Cumberland Times-News

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June 18, 2014

Frederick Street speed complaints continue; revised bike lane plan may slow things down

— CUMBERLAND — Following renewed complaints over speeding on Frederick Street, a revised plan for a bicycle lane on the thoroughfare may have the unintended effect of alleviating the problem if residents accept the new cycling proposal.

“If I had a speeding gun I could pay off the national debt out here,” said Ronald Middleton of 1808 Frederick St.

Middleton spoke Tuesday during the public input portion of the regular meeting of the mayor and City Council held at City Hall.

“The people are texting and on phones. I’ve lost two vehicles, totaled. It’s terrible,” said Middleton.

The current speed limit on Frederick Street is 25 mph. Numerous residents have complained for years that motorists commonly far exceed the speed limit on the street that transitions to two lanes in the vicinity of Conrad Avenue.

Middleton said his twin brother also had a vehicle totaled while he attended a church service on the street.

“Something has to be done about the speeding on Frederick Street,” he said.

Councilwoman Nicole Wagoner, who lives in the Frederick Street vicinity, spoke to Middleton’s concerns.

“The street was a truck route at one time. It is no longer used for that as much. I have to watch myself because it’s an open area. I do see the upside of adding a bike lane because it would eliminate the double lane,” said Wagoner.

The city had developed a proposal last year to add a bicycle lane on Frederick and Bedford streets after receiving a $75,000 grant from the Maryland Bikeways Program.

The plan was to add a 5- to 7-foot bike lane on the right side of Frederick Street, move car parking, which is currently on the right, to the left side and reduce the auto lanes from two to one.

“Preventing speeding was not the purpose of the plan. However I do think it would be a side effect,” said John DiFonzo, city engineer.

The proposal met opposition during a public meeting on the topic in February when nearly 50 residents showed up at the Cornerstone Baptist Church to voice their concerns. Many safety and logistics issued were raised, with much of the opposition focused on the proposal’s plan to shift parking to the left side. The meeting forced DiFonzo and the other city officials to go back to the drawing board.

“I have to admit I thought our plan was a good one, but they changed my mind,” said DiFonzo.

Following the public meeting, DiFonzo took the suggestions from the citizens and held several meetings with Maryland biking officials, the State Highway Administration and state and city police officials. A revised plan was created that would keep parking on the right and move the bike lane also to the right, beside the car parking lane, and eliminate one auto lane.

A proposed bike lane on Bedford Street was discarded in favor of adding “Share the Road” signs.

Due to the manhole covers, grates and other obstacles, DiFonzo said the cyclists didn’t feel strongly about adding a designated bike lane on Bedford Street.

DiFonzo said the revised plan for Frederick and Bedford streets met the approval of Dustin Kuzan, bike and pedestrian coordinator for the highway administration.

“We are trying to change things to accommodate the things that are important to the residents,” said DiFonzo.

While no scenario is perfect, having the bike lane beside the parked cars seems to be acceptable to the officials supporting the plan. The lane would be wide enough for alert cyclists to handle any sudden pullouts or vehicle doors opening.

DiFonzo said bicyclists and vehicle operators deal with each other and the conditions around them every day across the country.

A new public meeting is to be scheduled for mid-July to discuss the revised plan with the area residents.

“We feel our current de-sign does satisfy everything in accordance with SHA design guidelines. I hope the neighbors feel better about this. People walking and kids playing is not good with speeding happening,” said DiFonzo.

Greg Larry can be contacted at glarry@times-news.com.

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