Wednesday, April 22 2009 @ 10:04 AM UTC
Contributed by: B' Spokes
An interview with Baltimore City's "bike czar"
If you've noticed almost any new bike-friendly improvement around the city recently, from new bike lanes to bike racks, Nate Evans is likely behind it. Almost exactly a year ago, Evans, a former transportation engineer for Timonium's Constellation Design Group, started work as the City of Baltimore's Bike and Pedestrian Planner. Last week, he sat down in his City Hall-adjacent office, adorned with hopeful maps of Baltimore's cycling-friendly future, boxes of cycling promotional brochures, and, yes, two bicycles, to talk about what Baltimore City is doing to become a more friendly place for bikes.
City Paper: I have a number of friends who say they are absolutely terrified of riding bikes in Baltimore. I wonder what you would tell them to reassure them.
Nate Evans: I guess I would have to ask what they're afraid of.
CP: It's everything, from bad streets to angry drivers to being accosted in neighborhoods, having rocks thrown at them.
NE: First of all, I don't blame them for being afraid. Baltimore can be a very tough place to ride a bike. As far as if you're being run off the road or afraid of motorists, it happens. I can't tell you how many times I've been riding my bike around town and people tell me to get on the sidewalk. Well, it's illegal to ride your bike on the sidewalk. I think the best thing to do is to have some common sense about the way you're riding. Yeah, people are going to get upset and yell at you, but you have to keep a cool head. You might be able to out-maneuver a car, but you're probably not going to be able to outrun it.
As far as being accosted by people that are out to steal your bike or whatever, I've been tracking some stats on that, and we had maybe a dozen or so bikes stolen that way [in 2008]. There's a couple of [bad] sections in the West Side and just north of Johns Hopkins [Homewood campus]. This happens, but for the most part you can usually ride your bike faster than someone that's running after you. And if you feel like your safety is being jeopardized by stopping at a stoplight, I'm not going to tell you to stop if you can safely go. We are trying to address these issues. We put out a [public service announcement] about sharing the road, and it's gotten some good publicity and also our web site has share the road tips, and we have [share the road signage] on backs of buses.
One thing that we try and do is designate routes for people. If they feel like they want to ride their bike, if they tell us where they want to ride their bike to, and where they're coming from, we'll offer suggestions on an easy, safe route to take. We're not just going to leave 'em hanging out there. We'll help them.
CP: Someone could just, like, call you?
NE: Yeah, they could e-mail me [nate.evans"at"baltimorecity.gov] or call. If I don't know the answer, there are a ton of cyclists in the city that can give you a decent route no matter what part of town you're coming from.