BikeHoward – A Big Step Forward.
I am very much in favor of BikeHoward – the Bike Plan for the County – being voted on by our county council this Monday. I strongly encourage you to support its approval and implementation. Let your council representative know this weekend of your support as well (firstname.lastname@example.org). More trails and safer ones will help get more people out and about safely, on foot and on bikes.
I do not support the proposed Amendment #1 to remove the Downtown to Patuxent Branch Trail Extension from the plan – this section should be maintained in the plan. It is an essential link from East Columbia to Downtown.
There is a huge demand for more trails, and this will only grow as our population ages. I led 5 walks last year and between 40 and 80 people showed up each time – on Thursday mornings! I have had as many as 150 people show up for walks. This connector trail through this beautiful greenway along the Little Patuxent would be a key link for getting more people out and enjoying nature. All the research shows that people who walk for 30 minutes in green open spaces are happier, healthier, more productive, and more creative – just what we citizens, parents, teachers, and our local employers want. They also become better stewards of nature.
And maybe, even more importantly – this connector trail will be key for getting more people into and out of the downtown area. As traffic density increases we will need more access to our planned walkable downtown from the outlying communities. I live on Lake Elkhorn, and would use the proposed trail for getting downtown, if I am still biking/walking when it is implemented. It will be one of those critical links that will be needed to make sure our plans and dreams for a livable city are realized.
Bike Safety – It’s Time to Act!
A bicyclist hit a four-year-old girl this week on one of our paths and broke her leg. This is a growing concern as traffic on our current multi-use paths increases. This should be a wake-up call for all of us. We always need to be in control of our bikes no matter what a pedestrian might do. Our children learn to walk on these paths. They then learn how to bike along these same paths. Our older family members wander these paths as well, often disoriented. Family groups also meander and play distractedly along these same paths. Dogs make quick moves along the paths. All of these actions are disasters waiting to happen when we enter these paths on our bikes.
I think bikers need to get on top of these challenges in order to prevent further collisions. These paths should not be considered as bike raceways. Is there a local bike group that can recommend and lobby for safer bike etiquette? Such as safe speeds around pedestrians. Amendment #2 to the BikeHoward Plan calls for a Complete Streets Policy to encourage more biking on our roads. Amendment #7 calls for a Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board which would be a good group to come up with better bike safety rules and etiquette on all of our paths and roads. These steps are important and the best way forward is BikeHoward. I support all of the Amendments except for Amendment #1.
We, the biking community, need to respond to this incident – this has been a dangerous situation for a long time, and we have not done enough. It could have been worse!