Bikemore in Baltimore City

We are big fans of biking here at Campaign Consultation, as we’ve noted in the past.  So we were very excited to speak with Chris Merriam, the Executive Director of Bikemore, about their strategies to promote safe biking and community wellness in Baltimore City.

Q:  How does biking promote individual wellness and healthy community?

A:  It’s great low-impact cardiovascular exercise, and when you use it as a form of transportation, you’re getting that exercise while going where you need to go. Why get in a car and drive to the gym to get on an exercise bicycle? Get on an actual bicycle and save that gym membership money for something else!

That part is fairly straightforward, but when more people are using bicycles for transportation, our air and water gets cleaner, more of our money stays in our communities (because less of it is going to car, oil, and insurance companies), and we spend less time stuck in traffic or circling the block looking for parking. In short, bicycle transportation is an integral part of a sustainable, multimodal transportation system (along with public transit and walking) that reduces our reliance on automotive transportation.

Q: Tell us about your efforts to make Baltimore a more bike-able city. What have been some of your main successes? Challenges?

A: Bikemore has been around for a little over a year, and our main goal is getting the physical infrastructure and policy in place to support bicycling as an everyday form of transportation. That process, unfortunately, takes a long time, but we are working hard behind the scenes to cultivate support among communities, institutions, and city officials for several great bicycle lane projects, including lanes along Mount Royal Avenue and Maryland, Cathedral, and Park Avenues, that are physically protected from moving traffic. We have also been pushing for the completion and maintenance of the Jones Falls Trail, which includes the protected lane on the Fallsway and the shared bicycle/pedestrian lane along Pratt and Light Streets in the Inner Harbor.

Q: How can bike transportation become safer and more accessible to low-income and minority populations?

A: Right now, most of the bicycle infrastructure is around the Harbor, and along the central spine of the city (St. Paul, Guilford, Jones Falls Trail, etc.), which are not areas where most low-income people and African-Americans live. Simply put, we need to make it easy, pleasant, and convenient to get everywhere in the city on a bicycle. The ways to accomplish that are infrastructure, education, and community engagement, all of which Bikemore is working on.

Q: According to the data released by the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, more than half of one percent of American workers use a bicycle as their primary mode of transportation to work. While this number represents nearly 40 percent growth since 2000, it also shows that we still have a lot of work to do in making our communities truly welcoming to bicyclists. How does Baltimore compare to other cities in terms of bike commuting?

A: Reliable statistics on bicycle usage are difficult to come by, but Baltimore’s proportion of workers commuting by bicycle is somewhere around 1 percent, according to the Alliance for Biking and Walking. We’re somewhere in the middle of the pack in terms of American cities. Portland and Minneapolis are the leading American cities by that metric (5.8% and 3.9%, respectively). By way of comparison, Copenhagen, widely recognized as one of the most bike-friendly cities in the world, is at around 35%. So, even the best American cities are way, way behind the global leaders.

Q: There is power in collaboration and partnerships to advance social change. How do Bikemore, Bike Party and other biking groups collaborate – what is the synergy and how do they differ? Are there other opportunities for collaboration?

Baltimore Bike Party

Baltimore Bike Party

A: Baltimore Bike Party has been a wonderful addition to Baltimore’s bicycling scene; we’ve promoted the monthly ride as a great way for people to start riding a bicycle in a safe, controlled, and fun environment. They provide us a forum to reach more people interested in bicycling more easily. Our pitch to Bike Partiers is essentially, “Bike Party is probably as safe as you can be on a bike in Baltimore due to safety in numbers, but what happens the other 30 days of the month when you’re trying to ride to work? That’s what Bikemore is working on.”

Bike Maryland is the statewide advocacy group; their policy focus is more on the State House in Annapolis than on Baltimore City Hall, but statewide laws can of course affect Baltimore riders as well, so we really appreciate all the work that they do. They also do a great job on education for bicyclists on rules of the road, tips for safe riding, etc.

Overall, the many bicycle groups in Baltimore are all working for roughly the same thing, so collaboration is important, as is not duplicating efforts.

Q: How can people get involved with this effort?

A: Become a member, or at the very least, join our mailing list, follow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook. It takes a professional advocacy group to go to important meetings all over the city during the workday and at night, and to convince elected officials of the value of promoting non-motorized transportation. With that said, Bikemore is committed to engaging the community in this process — both people who ride bicycles and those who do not — and we are always spreading the word on ways to get involved on a volunteer basis.

 

Chris Merriam

Chris Merriam

Chris Merriam is a Baltimore native who holds a Master’s Degree in City and Regional Planning from Morgan State University. Through Bikemore, he works to promote bicycling as an everyday form of transportation in Baltimore City.

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I came to Campaign Consultation with a strong background in social work and community organizing. I am also a former Peace Corps health volunteer who served in The Gambia working on maternal and child health care projects.In my role as Project Specialist, I assist with project research, content development and other support for the Social Innovation Fund, George Washington University Freshman Day of Service and other projects.Read more.

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