With spring here, my audacious idea is to ride your bike to work. I know this sounds crazy when you think of the narrow streets of Baltimore but, this city has the potential to become a great bike city. For its size, 630,000 residents, it is very compact, making many of its neighborhoods easy to reach by bike. Additionally, 32% of residents do not own a car according to a 2005 Abell Foundation report.
While there are concerns, such as narrow streets, lack of dedicated bike lanes and inattentive motorists, the City is working to improve conditions for bicyclists. Baltimore is two years into implementing its bicycle master plan. So far the city has added miles of new bicycle lanes along city streets and extended the Jones Falls bike trail from Penn Station up through Druid Park and into the Meadow Mills neighborhood. Indeed, every morning I follow the new bike lane on Guilford Avenue to the heart of downtown.
These improvements could not have come at a better time. Turn on the nightly news these days and chances are there is a story about one of the following: energy independence, America’s weight problem or the environmental impact of our consumer culture. Locally, these interrelated problems are no less a concern. Either biking to work or just riding around Lake Montebello on the weekend, bicycles are helping people combat carbon emissions and battle the bulge. Last year, Dan Rodricks writing in the Baltimore Sun profiled a 50 year old man who recently decided to get into shape. He got out of his gas guzzling SUV and started commuting to work by bike. So far he has lost more than 80 pounds.
For those of you looking an extra incentive to ride your bike to work, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, better known as the Stimulus Package, has a provision in it for bicycle commuter reimbursement. Ask your HR department about it.
So I encourage you to grab your helmet, dust off your bike or visit some of the city’s excellent bike shops, or Velocipede Bike Project, and join me on the city’s bike lanes.