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.”