Luis O. Cardona is Director of Economic Development at the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore (DPOB). The Downtown Partnership oversees the Downtown Management Authority, Baltimore’s oldest and largest business improvement district, which covers 106 city blocks. The partnership supports biking and walking through events such as Bike 2 Work Day and related events in city parks. It also helps small businesses obtain bike parking, recruits businesses to participate in the League of American Bicyclists’ Bike Friendly Business Program, and subsidizes monthly bike share passes for low-income residents. 4
HIS ANGLE » BIKING & WALKING ARE CRITICAL TO THE GROWING DOWNTOWN POPULATION OF BALTIMORE
According to Luis Cardona, biking and walking are critical markers in the overall health and attractiveness of the downtown Baltimore district. When residents and visitors are comfortably navigating a city on foot and by bike, it increases the density of people on sidewalks, which encourages increased retail opportunities. Since the city’s downtown resident population is rapidly growing, the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore spends a great deal of time educating its car-oriented business stakeholders on why the partnership supports improved street conditions for bike and pedestrian users. This can be particularly challenging when talk turns to the recent installation of bicycling infrastructure downtown that has frustrated some drivers. However, “the Downtown Partnership recognizes that an increasing number of downtown residents and employees are electing to use bikes as a form of transit, and this represents the next step in the evolution of Baltimore’s central business district,” says Mr. Cardona.
The DPOB has formally supported Complete Streets legislation to support the safety of pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit users on city streets. It also has worked with its sponsor since the ordinance’s introduction to refine the language and gain buy-in from entities throughout Baltimore.
HIS ANGLE » PEER CITIES POINT TOWARDS BENEFITS OF IMPROVED BIKING & WALKING
According to Mr. Cardona, “[f ]or the past 75 years, downtown Baltimore has been engineered to move drivers in and out of the city at high speeds.” Many powerful local stakeholders use cars to access jobs and are generally unsupportive of changes to city streets that they perceive could disadvantage their rapid movement in and out of downtown. During the past decade, however, downtown Baltimore has become one of the city’s most populated neighborhoods with 42,000 residents as of 2017, and most of these residents do not own cars.
“Our messaging tends to be straightforward and consistent—the more people who feel safe walking and biking downtown, the healthier and more successful downtown Baltimore will be,” Says Mr. Cardona.
Currently, the Downtown Partnership is involved in efforts to widen sidewalks, augment park spaces, and make other improvements to the street-level experience in downtown Baltimore to encourage increased bike and pedestrian usage. It often points to other cities that have made similar improvements and experienced increased sidewalk density, which encourages more retail use. However, the partnership wants to use more data to make a stronger case.