Bicycling advocates are criticizing a city decision to modify a newly constructed bike lane on Potomac Street in Canton. The decision comes amid complaints from some residents that claim the street is too narrow for fire trucks.
A Baltimore advocacy group, Bikemore, said the action could put other similar protected bike lanes in the city at risk.
The new lane on Potomac Street between Boston Street and Eastern Avenue is part of an interconnected system the city has been constructing to grow bicycle ridership.
“This is caving to a handful of residents who decided to wield their political power on a public right-of-way,” said Liz Cornish, executive director of Bikemore. “You may own a house on a street, but we all pay taxes for the street.”
The construction for the bike lane began in April and was supported by the Canton Community Association, even though some of the residents opposed the project. The residents who opposed the bike lane said it would reduce an already scant parking space and was not a necessity on a one-way residential street, where bicyclists could already access it. The bike lane would take up an estimated 10 parking spots. Another issue that has been added to the mix most recently is whether the street could accommodate fire trucks.
In a letter Wednesday, Mayor Pugh’s office informed the residents on Potomac Street that the city would modify the lane configurations.
“Mayor Pugh is committed to making Baltimore a bicycle and pedestrian-friendly multi-modal City, while at the same ensuring that changes made to our roadways do not have serious negative safety and emergency response implications,” said the letter, signed by the chief of strategic alliances, James T. Smith, Jr.
According the international safety standards, streets must be at least 20 feet wide for fire apparatus. Specific figures were not mentioned in the letter.
A two-way bike lane on Potomac Street between Fait Street and Eastern Avenue will be modified next to the curb in the coming weeks. Buffers will be utilized to separate the two-way bike lane from the parking lane and the traffic lane on the other. Curbside parking will also be restored.
The bike lane between Fait Street and Boston will stay next to the curb. However, the width of the bike lane will be reduced to 7 feet. A one-foot buffer would separate the bike lane from the next lane, which will be reserved for parking.
Bike lane opponents celebrated the city’s decision on Facebook.
“We are disappointed we don’t have a fully protected bike lane linking the two parks and other east-west avenues,” said Douglas Kaufman, president of the Canton Community Association. “But, we are happy to have some of it protected at least.”
“Maryland Avenue no longer has 20 feet of clearance,” Cornish said. “No one has raised an issue, no one has burned up in a fire, the Number 11 bus goes down it just fine.”