It’s argued that Thames Street in Fell’s Point is a major gap in Baltimore’s waterfront promenade. I happen to agree. While the cobblestone street looks great, narrow sidewalks and a complete lack of bike infrastructure creates a bottleneck for pedestrians and cyclists. Thames Street is about 80 feet wide through the waterfront section; wide enough to create a more complete street while not effecting through traffic. Simply widening the sidewalks could be a possibility, but that’s too easy (and relatively expensive given drainage, utilities, cobblestone and ADA issues). Though not as simple as Pratt Street, a cycletrack along the Thames Street waterfront could reduce bike/pedestrian conflicts on sidewalks and entice more (future) bike share users and tourists to visit Fell’s Point businesses.
I’m a proponent of high visibility cycletracks on major commercial corridors despite the engineering challenges. They’re good for local businesses. They’re a great way to showcase progressive complete street infrastructure, and they “sell” cycling to everyone who uses the street. Thames Street’s primary challenge is the cobblestone, which is not ideal for walking or biking but gives the street an old world charm. Paving the cycletrack with grout while leaving the rest of the cobblestone alone could be a solution. While green paint would be way too gaudy for a historic district, tasteful lane markings with bike icons on the grout could be a possibility. The buffer between the cycletrack and parallel parking bay could be lined with inexpensive movable planters to spruce up all the hard scape.
Parking is the second big issue. Because there are wide 90 degree parking bays on the street to maximize the number of spaces, adding a cycletrack and buffer means something has to give. One side of the street will need to be converted to parallel parking. While I haven’t bothered to calculate the number of spaces which would be lost, I think it’s a worthwhile tradeoff. The handful of lost parking spaces will be replaced by hundreds of cyclists a day traveling through Fell’s Point’s front door, and research shows cyclists spend more than drivers on local retail.
The third challenge is connecting the cycletrack to streets to the north. Broadway would have new grout bike lanes on the cobblestone sections with signs (and enforcement) to prevent trucks from parking on them, and there would be a connection to Ann and Lancaster Streets. Cyclists would still have to travel over cobble between Broadway and the Thames Street cycletrack, but that’s only for a short distance.
Awesome water views to the south. A thriving Main Street to the north. It’s time to complete the scene and transform Thames Street into a complete street.