Bike Lanes in Baltimore

The Mechanic and I traveled via Amtrak to Baltimore last Saturday to partake in the Baltimore Zoo’s Brew at the Zoo, which was a weekend event of bands and beers. The bands were okay, but the beers were fun – we tried 18 different ones between the two of us!

Cheers from the Baltimore Zoo!

We also attempted to use our DC SmarTrip cards on the Baltimore system, which didn’t work so well – I single-handedly crashed at least 6 gates trying to use my card! Oops. The kind metro worker let me in, but I bought a one way fare card for the way back to the Amtrak station after we left the zoo.  The Mechanic’s SmarTrip card worked fine on our way, but not on the return, so he bought one too. Bummer! Next time I guess we’ll have to buy Charm Cards.


After our fun at the zoo, we ended up in Little Italy for dinner. Actually, we ended up in Vaccaro’s Italian Pastry Shop, a small Italian place we had stumbled upon in January when we were last in the area. The paninis are unbelievable, and how can you not love a place that offers olives and Asiago cheese as a side?! The line for cookies was too long, or we would have gotten cookies too.

Yum! Paninis from Vaccaro’s

But here is where I have to geek out a bit – there were all these cool bike lanes in Little Italy! Or at least on this one street we were on – a sharrows headed west and on the same street, an east-bound bike lane! On the same street!

Personally, I might have been a bit weirded out to bike towards oncoming traffic, even parked cars, but it’s great that they have this! I didn’t actually see anyone biking on it when we went by (come to think of it, I didn’t see anyone on a bike at all), but I hope that people actually do. It’s in a great location near the harbor, so there should be plenty of cyclists.  I guess I need to look up bicycle riding stats for Baltimore – does anyone know if there is a big bike culture there or not? I know I’ve seen other bike lanes around the harbor, but what about away from there?

There are certainly a ton of fun bike racks all over the harbor area! I hope that means they are well used. If we could get our bikes up to Baltimore on Amtrak (don’t get me started on train laws regarding bicycles around here!), I know we would use the lanes and the racks! Maybe later this summer we will have to check it out….

Crab bike rack

On the Go with LaHood

Last week The Mechanic and I attended a town hall talk at George Washington University with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

"On the Go" with Ray LaHood

I have been following his blog, Fast Lane, since I started my new job in transportation demand management (TDM), when my boss recommended it among others. When I told her I was going to hear Secretary LaHood, she said that he really gets the whole thing, smart streets and TDM, and she enjoys hearing him talk. After an hour with him, I understood why.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood

I guess I don’t expect politicians to all be personable, honest, and frank with their audiences. Perhaps it was because it was a university setting, college students in the audience, and Secretary LaHood had started off as a civics teacher, but he was surprisingly open about himself, his career path, and current politics. He told us how he ended up, as a Republican, appointed to the Obama administration (working well and being friends with Rahm Emanuel, and working well with then-Senator Obama), emphasizing, not for the first time, how important it is to work well with others. “To solve problems, help other people,” he said, stating that in politics it is about building relationships to get stuff done. (That being said, he admitted that there are many in office right now who don’t want to do anything because it will be seen as helping or working with the president.)

I was a bit worried that the talk would never get around to it’s topic – “On the Go: Ensuring a Quality Transportation System,” but eventually it did. Proving my boss correct, LaHood said “The people want mass transit – we don’t sit around at DOT making this stuff up.” He wants to provide what people want – buses, light rail, streetcars, subway systems – not to replace cars, but to give people different ways to get around. 

Although the conversations were wide ranging (I’d like to add that all but maybe two of the people asking questions were male – I really wanted to get up and ask something but couldn’t think of anything intelligent enough), Secretary LaHood answered everything honestly and openly. Well, he did refuse to talk about the tax-per-mile issue, which apparently got him into trouble a few years ago. I had to look it up and find out what the drama was – but was still impressed that he answered every other question.

There were three big take-aways from the evening for me. One was that cities and states that have good multi-use roads and smart cities is because the mayors and governors come to DOT wanting it, which means they are officials elected by people who want these things. The other is that there will always be some sort of federal subsidy for transportation in this country, of some sort, be it Amtrak, highways, or streetcars. And to go back to Secretary LaHood’s big point about working together and the importance of compromise to get things done.

Oh, and distracted driving – don’t talk or text while you are driving!