Bike Activists in Baltimore Fight to Keep Bike LaneSeptember 5, 2018
Bike activists and firefighters have been engaged in an ongoing battle over the bike lane in the Canton section of Baltimore. According to an article in the Baltimore Sun, bike activists have sued the city in order to prevent the transportation department from removing the bike lane. Firefighters claim that the bike lane poses a safety risk, because it makes the street too narrow for emergency vehicles to be able to navigate and park.
The fight escalated when the executive director of the bicycling advocacy group, Bikemore, claimed that the fire department parked a large fire truck outside her home in an effort to intimidate her.
The feud between the firefighters, cyclists, and local residents has been brewing for the past year. After the bike lane was constructed along Potomac Street in southeastern Baltimore in 2017, residents and firefighters claimed that the bike lane would eat up too much street space, making it difficult for emergency vehicles to get access to fires. The fire department has since vetoed several projects, citing various code issues.
According to a City Council Member, the Fire Department’s concerns over public safety are short-sighted. He went on to say that 80 percent of emergency calls that the department receives are not fire-related. Fire access is certainly important, but when it comes to public safety, there are a wide range of factors to consider.
Unfortunately, the controversy delayed a number of other city-wide development projects for close to a year, including a number of private development projects.
Fire Code Amendment Bill
Baltimore legislators introduced a fire code amendment bill that would repeal a section of the fire code, which requires 20- and 26-foot street clearances for emergency vehicles during an emergency response. This section would be replaced by more flexible guidelines adopted by the National Association Officials’ Urban Street Design Guide.
According to another city councilman, the council’s judiciary and legislative investigative committee gave the Fire Department many opportunities to work together, but they were not willing to compromise, so the council moved forward with the bill, which is expected to go into effect on October 29.
The executive director of the bicycling advocacy group Bikemore said the fire department seems to be arbitrarily strict towards certain projects – like the bike lane – while other projects that did not meet the requirements of the fire code were approved.
Dedicated bicycle lanes are intended to help prevent bike accidents by providing safer riding zones.
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