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June 29, 2009

JFX becomes weekend raceway

Sidney M. Levy,of Olmstead Green in Baltimore, wrote in to report on a problem I've been hearing a lot about:


"I live near another tragedy-waiting-to-happen. I live in Cross Keys and our back patio is parallel to the stretch of the JFX between Cold Spring Lane and Northern Parkway. Beginning at about 8:00 P.M. on any spring or summer evening, motorcycles race up the highway, passing other vehicles as though standing still. The roar of the bikes continue until the wee hours of the morning.

"These crazies up shift and downshift to make even more noise as the weave in and out of traffic. We reported this to (Councilwoman) Sharon Middleton who offered no assistance other than "call 311". A true, dedicated public servant! At some point lots of blood will spill on the JFX and the hand-wringing will begin. Maybe you ought to look into this situation? The police are missing an opportunity to collect lots of tickets- if they can figure out a way to catch these nuts."

I've been hearing reports of such activity for some time. Apparently the section of the JFX that runs behind the Sun building just to the north of Pleasant Street also becomes the site of motorcycle races on Saturday and Sunday evenings.

Cracking down on these racers is no easy task. They seem to enjoy nothing more than leading police on a dangerous high-speed chase. But that's no reason to just let this go on. Here's a challenge for the city police: Devise an execute a strategy for catching these racers and containing them. Take back the JFX.






Posted by Michael Dresser at 8:55 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: On the roads


I live in Mt. Washington, near the N. Parkway interchange with I-83 and can confirm this. It happens frequently. If one passes you, you know there will be more. They are going so fast they are upon you instantly and the sound is quite startling.

Instead of the usual speed trap periodically operating just south of the Ruxton Rd exit, they should post radar and enforcement at the N. Parkway or Cold Spring Lane interchanges. These guys are easily going 80mph - so I'm not sure routine speed enforcement would work in these cases.

Of Note: Various parts of the JFX have been used for speed riding since it was built and will likely continue to be for a long, long time to come.

So... does someone here actually believe you can legislate or coerce maturity or perspective? Or that "enforcement" will ever do more than catch the incompetent and other low hanging fruit? Because those are the issues at play here.

So... what is a way to instill some perspective and perhaps allow that to expand into a mature attitude toward the riding (if not actual maturity)... such that enforcement needs are minimized?

Education goes a long way. Rider education such as the MSF (Motorcycle Safety Foundation) sanctioned riders courses for both new and experienced riders. But there are no spare spots in the woefully inadequate number of classes offered.

The MVA puts up a pretty good front about education but it can barely keep up with new licensing needs... it just doesn't have the staff (paid or volunteer) to conduct the number of classes needed.

Another practical approach is safe and legal venues to ride fast that don't impact on neighborhoods. But that option also costs money.

You (we) have to decide whether the interest is in more futile complaining or actually working toward a resolution. Solving problems is expensive.

I have been taking about this for a number of years. i was driving north on the JFX a few months back and 7-12 of these bikers came sreaming from behind me,weaving in and out of traffic and then 2 of these bikers popped wheelies just in front of my car. I almost had to pull off the road. Having talked with a Baltimore City police officer, he informed me that they are not to chase after them, that other could be harmed. Well they can't out run a radio and should do something!!!

The motorcycle racing is not just a week end problem. I leave work around 7:30 or 8 p.m. during the week and the motorcycles race pass me as I am traveling Northbound on the Jones Falls Expressway. I can not tell you how many times I have been startled by the cycles flying past me and revving their engines. I would not be surprised, if just the scare of the motorcycles approaching and passing other vehicles have caused accidents. The must travel at 90 mph. One cycle will fly past and be a half mile ahead while his buddy will be stuck in traffic. Then the buddy will find a dangerous break in the traffic and fly past everyone to catch up. You get a sense that he's afraid to be left behind and that he really doesnt have the ability to be driving as fast as he needs to to catch his buddy. There should be a phone number that we can call to report these crazies and the cops should respond when we call. I know it will never happen

Generally motorcycles aren't too much of a threat to vehicles. Most of these guys will be dead before 30 anyway. The problem may just weed itself out. We should encourage riding without a helmet!

This sort of racing is not only occuring on the JFX, but on 695 as well. Usually on Sunday evenings. Had a group of about 15 do that to me one Sunday about 2 weeks ago. I almost hit one who was coming up along the shoulder and I was moving over to the left lane to go off at Perring Pkwy. Something told me to look again. Had I not done that, I would have hit the cyclist. The police should devise a radar trap on an overpass and catch them farther down the beltway. Maybe that would help, but as mentioned it will continue as long as no one takes it to issue. Maybe this would be a good incentive for the radar camaras.

But what is there to do about it? The motorcycles are so much faster and maneuverable than a police (or any other) car that they are pretty much impossible to catch. And chasing them can prove deadly (not just for the motorcyclists).

This is not news - its has been going on for decades - yet if you had an idea of HOW to stop them, that might be.

I ride a sport bike.

These guys can easily get up to 160, 170 even 180 and beyond MPH.

No police car will be able to catch them, a helicopter would have a tough time.

To people suggesting radar traps or phoning in the location - think about this. At 180 mph a biker can travel 3 miles in 60 seconds - and its easy to get up to those speeds on 695/95/sections of 83. So its not feasible to catch them, they will just outrun anything chasing them. If they wreck, then they will most likely die at those speeds. They are not much danger to your car, just don't be tempted to take them out - just let them be...

These gangs of roving thugs really don't care at all for anyone's safety or their own, and there is not much that can be done about it realistically.

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About Michael Dresser
Michael Dresser has been an editor, reporter and columnist with The Sun longer than Baltimore's had a subway. He's covered retailing, telecommunications, state politics and wine. Since 2004, he's been The Sun's transportation writer. He lives in Ellicott City with his wife and travel companion, Cindy.

His Getting There column appears on Mondays. Mike's blog will be a forum for all who are interested in highways, transit and other transportation issues affecting Baltimore, Maryland and the region.

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