By ELISHA SAUERS
The Capital of Annapolis
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — In the bumpy world of bike commuting, cyclists have a name for one of the newer bike lanes on Forest Drive: The Trail to Nowhere.
“The biggest problem is the fact that Annapolis is made up of streets that are controlled by the city, county and state,” said Parker Jones, owner of Capital Bicycles. “It’s a very fractured system. The trails don’t connect.”
Point taken, city officials say. Annapolis transit planners and residents have spent six months developing a bicycle master plan.
If adopted by the City Council, it would set a course for improvements over the next decade. The draft plan calls for an expansion of trails in Annapolis, connecting current trails to each other, erecting more signs and bikeracks, and starting educational programs and public safety initiatives.
It also recommends extending the city’s system from less than 3-1/2 miles of paths to nearly 35 miles and hooking up Annapolis’ trails with larger regional and interstate routes, such as the East Coast Greenway Route that connects Florida to Maine.
One proposed trail would connect City Dock with Westfield Annapolis mall; another would link City Dock to Parole. A third suggestion is a loop from West Annapolis to Hilltop Lane to Bay Ridge Avenue and back. A fourth is a trail that would run along the entire southern edge of Forest Drive.
If city leaders pursued the whole plan as is, the cost would be more than $3.4 million, transit officials said.
Iain Banks, the city’s personal transportation specialist, said the department will be seeking grants to pay for the bulk of the projects, although officials hope to also get some designated funds from the budget.
“The city has the makings of a great network of bicycle facilities. It’s just a matter of connecting those gaps,” he said.
“There are a lot of things we can do for a relatively low cost.”
In the recommendations for the first two years, the plan baby-pedals, concentrating on enhancing the biking network. It
calls for the installation of bike racks, striping almost six new miles of bike lanes, and posting signs and directions. Those
improvements could cost about $85,000.
The plan also requests that some city parking revenue be designated for bike system maintenance.
And it suggests introducing legislation to allow cycling on some city sidewalks, in areas where riding on a busy street is more dangerous.
Jones of Capital Bicycles favors a plan like this. He has spent many years instructing new cyclists on how to navigate the city safely. He has worked out cut-throughs and back ways — routes that avoid West Street and Forest Drive, which he considers treacherous.
On those thoroughfares, he said, bicyclists “take their lives in their hands.”
Some council members said they’re concerned about making a long-term financial commitment to the project, which may not be a top priority for the city. Mayor Josh Cohen said while he believes the council will adopt the plan, aldermen will likely want the flexibility to consider related policy decisions one by one.
Funding isn’t the only controversial aspect of the plan. Some downtown merchants are already opposing aspects of the plan they believe aren’t business-friendly. One of the more drastic changes the plan calls for is a cycle track — a partitioned lane for bikes — running along Main Street. That would require eliminating parking on one side of the street.
“Naturally, we voiced our concern about that,” said Cynthia Reiner, representing the Annapolis Business Association. “One thing that the Annapolis Business Association is strongly against is empty storefronts on Main Street, and that’s certainly one way to encourage empty storefronts on Main Street.”
The bike plan has spurred the association to ask city leaders to commission a comprehensive parking study.
“Many groups in the city are looking for ways that parking spaces can be eliminated, and to us, this is a very alarming
trend,” she said.
Banks said drafters expected the Main Street recommendation to come under scrutiny. But he believes that even some small initiatives and education will help change the culture. Bikes have just as much of a right to the road as cars, he said.
Kurt Riegel, a cycling enthusiast, said he would have preferred a more ambitious plan, but the current draft is a good start.
Biking is “not just a recreational frill,” Riegel said. “It will relieve pressure on other, more expensive components of the
Annapolis transportation systems.”
Information from: The Capital of Annapolis, Md., www.hometownannapolis.com
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)