Jones Falls Bike Boulevard

The Jones Falls Valley should be a top candidate for Baltimore’s next bicycle boulevard. In full disclosure, it is the author’s (and others) bicycle commute.  Baltimore’s current and only bike boulevard is on Guilford Avenue between 33rd Street and Mt. Royal. A bicycle boulevard is a road shared by vehicles and bicycles, but with features that keep car speeds slow and create safe and comfortable bicycle conditions. A bicycle boulevard is not necessarily wide as the name implies, but does have the boulevard characteristics of being relatively short and not built for speed. A bicycle boulevard is the best prescription when you need cars to be able to share the road, but still want to emphasize bicycle traffic.

Specifically, I am proposing a “bike boulevard” for the stretch of roads paralleling the river from the Jones Falls Trail in Woodberry/Clipper Mill to the Jones Falls Trail road crossing at Round Falls on Falls Road- here after called the Jones Fall Bike Boulevard (JFBB)

This is a popular road for bicyclists (and joggers). The road is curvy, scenic, has few intersections and relatively little car traffic. The road is rural in its flavor despite traversing the center of Baltimore City. Appropriately, it has urban characteristics such as graffiti, an assortment of mill buildings, railroad tracks, and vestiges of Baltimore’s industrial past. It is an efficient stretch of road for bicyclists because it provides a relatively straight shot into midtown/downtown from the neighborhoods aligning the valley such as Hampden and Woodberry. It is not direct for most cars unless the trip originates in the valley.

Baltimore trails

Proposed Jones Falls Bike Boulevard-blue line
Jones Falls Trail-green line

The problem with the status quo is that the road is dangerous. Cars often speed on  the curvy road. As cars wheel around turns they may not be prepared for a bicyclist sharing the lane. Just as dangerous, cars widely pass bicyclists steering blindly into the oncoming lane trusting another car will not be coming around the bend in the opposite direction. Inevitably, there will be a head on collision and pinball effect of cars and bicycles. The outcome likely will not be a fender bender. Adding bike boulevard elements such as speed humps, shared lane markings, and other traffic calming would bring the risk of accidents down. These features are relatively low cost to implement because they can be added to the existing infrastructure.

The Jones Falls valley is an increasingly popular place to live, work, and eat with redevelopment projects at Union Mill, Clipper Mill, Mill No. 1, and the Birroteca Restaurant. Creating a JFBB would make the valley a better recreational and commuting option for bicyclists (and joggers). The JFBB would be used to travel to new restaurants and apartments (that lack bountiful parking). It would increase public enjoyment of the river. The local roads in the valley do not need to be express. Baltimore should make this section of road its next bike boulevard.


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Administrator and writer for Comeback City

9 Responses to Jones Falls Bike Boulevard

  1. From a construction cost stand-point, the improvements you are proposing are very affordable since the main infrastructure already exists. Even the addition of a few traffic mirrors at the sharp bends would help bicyclists, joggers, and vehicles see what’s coming around the turn.

    The old train car station (currently abandoned), would be a great place for a small cafe/bar (pit-stop) along the Jones Falls Trail.

    • Bike Boulevard’s are relatively inexpensive infrastructure.

      I believe you are referring to the building inscribed with Maryland Pennsylvania Railroad. What you suggest for that building is a great idea!

  2. RJ says:

    This seems like a great solution/improvement. I wish we had some in Durham, NC. What would need to happen to take your idea from here to ribbon cutting? Perhaps posting a chain list of the necessary and supporting organizations would be a good way of finding allies? Good work!

  3. Bike Boulevard’s are starting to make their way to the US and don’t be surprised to see some in NC. Bike Boulevard’s and their cousin “The Woonerf” are common in northern Europe.

  4. I have been advocating this for years now. The most brilliant thing about this is that as a commuter route, practically the whole thing is downhill all the way in to midtown from Hampden, Woodberry, Medfield, Stone Hill, and the like so you’re not all sweaty when you get to work. With the development of Mill No. 1, Union Mill, Clipper Mill, and the Grand Rotunda we are going to need much more bike and pedestrian infrastructure cause there is no room left for cars.

  5. Pingback: Big Ideas: Jones Falls Bike Boulevard | Baltimore Velo

  6. lanas says:

    I am sorry but you are delusional. Incredibly short sight-lines (<10 ft in places) & tight corners, narrow lanes, and immovable objects (rocks, buildings) right up to and over-hanging the roadway are the dangers of this stretch of road. Mirrors and speed-bumps can not over-come these dangers. This stretch of road is the reason 83 was constructed. A few hardy commuters and bikers (myself included) may indulge this risk, but we are totally naive to pretend it can be done safely. I can not in good conscience recommend anyone bike on this stretch of road.

  7. Pingback: Jones Falls Trail Part Two Improvements – Jones Falls Trail

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