Almost Being Able To Bicycle to School
August 5, 2013 1 Comment
My son is off to start high school as a freshman in three weeks at Baltimore’s Polytechnic Institute (Poly) High School. I was excited that he would have an easy bike ride to school. The newly created Jones Falls Trail would get him 90% or 0.7 miles from his high school. I thought it would be a bicycling slam dunk. I went out to inspect and whoa, not so easy and not so safe…. The last leg is comprised of crossing a highway interchange, hyper fast speeding vehicles, and scary street crossings. As parents, we are going to have to veto this bike route to school.
If Baltimore, Maryland, and the US gets serious about making bicycling a mainstream transport option the trails are going to need spurs that safely connect to the places we go. Trails like the Jones Falls should find tentacles that reach schools and neighborhoods that are nearby but not connected. A safe spur from the Jones Falls Trail to Poly (and Western) under the elevated portions of the expressway (JFX) could probably be built for under two million dollars. The connection would also provide access to neighborhoods (Cross Keys, Roland Park, Medfield) that are currently blocked to the trail by the expressway. Because of the scarce dollars allocated to bike infrastructure, I am not necessarily arguing here for this specific project . ( “Safe Routes to Schools” funding is regularly on the Congressional chopping block) Unfortunately, bike planners have to make priorities that make ubiquitous safe connected networks seemingly decades away.
Maryland Counties have highway interchanges on their priority list projected to cost $140 million and more. These may or may not be worthy projects. The hypothetical two million dollar trail spur connection between Baltimore’s north-south spine trail to Baltimore’s Math and Science High School and three adjacent neighborhoods is probably considered too expensive to build. As I see a highway interchange prevent my son from easily bicycling to school, it does make me wish one proposed highway interchange in Maryland could be sacrificed so dozens of safe networks of trails could be built linking Maryland’s communities and their schools.
(Baltimore City’s Transportation Priority Letter emphasizes Transit Oriented Development (TOD) projects, but lists no bike paths among its priorities. Ironically, the letter does focus on a TOD adjacent to the Cold Spring Station and interchange. The letter describes the Jones Falls Trail as “value added.” Today, the Jones Falls Trail passes within 70 yards of the Cold Spring Light rail stop, but does not connect.