FMOPL Position Paper on Bike Infrastructure (March 2, 2016
This paper is intended to outline FMOPL’s position on bike infrastructure, as well as define what the organization’s role is (and what it isn’t) when becoming involved in proposals for bike infrastructure in order to add value to a broader conversation and network of non-profit organizations that are advocating for bike infrastructure. The position has been shaped by conversation with the board as well as outside stakeholders, including Bikemore and the Baltimore City Department of Transportation’s bike coordinator.
“FMOPL is committed to advancing the Olmsted legacy of accessible public parks, sustainable landscapes, and livable communities —respecting and protecting the accomplishments of the past and seeking relevant solutions for the challenges of today.” The incorporation of bike infrastructure that is designed to meet best practices as part of a complete streets approach is not only consistent with Olmsted’s ideals of public access to sustainable and livable communities, but also with the Olmsted tradition of designing for bicycles. Therefore, the FMOPL mission statement implies two primary goals for the organization as it relates to proposed bike infrastructure:
- Preservation of Olmsted, Olmsted-inspired, and other open space resources, and
- Incorporation of bike infrastructure designed to current best practices.
In instances where these goals do not conflict (i.e. infrastructure that does not adversely impact the historic Olmsted, Olmsted-inspired or other open space resources), it seems clear that FMOPL is supportive of the proposed bike infrastructure as long as it is designed to current best practices. Where the organization’s position requires further definition is when proposed bike infrastructure is not designed to best practices or when it adversely impacts Olmsted, Olmsted-inspired, or other open space resources.
The design of proposed bike facilities should be guided by current best practices. Therefore, it is assumed that bike infrastructure will change over time as best practices continue to evolve.
The Baltimore City Department of Transportation recently abandoned State Highway Administration (SHA) standards in favor of the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) standards. NACTO is a coalition of the Departments of Transportation of 22 of the largest cities in North America, and 17 affiliate member cities with a mission to “raising the state of the practice for street design and transportation by building a common vision, sharing data, peer-to-peer exchange in workshops and conferences, and regular communication among member cities.” NACTO maintains an Urban Bikeway Design Guide (http://nacto.org/publication/urban-bikeway-design-guide/) that defines best practices for bike infrastructure in Baltimore. Additionally, the Baltimore City Department of Transportation now uses observed speeds as opposed to posted speeds in applying best practices. These changes taken together represent substantial progress on the part of the Baltimore City Department of Transportation and should be commended. However, “old habits die hard” and the culture within the Baltimore City Department of Transportation has not completely caught up with the adopted best practices. Surrounding jurisdictions continue to use the SHA standards, which continue to prioritize vehicular traffic over cyclist safety. Therefore, there is a continued need for advocacy to ensure that best practices are implemented in all proposed bike infrastructure. Although there are other organizations that focus on this issue (Bikemore, Bike Maryland, etc.), FMOPL can be a valuable ally, particularly when bike infrastructure is located within an Olmsted or Olmsted-inspired parkway or neighborhood.
It is necessary to define when proposed bike infrastructure adversely impacts the preservation of Olmsted, Olmsted-inspired, and other open space resources (i.e. when FMOPL’s two goals come into conflict). This situation requires the board to weigh the benefit of the proposed bike infrastructure against the detriment to the open space resource. Criteria triggering further review by the board should include, but may not be limited to:
- Removal of specimen trees that are non-invasive and in good health;
- Reduction of green space, and
- Detriment to existing pedestrian infrastructure.
- In a situation of adverse impact, it is incumbent on the board to explore alternate solutions that would eliminate or minimize the adverse impact such that the board is able to support the proposed bike infrastructure. Absent an adverse impact on Olmsted, Olmsted-inspired or other open space resources as defined above and because of the temporary and utilitarian nature of bike infrastructure, FMOPL should exercise caution when becoming involved in the aesthetics of bike infrastructure. Requiring the Department of Transportation to use their limited funding for bike infrastructure to meet higher aesthetic standards undermines the goal of building the comprehensive bike infrastructure network necessary to support cycling beyond core enthusiasts. However, in instances where there is interest by local stakeholders, FMOPL should support efforts to secure alternative funding sources or private fundraising efforts to enhance the infrastructure funded through the Department of Transportation.
In conclusion, FMOPL is positioned to further the goal of expanding bike infrastructure that is designed to best practices to support “accessible public parks, sustainable landscapes, and livable communities” while preserving Olmsted, Olmsted-inspired, and other open space resources through the following specific actions:
- Educate our membership regarding the importance of bike infrastructure and current best practices;
- Engage our membership in the planning of proposed bike infrastructure;
- Support organizations advocating for bike infrastructure funding and the application of best practices, and
- Support organizations securing alternative funding sources to fund or enhance bike infrastructure as appropriate.
(Approved by the Board of FMOPL, March 2, 2016)