I finally had something to do and somewhere to go, so I started Wednesday’s bike ride with a purpose. I had ordered a few running tops from my local running store, because I want my local running store to exist if this pandemic ever ends, and they accidentally sent me an extra one. I emailed to ask if I could just return it, and they said yes. Baltimore City opened up curbside shopping at 9am on Wednesday, so I biked down to the shop in Fells Point for the hand off.
I biked down Guilford, picked up the Fallsway cycletrack down past the city’s prison and social service complexes, and to Fayette where I took a left and then a right into Jonestown and Little Italy, a left on Eastern to a right on Caroline and then I was in another bike lane and zipping up to the shop. I pulled up my mask, knocked on the door, and threw my package inside with a smile and was off for the rest of my ride.
I wasn’t sure where to go, but I knew I didn’t feel like riding around Fells Point, It was pretty empty, but I don’t like to be the cyclist in a stream of joggers and walkers along the water, so I headed back up Caroline and then decided to kick over to Broadway for a zip by the cancer center at Orleans for a nostalgic hello.
Before I got there I decided to take a right on Lombard and see where that would take me. I don’t ride on Lombard much because it’s heavily trafficked, but that’s not true once you get this far east. I pedaled up the hill, past that new brewery in the old church that just opened when quarantine shut them down to all but pickup and delivery. Those can’t keep a place afloat for long. We’re gonna need a bigger bailout if we want restaurants and bars to exist next year.
And then I hit the entrance to Patterson Park. I never go this way, so I was struck by the fancy of the approach, the stone gate, the giant fountain of flowers, the benches, the pagoda just to the right. A couple of women were relaxing on benches, and a group of teenagers were teaching each other how to skateboard and ride scooters.
I thought about going into the park, but I wasn’t in the mood to worry about social distancing. I got back on Lombard and rolled down before taking a right on Collington to see how the blocks changed between Butcher’s Hill and Middle East.
I had to zig and zag a bit to stay on that street because they don’t connect through all the busy streets. I don’t know the history of that, but I wonder if part of it is to make it a bit harder to get into and out of Butcher’s Hill and Upper Fells. Easy peasy on a bike, and then I crossed Fayette and everything was different. The trees were gone, the light strings were gone, the blocks were a mixture homes boarded up and not, bearing the signs of a neighborhood abandoned by capital except insofar as it can be run down on purpose for capital’s needs later.
And then there’s a block with painted screens and a branch of MICA for its community arts program, and the street dead ends at Henderson-Hopkins school, the one Hopkins has helped build as a nod to the neighborhood it has displaced.
I remembered taking a group of students to that school last year. I was showing them East Baltimore. We walked up the block to see the painted screens. There was oohing and ahhing, because seeing the city’s folk art live and in person makes many of us react like this. I thought about that trip, and how I didn’t take them the rest of the way south, didn’t show them what you can only see if you pay attention in transit, to see the lines drawn and entrenched by (un)development policies over decades and decades. We’re going to have to take a bike tour next time.
I turned left here and caught up with the Monument Street bike lane to take me back home. I stopped a few blocks west on the lane to snap these pictures of cars parked in the bike lane. It might be a global pandemic, but I still don’t think you should park in the bike lane, especially when there’s plenty of parking around the corner and so many more people are out on bicycles.
And then I peeked in at the demolition of the Lester Morton Court apartments. These apartments were low income housing, for people living at 60% or less of the median income for the area. They are coming down, as are many public housing developments in the city. Residents were moved to other housing developments or given vouchers to move to apartments in other parts of the city. For some this was good news, for others it was losing home; I’m sure there are as many experiences of this destruction and displacement as there are residents destroyed and displaced by it.
I watched for a bit as a construction worker with a surgical mask hanging around his chin knocked out a window framing. I looked around as I continued my ride west, peeking over to see if anything’s happening at Old Town yet. There’s always a plan, and these plans are, it seems, essential work. I wonder what the city will look like when people come out of their homes and neighborhoods in the next year or two. I wonder what else is being done while we’re not watching.
And then I took a right up the Fallsway cycletrack and pedaled north to home, a quick stop at the pharmacy for med pickup. I tossed in a bag of cheese curls for myself and gummy bears for the boo. It looks like rain for the next few days.