Have you ever biked through downtown Baltimore and thought to yourself, “I can’t believe I survived that”? While riding in traffic is fine for low speed residential streets, downtown arterials require bike infrastructure to get more novice and intermediate cyclists out on the streets. Just like in transit planning, direct cycling routes are best, and nothing is more direct than Pratt Street. With restaurants, retail, Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the MARC station, the awesome bike parking at University of Maryland garage and easy access to the harbor and the Jones Falls Trail, there’s demand for a dedicated bike route on one of the most visible streets in the city.
NYC has shown the world the benefits of cycletracks on high volume streets. Here’s one study:
The New York City Department of Transportation implemented a bicycle path and traffic calming pilot project for Prospect Park West in Brooklyn in 2010 and published their results in early 2011. It created a two-way bicycle path with a three-foot parking lane buffer and the removal of one lane from motor vehicles. They found that weekday cycling traffic tripled after the implementation; cyclists riding on the sidewalk fell to 3% from 46% (the count included children who are legally allowed to ride on the sidewalk); speeding dropped from 74% to 20% of all vehicles; crashes for all road users were down 16% and injuries to all road users were down 21%. – NYC DOT 2011 Cycletrack Study
Like most good things, there are trade offs. A full lane of traffic will need to be removed on Pratt Street between MLK Jr. Blvd and Light Street. While this may not have a big impact where traffic volumes are lower between MLK Jr. Blvd and Paca Street, higher volume segments east of Paca may see a minor increase in delays (measured in seconds, not minutes). Also, at intersections where traffic turns north from Pratt Street, bike signals will be needed to reduce auto/pedestrian/cyclist conflicts, but this type of infrastructure has been installed in DC and NYC with success.
These are minor issues compared to the benefits of a Pratt Street Cycle Track:
- Reduction in auto speeds
- Increased retail sales from bike traffic
- Fewer pedestrian/bike injuries on corridor
- Completes a critical bike network link between neighborhoods east and west of downtown
- Increased number of novice cyclists who prefer to bike on protected lanes
As for the Grand Prix, the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide doesn’t have a chapter on incorporating 200 mph race cars into bike networks, but if you have any ideas, let me know.
**Reference: New York Times, September 10, 2013: In Bloomberg’s City of Bike Lanes, Data Show, Cabs Gain a Little Speed