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County Executive Significantly Increases County Bike Funding, Paving Way for More Progress on Complete Streets

Joint Statement on Proposed FY 2020 County Budget

The Horizon Foundation, Bicycling Advocates of Howard County and American Heart Association issued the following joint statement in response to the county executive’s proposed FY 2020 budget, which includes $2.2 million in funding, comprised of roughly $2 million in county funds and $200,000 in committed grants, for bicycle infrastructure projects:

We thank County Executive Calvin Ball for listening to the voices of thousands of residents as well as local businesses and civic organizations who want to see a more bikeable and walkable community. The $2.2 million in proposed spending to advance the Bikeway and related bike routes amounts to the county’s highest bike funding in years. We’re shifting to a higher gear. This moves Howard County one step closer to becoming a community of “complete streets” where people can safely, easily and comfortably bike or walk where they need to go.

Investing in biking and walking benefits a broad and diverse cross-section of our community, including young workers who want to bike to the office, children and families seeking to walk or bike to school, residents without a car who need to get to a bus station and people with disabilities who need to be able to move through their neighborhoods. This new investment in bicycling helps us reach our vision of a network of connected, safe routes making it significantly easier and safer for residents to bike to everyday locations and achieve recommended physical activity guidelines.

Last year, the county budgeted $1.45 million in bike projects. The prior year, the county budgeted $600,000. While this new funding moves us forward, we still have a long way to go to reap the full benefits that increased bikeability will bring to health, the environment, the economy and residents and workers.

Our time to invest in the health and well-being of Howard County is now. We look forward to working with the County Executive and the County Council to ensure we make progress on the Bikeway and complete streets in the coming year.

Background information

The Bikeway is a proposed 50-mile network of bicycle and pedestrian routes from the county’s bicycle master plan that would help people in Howard County bike and walk more easily and safely to places they need to go. More than 40 businesses and organizations and 2,000 residents asked the county to fund the Bikeway to ensure that the community’s streets are designed to promote health, the environment, the economy and transportation equity. The proposed routes would be within one mile of more than half of county residences, schools and parks.

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The Horizon Foundation is the largest independent health philanthropy in Maryland. We lead community change so everyone in Howard County can live a longer, better life. We are committed to improving health through innovative initiatives, collaborative partnerships, strategic grantmaking and thoughtful advocacy. Learn more at www.thehorizonfoundation.org.

The Bicycling Advocates of Howard County (Bike HoCo) is a 501(c)4 non-profit organization founded in 2008 as a coalition of cycling clubs and bicycle riders in Howard County, Maryland. Bike HoCo advocates to improve the visibility and safety of bicycling, supports bicycling education programs for adults and children, and promotes a vision of bicycling and sharing the road as part of a healthy, energy efficient, and environmentally sound transportation system to help achieve a sustainable future for Howard County and for Maryland. Learn more at www.bikehoco.org.

The American Heart Association is a leading force for a world of longer, healthier lives. With nearly a century of lifesaving work, the Dallas-based association is dedicated to ensuring equitable health for all. We are a trustworthy source empowering people to improve their heart health, brain health and well-being. We collaborate with numerous organizations and millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, advocate for stronger public health policies, and share lifesaving resources and information. Connect with us on heart.org, Facebook, Twitter or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.

Thank you for Joining us for the County’s Second Budget Hearing and our Complete Streets Learning Session

Our county leaders are in talks about a complete streets bill which would help the county be more bikeable and walkable, and they need to hear from you right now.

Last week, many of you attended the county executive’s second FY 2020 budget hearing and participated in our complete streets learning session. THANK YOU! Because of your support, the county is making it a priority to build safer spaces for biking, walking and riding the bus.

Special thanks to Councilwoman Christiana Mercer Rigby and Acting Director of the Howard County Office of Transportation Chris Eatough for sharing your commitment to a strong complete streets vision. Thanks also to Board of Education Chair Mavis Ellis and Member Sabina Taj for joining us.

At the session, we discussed the importance of a strong county vision, funding and laws to making changes that all of us can see and use.

At the hearing, people and organizations testifying in support of Bikeway and complete streets funding included: Alex Obriecht of Race Pace Bicycles, Chris Tsien of the Bicycling Advocates of Howard County, Jennifer White of the American Heart Association, Annalisse Daly of the Guilford community, Nikki Highsmith Vernick of the Horizon Foundation, Kevin McAliley of the Wilde Lake Community Association, Susan Garber of the Savage Community Association and Larry Schoen of the Multimodal Transportation Board.

We need (1) increased Bikeway funding and (2) a strong complete streets law to make sure we have safe spaces for biking, walking and riding the bus for years to come. These measures “will ensure our youth can safely get to part-time job opportunities after school and people with disabilities get around town without the challenges of disconnected sidewalks,” White said in her testimony.

Please keep the drumbeat going and tell county leaders you want safer, better biking and walking now.

Thank you for helping us improve our community!
Horizon Foundation
American Heart Association
Bicycling Advocates of Howard County

County Executive Calvin Ball commits to complete streets in his State of the County Remarks

In his State of the County address this week, Howard County Executive Calvin Ball committed to making complete streets “a priority to promote our vision of a true multi-modal transportation system, beginning with more bike lanes.”

This public promise to prioritize better biking and walking is in clear response to your advocacy! In his speech, Ball also said he listened as “dozens of cyclists came in their full bike gear, advocating for streets that provide safe access to users.” Read more about the speech in the Howard County Times >>

Now it’s more important than ever to show support for safer and easier biking and walking in Howard County by joining us at next week’s budget hearing on March 5. Come and hear testimony in support of the Bikeway then stay for a complete streets learning session, located in the same building.

What: Budgeting Hearing & Complete Streets Learning Session
When: Tuesday, March 5, 6:45 – 8:45 p.m.
Where: George Howard Building, 3430 Court House Drive, Ellicott City, Md. 21043. We will meet in the lobby, then enter the hearing room as a group and leave to a separate room as a group.
RSVP Now

At our complete streets learning session, we’ll discuss:

  • What are complete streets and how do they help all kinds of travelers?
  • What will it take for the county to start building more complete streets?
  • What is a complete streets policy?
  • How can we show support and get a complete streets policy passed here?

Come, learn and share any priorities, ideas or thoughts you may have!

Join us to advocate for the Bikeway and learn about complete streets on March 5

We invite you to an interesting double header in support of biking, walking, transit and accessibility in our community. We hope you can join us!

On March 5, you can show your support for Bikeway funding at the start of the second budget hearing — and then head down the hall for education and discussion on “complete streets” policy and advocacy. Complete streets are designed to be safe and welcoming for walkers, bicyclists, transit users, people with disabilities and drivers.
What: Budgeting Hearing & Complete Streets Learning Session
When: Tuesday, March 5, 6:45 – 8:45 p.m.
Where: George Howard Building, 3430 Court House Drive, Ellicott City, Md. 21043. We will meet in the lobby, then enter the hearing room as a group and leave to a separate room as a group. 
RSVP Now

You have voiced your support for a more bikeable, walkable Howard County. Now is the time to show up and make sure our new county leaders see that this must be a priority!

At our complete streets learning session, we’ll discuss:

  • What are complete streets and how do they help all kinds of travelers?
  • What will it take for the county to start building more complete streets?
  • What is a complete streets policy?
  • How can we show support and get a complete streets policy passed here?

Come, learn and share any priorities, ideas or thoughts you may have!

New Howard County Executive Dr. Calvin Ball sees broad Bikeway support at first budget hearing

On Dec. 12, the new County Executive heard clear messages from us: our community wants $3 million in funding for the Bikeway, we care deeply about healthy, green, equitable transportation options and we are organized! Add your voice of support.

THANK YOU to the businesses, organizations and community members who attended the Howard County budget hearing to advocate for $3 million in funding for the Bikeway.

Many speakers urged County Executive Dr. Calvin Ball to increase funding for bicycling routes in their testimony:

  • Nikki Highsmith Vernick, president and CEO of the Horizon Foundation
  • Jennifer White, community advocacy director of the American Heart Association
  • Mary Ann Scully, president and CEO of Howard Bank
  • Sandra te Plate, a parent and Ellicott City resident
  • Greg Klassen, a local entrepreneur from Elkridge who spoke on the Bikeway’s benefits to people with mobility needs
  • Willie Flowers, president of the Howard County NAACP
  • Hector Garcia, CEO and executive director of FIRN
  • Kevin McAliley, board member of Bicycling Advocates of Howard County and chair of the Wilde Lake Village Board.

Testifiers also asked for a complete streets policy and funding: complete streets are designed to benefit all users including walkers, transit users, people with disabilities, cyclists and drivers. Complete Streets advocates included Louise Green and Sharon Shaw, lead organizer and member of PATH – People Acting Together in Howard; Becky McKirahan, founder of Why Not Jessup; and Susan Garber, board member of the Savage Community Association.

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Local health leaders talked about how building the Bikeway will lead to increased physical activity and health. “Horizon cares about biking and walking because we know that the leading causes of death in Howard County are from preventable chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes,” Highsmith Vernick said. “People in our community are not getting enough routine, daily exercise – and we think one reason is they often can’t walk or bike in their own neighborhoods!”

Community members shared in their testimony how the Bikeway would connect neighborhoods, schools, parks and businesses. “From our home, we can walk around our little development of Heritage Woods, and yet we are not able to safely walk to the park or bus stops. Most of our kids who live close to Guilford Elementary School are not able to walk to school,” said McKirahan.

Scully, who leads the largest locally based bank employing 300 people across the region, shared why the Bikeway will bolster the local economy, attract business and increase livability and wellness. “The value of investing in biking and walking facilities is striking,” she said. “We know that when American communities build safe places to bike and walk they see increased retail sales, rising home values, transportation cost savings and health care cost savings.”

Show your support

Howard County Times: Howard Executive Ball hears requests for funding on Ellicott City, undocumented immigrants, other projects

Howard County Times’ coverage of County Executive Ball’s first FY20 budget hearing included advocates’ calls for $3 million in Bikeway funding.

Read: Howard Executive Ball hears requests for funding on Ellicott City, undocumented immigrants, other projects

More than 35 people wearing bike helmets came to the hearing to support increased funding for infrastructure for bikers. They said that out of 1,038 miles of roads maintained by Howard County, only 35 contain bike lanes. The county has 108 miles of shared use pathways for bikers and walkers located off the street — 90 of which are in Columbia.

Neighboring Montgomery County has 55.41 miles of “properly marked bike lanes,” 41.62 miles of “bike-friendly shoulders” and 1.68 miles of “separated bike lanes,” according to Neil Greenberger, a spokesman for Montgomery.

Bike advocates in Howard are asking for $3 million for the next three years to fund street bike lanes and shared pathways, expediting a policy of including infrastructure for bikers and walkers in new roads, and for Ball to submit to the County Council a master plan to improve walkways for pedestrians.