by Lisa Tome
George Patchell is not sure he likes what Maryland's Secretary of Transportation is pedaling.
Patchell, county councilman for District 4, said he does not approve of Pete Rahn's approval that bicycles can cross the Hatem Bridge.
"He (Rahn) approved it and then the MTA (Maryland Transportation Authority) is to come up with a policy. The Hatem is the only stopping point for bicycles (on a portion of the east coast). A bicycle group started a petition (to allow cyclists on the Hatem) and it got approved," said Patchell.
For months, there was talk of converting a railroad bridge to allow bikes across the Susquehanna. That plan was cost prohibitive.
"It's an ill-conceived idea. It defies common sense. As far as I remember bicycles were never allowed on the Hatem (except by special permit). I don't see any way that it will work. I'm against it. This idea is just not well thought out," said Patchell.
He has a laundry list of concerns. Some of which is in regard to truck traffic on the Hatem. Trucks are to use the right lane on the bridge. Bicycles also are to keep right. He also wants to know if the bridge will be retrofit for bikes and if the cyclists pay tolls.
"The (existing) jersey wall is so small. Bicyclists could be swept off the bridge," he said.
He also said that there have been arguments that the economic impact of allowing bikes on the bridge will be great. "I think the economic impact is a farce," said Patchell. He said he is opposed to using tax dollars to improve the bridge to allow bicycles.
He also wants to know what constitutes a bicycle and how bicyclist is defined. There are many different types of bicycles and many experience levels of riders. He also wants to know the parameters. Will the hours that the bridge is open to bikes be limited? He is also concerned about the rush hour impact on cycling.
"I don't think that Secretary Rahn understands that bridge. Our council has taken a position of opposition to this plan," said Patchell. "I can't see them doing this. It just doesn't make any sense."
On April 8, Patchell will attend a meeting where he will learn more about the Maryland Transportation Authority plan.