One of the bike bills approved by a City Council subcommittee yesterday established a $75 fine for vehicles that block a bike lane in Baltimore and the question came up: why shouldn’t it be the same as the fine for blocking a road: $250?
A letter was read raising the issue of the fine disparity, calling it symbolic of second-class status for city cyclists. Biking advocates in the room chimed in.
“We do want respect for cyclists to increase,” said Carol Silldorff, of One Less Car, who said her group supports raising the fine, if not now, at a future time. “It’s dangerous when a cyclist has to go around something blocking their way and go out into traffic.”
“The biking community will be back next year, asking for a raise,” predicted Greg Hinchliffe, who chairs the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Committee.
“A $75 ticket would freak me out totally,” said Council member Mary Pat Clarke, sponsor of the bike bills. “Let them come back in a year if people are violating it. I just think $75 is an awful lot of money.”
(Would a $75 fine deter the cabs and Fed-Ex trucks and other commercial types of vehicles that seem to park in bike lanes? Here are some photos from Liam Quigley’s blog illustrating this problem)
It was pretty much the only ripple of controversy in a generally workmanlike meeting to move some of Clarke’s bike bills through the Community Development subcommittee.
The bills they approved include:
* 09-0175R, a resolution calling for city police to work out enforcement policies and better ways to get bicycle crash data.
“We need a better relationship between bicyclists and police officers on the street,” said Clarke. “There is a certain reluctance among some officers to take a report when a bicycle is involved.”
* 09-0431, a bill requiring the installation of bike-safe grates (perpendicular to traffic flow) whenever city streets are repaved.
A representative of the Department of General Services noted that installing a bike safe grate runs about $1,200. Hinchliffe noted that, as a money-saving strategy, the old grates can often just be turned 90 degrees and reinstalled.
“On Maryland Avenue, all the grates are the wrong way,” Councilmember William H. Cole IV. “It affects the University of Baltimore people. I’ve gotten quite a lot of calls about it.”
* 09-0430, a bill to allow for the creation of bike lanes and establish fines for those who black them. (They’ve amended it to make it clear that the lanes are not meant for motorized vehicles , ie dirt bikes.)
Other bills in Clarke’s bike package are still pending and may be heard on Sept. 20: the Cyclist’s Bill of Rights (a resolution) and two bills concerning parking for bikes.
One of those bills is essentially a zoning bill and will be heard by the Planning Commission on Sept. 2. It requires new and expanded buildings to provide bike parking.