We all know that getting around without a car in Baltimore can be a frustrating experience. It’s especially difficult for many students, who rely on an often-late bus system to get to school. This problem is exacerbated by the occasional actions of a few students, who have tainted the image of students riding public transit, and strained relations with the MTA.
Clearly this is a problem that needs to be addressed, and many people and organizations are working toward solutions.
This summer is the perfect time to encourage kids to try a new form of transportation, which they can use in the fall to get to and from school: Biking.
Biking to school would eliminate the frustrating experience of waiting for bus transfers, increase visibility of bikers in the city during commute times, and have the added benefit of providing healthy exercise for students in our community.
Along with advocating cycling to school, we must promote safe biking practices. Students should be required to wear helmets, and learn proper cycling techniques. Most importantly, we must pass statewide legislation promoting equal use of roadways and an enforced three-foot passing rule. We must also continue to ask the Baltimore Police Department to live up to their part of the bargain as outlined in the Baltimore Bicycle Master Plan.
Students could also volunteer at a local bike collective, such as Velocipede, and not only learn how to maintain bikes, but could build their own bike for free. In creating their own transportation, students would be engaged in a safe, after-school environment and would learn a marketable trade, rather than being left to their own devices.
Nate Evans, Baltimore’s bike czar, told me that the Department of Transportation has partnered with City Schools, and has already installed bike racks at a few schools where students had previously been locking up to fences.
With more safe parking for bikes and an aggressive campaign to promote cycling over other means of transportation to school, we could continue to promote Baltimore as a bike friendly, green city, while improving student-MTA relations and engaging more kids in beneficial, trade-based after-school activities.