This is the second of our three part overview for making the Jones Falls Trail better. Again, for many of us who use the trail regularly, we know our way around. However, the Jones Falls Trail should be easy to use even if it is a bike rider’s first day in Baltimore.
In this section, we will cover part two of the trail, the middle section between Penn Station and the intersection of Clipper Park Road/Clipper Road near the Woodberry light rail station.
Here’s our (Part Two) list. Feel free to add your suggestions in the comments section.
- Make it easy to find the Jones Falls Trail from Penn Station. This website encourages visitors to bring their bicycles on the MARC train and bike the trail or around the city. In contrast, when passengers step off the train, they can find no information or signage about any trails either inside or outside the station, despite the fact that the JFT passes right by it on St. Paul Street. Let’s have bicycling information at the station! Also adding easy to see wayfinding signs and a map across from the station on St. Paul Street would help get riders off to a good start.
- Don’t confuse the trail riders. The section of the trail north of Penn Station to Falls Road is confusing. The Jones Falls Trail doesn’t look like a trail, so extra markings are needed, otherwise new users may stress about how to stay on the trail. If riders are to use the sidewalk, it should be made clear the sidewalk is where they belong.
- Can the trail avoid the circuitous street crossings? The trail inconveniently forces users to cross the street at Baltimore Bicycle Works and then back again 100 or so yards later at the Street Car Museum. It would be a much better design if the trail found its way around the Howard Street bridge support column and then stayed straight. Maybe there is a good reason for the street crossing detours, but a road for cars would not be designed with such a circuitous path. In the meantime, we need a Stop for Bikes and Peds sign at street crossings, because the majority of Baltimore drivers do not slow down, let alone stop at the crossings.
- Round Falls deserves more. The river overlook is in desperate shape. This is arguably the best place to view the trail’s namesake river. However, the overlook is falling apart, overgrown, littered, and seedy. If you can overlook all this, the view of the falls is beautiful. This could be a great feature of the trail, but the overlook needs to be rebuilt. Could this be a Neighborhood Design Center or corporately sponsored project?
- Make trail head signs more useful. Trail head signs should include a map and directional way finding. Furthermore, why not make the trail head at the zoo entrance? There is existing parking and the zoo pops up on everyone’s GPS. If those attending the zoo walk past an informative Jones Falls Trail sign, they may come back and use the trail.
- The trail in Druid Hill Park can be confusing to follow. There are lots of paths and interior park roads that could be mistaken for the trail. One can follow the blazes, but we know their shelf life is not forever. The turn from Clipper Park Road to Parkdale is one of the places that needs better wayfinding.
- Regular snow and silt removal is needed. In winter, snow is piled up on the trail. The snow and ice remain far after the roads have been cleared off. The rest of the year, silt builds up on the trail. Regular maintenance of the trail should be scheduled.
8. The trail is a segment of the transportation system for bicyclists. Safe connecting bicycle facilities are needed. The trail is administered by the Department of Recreation and Parks, but there should be coordination and planning with the Department of Transportation to help bicycle commuters maximize the use of the Jones Falls Valley. Because the Jones Falls Valley is flat, scenic, has few intersections, and also direct (it could be a JFX for bicycles), it has the potential to be the perfect commuter shed for bicyclists. In order to achieve this ideal, bicycle and walking facilities need to be continuous and stay near the river. Jeff La Noue (edited By Laura Melamed)