Annapolis, Maryland calls in outside bike planner

Toole Design Group helps draft city’s pedestrian and bike master plan

While many cities develop their own pedestrian and bicycle master plans, this past May the city of Annapolis, Maryland called in help from Toole Design Group to draft its plan.

The Toole Design Group previously drafted similar plans for larger cities including nearby Baltimore and Washington D.C., as well as Seattle. Dealing with a smaller city, especially one laid out as Annapolis presented its own unique challenges, but Toole Design Group was ready to help make it a more bicycle friendly destination.

“One thing that is unique is that there is a lot of water near and around Annapolis,” Lucas Cruse, senior planner at Toole Design Group told BikeRadar. “There are a lot of streams and un-crossable nature barriers.”

He says that this has created restrictive traffic flow patterns that mean everyone relies on certain routes. “It is also a really old city,” said Cruse, noting that the roads were first laid out about 350 years ago. “Roadways are certainly narrow, but were laid out following baroque planning ideals with the focus on the two circles in the center (church and state house) and radial roads leading out from there.  There are then gridded streets filling the spaces between those radials."

The problems begin where the city meets the county. This is where newer – but still old – development didn’t take cycling into account. “The developments from the 1950s never considered the bikes,” says Cruse. “In these areas the roads were made a luge tracks for automobiles. These present significant barriers to get out of the cities.”

Riding out of Annapolis can mean riding on narrow roads and having to cross major highways. And while the team at TDG is hoping to improve routes for bicyclists, there is no straight line to get there. “We’re trying to pick out how to best fix that,” says Cruse. “The biggest challenge is something you see everywhere and that is funding. As a country we don’t do a great job of funding that type of transportation.”

Instead the funding often is part of other projects, and TDG is looking to include bicycle paths, bike lanes and other improvements in those other projects. “We have to look at capital improvements and resurfacing and include bicycle paths into those.” Cruse says, “It is just hard to make it about bikes unless it is part of a larger project. That is a national challenge.”

The goal is also to make Annapolis an ideal place for as many riders as possible, and in doing so may not be able to meet the needs for competitive and causal riders alike. “Annapolis has a large riding community. We’re looking at safe routes to schools, and having a plan that is for everyone else,” says Cruse. “It is designed for the commuter, the guy going to the corner store. It is a system that everyone can use.”

But yet there are still challenges and the planners agree that it can mean more than just adding bike lanes, and that adding a strip of paint isn’t often enough to make people – especially those with families and younger riders – feel safe when riding on busy roads.

This why the plan will be assembled in July for public review, before the submission of the final draft in August. “When we are doing a master plan we have an idea of what it takes to put a facility on the ground, so it isn’t just lines on a map.”

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