Parts of Annapolis are good for bicycling. Parts are not.
You can ride downtown, or on a few trails through nice neighborhoods. Bay Ridge Road has wide, paved shoulders that make it a popular route out of Eastport. Hop on your Trek or Specialized and it’s an easy trip to Truxtun Park along Spa Road or Hilltop Lane.
But try Forest Drive, or venture far out onto West Street, and it’s like taking your life in your Schwinn handlebars. Live in some of the city’s poorest neighborhoods on the southern reaches, and biking to work may be out of the question.
When Gavin Buckley was first elected mayor of Annapolis in 2017, changing this landscape was one of his pledges.
True enough, his administration has added trails through Waterworks Park west of the city, even if riding there requires navigating heavy traffic. It marked off space for bicyclists on a few roads, made improvements to an existing trail and partnered with Bird to offer electric bike and scooter rentals. The company reports about 75,000 rides since its launch last year.
Yet if you ride into the city from the Baltimore Annapolis Trail — at 13 miles, the most popular trail in Anne Arundel County — you squeeze into dangerously narrow lanes of traffic after you cross the Naval Academy Bridge.
Look around. Not much has changed since the city abandoned its trial bike lane on Main Street weeks ahead of schedule five years ago, giving in to merchants who howled at the loss of a few dozen parking spaces.
So, I asked the mayor: With two years left in office, where is his bike revolution?
He arrived at the interview on a bike. He thought we were getting together at another coffee shop, and rode there first before turning around and pedaling back up Main Street to our meeting several blocks back the way he’d come.
“People really don’t know how much goes into these projects,” Buckley said, his white shirt and gray jacket slightly rumpled and sweaty. “We’ve got millions of dollars in grants in engineering and planning.”
Once completed, Buckley said these projects will make Annapolis the bikeable city he promised.
Others agree with him.
“Annapolis has now gone from enthusiasm to budgeting some money and most importantly, getting grants,” said Jon Korin, longtime president of Bicycle Advocates for Annapolis and Anne Arundel County. “The city is making real progress on design and should soon move to construction.”
A decade ago, there really was no plan. Annapolis tried to win designation from the League of American Bicyclists as a bike-friendly city, but failed. It didn’t have enough places to ride safely or programs to promote it.
Five years later, thanks in large part to the work of Korin and BikeAAA, the city and county combined in another application and won a bronze designation.
Today, the county is simply further ahead.
It added almost 30 miles of trails, bike lanes and sharrows (shared lanes), bringing the total in the city and county to 90 miles. Volunteers built an off-road trail in Crownsville, and County Executive Steuart Pittman’s administration is expanding existing trails into a network that will stretch from Sandy Point State Park in the east to Light Rail stations in the north, the Prince George’s County line in the west and Calvert County to the south. Bird, the bike-share company, is adding service to Parole and the rest of the county.
That progress will be celebrated Sunday at Lifeline 100 in Millersville, an annual showcase of trails and bike paths, cycling awareness and safety.
Annapolis remains in the planning phase.
The highest profile project is the funnel bringing riders from the B&A Trail into Annapolis. Most bicyclists stop at the parking lot just north of the Severn River, the southern terminus of the trail.
Some ride to the Naval Academy Bridge on the shoulders of Route 450, and they can use sidewalks for a short distance after crossing the river. That’s where cyclists get shoved onto narrow traffic lanes.
Buckley’s administration is working with the State Highway Administration, which owns the roadway; the Navy, which owns the land on either side; and the county. The county and state will fund the project.
The improved trail will lead cyclists to Taylor Avenue and then downtown via King George Street, or across Rowe Boulevard to Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. The Naval Academy Alumni Association didn’t make space in the design of its new center on King George, but Buckley hopes something can be worked out.
The WEE, the odd acronym for West East East Express Bikeway, is likely to be the first to reach construction.
The idea of connecting downtown Annapolis to Parole just across the county line dates back to 2011. It has three parts that roughly follow the old WB&A railroad corridor parallel to West Street: Calvert Street to Taylor Avenue; the existing Poplar Trail from Taylor Avenue to Admiral Drive; and the Outer WEE connecting Admiral Drive to Solomons Island Road (Route 2 south).
Annapolis has $6.8 million for the work, most of it from state grants, and work could begin next year.
The newest idea is the College Creek Connector. It would center on a new waterfront park off Rowe Boulevard envisioned as a gateway to downtown. The small triangle of land overlooks College Creek behind the Maryland State Archives, a remnant of an old Baltimore Annapolis Railroad right of way.
The state and the Navy each own part of the land, and the city is in talks with the state to turn over its portion. Annapolis recently relocated a small homeless encampment on the site and spent $25,000 cleaning up the state-owned portion.
Getting the Navy to agree will require an act of Congress. Perhaps in a nod to that challenge, Buckley has tossed out the idea of naming the park for two famed Naval Academy graduates, former President Jimmy Carter and the late U.S. Sen. John McCain.
The park would be at the center of a bike trail linking King George Street to Calvert Street along College Creek. It would tie St. John’s College and St. Anne’s Cemetery using an elevated boardwalk to preserve waterfront habitat and connect to the Route 450 project.
Annapolis has $315,00 budgeted for designing the trail, money provided by state transportation grants.
One appeal of making Annapolis more bikeable is a safe connection to the county’s most popular trail, and that means a lot more bicyclists on city streets than we have today. It is a tourism draw. But it is not just something for middle-aged cyclists in brightly colored Lycra.
It would lower the barrier between the city’s neighborhoods, which are starkly divided by income. It’s not just the waterfront millionaires who would benefit, but also residents of more affordable townhouses and subsidized rent complexes.
Smaller projects are out there, too. Annapolis is in right-of-way talks for the Hilltop Connector, a six-block link between Spa Road and Forest Drive where a bicyclist was killed this year. The city just got a $224,000 grant to turn those wide shoulders on Bay Ridge Road into a trail to Quiet Waters Park on the South River.
Buckley, whose penchant for ideas may only be exceeded by his optimism, believes all this will be completed by the end of his term-limited eight years in office.
“Yup,” he said, before getting back on his bike and riding off to City Hall.
I, on the other hand, doubt it.
It is far more likely that the 2025 election will be about completing some of his big ideas. He’s got 25 months to pedal his projects so far down the road that there is really no turning around.