Skip to content
CityLab
Transportation

Enlisting Bikes In the Fight Against Inequality

Liz Cornish of the bicycle advocacy group Bikemore talks about how bike infrastructure can help solve a host of woes in Baltimore.
The new Maryland Avenue cycle track in Baltimore, part of the city's emerging network of protected lanes.
The new Maryland Avenue cycle track in Baltimore, part of the city's emerging network of protected lanes.Bikemore

After a sluggish couple of decades, this was the year Baltimore suddenly got into the bicycle infrastructure game. The city’s first bike-share system, which was years in the making, opened recently, along with a small but meaningful network of protected lanes, including a pair of cycle tracks that are protected from traffic. These may not be the sort of deluxe bike highways that would make a Portlander or Montrealer envious, but their arrival represents a major leap forward for a city that’s struggled, historically, to put the pieces together, mobility-wise.

In typically Baltimorean fashion, the road forward has not been entirely smooth. When my local neighborhood association debated the installation of a protected cycle track, residents packed public meetings to hurl profanities at the city, and each other, over the issue. And the rollout of the bike-share system had drawn criticism of a different sort. Ellen Worthing, a Baltimore blogger and open-data advocate, made a series of revealing maps that overlaid bike rack locations, bike share stations, and bike lanes with the city’s racial demographics; Lawrence Brown, a community health professor and activist at Morgan State University, observed on Twitter that, like so many transportation amenities, bicycle infrastructure appeared to be concentrated in the city’s more affluent—and whiter—districts, a band of waterfront that extends northward in a strip known locally as “the White L.”