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Plan to expand bike lanes across Baltimore raises tension among cyclists, residents

Plan to expand bike lanes across Baltimore raises tension among cyclists, residents
Plan to expand bike lanes across Baltimore raises tension among cyclists, residents 03:23

BALTIMORE - Baltimore City's "Complete Streets" ordinance has become a point of contention between some residents, city leaders and the Department of Transportation.

Recently, Baltimore City Council member Sharon Green Middleton raised a resolution to examine Baltimore's bike infrastructure after receiving complaints from residents. 

"The main problem is lack of community engagement directed to each individually designed area," Green Middleton said.  

"Complete Streets" is a local law that over time will change the landscape of the city with the intent of making streets safer and more accessible to pedestrians, bicyclists and public transit users.

Over the years, as projects across the city continue or soon approach, some residents raised concerns about the impacts of the roadway changes.

However, the City Department of Transportation said its approach is not a one-size-fits-all solution.

There's now a call from some residents for a moratorium on new bike lanes, the removal of some existing ones and a pause on the city's ordinance. 

On Thursday evening, during a Rules and Legislative Oversight Committee hearing, the discussion came to a head. 

Several residents testified before council members against and in support of the legislation.

"First, lack of inclusion," Linda Batts said. 

"We should be at the table with decision making power," Kelli Bigelow said. 

"They hate the delays that occur because these streets are being carved up," Lawrence Bell said. 

"Baltimore deserves better," Dolph Druckman said. 

Others, such as Paul Emmart, came to testify in support of the ordinance. 

Weather permitting, Emmart said he bikes a 10-mile roundtrip to get to and from work weekly and wants the protection of bike lanes. 

"I think it's one of the most important aspects of equity that city has. Anyone can cycle, regardless of age, their race, their economic status," Emmart said. 

Bikemore, a non-profit organization that works with the BCDOT to monitor and advise on infrastructure plans and improvements wrote a statement to WJZ in response to the informational hearing:

"We support Baltimore City's nationally recognized, equity driven Complete Streets ordinance, which empowers the city to access millions of dollars in federal funds to implement life-saving traffic calming, ADA, transit, and bicycle infrastructure. We were pleased to see supportive written testimony submitted from more than 1,000 city residents tonight, and we are concerned when activism from a small group of individuals is continuously platformed, as it can negatively impact our city's access to needed funding for projects like undoing the Highway to Nowhere or constructing the Red Line."

Green Middleton, the sponsor of the resolution, asked for additional information from BCDOT. 

The hearing will reconvene at a later date. 

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