Protected Bike Lanes, Vehicle Lane Reductions Cause Stir in Baltimore

Residents and business operators say they weren’t warned about a road diet planned for a major thoroughfare in Baltimore. Planners and advocates say the changes have been a long time coming.

2 minute read

November 30, 2022, 7:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Old brick buildings line Central Avenue in Baltimore. The street is filled with construction equipment.

Signs of road construction were visible on Central Avenue in Baltimore in June 2022. | Google Streetview

“Work is wrapping up on a $55 million, yearslong upgrade of a major downtown roadway serving Baltimore’s developing waterfront neighborhoods,” reports Lorraine Mirabella in a paywalled article for the Baltimore Sun. “But the revitalization of Central Avenue’s streetscape has surprised some business operators and residents.”

Based on the article’s telling of the story, some local businesses and residents were expecting the project to add vehicle capacity—instead the project is eliminating a vehicle lane in each direction and adding a protected bicycle path. Doug Schmidt, a principal with Workshop Development, is quoted in the article saying the “road diet” was never made public.

“Opponents fear the rebuilt road won’t handle current traffic or heavier use as workers return to offices and as new apartments, offices, hotels and stores open in the corridor. They worry about safety, loss of parking, disruption to businesses that rely on loading areas and increased congestion on neighborhood streets,” writes Mirabella.

Proponents, including bike and complete streets advocates, support the changes. The article notes that the political conflict is indicative of similar struggles in other cities—where increasing awareness of traffic safety and climate change is butting heads with the car-centric planning status quo.

The article documents the planning process that produced the road diet for Central Avenue. The process dates back to 2015, with more direct changes implemented by the city’s adoption of a complete streets ordinance in 2018 and public outreach in November 2021.

Monday, November 21, 2022 in The Baltimore Sun

Black and white Rideshare Pick-Up Zone sign

The Slow Death of Ride Sharing

From the beginning, TNCs like Lyft and Uber touted shared rides as their key product. Now, Lyft is ending the practice.

June 1, 2023 - Human Transit

Urban sidewalk shaded by large mature trees

Cool Walkability Planning

Shadeways (covered sidewalks) and pedways (enclosed, climate controlled walkways) can provide comfortable walkability in hot climates. The Cool Walkshed Index can help plan these facilities.

June 1, 2023 - Todd Litman

Traffic on the 405 interstate freeway through the Sepulveda Pass at Getty Center Drive in Los Angeles, California

Congestion Pricing Could Be Coming to L.A.

The infamously car-centric city is weighing a proposed congestion pricing pilot program to reduce traffic and encourage public transit use.

May 30, 2023 - Los Angeles Times

Denver City Hall building with green lawn and red flowers in front, Denver, Colorado

Denver Makes ADU Rules More Flexible

The city hopes adjusting its regulations for accessory dwelling units will make the process more affordable for residents and help ease the city’s housing crunch.

31 minutes ago - Denverite

Interstate 55 with cars and green freeway signs in Chicago, Illinois

Illinois Legislators Pass Controversial I-55 Road Expansion Legislation

Legislation to enable the addition of express toll lanes on Interstate 55 in the Southwest Side of Chicago, opposed by environmental justice advocates, cleared the Illinois General Assembly last month.

1 hour ago - Chicago Tribune

Close-up of front og MARTA public transit bus in Atlanta, Georgia with logo wrap

What Is ‘Arterial Rapid Transit?’

Atlanta is planning to build ‘BRT lite,’ a version of bus service that offers signal priority and fewer stops but keeps buses in mixed-traffic lanes.

2 hours ago - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.