I bike every day. As a 20-something grad student with tuition debt, owning a car is out of the question, as is defaulting to Uber for all my rides. I rely on my bike for everything – commuting to school, grocery shopping, running errands – you name it, I bike it. I’ve lived the cycle life since college in Boston and D.C. before coming to Baltimore a year ago.
Biking in this city is different. No, there are not enough bike lanes, regularly causing too-close-for-comfort encounters with cars. Yes, there is glass strewn everywhere on the streets, which has given me three flat tires in the past few months.
But I love biking and I won’t stop. I love the freedom it gives me, being able to leave whenever I want and take whatever route I choose. It is a reason I feel safe in this city, having reliable independence and speed at my toe tips.
But what bugs me about biking in Baltimore, more than the glass and absent lanes is the gaping lack of bike racks. As soon as I’m within a few blocks of my destination, I slow down and scan the sidewalks for a sturdy, immovable structure in a well-lit place with regular pedestrian traffic. In Baltimore, I rarely find one.
Too often I resort to locking my bike to a street sign, which can be a feeble deterrent for a bike thief. Known as “Sucker Poles,” many signposts can easily be unscrewed or have a U lock hoisted over them – not ideal for someone who wants to keep a bike from getting stolen.
This city has recently invested a lot into expanding its bike-ability. This past year, Baltimore’s bicycle share program was rebooted, the Hopkins shuttles gained bike racks, and MARC train modifications continued to allow bikes on cars any day of the week.
With Baltimore’s momentum building as a bike-friendly city, we’re going to see more and more cyclists on the streets. Having a secure spot to lock up your bike is a rational requirement to owning and using a bicycle, especially in Baltimore which has a history of bike theft. So I ask you, Baltimore Department of Transportation, where are the bike racks?
Rose Pollard is a public health masters student at Johns Hopkins.