Bike Maryland’s Director on the Future of Bicycling


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By Roland Oehme

Last month, Bike Maryland hosted its 15th Annual Maryland State Bicycle Symposium. The symposium gathered bike enthusiasts, public policy makers, and various organizations together to evaluate the state’s “bikeability,” and where better bicycle policies are needed.

Here Carol Silldorff, executive director of Bike Maryland, answers some questions about the future of bicycling in Maryland and the United States.

1)      Explain the Maryland State Bicycle Symposium and its purpose. Has the symposium met its goals?

The state symposium is an opportunity to bring together decision makers, business leaders, legislators, off-road, and on-road bicyclists to learn more about bicycle initiatives and opportunities in Maryland.

It’s been hugely successful! This year about 150 people attended. It’s an educational opportunity for all of them. And the more people know about the environment or green homes or alternative transportation or bicycling, the more opportunities will exist for those things to be enhanced.

2)       Tell me about your organization, Bike Maryland.

Bike Maryland is a nonprofit organization and our goal is to increase the number of cyclists, to enhance infrastructure, to support a pro bike agenda on the state and county level (meaning advocating for pro-bike legislation), and to be a voice for all bicyclists in Maryland.

We have a number of different programs. One is our Bike Friendly Maryland program. The other one is our Bike Minded program where we host free youth workshops and adult commuter classes to make sure that those who are on the road are cycling safely. And, we have lots of initiatives throughout a variety of counties to promote and advocate for bikeability.

Our annual fundraiser is Baltimore’s premier bike event and it is called Tour du Port. And, that is going to be held on September 30. 2,000 cyclists get the opportunity to tour the waterfront areas, historic neighborhoods, and parks.

3)       How would you compare bicycling conditions between Washington, DC, Baltimore, and New York City?

New York has taken off substantially in its bikeability and bike friendliness, and DC is moving ahead quickly. They have Capital Bikeshare, the largest bike share program in the country. So, tourists can rent bikes to get around town for hardly anything.

Baltimore is moving up the ladder. I think Baltimore might have been rated 11th in the country, and Maryland was rated 10th in the country out of all of the states.

When you talk about green homes, just having an environment that is bikeable is important. The best places to bike are the best places to live, meaning the best places to live are the best places to bike. It just enhances the quality of life.

4)       What are the major challenges facing bicycling in Maryland and nationally?

There needs to be more awareness campaigns, both for the cyclist and the motorist. There is not as much as you would like to see taking place by the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Maryland Department of Transportation, and some of these other groups that really regulate drivers.

We would like there to be more education, more signage, more of an awareness campaign. While I think we are doing great legislatively, we just don’t have enough enforcement or education programs that are really taking place in Maryland. So, there are a lot of pluses, but there are definitely areas where improvements can be made.

5)       What progress has been made in Maryland and nationally?

There has been a tremendous amount of progress in just the last 3 years or so. There have been six bills that have passed on the state level to really enhance bikeability. There have also been a lot of things happening throughout the state on the county level.

Baltimore City has fines now, so if a car is blocking the bike lane, there is a $75 fine. We are seeing these things pop up in other areas of the state, too. Baltimore City now has bike racks on all of its buses. Bike Maryland was the organization that made that happen, and now other cities are following suit with that.

Universities and businesses want to learn how to be more bike-friendly, and now there is a program through Bike Maryland where we can teach them to do that.

There are more bike lanes, a lot more bike facilities, more pro-bike laws, and more educational campaigns for the bicyclists.

6)       What do you want to see happen in the future with bicycling?

Well, I would like to see organizations like Bike Maryland really get a lot of support and increased membership.

I would like to see more of a focus by the governmental organizations on education and enforcement, and infrastructure, in the sense of signage. I also think that there could be some more possible funding opportunities that are brought to Maryland citizens and governmental organizations.

Also, we want to see advocacy organizations form on the city or county level so they can really focus on what is taking place in their localities.

7)       Is there another city with great bicycling that you would like to emulate here in Baltimore?

Every place would like to be like Portland, Oregon if we were to pick a place in the United States– that would be great!  They have so many bike lanes and so much more funding going to cyclists.

But, if you ask Portland who they would like to be like, I am sure they would pick some place in Europe, like Denmark. We all want to improve as much as we can. We all want to reduce fatalities and crashes, and just have the space to travel safely and conveniently.

8)       How is bicycling important to green, sustainable living?

Bicycling has a very small carbon footprint. Automobiles certainly contribute to air quality, and you can’t just keep that outside air from coming inside.

Also, [bicycling contributes to] green living in the sense that having a car is a big thing to purchase, a big expense. If a person is able to not have a car, they can possibly focus their funding on other types of green investments.

Just in general, bicycling, of course, is good for public health and is also a big connection as to why people want to be green. In regards to a home, it just makes for better, more livable communities, [creates] a sense of place, and a better lifestyle.

I have certainly seen improvements with the greenways in Baltimore City and counties of Maryland. I think it has big recreational and transportation component as well.

Sure, recreationally there is not such a great public health benefit, but certainly transportation-wise, we would like to see people of all ages, races, and economic backgrounds be able to get on a bike safely and utilize it.

9)      How did you get into bicycling and become the director of Bike Maryland?

I have a master’s in public administration with a specialization in environmental management. So, I have always had a deep care for the environment, and I have been a bicyclist for 30 years.

I worked for Bike Maryland as a consultant for a while, and then I applied for the position and got it. Due to some other things I could not take it at that time. Then later it opened again, and I applied again, and I got it. I just thought there is such a match with my personal passions for bicycling and the environment. They totally overlap in my mind.

10)  Is there a website for more information about bicycling in Maryland?

Definitely, go to www.bikemd.org, and folks can view the symposium. The video should be up by the end of today. And, they can look at all of the programs and all of the different things we have going on. The photos are up now and the video will be up by end of today.

Roland Oehme is a green and healthy living landscape architect and writer. Read his blog at: //www.greenharmonydesign2007.blogspot.com/.


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