[Sent to the City's DOT]
What is the purpose of streets? To get people through a neighborhood as fast as possible or is it to accommodate just neighborhood residents? Are roadways for the sole purpose of motorized traffic making vulnerable road users trespassers? Or is there a balance based on context sensitive design?
Traffic safety experts have noted that areas in-between congestion are areas that are the most prone to accidents, for safety the top concern should not be just adding travel lanes but to keep the flow of traffic smooth. And in regards to the latter the 4 lane section of Park Heights has failed. There are too few dedicated turn lanes, parking "lanes" are dangerously close to travel lanes that buses cannot stay in the right lane resulting in essentially a Salomon race course as drivers change lanes to avoid cars turning left and obstacles on their right, this is not good for safety.
One of the fascinating things to come out of complete streets and traffic calming designs is that some designs can actually increase the throughput of the roadway while reducing accidents and in my semi-professional opinion changing how Park Heights is striped can decrease accidents and have minimal impact on the throughput of the roadway, essentially a win, win situation.
My proposal is to create left hand turn lanes and a painted median down the center of Park heights, two travel lanes and two bike lanes with parking/right hand turn lanes (note that the bulk of Park Heights is two lanes so the additional lanes here only encourages aggressive passing of other traffic.) Not to mention with schools and a community center on Park Heights it would be extremely beneficial to include bicycle accommodations along this route. (Note a lot of side streets in this area dead end making Park Heights the only viable route to many destinations.)
A design of this type was studied in Toronto which noted only seconds difference for the average travel time with a major increase in bicycle usage. This design was also discussed at Mayor's Bicycle Advisory Committee and input was solicited from members on what streets were considered ideal candidates for this treatment and my suggestion was Park Heights Ave. So the question is how can we encourage the city to try new roadway designs in our adopted Bicycle Master Plan Tool Kit that smooth traffic flow, help keep speeds responsible and better accommodate multi-modal travel. The only way to get a definitive answer is to try it. Study crash rates before and after the design change along with other metrics the city deems critical. Other Cities are implementing this design with sucsess and Baltimore should follow suite.
[It is also worth noting that the 2000 census showed a relitivly high percentage of bicycle comuters in the area so there is demand base for bike accommodations.]