Work From Home

Bike to Work Day shines light on two-wheel commutes, sharing the road safely

At 7 o’clock this morning, Ray Bahr began ringing the bell on his bicycle and announcing where he was about to go.

“Baltimore, Irvington, Pigtown,” he called out repeatedly.

Six bicyclists joined Bahr, a 50-year-old program manager for stormwater management at the Maryland Department of the Environment, in the driveway of the Catonsville fire station on Frederick Road, as they set off for a group ride. The route took the riders into the city along Frederick Road and the Gwynns Falls Trail.

The ride was part of Bike to Work Day, a national movement to promote bicycling as an alternative to using a car for commuting.

Riders included Susie Kantt, a 52-year-old who works at Johns Hopkins University. Despite doing long distance rides of upwards of 40 miles on a regular basis, she had never biked to work before because she didn’t think there was a convenient route to her office.

“It’s kind of a circular motion,” she said. “If more people are on the road, there needs to be better facilities to fit with the cycling lifestyle. If there are more safer facilities that can improve commutes, you can get more cyclists on the road.”

The nonprofit includes Bike to Work Day as part of its clean commute initiative. Between mid-April and October, the nonprofit promotes alternative means of transportation as a way to lessen emissions from cars, which contributes to dangerous ozone levels.

The nonprofit also argues that commuting to work by bicycle can save hundreds of dollars a month in car maintenance costs and provide an opportunity for exercise.

“Some people take that alternative mode of transportation and turn it into a lifestyle,” Van Wert said.

According to a 2013 study by American Community Survey, 0.3 percent of Maryland commuters bike to work, a rate that went up by 0.1 points between 2007 and 2013.

Maryland was ranked the 10th most bike friendly state in 2015, according to the league, down from the seventh spot the year before. The rankings evaluate five categories: Legislation and enforcement, policies and programs, infrastructure and funding, education and encouragement and evaluation and planning.

This year, the Maryland State Highway Administration is raising awareness for bicycle safety through a campaign called “Look Out for Each Other,” which includes billboard, radio and television public service announcements, transit advertisements and a social media campaign.

Bicycle-involved fatalities increased in Maryland from 6 in 2014, to 11 in 2015, to 16 in 2016, according to preliminary statistics from the Maryland State Highway Administration.

There have been more than 3,200 injuries in bicycle-involved crashes from 2011 to 2015, said Lora Rakowski, a safety and educator manager at the SHA. The majority of crashes happen in during the evening commute, with the most fatal incidents occurring between 5 and 6 p.m., she said.

When the state resurfaces roads, it evaluates whether wide shoulders or bike lanes can be added to accommodate bicyclists, she said.

Bike to Work Day serves as a way to not only encourage bicycling as a healthy and environmentally-friendly means of travel, but to promote safety on the roads, she said.

“When you’re traveling next to a bicycle, and it’s a 20-pound bicycle versus the average weight of a car being 4000 pounds, it’s clear bicyclists are going to be very vulnerable,” she said. “We need bicyclists and drivers to know the rules of the road and respect each other on the road.”

Work From Home