by Hap Cooper
BOTTOM LINE: Representatives of the RPCL Board met with Michelle Pourciau, the new Director of the Department of Transportation (DDOT), and her staff to request restoration of curbside parking along Roland Avenue with a wider, safer bike lane. Mrs. Pourciau was very receptive and suggested that our two teams stay in contact over the next several weeks as she digests all the relevant materials. Michelle and her team committed to being ready to recommend next steps in 30 days—which we thought was reasonable given all the turnover in the department.
THE WHOLE STORY: In response to increasing pressure on the BCDOT from the RPCL, Sharon Middleton, convened a meeting on Monday, September 18th with the following participants:
Sharon Middleton (Council Representative, 6th District)
Robert Ginyard (from the Councilwoman’s office)
Michelle Pourciau (Director, Department of Transportation)
Veronica McBeth (Department of Transportation)
Graham Young (Department of Transportation)
Mary Kay Battafarano (RPCL, At Large Plat Rep)
Anne Stuzin (RPCL, 2nd Vice President)
Chris McSherry (RPCL, 1st Vice President)
Hap Cooper (RPCL, President)
The purpose of the meeting was for us to meet the new Director, provide some context, and request her help in restoring curbside parking along Roland Avenue immediately with a wider, safer bike lane.
Graham Young shared the DRAFT BCDOT traffic and intercept study beforehand and we brought copies of our resolution and research for the BCDOT team to take away. Mr. Young committed to having the final study ready for us to disseminate within the next week. Their study contained no surprises and the data essentially mirrored that of the study commissioned by our own committee.
The Director began the meeting by providing her background, which included transportation planning, engineering and community liaison work. She is the former Director of the Department of Transportation in Washington D.C.
Our group provided a detailed history of the Cycle Track discussion, implementation and results. We made it clear that although we welcomed the idea of a cycle track, the execution did not work and the goals were not achieved. Roland Avenue is too narrow, cross streets are too frequent and debris is too prevalent for the track to function as it was envisioned.
Consequently, minor and major accidents have spiked and the community does not feel safe. Many cyclists will not ride in the narrow cycle track and getting out of a car into traffic can be terrifying—especially for seniors and parents with young children. We impressed upon the Director that this is a highly charged and very emotional issue.
We also discussed the many anchor institutions along that stretch of Roland Avenue (churches, schools, clubs, restaurants, stores, the library, etc) and how each of them and their constituents have been negatively impacted by the cycle track—economically as well as from a safety perspective.
The former DDOT, William Johnson, and his staff repeatedly committed to Roland Park that the “cycle track is only paint” and if it doesn’t work, they would restore curbside parking. We reminded all the representatives at the meeting that we were holding the City to that commitment.
Director Pourciau listened intently, took notes and apologized that the Department had not been more responsive (she was not installed until a month after the RPCL Annual Meeting and cycle track vote). She recently visited Roland Avenue to see the street design first hand and confirmed that she understood our sense of urgency.
She told us that she has not seen our study and that the City’s study is not even final yet. She also mentioned that she has been barraged by multiple other priorities since taking office. Consequently she asked if she and her staff could have 30 days to get their arms around all the information. To her credit, she asked her staff members if 30 days would work for them and had each of them commit to that timeline. She also encouraged us to communicate in the interim.
Councilwoman Middleton will reconvene the RPCL and BCDOT in mid-October to discuss a detailed action plan. We will continue to post updates on this site as progress continues.
(For background see Cycle Track Committee page)