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Advertise on the Tentacle

October 5, 2011

When Good Intentions Fail

Norman M. Covert

Mayor Randy McClement must now be the darling of the League of American Bicyclists in Baltimore. He huddled with local bike enthusiasts on a regular basis this year to talk about biker friendly lanes in the city. He coughed up money from his contingency fund to make good things happen and created a monster on West Seventh Street.


Our mayor has been building bridges in his administration – a good thing; but sometimes delaying, redirecting and keeping people temporarily at arm’s length is the way to go. Those bike lanes pose dangers to vehicles and bikers.


I am a committed biker and see the need for some accommodation, but this doesn’t permit experimentation on one of the most trafficked and vital roads in the city! Some areas will always represent dangers to bikers and pedestrians; that’s just the way it is. I’ve gone back to the sidewalk on my bike and walk it in many locations just to survive.


The effort to extend the shared/bike path to Route 15 is complete. It’s a commendable effort, but still not measuring up. Bikers still negotiate the flooded path after storms; dangerous Rosemont Avenue sidewalk; the camera monitored traffic light at Taney Avenue which puts pedestrians in harm’s way if you push the “WALK” button; and the traffic pouring off Route 15 South. Don’t even attempt to cross Rosemont!


My goodness, Granny would say, it was better before they stuck their noses in it. The shared path from Baker Park is mostly good and does keep us off West Second Street.


Just over a week ago, city traffic engineers and crews buffed out the center line of West Seventh Street from Taney Avenue to Lee Place and moved it four feet to the side. Parking lanes were eliminated on the north side in favor of a bicycle lane.


On the opposite side of the street, white lines marked renewed parking spaces rarely occupied by vehicles and inserted a four-foot bike lane between those spaces and the eastbound lane. Smart riders will use the parking lane.


The engineering sounds reasonable if you are in the comfort of the mayor’s office in City Hall. However, Fort Detrick is at one end of this disaster and the entrance/exit to the Seventh Street Shopping Center (Schley Avenue) is opposite.


Recall the growth of Fort Detrick’s mission and work force enhanced by the wars in Eastern Europe, Kuwait, Iraq and now Afghanistan. (Security personnel also commute daily in support of Site R, the Alternate National Command Post, operated by the post.)


The main feeder road (West Seventh Street) once again has become a parking lot several times a day just as during those crises. The new gates at Old Farm and Montevue Lane on the west and Opossumtown Pike on the east do not noticeably mitigate the congestion headed to Route 15.


Here is reality: two lanes feed into one at Taney Avenue toward the post – exactly where city buses stop to discharge and take on passengers at the curb. You cannot go around without crossing the center line and pray there is no oncoming vehicle; plus that the car beside you will turn left as required and not attempt to beat you to the single lane ahead.


That is a five-block raceway where cars turning left into Villa Estates effectively block others from going around. The bike lane offers no choice.


The new Veterans Gate at Fort Detrick was a great design for security purposes and feeding traffic onto Military Road or West Seventh Street. The old gate created a backup because those leaving post had to wait as if pulling out of a driveway.


Consider if Fort Detrick had placed its main gate across from Meade Avenue in the midst of Military Road as planned in the late 1980s. What a disaster that would have been, but discussions with city planners and traffic experts helped shelve the proposal.


One wonders if Mr. Mayor had any real consultation with Fort Detrick or just climbed aboard his bike and road off into the green energy nirvana.


Lack of communication with the Army is not new. In the early 1980s, the city announced it would complete the proposed northern bypass by extending Old Camp Road through Fort Detrick’s Area B, joining Kemp Lane and via the proposed new Christopher’s Crossing through Clover Hill.


The announcement was made in The Daily Blather one day, canceled the next. Mayor Ron Young was reminded city planners ignored the obvious Army landfill in Area B. He wasn’t happy when the city engineer complained about using an old map. It must have been a really old map!


A cyclist died from injuries suffered in an unavoidable accident at West Seventh Street and Wilson Place some 20 years ago. The new lanes would not have prevented the accident, indeed putting today’s riders in more danger.


It’s nice to have warm fuzzes, Mr. Mayor, but get that road fixed and experiment somewhere else. Fort Detrick soldiers and civilians deserve more consideration. When you talk about common issues, don’t include them out!


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