Fire Code Rules Trumped for Bike Lanes

Baltimore repeals fire code rules to make room for bike lanes.

As reported by Lloyd Alter in Treehugger, in early August, Baltimore’s city council members backed a bill sponsored by Councilman Ryan Dorsey that would repeal a section of the fire code, which requires 20- and 26-foot street clearances for fire access, and replace it with more flexible guidelines adopted by the National Association of City Transportation Officials’ Urban Street Design Guide (NACTO). It’s now on the Mayor’s desk for signature. Alter says:

Historically, if you get into an argument with the heroes in the fire department, you lose. They like big powerful trucks and big wide roads to drive them in and usually get what they want.

But these days, there is some pushback from urbanists who note that big wide roads where cars can go fast kill a lot of people. In Baltimore, City Council wanted to install some bike lanes, but surprisingly, ran into opposition from locals. Luke Broadwater writes in the Baltimore Sun:

The fire code issue arose last summer when some Potomac Street residents in Canton argued that a bike lane on their street, which removed parking spots, posed a safety risk because it narrowed the road too much. The dispute prompted the city Transportation Department to consider removing the lane until the cyclist organization Bikemore filed a lawsuit to stop it.

Interestingly, the Fire Department does not appear to object to parking of cars on streets, even though it had the same effect. “Most streets in the city do not comply with that part of the code. The Fire Department appears to be inconsistently objecting to bike lanes but not to parking spaces, critics say.” The fire officials even made a video to show that their large trucks don’t fit, even though they do. In the end, Council voted unanimously for the bike lanes, according to Broadwater.

Read the full story here.