Cumberland Times-News

Local News

February 20, 2014

Citizens raise concerns over bike lane plan

CUMBERLAND — City of Cumberland officials heard numerous impassioned viewpoints from concerned citizens on Thursday in regard to a city plan that would add bike lanes for both Frederick and Bedford streets.

With plans for the 5- to 6-foot wide bike lane to be on the right side of Frederick Street, the project would require several changes for area residents. Parking on Frederick would be moved from the right side to the left and the two-lane portion of extended Frederick would be reduced to one lane.

“I think the idea is going to create a lot of traffic issues and safety problems,” one resident told the officials.

 Around 50 concerned citizens attended the open meeting held at the Cornerstone Baptist Church on Frederick Street to offer input on the plan that would be financed by a $75,000 grant awarded to the city from the Maryland Bikeways Program.

The meeting, which included blueprints of the plan, was hosted by John DiFonzo, city engineer, Dave Umling, city planner, and Stacey Simpson, engineering technician.

The proposed bike lanes would be on the right side of both Frederick and Bedford streets.

The largest amount of resistance for the project was on two issues. Several citizens resisted the idea of the presence of a bike lane at all on Bedford Street and objected to the idea of the bike lane on Frederick Street forcing residents to park on the right side instead of the left as they do now.

Many asked why the bike lane project was being added at all.

“The state is moving in this direction. They (Frederick and Bedford streets) have already been designated as biking routes,” said DiFonzo.

DiFonzo said the number of bicyclists is increasing in the community.

Also present at the meeting was Jack Murray Jr., who holds a seat on the city’s Bicycle Advisory Commission.

“It’s a proven fact that adding marked bicycle lanes is safer,” said Murray.

Murray also said that statistics show by narrowing the lane, which would occur on Frederick with the added bike lane, and reducing the lanes from two to one, will cause motorists to slow down.

Many were in agreement at the meeting that speeding has been a problem on Frederick Street.

“I’ve been hearing about the speeding problems since the 1970s,” said DiFonzo.

Bedford Street resident David Phillips had several concerns with the bike lane on Bedford Street. He and others felt that the street was too narrow for the addition of a lane.

Several citizens at the meeting favored simply adding a “Share the Road” sign to both streets allowing bikers to use the road as needed.

DiFonzo acknowledged that two plans emerged from the meeting that warranted further consideration.

One plan was leaving the parking on the right side of Frederick Street and placing the bike lane beside the parked cars. This will still reduce Frederick Street to one lane, but would keep a reasonably wide berm on the left side.

A second idea that had wide support was doing away with any official bike lane for Bedford Street and have bicyclists and motorists share the road.

Cindy Mowery, who lives on the right side of Frederick Street, circulated a petition against the city plan and obtained 50 signatures.

“I did it in about three hours. I had only around three people who didn’t want to sign,” said Mowery.

Mowery has a son who is in a wheelchair. She said she is concerned because disabled transportation vehicles deploy on the right.

“It’s the reason I bought my home in 2007 where it is,” she said.

If the plan would force parking to be moved to the left on her street, she feels it would place a hardship she never intended to have.

“It makes me upset because I would have to sell and move,” she said.

Mowery said she wished the city would have held meetings before they pursued the grant.

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

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