Baltimore’s Super Quick Fix for a Dangerous Road

Local residents finally have a safe path connecting the neighborhoods of Remington and Reservoir Hill. Photo: Side A Photography
Local residents finally have a safe path connecting the neighborhoods of Remington and Reservoir Hill. Photo: Side A Photography

Until last month, walking along Druid Lake Park Drive in Baltimore’s Reservoir Hill neighborhood was an extreme sport.

With as many as five car lanes, few signalized crossings, and narrow, inaccessible sidewalks, this road was made for driving. Reservoir Hill is a predominantly black neighborhood where half of households don’t own cars. But to walk to jobs or stores in neighboring Remington, people had to hike through grass and squeeze next to speeding motorists on the 28th Street Bridge. Crossing the street to reach Druid Lake Park took courage.

Able-bodied people could walk on Druid Lake Park Drive, “but you were taking your life into your hands,” said Jed Weeks of the bike advocacy group Bikemore. “If you were a user of any type of mobility device you were just screwed.”

This photo shows the 28th Street Bridge before the intervention. Photo: Bikemore
The 28th Street Bridge before the intervention. Photo: Bikemore

Now the trip is much safer for people walking, biking, or using a wheelchair. Last month, the city installed large plastic Jersey barriers filled with water for ballast, converting one of the traffic lanes to a path for pedestrians and cyclists.

The barriers won’t win any design competitions, but they get the job done.

Photo: Side A Photography
Photo: Side A Photography
baltimore 6
Photo: Side A Photography for Bikemore

The path runs one mile along Druid Lake Park Drive and extends a few blocks north along Sisson Street, connecting to the Jones Falls Trail in Druid Hill Park.

In the coming weeks, the city will be working with Bikemore and other local organizations to dress up the plastic barriers with art.

The area highlighted in teal shows the location of the multi-use path. Map: Bikemore
The path marked in teal. Map: Bikemore

The project cost about $500,000, according to Bikemore. It’s the main project supported by Baltimore’s “Big Jump” grant from PeopleforBikes, which assists the city with projects to boost biking and walking over three years.

Council Member Leon Pinkett, III, who lives in Reservoir Hill, championed the new path.

The path will be in place for at least a year before the city evaluates the impact and decides whether to keep it.

“If it works, it’s going to be there until we come up with a permanent solution,” Weeks told Streetsblog.

  • Michael

    IMO, there is no city in america that would benefit more from good urbanism & pedestrian enhancements than Baltimore. So many neighborhood streets would be great if they weren’t juiced for maximum car throughput. For example, this should be a solid urban neighborhood but the road has been goosed for 4 lanes of high speed one way traffic (at peak), with huge gaps between signalized intersections. Obviously it’s entered into dereliction, no one in their right mind would want to walk down their stairs and onto a highway.

    https://www.google.com/maps/@39.2912597,-76.6453463,3a,75y,20.3h,92.96t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1smJyW65kHZD_mBqo8b-bmLg!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

  • thielges

    Heck yeah, good old temporary K-rail. It was designed for use in construction projects so it is cheap and fast to deploy. And if the new configuration does not work out, it is cheap and fast to remove too. I’ve tried suggesting the same strategy in my city but the DOT was unwilling to give it a try, probably due to the lane reallocation. But if any new configuration resulted in carmageddon, that could be reversed in a day. Though ugly, K-rail is an inexpensive, low risk way to experiment with new ideas.

  • Even better than Jersey Barrier which is unsightly and interferes with debris clearance and storm water drainage and is only so modular is a product like the DezignLine Bikerail, manufactured by Dero Bike Racks (https://www.dero.com/produc….

    Bikerail is 1/8″ walled steel tubing, 4″ x 6″, provides real physical separation between cars and bikes, is fully modular, and can be adjusted on the fly or reconfigured later, has a 2″ gap between the rail and the street to allow for debris clearance and storm water drainage, can take delineators every 4′-8′ and is considerably cheaper and faster than pouring concrete.

    Bikerail can be installed at roughly 250′ per hr. This installation we conducted in Colorado Springs was 1400 linear feet and took the crew 5.5 hours.

  • So much of this. Also, throw a couple more of them into the grid of minor roads to create some quick low-traffic neighborhood greenways that connect to this corridor and the transformation would be unbelievable.

  • Stuart

    What an amazing coincidence that this product that you are pushing as a much better option is the one you are a sales rep for.

    If you’re going to use the comments section of StreetsBlog to advertise your own product, you should be transparent about it.

  • It’s not a coincidence. I regularly read Streetsblog but since we only recently launched this product it wasn’t germaine to the conversation previously. Our website and and my job title are clearly listed on my public profile along with my picture and full name. I make no bones about it. I believe in our product and I believe it can save lives and get more people biking. Why wouldn’t I point out where I think our product could be of use to municipalities attempting to provide barrier separation on the cheap? We’re a company of cyclists, we support advocacy efforts nationally and I worked for a local cycling advocate for 8 years prior to repping Dero.

  • com63

    looks like a fun tripping hazard

  • No worse than a standard height curb, and since it can be powder coated in any of 20 stock colors and flexible delineators can be added every 4′-8′ it’s pretty hard to miss. But nothing is foolproof! 🙂

  • thielges

    I like that bikerail product. While it doesn’t provide the physical security of K-rail, it consumes less of the roadway. It is lighter and hopefully cheaper than K-rail.

  • com63

    One would think you could see them. But then you get people like this:

    https://nypost.com/2016/07/28/elderly-mans-60m-citi-bike-suit-allowed-to-move-forward/

  • ytzpzvgk

    I know everyone wants to love these things, but this has taken away an important thoroughfare for Baltimore drivers and they’re not going to be happy. It’s one thing to have a lane like this on a nice, dry spring day. It’s another when it’s too hot, too humid, too cold, too icy, too rainy or too dark. Baltimore just doesn’t have good weather for biking in 70-80% of the year.

  • Andrew

    and they’re not going to be happy

    Oh well.

  • Johnnie

    Lol, if I can bike in Milwaukee 9 or 10 months of the year without any special equipment beyond warm gloves, I think Baltimore weather should generally be just fine for active transport.

  • ytzpzvgk

    Dude. The weather in Baltimore is often close to as cold as it is in Milwaukee. We routinely see single digits in January. But then the summer comes with humidity so thick that you can’t pedal through it.

    And seriously, just because a bike nut doesn’t mind taking his life in his hand with it’s snowy, rainy or icy, doesn’t mean that the rest of society loves danger. The bikes just aren’t safe or rideable 70-80% of the year and that’s why people don’t ride them. The market has already spoken. The bike nuts can force their 1%er attitude on the rest of society but the rest of society isn’t buying it. All you need to do is take one look at these bike lanes.

  • Wade Johnston

    have you ever been in a chicago summer? 90’s plus high humidity is not unusual

  • Johnnie

    Yeah, I’m sure Milwaukee winters are comparable, what with our average daily high in January being colder than Baltimore’s average daily low. And you’re right, there’s no humidity here in a city on a lake in a river valley in the Midwest.

    And people don’t “take their lives” into their hands if there’s actually infrastructure in place for bicycles, which you know, is exactly why protected bike lanes get built.

  • Andrew

    If you don’t want to ride a bike, don’t ride a bike. I don’t ride one, either, but I’m not going to stand in the way of safer facilities for cyclists (and for not-yet-cyclists who might find it a useful mode once safe facilities are available).

  • ytzpzvgk

    Sorry bud, but it’s a trade off. We don’t live in the middle of the prairie. When they took all of that car space away from Maryland Avenue for the occasional biker, it meant that thousands of cars needed to find another route.

    And even in their protected lane, the bikers aren’t safe when it’s raining, snowing, icing or dark, in other words about 70-80% of the time.

    If you really want to make the bikers safe, but them in a car, a technology that has improved over the years thanks to air bags, safety belts and hundreds of other improvements. But I’m guessing you’re just a bike nutsy who blames the cars for all of the headers you do when your front brakes lock up. I’ve ridden for many years and I pretty much stopped as I came to accept that the bikes are just plain dangerous, even when there are no cars around.

  • ytzpzvgk

    You can talk about averages all you want, but that’s just a technique to hide reality. The fact that the average temperature in January is double digits doesn’t help when it hits single digits on the cold days. What are the poor bikers supposed to do on those days? Call in sick? Get frost bite? Nope. They’re going to buy a car.

    You’re also dreaming if you think that protected bike lanes solve all of the problems with bikes. Do you think that front brakes lock up and toss the riders because of cars? Nope. It’s the poor design of the bikes. And it’s not like the bikes handle the ice or the rain any better because the cars are banished.

    If you want to protect bikers, put them in cars, a technology that’s actually improved in the last hundred years thanks to safety belts, air bags and more.

  • ytzpzvgk

    And you’re saying that this is good for biking? If so, don’t come biking to some business meeting at my office. Eeewww.

  • Johnnie

    Beyond your straw man arguments, I’m just baffled by your belief that “poorly designed” bikes are leading to frequent accidents involving locked up brakes.

  • Johnnie

    Are there no street lights anywhere on this route? Are bicycle lights banned in Baltimore? Do you even know what a bike looks like?

  • ytzpzvgk

    Are you an insensitive, 20-something single male who never schleps kids or food for dinner? Do you think women like riding home after sunset? Do you realize that the sun sets before the end of work about 50% of the year? Do you think streetlights are magic forcefields that keep away the danger lurking in the darkness?

    I know what a bike looks like. They haven’t changed in about 80 years. There’s been close to zero innovation on safety. The front brakes are still killers. The tires are too thin and lose traction with gravel, rain, ice or all three combined. Riders crash all of the time — even when they’re riding on country roads without any cars for miles.

  • ytzpzvgk

    I think you should look up the word “strawman” and use it correctly.

    Let’s go to video:

    https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=bicycle+over+the+handlebar+accidents&qpvt=bicycle+over+the+handle+bar+accidents&FORM=VDRE

    While some of these are idiots looking for attention by doing stupid things, too many are normal people riding normal bikes. It’s very easy to bump the bikes out of their stability envelope. All it takes is a bit of debris or a locked up brake. Whammo. Some call them “headers”. Some joke about them being “endos”. But the reality is that the center of gravity is much too high for safety’s sake.

    Get a car.

  • Stuart

    Our website and and my job title are clearly listed on my public profile

    The website is there, but only if someone clicks through to your full profile and notices it. Your job title (which is all that shows on hover) is vague, and provides no hint that you are rep for Dero. “Bicycle Parking and Facilities Development” could just as easily be the title for someone working for a city government whose job includes doing impartial analysis of competing products for this use.

    Why wouldn’t I point out where I think our product could be of use

    No reason, but why wouldn’t you close with something like: “Full disclosure: I’m a sales rep for Dero” when posting what is essentially an ad for your company?

  • Johnnie

    Cool dirt bike videos dude, not sure what their relevance is. Do you need me to point to the places where you’ve implied I made an argument I didn’t or would that be too pedantic?

  • ytzpzvgk

    Like I said, many are idiots but many are regular people who just happen to hit some debris in the road. Do I need to filter them or would that be too pedantic?

    But I’ll just put you down as someone who doesn’t understand centers of gravity and thinks that bikes are super safe. In the mean time, I dare you to tell your girl friend to pick up your child at day care at 7pm in December and ride home through the bad neighborhoods of Baltimore while we’re getting what the weather forecasters call “a wintery mix.” But since you can swing it in Milwaukee when it’s much, much colder, I’m sure she’ll be fine.

  • Johnnie

    There goes that straw man again. Good job implying that I think all trips should be made by bicycle when I never once said that. And again with the safety card, when the vast majority of cyclist fatalities are the results of road conflicts with motor vehicles that can be avoided with better infrastructure.

  • Andrew

    Sorry bud, but it’s a trade off.

    Indeed, but you don’t seem to recognize the tradeoff.

    We don’t live in the middle of the prairie.

    Exactly. In the middle of the prairie, there’s plenty of space to accommodate cars, and distances are great enough that it’s especially difficult to get around any other way. Cities are too space-constrained to accommodate cars for all trips – that’s why you get stuck in traffic jams – so it’s essential for cities to provide for other modes. The more it fails at providing for other modes, the more people will feel compelled to get around by car.

    When they took all of that car space away from Maryland Avenue for the occasional biker, it meant that thousands of cars needed to find another route.

    No, it may have meant that thousands of people needed to find another route (at specific times of day). If a small fraction of them decide, based on the expanding bike lane network, that riding a bike makes sense for some of their trips, that clears up space for your car – not just on Maryland Avenue, but everywhere else along the former driver’s route.

    And even in their protected lane, the bikers aren’t safe when it’s raining, snowing, icing or dark, in other words about 70-80% of the time.

    That’s plain and utter nonsense.

    If you really want to make the bikers safe, but them in a car, a technology that has improved over the years thanks to air bags, safety belts and hundreds of other improvements.

    You’re worried about traffic jams and now you’re asking for even more cars? That might not be the most brilliant of ideas, just saying.

    But I’m guessing you’re just a bike nutsy who blames the cars for all of the headers you do when your front brakes lock up.

    As I said a few hours ago, I don’t ride a bike.

    I’ve ridden for many years and I pretty much stopped as I came to accept that the bikes are just plain dangerous, even when there are no cars around.

    In my city, motorists kill more people in a week than cyclists kill in a decade. If you think bikes are dangerous, I can’t wait until you hear about the car.

  • ytzpzvgk

    Vast majority?

    “She and her colleagues reviewed hospital and police records for 2,504 bicyclists who had been treated at San Francisco General Hospital. She expected that most of these serious injuries would involve cars; to her surprise, nearly half did not. ”

    https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/10/21/how-safe-is-cycling-its-hard-to-say/

    If you really want to keep bikers safe, buy them a car. Simply giving them their own infrastructure will only help half of them. But cars come with airbags, safety belts and other modern contrivances.

    But here’s the problem with your little game. You claim that you never said that all trips should be taken by bikes. Okay. But let’s say you’re a normal human. If you buy a bike and pay more for an apartment close enough to commute to work, that still doesn’t help you with the days when the weather sucks or you’ve got to carry something. So you need to buy a car. Or you try Uber and get screwed on the surge pricing because every other biker is doing the same thing because of the sleet.

    And during all of that time, all of the real estate and infrastructure we devote to your sacred bike riding goes unused. A new car lane is used 100% of the day and night in 100% of the weather. A new bike lane blocks cars for 100% of the time but it’s only used during the 20% of the year that’s amenable to biking. It’s a real waste.

    But go on with your wacky devotion to a dangerous contraption that kills, maims and mangles more humans each year.

  • Andrew

    Are you an insensitive, 20-something single male who never schleps kids or food for dinner?

    Because I can’t imagine how anybody possibly eats without a car. (Hint: It isn’t a law of nature that grocery stores can’t possibly be located in walking distance of residences.)

    Do you think women like riding home after sunset?

    You might be astonished to learn that everybody I know who regularly rides a bike – male and female alike – seems to enjoy it. I haven’t heard any of them make an exception for rides after dark. So you’ll have to pardon me if I don’t take your assumption as gospel.

  • Johnnie

    Where to begin. 1. I indicated fatalities, which are probably not underreported in the way bicycle injuries are and are definitely caused mainly by motor vehicle collisions 2. the doctor cited in this article specifically points to conflicts with pedestrians and streetcars as the likeliest causes, again something that can be addressed with infrastructure improvements. It’s also hilarious that you are apparently unaware of public transportation, though I have heard Baltimore needs to invest more heavily in that as well. This is before we address the externalities involved in car usage related to things like air pollution, land use and diseases associated with sedentary lifestyles. And new car lanes generally only serve additional traffic at peak, there is absolutely no way a new car lane is used 100% of the time. And again, I have no idea where you get the impression that only 20% of the year is amenable to biking. Maybe in Phoenix or Las Vegas or some other place a city should never have been built, but that’s about it.

    It’s also pretty rich telling me to get a car and calling me insensitive while millions of Americans simply do not have the means to own a car.

  • Andrew

    But let’s say you’re a normal human. If you buy a bike and pa y more for an apartment close enough to commute to work, that still doesn’t help you with the days when the weather sucks or you’ve got to carry something. So you need to buy a car.

    Despite your wacky claims, there are plenty of people (myself included) who don’t own cars. (I used to own one. It was far more of a hassle than it was worth. So I got rid of it.)

    Or you try Uber and get screwed on the surge pricing because every other biker is doing the same thing because of the sleet.

    Nice try. I use Uber a few times a year. That’s a heck of a lot cheaper than buying and maintaining and insuring a car, even with surge pricing (which I’ve never personally encountered).

    And during all of that time, all of the real estate and infrastructure we devote to your sacred bike riding goes unused. A new car lane is used 100% of the day and night in 100% of the weather.

    Do you believe what you write? Because it’s pretty unbelievable.

  • Guy Ross

    You could have saved us all the thousands of words of concern trolling with the simple comment: ‘Get a car’. Thanks for clarifying your position so succinctly.

  • ytzpzvgk

    Do I believe it? I can see the traffic is tied up in Baltimore because they’re putting in bike lanes that only a few true believers use. It’s sad to see a bunch of arrogant, know-it-all hipsters hijack perfectly good infrastructure for their own selfish needs.

    I would be a big fan of the bike lanes if more than a handful used them. But they don’t and for good reason. Bikes are dangerous and they’re hard to use when the weather is less than perfect.

    I realize a few zealots manage to pedal in the freezing cold without killing themselves, but that doesn’t mean they should force the rest of the people to freeze by destroying the infrastructure they need.

    Bike riders must come to grips with the fact that their selfish needs make life much, much harder for everyone else. They like to sit their with some doe-eyed smile saying they’re just trying to make things safer for a few kids who ride their bikes, but that means destroying lanes and jamming up traffic for cars that 99%++ of society rely upon. Just because biking works for some masochistic, 20-something hipster doesn’t mean everyone else can use it.

  • ytzpzvgk

    You just don’t want to hear what the doctor has to say. Bikes are inherently unstable. It has nothing to do with the cars.The center of gravity is poorly placed and this alone is responsible for half of the accidents. If you really cared about safety, you wouldn’t be pushing these concussion machines.

    As for the percentage of the year, let’s start with the darkness. 50% of the year is too dark for many– especially women– to ride safely. Then it’s pretty much winter or near winter for 4-5 months a year. Then you mix in the fact that it’s much too hot for 3 months of summer to ride without taking a shower when you arrive. Then you add in some rainy days and wind storms in the temperate months and it’s clear why very few use the bike lanes.

    As for price, you’re missing a point. I noticed that the ONLY people I see riding bikes are wearing expensive stretchy clothes and driving bikes that cost multiple thousands of dollars. Why? Because the poor live too far from work. They can’t afford to live in a hip, downtown apartment. I suppose your plan of getting the poor to ride might work in a small, rural town, but around here the average commute is 30-60 minutes in a CAR. And Baltimore is not NYC where the cars are stuck in perpetual grid lock. People live 10-20 miles away from work and that means a commute is often more than an hour on a bike. Yeah, a few single hipsters with no commitments have the time, but most people don’t.

    It’s kind of rich for you to insist that the poor should ride bikes between their multiple jobs just because you like to ride a bike.

  • ytzpzvgk

    Oooh. Clever science. You ask everyone who regularly does X whether they like doing X and you find out they do. Nobel prizes all around!

    There are a few folks who use the bike lanes and manage to find a way to live with the danger and the bad weather. Just because they like it doesn’t mean that the city should set aside 30-50% of important streets just because some tiny group thinks they’re morally superior.

  • Bernard Finucane

    Don’t feed the trolls

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