Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Bicycling in Baltimore: Will it get better?

I want to be excited by the news that Baltimore leaders are trying to make this a more attractive city to those who might be considering moving here, and I really want to get excited at the prospect of riding my bike around town to do errands and not get run off the road by angry motorists. The rest of the world includes bicycles in their transportation planning, because they have to. Do we have to wait until we are as congested as Vietnam or China, for example, before we decide that maybe bikes deserve to be on the road, too?

But some of the comments at the story in the Baltimore Sun, really have me wondering what is wrong with people. Bicycles should be banned? Cyclists should be Tased, maced, and clotheslined?

Baltimore City Council passes Cyclists' Bill of Rights

The most sensible comment I've heard in a long time is from the person who notes that motorists who complain that bicyclists don't obey the law are simply not aware of the majority of bicyclists who are doing just that. It's only the errant cyclist -- the one cuts you off/ runs a red light/ zooms past pedestrians on the sidewalk, etc., etc. -- that's the one who becomes your idea of a bicyclist. Most bicyclists are very safe because they are well aware of the huge disparity of weight between them and you, barreling down on them in your SUV. (Full disclosure here: I have an SUV as well as a bike.)

If you agree with me that there's too much traffic on the roads, think about how much it would help if some of those cars were replaced by bikes. I think it would make a tremendous impact. Here's what the City Council Resolution calls for:
  • equal access to city streets
  • greater involvement in planning by bicyclists
  • greater awareness of bicyclists' rights in accident cases
  • improved bike parking and mass transit access for bicycles
 I think we can live with that. What do you think?

image: Jean-Marie Hullot

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

You know the rules, hon ...

You can't complain if you don't vote!

Visit the Maryland State Board of Elections web site for info on where, when, and how.

Polling places are open in Maryland from 7 am to 8 pm.

image from yaquina

Monday, November 1, 2010

The vocal local

Now that Halloween is over, we're running head-on into the holiday season. You can tell because all the big box stores are telling us "Buy! Buy! Buy!" (Even eBay has a ribbon today that says "54 days.")

If you're like me, you're stuck in a position of "Gee, I'd like to help the economy by going shopping" and "Yikes! Did you see the BGE bill? How are we gonna pay that?!"

In other words, we're all watching our pennies these days. But it's important to see where our pennies are going as well as watching them leave our hands. Not to name any one specific big box store that I refuse to shop in (but it has a really creepy smiley face logo), but any time you can go local you help individuals directly -- rather than trying to rationalize that "well, big box store pays employees and perhaps they get a fair wage -- although they can't possibly afford health insurance" -- any time you can go local it's a good thing.

In fact, it helps the neighbors. It helps the neighborhood. It helps you.

Pick 3 local merchants and spend $50. More of that will stay in the neighborhood than if you shop big box. From The 3/50 Project:
For every $100 spent in locally owned independent stores, $68 returns to the community through taxes, payroll, and other expenditures. If you spend that in a national chain, only $43 stays here. Spend it online, and nothing comes home.

We are so lucky to have vibrant small businesses in our area. Let's help keep them alive this holiday season by shopping local. If you need some ideas of what's in the neighborhood, we've got a short list on the right side bar, but the Hamilton-Lauraville Main Street blog has a comprehensive list (on the left hand side).

In fact, the most exciting news of the week for me so far is that we're getting a bakery!