Canton residents say bike lane violates city code, Mayor agrees and announces overhaul of project

Impacts cycle track on Potomac Street
Posted at 6:02 PM, Jun 01, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-02 06:44:23-04

The Potomac Street cycle track is part of the downtown bicycle network plan, a project to connect Patterson Park to the Inner Harbor.

"Lanes like this really allow you to feel like there's a safe way to move around without being put at risk by riding next to cars," said Ryan Patterson.

"They're really just an amazing way for people who might not otherwise get to bike in the city to be able to bike and do normal things, like bike to the grocery store, and bike to the playground," Eli Pousson said.

Flex posts and painted lines started going in from Eastern Avenue to Boston Street, and the project was about 75% complete. 

But after a few weeks, complaints about the configuration started flooding City Hall.

"There weren't signs designating whether they were bike lanes or car lanes,” said Maureen Ames.  “A lot of cars driving down the bikes lanes and bikers driving down the car lanes, so it was a little dangerous."

People also pointed out fire trucks and other large emergency equipment didn't have enough space to squeeze through.

"A fire truck come down not too long ago and he couldn't go down, so he had to circle around, and that gives it more time," Martin Czlsnowski said.

City Fire code requires 20-foot access.  So construction was halted.

Wednesday, Mayor Catherine Pugh sent this letter to residents explaining an adjusted layout will be implemented.  Saying in part "This compromise takes into consideration the concerns of the bicycle community, the residents of Potomac Street, the greater Canton community, and fire and emergency response safety."

"Everybody will be happy,” said Jason Timoll.  “There will be a space for the bikers to be safe, people to be able to park, emergency vehicles will be able to get by and it will be a great fix for everybody."

However, cycle advocacy groups don't agree.

Liz Cornish with Bikemore says the layout no longer meets federal guidelines for a two-way bicycle facility.

"We see this as the wrong decision,” she said.  “Also, by creating a wider southbound travel lane we're looking at a design that not only is less safe for people walking and biking, but less safe for people driving cars."

Cornish adds, there are many other streets in Charm City that don't meet the 20-foot access requirement.  And if it’s really a safety issue, the code should be applied across the board.

"What about the streets that were constructed with rear angle parking just in the last few years in Canton to create additional on-street parking, those streets no longer meet the 20-feet clear width."

She says this move by the Mayor could impact other bike projects across the city.  Already, the construction of protected lanes along Monument and Madison Streets has been suspended and is being reviewed.

Many of the projects are funded by State and Federal grant money.  Right now, it’s unclear if the Potomac Street redesign will be approved to continue receiving those funds, since it no longer meets guidelines.