Cycling Activists, City Officials Reach Settlement on Potomac Street Bike Lane

Potomac Street Bike Lane (Photo provided by Liz Cornish)

One day before a scheduled court hearing, bicycling advocates and Baltimore City officials agreed to a settlement on Tuesday to keep the Potomac Street protected bike lane in place.

Bikemore, the city’s leading bike advocacy group, had sued city officials after officials announced plans to remove the cycle lane after some residents voiced concerns that it would lead to more crashes, less parking spaces and make travel for emergency vehicles more difficult.

Mark Edelson, an attorney for Bikemore, confirmed the settlement to the JT. Bikemore also dropped its lawsuit against the city on Wednesday.

“This is a decision that I think all sides are happy with,” Edelson said. “We are very excited, and the benefits we feel this will have for all residents of the city are tremendous.”

The group had won a temporary restraining order earlier this month to halt any demolition from taking place, and a two-day preliminary injunction hearing had been set for Wednesday and Thursday.

Edelson, a Canton resident who took the case on pro bono, said members of Bikemore will meet with city officials to come up with a modified plan for the street. That plan will be released to the public once it is finalized for a two-week comment and feedback period, after which it will go into effect and construction will begin.

“I think it will get done pretty quickly,” said Edelson, who declined to provide a timetable for when he expects the plan to be released. “But it’s important to make sure we address the reservations that were raised initially in our final plan.”

Anthony McCarthy, a spokesman for Mayor Catherine Pugh, told the JT via email that the city is pleased with the settlement and that the mayor will take input to help address any issues.

The compromise, McCarthy said, includes converting spaces on the east side of the street to angled parking and eliminating the row of parallel parking that runs through the bike lane on the west side. McCarthy did not mention how many additional parking spaces the change would create for residents. The parking modification will also provide more room for emergency vehicles and the bike lane.

Some residents, meanwhile, say they welcome the opportunity to help work on a design that is safe and benefits the entire community and believe the mayor will help them accomplish that.

Howard Weinstein, a spokesman for the group Canton Neighbors for a Better Potomac Street Bike Lane, supports the idea of the bike lane, which was first constructed in April and installed for $100,000. But he said he can’t get behind it as currently configured because of the safety threat he feels it poses.

“We’re frustrated because we were not involved in the process when the lane was first being designed,” Weinstein said. “We want a lane that is safe for all neighbors, businesses, bikers and people to travel on. The Baltimore City Fire Department determined the original design would clearly make travel hazardous for those people and many others.”

Cycling activists contend a decision to remove the bike lane would have deterred the progress they feel Baltimore has made to become a more bike-centric city.

Now, Edelson said he hopes to continue working with the mayor’s administration to bring more bike infrastructure to other parts of the city. He said Bikemore and cycling activists are pushing to get bike lanes built in West Baltimore next.

“This case was never about just one protected bike network. It is about the whole bike network,” Edelson said. “I think everyone recognizes the benefits of a safe bike network for the city, and we need to continue moving toward that inclusive, progressive agenda. It is imperative that we provide our residents with safe, accessible options to navigate the city.”

This story has been updated to include Howard Weinstein’s comments.

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