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Neighborhoodsby Mark Reutter12:28 pmMay 21, 20200

Pressed to close roads during the pandemic, Young limits traffic on five blocks

The City Council wants 25 miles of roadways to be converted for pedestrian use; today the mayor banned through traffic on a short stretch of Linwood Avenue

Above: The unit block of South Linwood Avenue will be closed to through traffic under the mayor’s “Slow Streets Pilot Program.”(garthwilliamsrealtor.com)

On the heels of a City Council bill calling for 25 miles of roadways to be set aside for pedestrians and cyclists during the Covid-19 emergency, the mayor announced that through traffic will be banished from five blocks of a southeast street.

Branding the closing as a significant expansion of his Slow Streets Pilot Program, Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young thanked the directors of Transportation and Recreation and Parks for “the hard work their departments have put into making this pilot successful enough to expand.”

Along the five blocks of South Linwood Avenue that front Patterson Park, the road will be restricted to local traffic.

Traffic calming barriers will be placed at Eastern Avenue and at East Baltimore, East Lombard and East Pratt streets to prevent cars from turning onto Linwood.

The changes, effective today, will let park users move more freely between the main area of Patterson Park west of Linwood and the park’s smaller eastern annex.

The mayor’s announcement, however, warns that “if residents do not follow social distancing protocols, the program will be terminated immediately.”

Too Much Staff Time

Earlier pilot programs have released roadway space to walkers and cyclists at Druid Hill Park and at Lake Montebello.

On Monday, the Council sent to Young the “Temporary Street Space for Pedestrians and Cyclists” bill that would close at minimum 25 miles of city streets during the Covid lockdown to encourage social distancing and outdoor exercise by residents.

The Department of Transportation opposed the bill, saying it would require too much staff time and inter-agency coordination to implement on such short notice (the bill requires lane and street closures to be enacted within 14 days of the mayor’s approval of the bill).

Young has given no indication of whether he will sign the bill. Today’s action suggests that he wants a much slower and more limited roll-out of road closures.

Summer Cancellations

Yesterday, the mayor gave the clearest signal yet that the Covid-19 restrictions governing Baltimore will stay in effect over the summer.

He announced that public events attracting more than 250 participants will be forbidden through August 31. This includes such popular summer attractions as Artscape, AFRAM and the Fourth of July fireworks display at the Inner Harbor.

Young also said city residents who leave home for “essential” activities must stay six feet apart from others and wear masks at all times.

He rejected a request by some Little Italy restaurant owners to use sidewalks or street space for outdoor meal service, saying, “If they open, they’re breaking the law.”

And he stressed those messages today with a robocall reminding listeners of his decision to “keep the stay-at-home order in effect.”

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