carless" commuters outnumber the older and more affluent "car-lite" commuters. Younger cycle-commuters tend to have lower incomes than others in their age group; older (45+) cycle-commuters tend to have higher incomes than others in their age group. Flexible work hours in higher paying jobs and greater involvement in recreational cycling may explain higher rates of cycling among more affluent commuters in the older age groups.
    Nearly 80% of all cycle-commuters are male. Females make up an even smaller percentage of cycle-commuters as their age increases. Per capita, Latinos are the most likely to cycle-commute, followed by American Indians, Asians, Whites, and Blacks, who are least likely. These statistics may be affected by concentrations of minorities in geographical regions in western and mountain states that have strong cycling traditions and government support, but are also influenced by culture and economics.[1]
    For low-income workers who travel short distances, avoiding car ownership by traveling by bicycle can save significant time or money by allowing commuters to work fewer hours or invest their income differently. Figure 2 shows the time required to travel both legs of a five mile (each way) commute, plus the time required to pay for the total costs of vehicle ownership. The chart assumes the fixed cost of ownership for a relatively inexpensive automobile (including insurance, registration, repairs, etc.) to be $4000 per year* ($15.38 per work day), and the cost of bicycle ownership to be $400 per year ($1.54 per work day).
    DC has more rich white folks (or young ones with that the class behavior of rich folks) and poor or working class Latinos than Baltimore.

    I never had problems riding in traffic in the city. Drivers are fine and the more people who ride, the more accustomed to sharing the road drivers will become.

  20. #20
    -=Barry=- The Human Car's Avatar
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    Huerro, thanks for the link.

    I attended some classes in DC last week and I had a chance to play bike commuter there and I was really impressed with the number of cyclists that were out and about. There were ~80 people in the class I attended and 3 of us biked in which was pretty amazing considering a large number of the class was from out of state. I personally think that Baltimore lacks the upper income class that lives within biking distance of work. Or stated another way, it lacks local jobs that attract the active and creative minds and it lacks the neighborhoods where the active and the creative want to live not to say that we don’t have some of this it just is no where near the same proportion as it exists in and around DC.

    FWIW I see plenty of collage age cyclists out in Baltimore as well as minority workers. Your comments about driving in Baltimore was interesting in that I agree with them yet our congestion rate is supposed to be just behind DC and most people you ask consider driving here not good.
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    I was car free in Baltimore for the whole summer and took my bike all over the place with minimal problems with the exception of all the Fells Point tourists who like to spill off the sidewalk and into the streets. But aside from that I had relatively all smooth rides.

  22. #22
    Villainous huerro's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Human Car
    FWIW I see plenty of collage age cyclists out in Baltimore as well as minority workers. Your comments about driving in Baltimore was interesting in that I agree with them yet our congestion rate is supposed to be just behind DC and most people you ask consider driving here not good.
    I have no idea how congestion is measured (I would imagine it's related to average speed), but I think Baltimore's congestion problem is mostly Downtown and the highways (83, 695, 95, etc). Driving in-town or cross town is comparatively easy. In DC the thing I always dreaded was driving through or across the city. In Baltimore it was having to drive around it.

    I suppose it's always possible that I just knew the routes better in Baltimore than DC.

  23. #23
    -=Barry=- The Human Car's Avatar
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    One metric they use to measure congestion is the average commute time and from memory the best is ~25 minutes and the worse is around 35 minutes with Baltimore being in the 30+ area. My conjecture is that this more accurately measures sprawl/efficiency over all modes of travel as New York City did fairly well with this metric. My other problem with this metric is what’s the big deal with a 10 minute difference, that should be within normal variance of growth around major cites.
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  24. #24
    gwd
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Human Car
    Huerro, thanks for the link.

    I personally think that Baltimore lacks the upper income class that lives within biking distance of work. Or stated another way, it lacks local jobs that attract the active and creative minds and it lacks the neighborhoods where the active and the creative want to live not to say that we don’t have some of this it just is no where near the same proportion as it exists in and around DC.
    The demographic or dispersion of the demographic arguments are interesting but I was looking near the train station and on saturday so it excluded commuters and most bike messengers. In Baltimore of the 4 cyclists 2 were white women. In DC one white woman, a black man and the others were too far away to sex or race accurately. I think I saw people who live near the train station doing saturday errands in both cities. When I see a black guy carrying a styrofoam carrout container on a cheap bike, I could be wrong, but I don't assciate that with "upper income class". Maybe you're saying that upper income people cycling to work during the week induce regular people to think of cycling as a socially acceptable option for weekend errands? That sounds right. If transportational cycling were a component of the affluent lifestyle then the poorer classes would aspire to participate.

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    -=Barry=- The Human Car's Avatar
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    There maybe the weekday/weekend effect you described, I have not given that much thought. What I am saying is cycling in general seems to have a greatest appeal to the economic extremes. A study of DC bike commuters revealed over half had an income of over $70,000. So in Baltimore if this income class lives outside the 10 mile bike commute range and/or if there is a low percentage of jobs that pay this range then you lose over half the potential cyclists.
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