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May 11, 2010

Maryland called 'worse than Texas' for bicyclists

Seth Guikema of Timonium sentGetting There an email that makes  some uncommonly good points. Here it is in a slightly edited-down form:

I have been a bike or bike/train commuter for at least the last 17 years living in 4 different states (including other cities bigger than Baltimore) and 2 countries. My current commute involves biking in both the county and the city with a light rail ride in between. Baltimore City drivers are some of the worst I've seen when it comes to giving appropriate respect and space to bikes on the roads, even worse than Texas.

County drivers seem better. I applaud the new rules, but rules are only as good as enforcement. The police force needs to step up and enforce the rules of the road, for both drivers and cyclists. In the couple of years that I've lived in Baltimore, I've had cars try to run me off the road, spout profanity-laced tirades at me because I "should not be on the road," and chase me. I've contacted the police with the information, and I have not yet received a single follow-up.

I know Baltimore police are stretched thin, but what is the point of passing new rules if they can't be enforced? It's good for public education I suppose, but that only lasts as long as it is covered in the news.

Of course, this goes both ways. There are a lot of idiots on bikes that choose to ignore the rules of the road too. They give the rest of us a bad name. They should be ticketed for running red lights and stop signs, biking the wrong way on one-way streets, weaving through traffic, and riding on sidewalks in business districts. The police need to step up and enforce those rules too.

If we want to have any hope of achieving energy independence or of seriously addressing climate change, we need to address our collective addiction to automobiles. Bikes can and should be part of that solution, along with real, meaningful transit options. But until the roads are safe for cyclists, those of us making it our primary form of commuting will be a small minority.

The new rules are a step in the right direction, but they need to be backed up by meaningful enforcement. Thank you for helping to shine a light on this problem. Hopefully people are listening.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 2:42 PM | | Comments (10)


I completely agree and safety is one of the main reasons I don't ride more - Because I DO NOT TRUST the majority of the motorists on the b-more city roads. And when I read comments about people being gunned down by cars, cursed at by drivers, etc, only to have city police not do anything about it - that is deplorable. One of the comments I read on this topic (from Jed about this happening to him and the police doing nothing about it), said he would throw his 10 lb bike chain through the next guys window that tried to run him over - well, I do believe that when that motorists calls the police on the biker that does this - the police would come and the biker would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I am an avid runner who has been nearly ran over at least 3 times. In one incident, I was by a hospital ER, in the cross walk, & running with the walk sign - the SUV driving soccer mom that nearly hit me, then had the nerve to yell profanities at me and flip me off. So for all those drivers out there who think they are being put in danger b/c of a irresponsible biker, keep in mind who is really going to be screwed in the event of a collision. Now all you angry cell phone talking and texting and speeding and red light running motorists, GET OVER IT. You do not own the roadways and if you don't want to be stuck in traffic, you should want and encourage more people to commute on bikes!

Worse than Texas? I can believe that one may say that for some cities in Texas. However, as a cyclist and an Austinite, I find this claim quite an ignorant choice of words.
Would you care to qualify or quantify this statement? I would think that someone so well cultured and traveled would think twice before speaking out erroneously about an entire state's demographic.


Austin #11
Baltimore #48

Joe, Austin is anomalous in Texas in many, many ways--cycling included. And this is a very good thing. :)
I cycled avidly when I lived in Colorado (lived in Denver metro area prior to moving to Bmore), and sorely missed the activity as a means of everyday transport, exercise, and fun while living in Baltimore City and County. I recently left Bmore for Minneapolis, partly because my not-at-work lifestyle from Colorado in no way, shape, or form could be reasonably replicated in Maryland. Bmore and its environs were the worst I've personally encountered for everyday cycling.

That was pretty much my point with the "throwing my chain" reference. I bet the police would be there right away.

I do have hope for Baltimore PD, as Col. Skinner was at the bike hearing, and claimed the police were interested in becoming more bike friendly.

Enforcement is the issue. Just as the Baltimore City Police do not enforce the "don't block the box" law for intersections, nor have I seen anyone pulled over for driving in the "Bus/Bike" lane on Pratt Street (my desk overlooks Pratt and I can see from Market Place all the way to the convention center), I doubt we will see the 3 foot law enforced. Heck, the Baltimore City Police do not enforce the speed limit over the Hanover street bridge and just on the other side of that bridge sits a police station.

I have little faith in police enforcement and I hope one day soon that will change.

Jed - I kind of thought that was your point :)

My boyfriend has been a bike commuter for the last 15 years and he has avoided numerous accidents, been in numerous accidents, had his bike destroyed in one, and once was even sent to the hospital by one. The last 2 nights biking home he also nearly avoided disaster. One incident occurred when a driver ran the red light on Calvert St (and Mt. Royal) and nearly t-boned him. Other drivers blew their horn to alert this idiot, which is the only reason he was saved. He said the suv was so close he could feel the heat coming off the grill. The other incident occurred last night (also on Calvert near Mercy) when 2 woman driving a correctional unit van changed lanes without signaling and ran him into (and onto) the curb. Once stopped at the light he asked if they saw him/what their problem was and they yelled, "we didn't hit you". He said no, but you changed lanes without looking and caused me to run into the curb and fall and you should watch where you are going. Once the light changed, they gunned the van, while telling him to "Go - insert profanity - yourself".

This is just one week in a bikers life. How can anyone justify this? As more bikers enter our streets, I feel the more dangerous the roads in Baltimore are becoming. I understand that we are all human and almost everyone has been in a situation where you didn't see someone and came close to hitting them - car, bike, or pedestrian. But, when/if that happens to you - own up, apologize, help if need be.

I think someone needs to organize a bike ride where we can publicize the new (and old) laws, keep them in the news so people can become aware and reminded that our roads need to be a safe place for everyone to travel on, even if a car isn't your primary means of transportation.

Oh, and yes, Austin is very much an anomaly in Texas - and thanks heavens for that! Austin is a great, bike-friendly city!

I think anyone in their right mind would agree with this. The only problem I see is moral equivalence. Cyclists break traffic rules and they shouldn't. So do cars. But these actions are not equal. I can kill you with my car when I'm driving. I'd be hard pressed to do it when I'm biking. Enforcement should be first against those that can (and do) cause the most harm. I don't think cyclists should get free passes but trying to compare the sometimes poor and anti-social behavior of cyclists flouting signals to the daily carnage of cars is not taking the real issue of road deaths and injuries seriously.

As far as the debate about "Who's worse ,car drivers or bicyclists" , i have this to say.

Dangerous bike riders are an annoyance to motorists. But they are dangerous to bicylists like me,as well. I ve almost been in a few accidents because i have been riding my bike on the right side of the road, and another bicyclist was coming the worng way on the road.

Motorists are the same. A bad driver is a danger to EVERYONE on the road! Not just bicyclists.

To me its not about bicylists VS motorists. Its about bad drivers VS good drivers. Andit doesnt matter whether you are driving a car or a bicycle.

And its not just about people that arent good at driving. There is some serious anti-social behavor on the roads these days.

Some cars used to occasionally run a Yellow Light . Now running a Red Light is almost normal for some drivers.

I almost got run over a few weeks back by a Red Light runner, while walking across the street. People like him are a threat to EVERYBODY who is on the road.

Baltimore is a tough bike city. It isn't much better for cars. Obviously, no one planned for either to be on the streets.

A bike is a wonder vehicle. Most of us enjoy the freedom and the stimulation that it offers us. As more of us take to the roads on bikes, everyone will realize eventually all the benefits and joy that biking entails. It is seduction that can not be resisted.

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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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