Judge Protects Baltimore Bike Lane

A Baltimore City Circuit Court judge has issued a restraining order – to protect a bike lane.

The Baltimore City Department of Transportation (DOT) had already begun construction on a protected bike lane, called a cycletrack, on Potomac Street, when the City announced it intended to take the project out and start all over. Residents had expressed concerns that emergency vehicles could not pass along the street because the bike lane brought the width of the street to less than 20 feet, whereas international safety standards generally call for streets to maintain widths of at least 20 feet.

In response, Jim Smith, Chief of Strategic Alliances for Mayor Catherine Pugh (and MACo Past President), sent the Potomac Street residents a letter indicating that DOT would completely remove the new infrastructure and “restart the infrastructure design process,” to “ensure that residents, advocates, and emergency management professionals have an opportunity for input on the Potomac Street bike design.”

Bikemore, a bicyclist advocacy group, sued the City, alleging that the decision “reversed five years of extensive planning and public input” and was “arbitrary and capricious.” On Friday, Judge Althea Handy issued an order temporarily halting the City’s plan to demolish what it had already built. From The Baltimore Sun

The litigation said the project was slated to cost $775,000, of which $150,000 would be drawn from city funds.

The decision by Pugh’s administration came in response to neighbor complaints that the bike lane would make Potomac Street too narrow to support certain emergency vehicles. The lawsuit says the city already made accommodations to the plan and that it consulted with the Fire Department.

“Our elected leaders and civil servants have worked tirelessly to attract federal and state funding for this project,” Mark Edelson, an attorney for Bikemore, said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the city’s short-sighted decision put this funding and efforts at risk. Our city was already once forced to walk away from federal funding for transit and improved mobility. We will not allow that to happen again.”