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City Tackle Dirt Bikes Once Again

Police established a traffic calming area at Park Circle in Northwest Baltimore in response to dirt bikes that have frequented the area on Sunday afternoons for years.
Police established a traffic calming area at Park Circle in Northwest Baltimore in response to dirt bikes that have frequented the area on Sunday afternoons for years.
Police established a traffic calming area at Park Circle in Northwest Baltimore in response to dirt bikes that have frequented the area on Sunday afternoons for years.
Credit P. Kenneth Burns / WYPR
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Police established a traffic calming area at Park Circle in Northwest Baltimore in response to dirt bikes that have frequented the area on Sunday afternoons for years.

Baltimore City leaders have renewed efforts to craft a solution to a long standing problem; dirt bikes on city streets. The moves come after a fracas between dirt bike riders and police last week in Northwest Baltimore.

Police cleared Park Circle after fights reportedly broke out among spectators at what has become a Sunday afternoon spectacle along Reisterstown Road and in other parts of the city.

This week police used squad cars and traffic cones to squeeze traffic on busy Reisterstown Road into two lanes between Druid Park Drive and Anoka Avenue to slow traffic as well as the dirt bikers who usually show up there.

Police spokesman T.J. Smith conceded the move, called traffic calming, inconvenienced residents, but argued that they want a bigger problem solved.

“The community has expressed their major inconvenience with having the dirt bike riders out riding up and down the street,” he said.

Smith said the department is trying to avoid a repeat of two separate incidents involving dirt bikes from earlier this year.

Twenty-four-year-old Allison Blanding was killed after being run over by a dirt bike at a gathering of riders in May at the West Cold Spring Metro Station parking lot.

Also, a five-year-old boy was seriously injured after he was hit by a dirt bike in Cherry Hill.

“We can’t have the dirt bike riders just randomly violating the law here on Sunday afternoons,” Smith said.

Residents and officials have been complaining about dirt bikes, which are illegal on city streets, for years.

City Councilman Pete Welch plans to introduce a resolution at Monday’s council meeting asking residents, police, parks and recreation and the riders to talk about creating a dirt bike park to get the bikes off the streets.

“If you deal with the situation as it is, the logical next step would be to create or provide a venue for them to actually ride their dirt bikes,” he said.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has not rejected the idea of a dirt bike park. But she said on WYPR’s Midday last Wednesday there is no guarantee that bikers would use the park.

“I could think it’s the most beautiful thing ever and a solution to all of our problems,” she said. “But it could be an empty park if the people who are out there riding around don’t have any interest using it.”

The mayor said she is open to suggestions and ideas from riders, adding it’s ultimately up to the riders to decide what solution they want.

“If they have some solution on how they can express themselves in a way that is positive without negative impact, I’m willing to work with them,” she said.

Reaction to the police traffic calming move Sunday was as varied as the opinions on dirt bikes themselves.

One Reisterstown Road resident, who did not want to be identified, was happy police showed up.  She said riders have jangled her nerves and limited where she can go.

“You can’t get any rest, you can’t go anywhere because the streets are blocked off or either the dirt bikes; you can have a bad accident,” she said.

Others, like a man who identified himself as “Senkey,” said police did too much to keep dirt bike riders away.

“They’re not posing any threat or harm to the community,” he said, “[They] entertain the community; it gives them a sense of freedom and a sense of belonging to the community environment.”

Interim Police Commissioner Kevin Davis has been reaching out to riders and the community to foster a solution.

Police spokesman Smith said calming traffic is one part of “a holistic approach” to dirt bikes and not a permanent strategy.

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