ANNAPOLIS – Firefighter Bill Kelly never gets caught in traffic between his Washington station and College Park home. He’s usually on his bicycle.
“Sometimes I never touch my van for two or three days,” Kelly, 54, said.
He isn’t alone. More and more Marylanders, he said, ride bicycles as “door to door transportation” – for work as well as play.
And to demand their share of the highways, bicyclists from all over the state will rally here Sunday outside the Statehouse. Many are cycling the 30 miles from College Park, said Kelly, a member of the College Park Bicycle Coalition.
The rally is in support of Bike-Ped Total Access 2000, legislation written by Del. James Rosapepe, D-Prince George’s, and bicyclist Bill Clark.
The measure seeks to protect trails from destruction, promote bicycle safety and provide bicycle and pedestrian access throughout the state. It also calls for the state to allocate funds for bicycle and pedestrian projects, although it doesn’t specify how much.
A similar bill has been introduced by Sen. Arthur Dorman, D- Prince George’s.
Kelly said both Rosapepe and Dorman – and even Gov. Parris N. Glendending – have ridden with the College Park Bicycle Coalition.
But the issue is new to many lawmakers, Rosapepe said. The legislation is intended to call attention to and solve problems that bicyclists and pedestrians face, he said.
Kelly said building bicycle trails is not costly. “It is 100 times more expensive to put in a road than a trail,” he said.
But he also knows state and federal money is hard to come by. That is why so many bicyclists are willing to police and clean the trails in what Kelly called “community service.”
Bicyclists hope the rally sends a message to lawmakers.
“The support is there across the state,” said Bob Rice, a member of the Annapolis Bicycle Club and owner of the Downtown Bicycle shop on Dock Street.
Maryland is one of the best states in planning and providing bicycle access, but needs to do more, Rice and others agreed.
“This is a first step which, if accomplished, can be truly empowering,” said Larry Bleau, College Park Bicycle Coalition treasurer.
Bleau commutes daily to and from work at the University of Maryland. In fact, he doesn’t even own a car. He has a pass to take his bicycle on the Metro during non-rush hours, and for grocery shopping, rides Metro to the Hyattsville station with a box on the bike for cargo.
Rice said many people in Annapolis commute to work by bicycle, something difficult to do on old, narrow city streets. “Annapolis is not a bicycle-friendly city yet,” he said.
One goal of Bike-Ped Total Access 2000 is to increase use of alternate forms of transportation, something Rice said would decrease pollution and health costs. “People who bike and walk more are healthier,” he said.
The Federal Highway Administration estimates that 7.9 percent of Americans bike or ride to work, said Harvey Muller, spokesman for the Maryland State Highway Administration. Comparable state statistics, however, were unavailable.
For more information on the rally, bicyclists may call Bill Kelly at 301-441-2740. -30-