The Baltimore City Council will hear public testimony Wednesday on the “Complete Streets” bill, which would require the city Department of Transportation to prioritize pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly road design.
Councilman Ryan Dorsey’s bill, which is supported by transit and bicycling advocates, would create a coordinating council of eight agency heads, and require the city transportation director report annually to the council and the public on the initiative’s progress.
“Everybody wants transportation safety in the city to be improved,” Dorsey said. “It’s a multi-faceted approach. We know design makes the most significant impact. That’s why Complete Streets is focused on design.”
The legislation is the product of a year’s worth of meetings with the transportation department and other stakeholders, he said.
The bill has the support of City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young and most of the council. Although Mayor Catherine E. Pugh has not closely studied it, it generally aligns with her priorities, said Pugh spokesman Greg Tucker. The Department of Transportation issued a favorable agency report on it, Dorsey said.
The hearing Wednesday is expected to be packed with the bill’s supporters, which include Bikemore, the city’s bicycle advocacy organization, and the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance, a transit riders’ group.
The city directors of transportation, planning, public works, health, recreation and parks, and sustainability, as well as a representative of the Maryland Transit Administrator, will comprise the coordinating council.
It will allow the departments to better collaborate and prioritize projects, such as promoting infrastructure for walking and bicycling over cars in neighborhoods with high rates of obesity and asthma, Dorsey said.
“Complete Streets ensure that our roadways are safe for — and serve the needs of — all users, so that you can get wherever you need to go, whether or not you own a car,” he said.
Councilman Leon Pinkett, who represents West Baltimore, said the bill will serve as a road map to better aligning street design with communities’ needs.
“For far too long we have not prioritized the way that we address our public right of way, to the detriment to many communities,” he said.
Brian O’Malley, president of the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance, called the Complete Streets legislation an “important shift in how local governments address and act as stewards of their streets.”
“Streets are not just traffic sewers, meaning they do a lot more for cities than move cars through them,” he said. “They’re a big part of the public space of cities; they’re a big part of the character of the neighborhoods; they affect health and happiness of people living there. It’s high time we recognized that and plan them accordingly.”