Guided by History: Race, Class and Neighborhood Choice in Baltimore City

Disclaimer: This post talks about race and racial issues and might make some readers uncomfortable. If you have fixed ideas about race and class that you don’t like to have challenged you may want to click away now. Also, the amount of historical research involved was minimal- not much more than looking up a date or two and finding a couple of maps. The rest of this post was written entirely from memory and local knowledge. So if we’re slightly off on something or have omitted a fact here or there try not to dwell on it. Our intention is to write a blog post and not a book, and we believe this post is accurate enough to get at the spirit of what we mean to say. Feature image is Baltimore as it appeared in the mid-1700’s and came to us through

Recently we were lucky enough to be in attendance for a panel discussion at Red Emma’s, the topic of which was Looking Back, Thinking Forward: Organizing to Breach Baltimore’s Racial Divide. It’s always a pleasure and a privilege to be in the same room and get to listen to some of the city’s brightest and most progressive thinkers. While the voices of people like Marc Steiner and Paul Coates are inspiring and encouraging, there was something about the panel’s words last week that left us with a heavy heart as well. We think it’s fair to say that the entire panel and virtually all of the audience would agree that when it comes to organizing urban neighborhoods we can identify some of our major problems, but solutions are debatable at best and mysterious at worst. With development and displacement increasingly in the news in Baltimore these issues are beginning to feel increasingly urgent.

Today we’d like to touch on a problem of neighborhood organizing that was not discussed last week. It’s a nationwide problem, but is as acute in Baltimore as it is anywhere. A large part or the problem facing would-be organizers, neighborhood groups, civic boosters and the rest is this: people are becoming completely disconnected from their neighborhoods. Lifelong loyalties are almost entirely a thing of the past.

Last Friday the Baltimore Sun’s website published an eye-rollingly insipid quiz asking ‘Which Baltimore Neighborhood Should You Call Home?’ While not explicitly offensive, many Twitter users (including the Chop) found this quiz to be in extremely poor taste. There are a number of things we find troubling in the quiz itself, not the least of which is the editorial decision-making process behind it. Someone was assigned (or at least allowed) to spend time and resources in writing it and coming up with the scoring mechanism, and it was published around lunch hour on a Friday in order to attract the attention of bored office workers and insure maximum shareability via social media.

But what troubles us the most isn’t that, it’s the dog-whistle nature of the question itself. This quiz was produced for a very specific type of person: Mid-twenties, college graduate, not from here, working downtown, no kids, and possessed of ‘good taste’ in food, drink and pop-culture. It’s for Yuppies.

But let’s take a step back here. Let’s put aside yuppies. Let’s also put aside those folks in public housing or the lowest-rent neighborhoods who have virtually no choice in where to move. Let’s talk about what makes working class and middle class Baltimoreans choose the neighborhoods they do. In order to do this we’ve got to go back a bit further than you might think. In order to really understand the matter we’ve got to go all the way back to the founding of Baltimore.

Baltimore Town was founded in 1729 and it was small. It was even less acreage than what we think of as downtown proper today. There weren’t a whole hell of a lot of people or any neighborhoods- just about two churches and a handful of incredibly rich families who’d been given a shitload of land by the king of England. (After all, Baltimore was not in the United States at the time- it was part of an English colony.) The town was situated in the midst of a handful of other incredibly rich people who’d been given land nearby; the Carroll family, John Eager Howard, The Joneses, Admiral Fell, Charles Gorsuch, the Garretts, etc. Then as now, the rich had a tendency to get richer. If they could have kept to themselves in their mansions and estates that would have been just fine with them. But goddamn it fields won’t plow themselves and ships won’t unload themselves and factories won’t make widgets all on their own.

The rich needed labor.

So Baltimore Town began to fill up with Germans and Irish and Italians and Polish and a bunch of other people who weren’t Noble English. Back then it wasn’t a question of which neighborhood you wanted to live in, but which town offered work. Baltimore, the Port of Baltimore, Fell’s Point, etc were all separate towns.

Fast forward to after the Revolution and the beginning of Industrialization. Without the largesse of king and Nobility to lean on the city’s Elite decided it was time to stop fucking around and really get rich. Business was booming around the waterfront from Canton to Locust Point, and the Garretts had decided to build the B & O railroad, industrializing Pigtown. These areas started filling up with working people living in what we’d think of today as slum conditions- tarpaper shacks and the like. The Rich were loathe to live among the people and started marching up Charles Street, outside the city to what is now Mount Vernon. Using their great fortunes they constructed a monument to General Washington and encircled it with mansions and cultural institutions like the Peabody conservatory, Pratt Library, Walters Museum, etc. Ostensibly these were great Democratic institutions for the benefit of the city but come on… how many shipyard workers were slathering tar on hulls all day and then walking from Locust Point to Mount Vernon? Not too fucking many we’d wager.

As the rich and Elite were fleeing the rabble, poor people were sorting themselves out. Germans stayed downtown and in Otterbein, Italians built a church and a neighborhood around it. Polish did the same in Fell’s Point, Jews stuck together around the current location of the Jewish Museum, Irish, Eastern Europeans and the rest all did likewise. At this point blacks fit between the cracks not living in proper neighborhoods. Slavery was still going strong.

There was an incredibly disjointed system of surveying and subdividing land and developing blocks a few at a time. (Although the rich never really did part with their land and even today the city is straddled with a completely fucked up system of ground rent in which homeowners pay rents to massively rich investors for the ground their house sits on. Many of these institutional investors are foundations who trace their roots to the city’s great plutocratic fortunes going back to the Gilded Age and beyond.) Years pass. Slavery and the Civil War end. Jim Crow neighborhoods form in earnest around what is today Old Town and Druid Hill Ave. Manufacturing starts to boom. The city continues to annex territory and the rich continue to expand into areas like Old Goucher and Bolton Hill while the poor stretch out east to west.

It’s at this point, some time in the decades before 1900 when the Civil War has caused mass migration that we’ve got to really start dealing with race and segregation. From here on out, blacks and whites are not going to live together in Baltimore. Here is a US census map describing racial lines in present day Baltimore. Green Dots are white people and blue dots are African Americans.


The contrast has been no less stark at any time in the last 130 years. It’s around 1870 that what we’ve come to think of as some of our most “charming” and ‘historic’ neighborhoods are beginning to take on what’s more or less their current form. This is about when many surviving rowhouses in Fell’s Point and South Baltimore are being built. The Great Fire happens in 1904 and Downtown is entirely rebuilt from the ground up. Mills are open several miles up the Jones Falls and new towns like Remington, Hampden and Mount Washington are being built around them. Villages are sprouting along dirt roads that lead to Pennsylvania along what’s now Greenmount Ave and Park Heights Ave. Although it’s bigger than it’s ever been, the city is still relatively small. People live in houses that allow them to walk to work, whether they work in a shipyard, brewery, factory or law office.

It’s just after the time of the fire’s reconstruction that two revolutionary changes allow people to live further than a mile or two from their jobs, and enables new neighborhoods to be developed on a large scale. The first is the perfection of Baltimore’s streetcar lines. These lines had been in place for some years, but at this time private companies were competing to run very efficient all-rail routes with the only other traffic in the streets being horses and carts. For the first half of the 20th century Baltimore’s development went hand in glove with its streetcar system. The second revolutionary change was the invention of the Model T, which had as much impact on Baltimore as it did on every American city and allowed the first real suburbanization to begin in earnest. When we went Googling for maps, right before we began typing the sentence you’re reading right now, it didn’t take us long to find this page in which a Hopkins student surprises himself by learning what most natives already know: that streetcars formed the city and that suburbanization began earlier and closer to downtown than most people imagine. (Incidentally, arcane streetcar lines form the basis for our current mass transit system which is a big part of the reason why the entire bus system is confusing and dysfunctional.) Here is what Baltimore looked like as it developed between 1818 and 1918: (credit)


1918 Was also the year that Baltimore undertook its final expansion to where its current borders lie. Like most cities in the country though, it was expanding with an eye toward further growth and suburbanization and the outer areas of the map of Baltimore were still largely empty farms and green space. Why do you think they decided to build Pimlico where they did (in 1870)? Because the area was full of horse farms, of course. Even today when traveling through Northeast and Northwest Baltimore a sharp eye can pick out a 150 year old farmhouse tucked into a much newer neighborhood. There’s one at the end of our block as a matter of fact.

There are some other important things happening right around the end of the First World War that we have to mention here. The rich and professional classes continued their creep northward, and the Roland Park Company had by now recently developed brand new neighborhoods around Roland Park and Guilford, which are significant nationally as some of the first planned suburbs in the country. At the same time production was near all-time highs in the steel mill at Sparrows Point, thanks in part to the war effort. Bethlehem Steel formed a company to copycat the development that was taking place in Roland Park in a more democratic form in Dundalk. Old Dundalk was then developed as a company town among farmlands.

The 1910’s is also when the Chop’s own grandparents were growing up as kids in downtown Baltimore. Our great-grandparents on both sides were part of this first wave of suburbanization, with one set moving from Saratoga Street downtown to a brand new house in the great wide expanse of… West Lanvale Street. The other set went from S. Castle St. to Old Dundalk, close to work at Sparrows Point. But as a recent City Paper story points out, even our earliest suburbs and company towns were segregated by race and remain so today. By the time our grandparents were coming of age Baltimore’s working class neighborhoods from Carroll Park to Highlandtown and across the water to the south had long developed their own character.

At this point neighborhoods are becoming truly inter-generational. In the rowhouse neighborhoods of East, West and South Baltimore adult children are buying houses near their families and near the friends they’ve grown up with all their lives. Your neighbors aren’t just your neighbors; they’re your cousins and co-workers and fellow parishioners at church. People throughout the 20th century would inherit rowhouses after deaths and see them not as an asset to be liquidated but a family home to be kept in the family. When we talk about a ‘close-knit’ neighborhood, this is what ‘close-knit’ really means. It’s more than just organizing a block party or helping your neighbor shovel snow: it takes generations to accomplish. Courtney Speed, the community leader in the City Paper story, has lived in Turner Station for fifty years.

None of our blue-collar neighborhoods would have ever inspired this kind of generational loyalty if it weren’t for two simple yet abstract concepts that apply equally to black and white and are all but completely vanished from the inner-city today: Catching On and Making Good.

In a close-knit neighborhood in the 20th century there was no Linked-In and no networking events. There weren’t even resumes. Anyone who wanted a job didn’t have to go any further than the corner bar (or Speed’s barber shop) to hear about who was hiring. Once you heard it was just a matter of going down to the Point or Crown Cork and Seal or CSX and getting hired on.

Now, wherever you ended up you might not like it- so you’d go on to the next one until eventually you find a job that suits you and you catch on. Once you’ve caught on you put in your time and pay your dues and eventually you make good by improving your skills and moving up the ladder a bit. For new generations of workers at this time access to jobs was not directly dictating where they lived, but it was certainly a major factor in the decision.

Here we reach a paradox. Among today’s urban planners and civic-minded intellectuals and even Progressive city residents there is fairly widespread support for the neighborhood-as-a-village model of revitalization and marketing. Many would like to try to re-create the ‘close-knit’ feel of yesteryear. But whether it’s the dockside heritage of Fell’s Point or the pride and history of Pennsylvania Avenue, you don’t arrive at ‘close-knit’ without a lot of racial prejudice and quite a bit of class delineation.

Housing issues in Baltimore have always been overtly racist. Let’s repeat that for emphasis: Racist with a capital R. Here’s a few examples off the top of our head:

    The physical barriers that even today stop traffic along streets like Greenmount and Fairmount Avenues. For miles at a stretch large curbs and planters and other artificial impediments block motor traffic and separate black neighborhoods from white ones.

    The construction of High-Rise public housing towers.

    The displacement of black neighborhoods along route 40 in West Baltimore for highway construction.

    The generation-long systematic practice of Block-busting undertaken by developers and Realtors about which books have been written.

    And last but not least the widespread practice of banks and mortgage lenders secretly “redlining” the city according to race and refusing to issue mortgages or other loans to entire swaths of the city based on race and class.

The Baltimore Brew has an interesting review of one of the books mentioned above that discusses block-busting and red-lining in more detail. Below is a 1937 map from that post showing how a mortgage company delineated neighborhoods for the purpose of loan making. It provides many interesting comparisons and contrasts to the census map above. For example, Greenmount Avenue is still a stark dividing line, but waterfront neighborhoods have completely transformed. Any bank today would be glad to lend money to build a roof deck on a Canton rowhouse.


To suggest that the city is not still affected dramatically by all of this and more over our very long history is either naive, disingenuous, or both. If there’s a silver lining it’s that today’s planners and intellectuals and residents at least value the idea of diversity more than ever and are willing to try to reconcile it in a way our parents’ generation never did.

Speaking of our parents’ generation let’s talk about the Baby-Boomers. Specifically let’s talk about the Chop’s own parents and aunts and uncles. Every one of them Caught On somewhere, and all of them Made Good eventually, with most of them buying their own houses around Dundalk. But they were the first generation who’d truly grown up with cars. Eisenhower came along in the 50’s and built 95, 83, 97 and 695. Fast forward again to 1993 and NAFTA. Our whole family had Made Good, but there was no one coming up behind them. Sparrows Point had hit the skids and would never recover. Every industrial concern that was employing Neighborhood Folks was right behind it. Downtown industrial buildings were being demolished and stadiums were taking their place. Houses in south and southeast Baltimore start falling one at a time into the hands of landlords and speculators.

Boomers were the first generation who ever accepted a car commute as a fact of life. For them and their White Flight mentality a 90 minute commute each day was perfectly acceptable. Our own parents couldn’t wait to ditch a house at the edge of the city for a newer house and a bigger yard, and landowners and developers were happy to oblige them. By the time we moved to Bel Air in the mid 90’s we found very few kids at school who were born in Harford County. A typical lunch table in the cafeteria might have had one kid from Bel Air, two kids from Dundalk, one from Essex, one from Rosedale and one from Fullerton. Of course, we all thought the Suburbs were terribly boring and couldn’t wait to get the hell out of there.

And Bel Air was boring in 1995. Even then most of Baltimore’s outer suburbs from Harford to Hunt Valley to Carroll County hadn’t been built yet. Their growth would be exponential from that point on and last until the housing crash of 2007.

By 2007 your Chop has Caught On somewhere and has been renting houses around the city, finding we had to move uptown after being priced out of one of the smallest houses on one of the narrowest streets in Fell’s Point. We’re starting to think about buying a house of our own. When you go to sea and have no kids there’s no commute and no concern for school districts, so two of the main reasons why people live where they do didn’t apply to us. We might have gone back to Dundalk Ave, but why? There’s nothing left there for us anymore. We would have liked to move anywhere between Fell’s Point and Bayview, but we’re pretty much priced out of that part of the city we’ve always known and loved. So we cast a wide net. We drove by thousands of houses, and toured dozens of them from Pigtown to Greektown to Remington to New Northwood always constrained by price, wanting to be at least somewhat central and not too far into the margins of drug and gang territory. In the end we bought in Waverly. Every house that made our buying short list was in a marginal neighborhood. If we hadn’t ended up here we would have ended up in Remington or somewhere along East Baltimore Street.

Buying here was an intensely personal and incredibly important decision, but also one that was practically made for us by 300 years of history, which is of no consequence because we’ll probably move sometime after getting married anyway. We’re committed to living in Baltimore, but we’ve got no reason at all to commit to any particular neighborhood beyond a fleeting affinity for it.

We’re certainly not alone in that. For our own generation and especially anyone younger than us it’s difficult to commit to one city for life, let alone a neighborhood. For anyone under 40 moving to the city from outside, gentrification isn’t an aberration, it’s the expectation.

What makes one neighborhood more ripe for gentrification than another? Water views? Sure, that doesn’t hurt.

But let’s be honest here- so far it’s only historically white neighborhoods that developers have seen fit to gentrify. It’s why the gentrification of Federal Hill spread south to Riverside but not west to Sharp-Leadenhall. It’s why the gentrification of Canton is poised to reach into Greektown but never made it more than one block north of Patterson Park. It’s why small businesses are falling all over themselves to open in Hampden but Belvedere Square is continually a work in progress. It’s why Bolton Hill is an impressive historic neighborhood and Marble Hall is a collection of dangerous abandoned buildings. It’s why young families flock to Lauraville and not to Bel-Air Edison. It’s why everyone rides the light rail and no one rides the subway.

To choose a neighborhood in Baltimore first means to choose across race lines. Then to choose across class lines. Then to pretend that choosing a neighborhood is as easy as choosing between Doc Martens and Top Siders and that race and class have fuck all to do with it. That is what we find so distasteful in the Sun’s quiz.

It’s the same thing that many Baltimoreans found extremely distasteful about a certain rant on Medium a few months ago. Yes. We’re going to beat that very dead horse some more. We don’t have anything against Tracey Halvorsen personally and we’d bet she’s probably a pretty nice person in real life, but that post was just Godawful.

It sounded the dog-whistle tone of race louder than most things that ever see the light of day on any website. The only person who doesn’t want to admit that it has racial overtones is its author. Much has been made of that post since, but it’s worth addressing here because even though it reads as a rant about crime it is essentially the personal epiphany of a gentrifier without a deep connection to her city or her neighborhood.

Approaching middle age, Halvorsen says she now realizes that the place she lives is more the result of circumstance than of deliberate choice, and her circumstances are pretty favorable. Let’s have a look at what we imagine those circumstances might have looked like: come to Maryland from outside after college to get a graduate degree at a ridiculously expensive art college. Live near MICA during and for some time after grad school, probably in Mount Vernon or Bolton Hill. Get a job, get a better job. Look toward being president of a company. Decide it’s time to invest in a house.

If we work backwards we can determine how Halvorsen wound up in Butcher’s Hill. Her office is near downtown and she didn’t want to be a commuter. She probably wanted a house of a certain size, with a bit of yard space for a dog so much of Fell’s, Canton, and South Baltimore was ruled out. They would have been ruled out also because people over 30 often don’t want to live too close to the bars. However, she has got expensive taste in restaurants and doesn’t want to be too far from her favorites. It’s also likely she sees herself as someone who values the idea of diversity, and wanted some sort of historical character in her house. A late edit in the post reveals she’s looking for that ‘close-knit’ that doesn’t really exist anymore and gives her idea of the ideal neighborhood:

“clean and litter free, people outside talking, neighbors saying hello to each other, homes and sidewalks that look cared for, and people who want to know you, engage with you, and care about the neighborhood. That doesn’t mean affluent, white, or privileged — to me. And if you were to really know Butcher’s Hill, you would know it’s full of all kinds of people with different income levels, backgrounds and opinions.”

Now for a large house with park access about 20 minutes or less to downtown she could have bought a house on Union Square, or in Reservoir Hill or somewhere along Parkside Drive or Gwynn’s Falls Parkway or even in Ednor Gardens Lakeside. But that was never going to happen. There was 0% chance of that ever happening. It was preordained that when Halvorsen bought her first house it would either be in Butcher’s Hill, Barre Circle/Otterbein or Little Italy. Not all strictly white neighborhoods, but all white enough. She chose to buy first within race lines, then within class lines as most people do, even then in a very particular type of neighborhood- one with a certain sort of cachet. We do know Butcher’s Hill, and we know that ‘diverse’ isn’t really the mot juste for it. Marginal might be a better choice. For someone who claims to love Baltimore’s history, we get the distinct impression that Halvorsen hasn’t dug into it very deeply.

So Tracey Halvorsen bought into a marginal neighborhood and is now running right up against some very uncomfortable feelings. Fine. But something that affected many readers the beyond the dog-whistle tone of her post was the whiny and entitled nature of it. It’s as if everyone in city hall should answer to her personally. As if all city residents should count our blessings to have someone as concerned and educated and neighborly as Halvorsen living in our midst. Because if she leaves and takes all of the TEDx Talk set with her and fucks off into the mountains in an Atlas Shrugged style form of protest we’d all be fucked and the city would collapse in no time.


We say go ahead, Tracey. There’s the door. When you leave you’ll want top dollar for your house, and the person who buys it will be not terribly different from you. Probably working at Hopkins with an advanced degree of their own and on the young side of middle age. Make your home wherever you see fit, but do it as a personal choice and not as a political statement. The lines of race and class have been in place for a long time now and no amount of hand wringing on Medium is going to change them. We’re sorry your neighborhood wasn’t everything you hoped it would be but nobody gets to live on Sesame Street. If it makes you feel any better there’s plenty of violence up here in our marginal neighborhood, too.

Now that that’s off our chest, let’s say something that hasn’t been said yet in the big blustery reaction to Halvorsen’s post. Perhaps the thing in it that caused the most angst and anxiety in the hearts of well meaning liberals is the fact that there but for the grace of God go us. Sure, few of us can fit our foot that far into our mouth, but for ‘middle class’ people of all races who choose to call the city home we do it by dint of what is a mostly superficial choice. We do it because we like nice restaurants, too. Or we live here because we don’t want to commute or for whatever reason. Without that base of blue collar jobs the city is just another type of county. Deep down a lot of us don’t want to admit that we’re all Looking Out For Number One and that a commitment to the city that we feel is deep could be dredged to the surface pretty easily. An attractive job offer or a four year old who needs to start kindergarten or a close call with violent crime or a raise in rent could push anyone out of their neighborhood or out of the city quickly, and you can’t really blame them for going. For our generation, none of us have roots as deep as Courtney Speed, and few of us ever will.

At the founding of Baltimore the Elite controlled the waterfront and used it to bring in Big Money, creating jobs along the way. The rest of us fit in as best we could. The Elite still control the waterfront, but now instead of making Big Money on steel and shipping and canning they’re making Big Money on Condos in Locust Point, Hotels in Harbor East, and suburban style big box sprawl in Canton. Those who can afford it buy into a fantasy lifestyle, and the rest of us get in where we fit in, same as ever.

So what will change those lines? At the end of the day how do we organize city neighborhoods across racial lines for the good of all? It seems to us that the first step is admitting those lines are real, and that they are as old as the city itself. Preferable to organizing across them would be finally wiping them out once and for all.

How do we do that? Gee, we wish we knew. We’d be happy to tell you.

A good start might be ending predatory practices like sub-prime mortgages and payday lending and insuring credit is available wherever it’s worthy. Creating a critical mass of living wage blue collar jobs and job training options would help as well. In the days of Catching On and Making Good employers invested in their own employees. Now even the most basic entry level job often requires applicants to have invested heavily in their own training, either through colleges or other learning institutions. Oh and if we could find a few billion to invest in the school system that wouldn’t hurt either. Unfortunately erasing the lines isn’t as easy as simply crumpling up the map.

In any particular organizing case or campaign; from the Red Line to the cargo-rail terminal at Morrell Park to Harbor Point to the EBDI project and beyond, it’s important to make people understand that what’s in their own narrow personal interest isn’t necessarily what’s best for the city. Likewise what’s in the interest of the area’s modern plutocrats like Peter Angelos, The Rouse Company, Michael Beatty and John Paterakis. Often neighborhood issues are in fact citywide issues, but city residents will never speak with one voice. It’s hard to push back against the forces of history, and impossible if we don’t know what those forces are. Our neighborhoods didn’t fall from the sky fully formed exactly as they are today. We are all here by circumstance. Whether a person’s circumstance has allowed them to choose a luxury waterfront condo, a rowhouse in SoWeBo, a mansion in Roland Park or whether it’s left them little choice at all that person will continue to act in their own self-interest first. Even if it ‘breaks their heart.’

The Chop Launches a New Site

It’s been nearly five years since I left Baltimore. At this point I’m still not feeling homesickness. But I am feeling wanderlust.

I’ve decided to launch a new site that will take the form of a travel blog. It’s called Where’s the Ice Machine. You can find it at The first post is a look at the current state of the travel blog industry. I want to take a different direction than the influencers and points and miles bloggers who dominate the space.

I’m still tweaking things around the edges, but the site now has more than 50 posts upon publishing. I’ve come to the point where I need to get the search engines crawling over there and can’t keep it under construction forever.

I’m going to be traveling often over the next several years. I’ll be posting content from all over the world. If you enjoyed the Chop, I think you’ll enjoy this site as well and I hope you’ll follow along.

Summary of Shootings in Baltimore Safe Streets Zones in 2021

Yesterday the Belair Edison Safe Streets office sent out a celebratory press release proclaiming they had no gun homicides in 2021. WBAL Took the bait and sent Barry Simms out to the neighborhood to take some pictures, record some quotes, and do absolutely no fact checking, followup questioning or background reporting. If Simms had done his homework he would have been able to report that Safe Streets’ claims are specious at best and total bullshit in all honesty.

The central claim in their press release depends on the public suspending disbelief on a number of factors. They claim success because there were no “gun” homicides in their area for 2021. But they are charged with preventing violence. It does not matter to anyone, least of all to a victim whether they were killed by a bullet or beaten to death, as a five year old girl was in Belair Edison on November 17. The claim also completely discounts the shooting death of Phillip Hamilton, who was fatally shot in the 3500 block of Cliftmont Ave on September 16. We were told by a Safe Streets staffer today that his death does not count because it happened on the odd numbered side of the street.

To expect that you can claim credit for what happens on one side of a small residential street and escape responsibility for what happens 50 feet away on the other side is the height of absurdity and should not be acceptable to the people and the political leadership in Baltimore.

Additionally, a woman was shot to death in the 2800 block of Clifton Park Terrace, mere feet outside the Safe Streets zone, and a 16 year old boy was shot in the head and killed on Moravia Road one block outside Safe Streets. When a violence interruptor can literally stand in their area, watch a person be shot to death, and shrug their shoulders because it happened across the street that violence interruptor is doing a shitty job, period.

We’ve been studying the map of Safe Streets zones for a while now. The zones themselves are small and they seem to be highly arbitrary, seldom aligning with “natural” boundaries such as water or railroad tracks. They are also static and do not change or expand from year to year. If you truly believe that your program works and that you are preventing violence, why wouldn’t you you want to expand that work to an adjacent block, especially when the block sees several shootings a year? Because you want to claim the lowest possible statistics, of course.

Safe Streets is not new in Baltimore. 2022 Marks the 15th year the program has been on the streets. Yet it remains poorly understood by the general public, city government, and academic researchers. Part of that poor understanding is owed to positive PR seeking and media stories like the one mentioned above. The people who work at Safe Streets sites draw full time salaries funded by the city and by a consortium of Baltimore’s nonprofit industrial complex, so their continued financial interest depends on the public not seeing them fail. Supposed progressive elected officials’ political bona fides are very much bound up with at least paying lip service to non-police solutions to violence, so their continued success depends upon the public not seeing Safe Streets failing. Ordinary residents all over the city have been extremely demoralized by violence and need to cling to whatever they can to remain hopeful, so their continued mental health depends on not seeing Safe Streets failing. When Safe Streets has been studied in the past, those studies have been commissioned by Safe Streets or the Mayor’s Office, so researchers’ possible future grant funding depends on presenting a report that doesn’t see Safe Streets fail.

Studying a program of this nature is difficult. But merely comparing shooting data in an area to previous shooting data in the same area is not adequate. At the very least, these areas should also be compared to similar areas nearby. Even the research pointed to by the mayor’s office online uses similar methods and fails to draw any real conclusions. There are opportunities to do real world analyses such as comparing Brooklyn Safe Streets to the rest of Brooklyn, comparing Pimlico to the area directly East of Pimlico, Park Heights to Forest Park, Sandtown to Shipley Hill/Booth-Boyd/Carrollton Ridge/Union Square, Upton to lower Pennsylvania ave corridor, or Govans to the area immediately south. While our own observations are casual, we do not see how anyone can make a convincing argument that Safe Streets zones performed better than these nearby areas in 2021. Studies may also fail to account for or properly weight external factors such as changes in police tactics, changes in the physical landscape, or changes in political environment. Past studies which have shown Safe Streets to be effective have been in concert with citywide reductions in violence between 2007 and 2011. Our overall suspicion is that violence in Safe Streets zones ebbs and flows with city trends, and that the violence interruptors do not have a measurable effect either way.

With Baltimore recently in receipt of hundreds of millions in federal relief funds, Brandon Scott has already pledged $50 million to violence prevention and similar programs. Safe Streets will have to write grants for its share of that money, which is still undetermined but could easily be in the range of $15 million or more. With so much public money flowing to the organization it behooves the mayor’s office to stop relying on wishful thinking and take a hard look at how effective or ineffective it really is.

No discussion of Safe Streets in 2021 should ever fail to mention that two active Safe Streets workers were murdered this year. Information about the facts of those cases has been incredibly scant and neither the police, the mayor’s office, Safe Streets or the media has any interest in publicizing the details of those cases or keeping them in the news any longer than necessary. In the case of Kenyell Wilson there’s still no public record of where he was shot six months later. (We believe the most likely location was the carryout at 600 Cherry Hill Rd, which was the site of 3 other shootings in 2021.)

Such shootings, where police are called to a hospital and find an uncooperative or unconscious victim are common in Baltimore. We didn’t add up shootings in which no location was determined for 2021 but would estimate that police reported at least 35 such incidents, which may or may not take place in Safe Streets areas. But for most shootings police release the block where the violence occurred. We decided to cross reference that data with the map of Safe Streets zones to see what their actual performance was in 2021.

For our analysis here, the Safe Streets zones include both sides of the street on the border of the zone. It is impossible to know the exact location where the shooter and victim stood in each incident, and as we said before it’s absurd to think it matters at all. We also tracked incidents of violence within one block of a Safe Streets zone to be counted separately. There were of course several more shootings which occurred a block and a half away or two blocks away or one diagonal block away, and those were not counted.

The incidents below are from WMAR’s monthly shooting & murder trackers, which are built on BPD media releases. Incidents with an asterisk are the ones taking place one block outside a Safe Streets zone.

Notes on methodology: WMAR’s Trackers are updated when a victim dies of their injuries long after being shot, so anyone left in critical condition is assumed to be still alive. Any case in which it’s noted that homicide detectives were notified is assumed to be a victim who did die. A single incident in which two or more people are shot is multiple shootings. A shooting in which no one is injured is a “discharging” and no such incidents appear on this list. There is a dearth of information about dischargings in Baltimore and if anyone in city government or BPD were serious about public safety transparency those numbers would be readily available and the prosecution of those cases would be newsworthy.


The West Baltimore zone saw 12 homicides and 5 nonfatal shootings in its borders.
Additionally there were 3 homicides and 3 nonfatal shootings in the one block radius surrounding it.

1/11 – 8:06 p.m. Man shot in the 2000 block of West Lexington Street. On June 15, police arrested and charged 23 year-old Kerron Moore of the 1500 block of Tunlaw Road.

*3/14 – 6:20 p.m. A 40 year-old man was shot in the leg in the 1500 block of W. Fayette Street.

*4/17 – 4:00 a.m., Antoine Oglesby, 43, was fatally shot in the 300 block of North Stricker Street.

4/18 – 3:54 pm: A woman and two men were shot between the 1800 and 1900 blocks of W. Fayette Street. Homicide detectives took over the case due to the severity of the victims injuries.

4/27 – 9:35 p.m., Wayne Williams, 21, was shot in the 100 block of North Payson Street. He died the next day.

5/17 – Emmanuel Holley, 18, died after being shot in the 1900 block of West Fayette Street on April 18, 2021.

5/31 – 7:33 p.m., Officers responded to a rooming house in the 1900 block of W. Fayette Street for an aggravated assault and found 33-year-old Jameo McClean who had been shot in the head. Medics responded and pronounced the victim deceased at the scene.

6/2 – 1:33pm: 30-year-old Stephon Boyer was shot in the chest in the 300 block of North Fulton Avenue. He later died from his injuries.

6/7 – 10:31 p.m., a man was found shot in the leg in the 1800 block of W. Fayette Street. Officers say evidence indicated that the shooting occurred in the area 1900 block of Vine Street. He was taken to an area hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

6/17 – 10:59pm: A 22-year-old victim took himself to the hospital after being shot in the head while driving in the 1700 block of Franklin Street. He’s expected to survive.

*6/18 – 3:20 p.m., Officers found a 25-year-old man in the 300 block of North Pulaski Street suffering from multiple gunshot wounds. The victim was taken to an area hospital for treatment.

*7/23 – 6:00 p.m., Deontae Brown, 24, was shot multiple times in the upper body in the 1500 block of Lexington Street. He was transported to an area hospital and was in critical condition. Brown later died of his injuries.

*8/15- 7:34 p.m., a police officer patrolling the area heard gunfire and located 20 year-old Mickel Holman suffering from gunshot wounds in the 2000 block of West Baltimore Street. Medical personnel from Grace Medical Center came out of the facility to render aid. Also, a 42 year-old woman was also found injured, struck in the arm by a projectile. Holman was later pronounced dead by hospital personnel.

9/12 – 12:14am: A 19-year old man was shot in the torso in the 1400 block of Fulton Avenue.

10/15 – 11:55 p.m., Allen Parker, 36, was shot in the upper torso in the 1600 block of Saratoga Street. He was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead shortly after.

10/18 – 1:03 a.m., Two 22-year-old men were shot in the Unit block of North Fulton Avenue.

10/21 – 6:13 p.m., Ronald Morgan Jr., 45, was shot and killed in 1900 block of Penrose Avenue.

10/23 – 12:46 p.m., Garell Talley, 33, was fatally shot in the area of N. Gilmor and W. Saratoga Street.

11/18 – 7:04 p.m., A 13-year-old girl was killed in a shooting Thursday evening in West Baltimore.


Pimlico Safe Streets saw 8 fatal shootings and 17 nonfatal shootings in 2021. Additionally the one-block periphery saw 7 fatal and 5 nonfatal shootings.
1/13 – 5:03 p.m., A 32-year-old man was shot in the abdomen in the 3100 block of Oakfield Avenue.

2/2 – 4:47 p.m. Terrell Billie, 25, was killed in the 5200 block of Park Heights Avenue. Police later arrested and charged Ricky Robinson, 30.

2/17 – 2:57 p.m., Two men were shot in the 5200 block of Fairlawn Avenue. Both were taken to the hospital for treatment and are expected to survive their injuries. The victims stated they were standing outside of the auto shops when they heard gunshots and were struck.

*2/18 -12:17 p.m., Justin Bucalo, 40, was fatally shot in the 5100 block of Queensberry Avenue. Police have since arrested and charged Jaqwaun Owens, 25.

2/28 – 4:37 a.m., Three men were shot inside Island Pride Carry-Out in Baltimore during an afterparty.

3/6 – 11:25 p.m., A 37-year-old woman suffered a graze wound in the 4100 block of Belvedere Avenue. The victim’s injuries are non-life threatening.

*3/19 – 2:45 pm: Kendall Norman was found shot in the 5200 block of Cordilia Avenue. He later died at an area hospital. Homicide detectives are working to identify suspects, witnesses, and a possible motive.

4/8 – 1:09 p.m., Darrell Richardson, 28, was fatally shot in the 3700 block of West Belvedere Avenue.

4/22 – 4:25 a.m., A 24-year-old man was shot in the 4900 block of Cordelia Avenue.

*5/8 – 11:41 a.m., Officers located 41-year-old George Hawkins inside a vehicle, fatally shot in the head, in the 5200 block of Cuthbert Avenue.

*5/19 – 12:49 a.m., Harrison Morten, 28, was found dead in an alley in the 3000 block of Spaulding Avenue. They’d been shot multiple times.

5/30 – 9:09 p.m., Three men were fatally shot in the 3500 block of Spaulding Avenue. The first was victim was shot in the torso and died at a hospital.The second and third victim were each shot in the head and died on scene. The victims were identified as Julius Dunbar, Isaiah Willis and Torron Jackson.

*6/4- 9:14 p.m., Michael Burley, 32, was shot in the 5200 block of St. Charles Avenue. He later died at Sinai Hospital.

*7/4 – 9:24 p.m., A 32 year-old man was shot while trying to escape a robbery in the 5200 block of Cuthbert Avenue. The victim crashed and ran to the 3800 block of Belvedere Avenue where he called police.

8/11 – 8:30 P.M., William Smith, 38, was shot and killed in the 3500 block of West Belvedere Avenue.

8/15 – 9:38 p.m., Officers were dispatched to the 4000 block of West Belvedere Avenue to investigate a reported shooting. Responding officers located Rashad Marshall, 24, suffering from gunshot wounds. Marshall was transported to Sinai Hospital by ambulance and pronounced dead by medical personnel shortly after arrival.

8/19 – 12:16 p.m., A 45-year-old man was shot in the 5100 block of Reisterstown Road.

*8/21 – 6:27 p.m., A 41-year-old man was shot in the 5000 block of Palmer Avenue.

*8/25 – 2:54am: 31-year-old Adam Roy Seward has died after being shot multiple times in the 5200 block of Fairlawn Avenue.

9/21 – 11:32am: Tyquan Wilson, 27, was found dead with a gunshot wound to the back of the head in the 5100 block of Wabash Avenue.

9/29 – 12:12 p.m., A 41-year-old man walked into a clinic in the 2400 block of Cylburn Avenue, after being shot in the 5200 block of Saint Charles Street . He’s listed in critical condition. Police have charged 58 year-old Robert Bullock.

10/5 – 6:49 P.M., A 61-year-old man was shot in the 3500 block of Manchester Avenue.

10/21 – 3:11 a.m., A 25-year-old man and woman were shot in the 5100 block of Linden Heights.

11/1 – 1:54 a.m.: A 23-year-old man was shot in the arm at a gas station on the corner of Reisterstown Road and Belvedere Avenue.

11/11 – 3:04 p.m., A 21-year-old man was shot in the 500 block of Beaufort Avenue. [Address typo also printed in the Sun. Should be 5000 Beaufort. Likely originated with BPD release]

*11/11 – 5:55 p.m., Two shooting victims, a 24-year-old woman and 53-year-old man, checked into a hospital after being wounded in a potential road rage incident in the 5100 block of Queensberry Avenue.

11/11 8:59 p.m., A 29-year-old man was shot in the hip in the 3600 block of Manchester Avenue.

11/13- 8:11 a.m., A citizen dropped a 59-year-old man off at the hospital after he was shot in the 3700 block of West Belvedere Avenue. Injuries are non-life threatening.

*11/27 – 10:34 p.m., Fanon Williams-El, 35, was fatally shot in the back in the 5200 block of Elmer Avenue.

*12/15 – 8:50 p.m., A 53-year-old man was shot in the wrist while driving in the 5200 block of Cuthbert Avenue.


The Park Heights Safe Streets zone had 4 homicides and 7 nonfatal shootings in 2021. The one-block area in any direction also saw 2 homicides and 3 nonfatal shootings.

*1/26 – 8:32 p.m., Officers found a 44-year-old Raynard Booker shot multiple times in the 2800 block of Wylie Avenue. Booker was transported to Sinai Hospital. On July 26, he succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced dead by hospital personnel. On Tuesday, the Medical Examinier ruled Booker’s death a homicide, as a result of gunshot wound complications.

2/18 – 12:48 am: A 49-year-old woman was shot during a dispute with a family member, in the 2500 block of Boarman Avenue. Police later arrested 23 year-old Carnell Spencer.

3/9- 2:38 p.m., A man was killed in a shooting in the 4400 block of Park Heights Avenue.

*4/10 – 12:25 a.m., Tony McLean, 49, was shot and killed in the 3800 block of Wabash Avenue.

5/12 – 8:52 p.m., A 43-year-old man walked into a hospital with apparent gunshot wounds. Police believe he was shot at Park Heights and Shirley Avenue.

5/31 – 4:38 p.m., Officers responded to a home in the 4200 block of Park Heights Avenue for a suspicious death. Upon arrival, officers found 62 year-old Kenneth McCoy dead. His remains were in a decomposed state. Officers observed the man to have trauma to his head; therefore, this is being investigated as a homicide.

*6/5 – 6:01 p.m., a 51-year-old man was shot in the chest in the 2800 block of Boarman Avenue. He was taken to a hospital and is in serious condition. Police say there were men fighting in the block when the victim was shot.

8/21 – 1:26 a.m., Two people were shot in the 4300 block of Reisterstown Road . One victim, a 31-year-old man, was dropped off at a Firehouse, while the second victim, a 33-year-old man, showed up at a nearby hospital. Both are in stable condition.

9/12 – 8:22pm: An unidentified man was found shot in the 3900 block of Cottage Avenue. Homicide detectives have taken over the case due to severity of injuries.

9/14 – 5:26 p.m., A woman was shot in the 2800 block of Boarman Avenue. A second person, a 33-year-old man was found in the 2700 block of Park Heights Avenue. Both victims were taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

*10/14 – 1:45pm: A man walked into a local hospital with a gunshot wound. Detectives believe he was wounded in the 2800 block of Quantico Avenue.

11/5 – 11:08am: A 17-year-old said he was shot in the leg after struggling with an armed man who allegedly approached him on [3600 Block] Park Heights Avenue. Police have arrested and charged 21 year-old Michael McDowell. [additional info:]

*11/28 – 10:08 a.m., A 25-year-old man was shot in the shoulder and arm in the 2800 block of Boarman Avenue. His injuries are considered non-life threatening.

12/2 – 9:50 p.m.: Williams Adams, 33, was fatally shot in the 3600 block of Reistertown Road.


The Penn North Safe Streets had two fatal shootings in 2021 and 11 nonfatal shootings. There was also one fatal shooting one block away (Note that this area abuts the Upton zone, which is of course counted separately.)

*1/18- 6:30 p.m., Devonta Williams, 28, was fatally wounded in the 1300 block of West North Avenue.

4/4 – 4:24 p.m., A man died after being shot multiple times at the corner of Cumberland Street and Pennsylvania Avenue.

6/19- 10:25pm: A 44 year-old male, 27 year-old male and a 25 year- old female were found suffering from gunshot wounds in the 1700 block of North Calhoun Street.

7/16 – 1:46am: A 39-year-old man was shot in the stomach in the 1700 block of Westwood Avenue. He’s expected to survive.

8/7 – 11:34pm: Officers were on foot and heard gunshots in the area of Pennsylvania Avenue at Cumberland. They later found a 15 year-old male with an apparent gunshot wound.

8/30 – 1:12 a.m., Officers were called to the 1600 block of West North Avenue for gunfire. They arrived to find evidence of gunfire and searched the area for potential witnesses, victims and suspects. Moments later, they received information that the victim was a short distance away and was taken to a local hospital for treatment. Detectives learned the 45 year-old woman sustained a gunshot wound to the leg.

11/25 – 10:50pm: A 35-year-old man was shot in the stomach around Presbury and Calhoun Streets. He’s in stable condition.

12/17 – 7:49pm: Five people were shot in the 1300 block of W. North Avenue. One victim, a 36 year-old man, died while the four others suffered non-life threatening injuries. [Penn North SS extends to part of this block then crosses North Ave to follow Division Street. Judging by the number of victims it is assumed the scene is large and is inside Penn North SS.]


Upton had 7 homicides in its Safe Streets zone. There were also 3 nonfatal shootings. The adjacent blocks saw 1 homicide and 6 nonfatal shootings. See note at 600 Laurens Street multiple shooting. That block is an awkwardly shaped corner which looks like it was cut out of the zone on purpose.

1/1 – 4:15 a.m., Tiffany Wilson, 33, was stabbed to death in the 1200 block of North Stricker Street. 26 year-old Lakeyria Doughty was taken into custody on scene. The incident is believed to be domestic related.

*1/20 – 2:58 p.m., A 30-year-old man was shot in the 1700 block of Pennsylvania Avenue. Medical personnel were called and took the victim to an area hospital.

3/16 – 10:16 am: A shot spotter alert led officers to a 36-year-old man who had been fatally wounded in the area of N. Mount and Presstman Streets. The victim has been identified as Durrell Wilson.

3/17 – 1:49 a.m., 33-year-old Matthew Blevins was found dead in a vacant house in the 1400 block of Laurens Street. Results of an autopsy revealed Blevins had been killed by means of blunt force trauma, and ruled this death a homicide.

*5/20 – 7:40 p.m., A 24-year-old man was shot in his thigh in the 600 block of Laurens Street.

5/28 – 9:25 P.M., A 37-year-old man shot himself in the hand in the 1500 block of Leslie Street.

7/9 – 7:16 p.m., James Glover III, 39, was shot multiple times in the 1500 block of Presstman Street. He later died at the hospital.

7/30 – 10:00 p.m., Corey Jermaine Drake, 33, was shot in the 1500 block of Presstman Street. He was taken to an area hospital where he was listed as being in critical condition. However, Drake later succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced dead by medical personnel.

7/31 – 12:23 p.m., A 36-year-old man was shot in the right knee, in the 1400 block of Mountmor Court. The victim, who has an open warrant out of Baltimore County, was taken to a hospital with a non-life threatening gunshot wound.

*9/23 – 7:31 p.m., A man was shot in the 600 block of Laurens Street.

11/6 – 4:22 p.m., A “Shot Spotter” led officers to the 1500 block of Leslie Street where they found 40-year-old Phillip Hayes fatally shot.

12/2 – 3:07 p.m.: Rashad Dendy, 31, was fatally shot in the 1300 block of Gilmor Street.

*12/17 – 12:57 p.m., Four people were shot in the 600 block of Laurens Street. Aaron Adams, 29, of the 4300 block of Connecticut Avenue, died at the hospital. Two other victim’s ages 50 and 18 suffered non-life threatening injuries and the fourth victim, a 50 year-old, remains in critical condition. [Other news reports and photos shoed this crime scene extending to the 700 Block, which is in the Upton zone]


The East Baltimore Safe Streets area had 6 homicides in 2021 and 25 nonfatal shootings. The blocks immediately surrounding saw 1 homicide and 4 nonfatal shootings.

1/23 – 3:35 a.m., An officer was flagged down by a 20 year-old man who had been shot. He told police two other victims were inside his house in the 600 block of N. Lakewood Avenue. There, a 21 year-old man and 16-year-old girl were found wounded. The girl died and has been identified as 17-year-old Alissa Taylor of Aberdeen. Police have charged Lenny Epps.

*2/9 – 3:15 p.m., A man was shot in the lower torso in the 800 block of Kenwood Avenue. He’s listed is in serious but stable condition. He told police he was walking in the block when he was shot.

3/25 – 9:20 p.m., Officers were called to a local hospital for a 21-year-old man that had been shot. He was shot in the 600 block of North Glover Street.

*4/4 – 3:14 a.m., An ambulance was flagged in the 700 block of North Milton Avenue where a 27-year-old man had been shot in the shoulder.

4/10 – 7:17 p.m., A 15-year-old was injured after a group of teenage boys began shooting at him while riding a dirt bike in the 600 block of N. Bradford Street.

4/27 – 11:45 p.m., A 19 year-old man was shot in the left side of the chest in the 600 block of N. Glover Street.

5/6 – 8:49 p.m., Officers responded to the 500 block of N. Glover Street for a shooting but found no victims. A short time later, they were called to a hospital for a walk-in shooting victim, a 23-year-old who had been shot in the back.

5/9 – 4:50 p.m., Police found an unidentified man shot in the chest and a 24-year-old woman shot in the leg in the 400 block of N. Luzerne Street. The man is in serious but stable condition.

*5/11 – 6:44 p.m., Montrell Harvey, 26, was shot in the 500 block of North Curly Street. He was taken to a local hospital where he later died.

5/18 -9:30 p.m., A 28-year-old man was shot in the ankle in a parking lot in the 2500 block of East Monument Street.

5/30 – 11:44 a.m., Officers responded to a crash in the 2300 block Orleans Street and found a 39-year-old man with gunshot wounds to the face and his vehicle crashed. He was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

6/21 – 3:06pm: A man was shot multiple times in the head in the 2500 block of Orleans Street. He later died at an area hospital.

6/29 – 12:50 a.m., A man was stabbed in the 2900 block of East Monument Street. He later died at the hospital.

*8/3 – 10:09 p.m., A 43-year-old man was shot in the 700 block of North Linwood.

9/10 – 2:54pm: Kendall Scott, 28, was found shot in the 400 block of North Montford Street. He later died at an area hospital. Police have since arrested and charged 32 year-old Paul Hunter Jr.

9/12 – 2:51 a.m., Officers responded to a shot spotter alert and found a 47 -year-old man suffering from gunshot wounds in in the 2800 block of Pulaski Highway. Detectives have arrested 20 year-old Ronald Gray and believe he and the victim got into a dispute leading up to the shooting.

*9/18 – 8:35 p.m., A 45-year-old man was shot in the 700 block of North Rose Street.

10/8- 4:43 p.m., Four people were injured in a shooting Friday afternoon just before 5 p.m. in the 2600 block of Jefferson Street.

11/1 – 8:19pm: A 26-year-old woman was shot in the 2400 block of East Monument Street

11/6 – 8:19 p.m., A 26-year-old woman was shot in the 2400 block of East Monument Street.

11/10 – 9:41 p.m. man was shot in the 600 block of Glover Street.

11/10 – 10:15 p.m., Charles Simmons, 52, was stabbed to death in the 400 block of North Port Street.

11/24 – 8:26 p.m., A 19-year-old man was shot in the leg while walking in the area of Jefferson and North Curley Streets.

12/5 – 3:45 p.m., Two men were shot in the 200 North Luzerne Avenue. One victim, 36-year-old Kevin Finley, later died.

12/18 – 9:11 p.m., Three women, ages 25, 31 and 60 were shot in the 500 block of Streeper Street. They were taken to the hospital where they were treated for their injuries.

12/22 – 6:31pm: A man was shot in the 500 block of North Kenwood Avenue

12/30 – 2:55 p.m., A 47-year-old man was shot in the 600 block of North Rose Street. He is expected to survive


There were 2 homicides inside the Belair Edison zone in 2021 and 9 nonfatal shootings. In the one-block area bordering the zone there were 2 fatal and 2 nonfatal shootings.

*2/15 – 9:24 a.m., A 16-year-old boy was killed after being shot in the head in Northeast Baltimore. Police say the shooting took place at an apartment in the 4400 block of Moravia Road.

3/28 – 11:33 p.m., A 44-year-old man was shot in the shoulder and back near the intersection of Bel Air Road and Mayfield Avenue.

4/11 – 10:29 pm: A 36-year-old man was shot in the legs and buttocks in the 3200 block of Bel Air Road

*4/29 – 6:55 p.m., A 35-year-old man was shot in the 4100 block of Eierman Avenue.

*5/3 – 11:56 a.m., 30-year-old Brittaney Hayes-Smith woman was found dead from an apparent gunshot wound in the 2800 block of Clifton Park Terrace.

5/25 – 11:23 p.m., A 30-year-old man was shot in the leg in the 3200 block of Belair Road.

5/29 – 9:24 p.m., A 35-year-old man was shot multiple times in the 3200 block of Belair Road

6/13 – 4:44 p.m., 23-year-old woman was found in the 3400 block of Findlay Road suffering from apparent gunshot wounds. She was taken to an area hospital where she is currently listed as being in stable condition.

7/16 – 12:17am: Two 24-year-old men went to different area hospitals after being shot while together in the 4400 block of Belair Road.

9/16 – 7:18 p.m., Phillip Hamilton, 27, was shot in the 3500 block of Cliftmont Avenue. He later died at the hospital.

*9/21 – 10:26pm: A 26-year-old man was shot in the hip in the 4100 block of Eierman Avenue. His injuries are considered non-life threatening.

9/25 – 5:24 p.m., 34 year-old man was shot in the 3600 block of Brehms Lane. The victim was taken to an area hospital and is in serious condition. He was sitting in his vehicle when the shooting happened. On October 7 — Johnathan Williams, 39, was arrested and charged.

10/26 – 2:12pm: A 38-year-old man was shot in the 3100 block of Mareco Avenue. Police have since arrested and charged 35-year-old Travis Lomax.

11/17: Nivea Anderson, 5, died after being found unresponsive inside a home in the 2800 block of Pelham Avenue on November 15. Abuse is suspected. Her death marked the city’s 300th homicide of 2021.


Govans Safe Streets had 4 homicides in 2021 and 3 nonfatal shootings. There were no shootings in the blocks bordering the zone.

3/21 – 1:42 a.m., A 54 year-old man, John Werrell, was stabbed in the 500 block of Radnor Avenue. The victim was taken to an area hospital where he later died.

4/19 – 3:45 am: Nikea Jackson, 27, was shot in the 700 block of Woodbourne Avenue. She later died at the hospital. Daya Jones, 44, was arrested on April 23.

6/1 – 10:50 p.m., An unidentified man and 27-year-old Keonna Britton were shot in the 500 block of Richwood Avenue. Britton was pronounced deceased at the scene and the man is in serious condition at a local hospital.

8/30 – 12 p.m., A 42-year-old man was shot in the 5300 block of Ready Avenue.

9/17 -2:54 p.m., John Gillian was fatally stabbed in the 5200 block of York Road. Police arrested 39 year-old Robert Lee Edwards in connection to the incident.

11/7 – 6:45pm: A 23 year-old woman was shot in the 5000 block of Midwood Avenue.


Brooklyn’s Safe Streets post saw 4 homicides and 7 nonfatal shootings in 2021. Directly adjacent to the zone were 1 fatal and 1 nonfatal shooting.

2/8 – 10:17 p.m., A man was shot in the head inside a home in the 900 block of E. Jeffrey Street. His condition is currently unknown. Suspects were described as three unknown males wearing dark clothing and hoodies.

4/19 – 5:43 p.m., A 39-year-old woman was shot in the stomach in the 3600 block of 5th Street. Moments later a 17-year-old victim checked into a hospital.

6/14 – 4:40 p.m., A 32-year-old man was shot in the 900 block of East Patapsco Avenue and crashed his car while trying to take himself to the hospital. Police arrested 30-year-old Alonzo Plenty in connection to the shooting.

7/5 – 9:57 p.m., Demari Hall,19, was shot multiple times in the 4700 block of York Road. He later died at the hospital.

7/12 – 2:25 p.m., A 22-year-old walk-in shooting victim told officers that while in the Brooklyn Homes neighborhood a vehicle pulled up and started shooting at him.

*8/5 – 9:37 p.m., A 37-year-old man was shot in the 4100 block of Mariban Court.

8/10 – 7:36 p.m., Bernard Knotts, 26, was shot in the 4200 block of Thayer Court. He was taken to the hospital and pronounced dead.

9/23 – 1:13pm: Several Shot Spotters alerted of a shooting in the 3600 block of 9th Street. On scene, police found 32-year-old Christopher Weaver fatally shot in the head. A second victim, a 34-year-old man, was found wounded at St. Victor and Patapsco Avenue. He’s in stable condition.

*10/27 – 5:45pm: Jacques Mcfadden, 18, was fatally shot in the 4100 block of Mariban Court.

11/5 – 10:20am: Qwize Butcher, 28, was fatally shot in the 800 block of Pontiac Avenue.

12/11 – 1:38 p.m., A 3 year-old girl suffered from a graze wound inside her home on the 900 block of Herndon Court.


Cherry Hill’s Safe Streets area had 2 homicides and 11 nonfatal shootings in 2021. there was one nonfatal shooting on a block bordering that area.

5/10 – 9:06 p.m., A 38-year-old man walked into a hospital with an apparent gunshot wound. Police believe the shooting possibly took place in the 2900 block of Round Rd.

6/19 – 2:25am: A 43-year-old man was shot in the leg in the 1000 block of Bethune Road

7/1 – 4:41 p.m., Kenyell Wilson, 44, drove himself to Harbor Hospital after being shot and died a short time later. It’s unclear where the shooting happened. [Wilson was a violence interruptor with Safe Streets Cherry Hill.]

7/11 – 3:49 a.m., A 19-year-old was shot in the 1100 block of Cherry Hill Road.

*7/21 – 11:46pm: A 21 year-old woman was shot in the leg in the 2700 block of Seamon Avenue

8/10 – 1:49am: A 24-year-old-year-old man checked himself into the hospital after being shot in the buttock in the 900 block of Cherry Hill Road.

8/11 – 7:`10 p.m., A 44-year-old was shot in the 2700 block of Spelman Road.

9/7 – 4:21 p.m., Seth Tunstall, 31, was shot and killed in the 600 block of Cherry Hill Road. On October 6, police arrested and charged 35 year-old Maurice Timothy Jones.

10/3 – 5:40am: A 35-year-old man heard gunshots in the 3500 block of Seagull Avenue and fled to Round Road where he noticed he’d been shot.

10/7 – 6:00 p.m., Two 32-year-old women were shot in the 2600 block of Spellman Road.

10/30 – 3:03 a.m., A 38-year-old man was shot in the 2900 block of Cherryland Road. On November 4, 2021, detectives arrest and charged 38-year-old Charles Lee.

11/24- 7:36 p.m., A 33-year-old woman was shot in the stomach in the 600 block of Cherry Hill Road. [This location is also likely to be where Kenyell Wilson was shot July 1. Paul Gessler reported that he was picking up food when he was shot and there is a carryout at this location.]

12/17 – 6:34pm: A man was shot in the leg in the 600 block of Cherry Hill Road.

12/31 – 5:08 p.m., A 35-year-old man was shot in the 600 block of Cherry Hill Road after someone inside a vehicle pulled beside him and opened fire. The victim was taken into surgery and is in serious condition.

Baltimore’s Safe Streets zones accounted for 51 homicides and 99 nonfatal shootings in 2021. Citywide there were 337 homicides and 728 nonfatal shootings (as of 0900 December 31). (With another 20 homicides and 25 nonfatal shootings one block from a zone.)The area covered by Safe Streets’ 10 zones amounts to 2.6 square miles of the city’s 92.28 square mile area, so at a glance it would seem that violence is disproportionately high in those areas. And of course… it is. That’s why the program exists in the first place. But 15 years of violence interruption and over a half billion dollar police budget has not brought any better results than this.

Baltimore residents deserve better. Failing that, they deserve at least to know the actual facts and context of the violence happening around them daily. It’s a great source of frustration that the same media outlets that rush to cover Safe Streets in a glowing light and as a key part of the mayor’s strategy will then continue to report on violence day in and day out as if this program did not exist at all, and has no bearing or relation to any individual act of violence. A story that notes where a shooting occurs should also note the context of its happening in an area where violence interruption is supposedly present, or where recent violence has already occurred.

The Chop Moves to Nashville

Ed. Note: This post originally appeared New Year’s Day 2018 and was subsequently deleted & re-published 4/25/19. For personal reasons we decided to move to Owings Mills at that time instead. It was our feeling that the situation in Baltimore would continue to deteriorate. With the benefit of hindsight that has proven true. As we post this today the FBI has just finished raiding city hall and Cathy Pugh is likely to be arrested very soon. And, well, you know the rest.

Meanwhile we have moved to Nashville. We can afford to live downtown, on the river. And it’s fantastic here. There’s growth and prosperity everywhere and we haven’t felt unsafe a single moment since we arrived.

As we type this Taylor Swift is posing with fans in front of the Wings mural and we’re about to walk down the street and see a ton of free music and watch the Ravens make their selection in the NFL Draft. It goes without saying that Baltimore could never pull off an event like this. It couldn’t even pull off the Grand Prix. That’s the way this blog ends. A happy ending.

Last Year’s Post:

A year and a half ago we wrote a post about our intention to leave the city. Although we made an earnest effort to sell our Waverly rowhouse twice, it did not attract a single offer despite being priced as low as we could possibly afford.

Since then, our personal circumstances have changed for the better. After years of studying and working toward it, we’ve attained a professional license and secured a job that pays a lot more than we’ve earned in the past. Not to put too fine a point on it, but we’re now making three times as much as we made at the time we bought this house. It’s enough to be more than twice the neighborhood median income. It’s enough that we’re no longer stuck.

In 2018 we can afford to move out of this house even without a sale. And that’s exactly what we intend to do. Next month we’ll be moving to Nashville.

At this point our disaffection with Baltimore City is nothing new. We’d begun to detail our struggles living here even before the riots of 2015. By 2016, when we tried to sell the first time, the city had smashed crime records once and was well on its way to doing it again by the end of that year. Now that 2017 is over we’ve had yet another record year for per capita murders. But this one murder, the one that put the city over the edge for this year, number 342, was different. It’s different because we saw it happen out our bedroom window. It was the second shooting immediately outside our door in as many months.

There are those who’d question or deride our decision to leave the city. Well, fuck ’em. No one should be expected to live with gunshots flying past their windows and that includes this writer. There were around a thousand shootings in Baltimore this year. These are not just bad luck or isolated incidents or part and parcel of life in the big city. What we’re living through, all of us, is nothing less than the complete breakdown of our criminal justice system.

The mayor, the city council, the state of Maryland, the city’s judges, Baltimore juries and most especially Marylin Mosby’s SAO and Kevin Davis’ BPD are utterly ineffective in fighting crime and are deserving of no faith. Robberies and other such crimes routinely go uninvestigated or uncharged now, and even in some of the city’s highest profile murders we’ve seen no justice. There was no justice for Freddie Gray. No justice for Molly McCauley. No justice for Ananais Jolley. No justice for Kendal Fenwick. No justice for Arnesha Bowers. No justice for Robert Ponsi.

The Gun Trace Task Force, the case of Detective Sean Suiter, and the hundreds of cases dropped as a result of their corruption are so completely beyond the pale that we don’t even wish to discuss them here, except to incorporate them by reference. As we stand as a city on this first day of 2018 we can now confidently answer the question so many were asking at the start of 2016. Yes, this is the New Normal.

The idea that all this violence is limited to certain neighborhoods, or limited to those involved in the drug trade, or that you can avoid it with ‘street smarts’ is wishful thinking at best. Alex Wroblewski is the New Normal. Jim Forrester is the New Normal. Jonathan Tobash is the New Normal.

Moving ahead with projects funded by an ever-shrinking tax base like Harbor Point and Port Covington while longtime residents flee decrepit and decaying neighborhoods is the New Normal. The New Normal is watching as the dozens of neighbors on our block leave their houses vacant, whether by foreclosure, neglect or by choice. Another household is packing their truck outside the window as we write this. The New Normal is a 100 year population low, down more than 100,000 in 20 years and the loss of thousands more residents each year.

We’ve had as much of the New Normal as we can stand. We’re ready to embrace the Normal Normal.

As we say goodbye to Baltimore we also say goodbye to so many countless fears, anxieties, annoyances, frustrations, absurdities, disappointments, resentments, and exasperations that are unique, if not to this place then to places like it. We’re embracing a new home which may be uneasy with its own rapid pace of change, but where change is possible, and positive. We want to live in a city where problems are not intractable, generational, and of a downward spiral.

When we began this blog we did it because the city felt vital and exciting in a way that made you believe anything was possible. That feeling is no longer in us. We’re not the only one to note that “It’s like the magic that brought you here is gone.” It’s been our joy to get to know and befriend so many brilliant people we continue to admire. It’s been our sorrow to see too many of them have moved on, and so many others content to merely hang on. It’s been our joy to have shared this with so many readers, and it’s our sorrow to know that this is our final post here.

The time has come to embrace our own New Normal.

The True Cost of Owning vs. Renting in Baltimore

Last year we wrote a post on our frustration with living in Baltimore City, and declaring our desire to move to Towson. Since then when talking about city problems we sometimes get variations of the question “Don’t you live in Towson anyway?”

No, sadly we do not. Yet.

Last year’s post was about listing our house for sale. Even though it was listed for less than we paid, it failed to attract any offers in 90 days. We’re about to attempt to list it again, for even less this time. It would have been on the market weeks ago except that the city has closed our street for six weeks (at least) to dig it up and work on the water pipes. So in addition to all the frustrations we expressed in last year’s post we now live in the middle of a job site and wake up to jackhammering before 8 am every day.

In last year’s post, we intentionally skipped over the economics of our decision. Today we want to parse those economics in detail and examine the true cost of owning vs. renting in the city as we’ve experienced it firsthand.

A few notes before we get started:

    We live in our house alone. Philosophically, we don’t believe a full-grown adult should need a roommate to square the circle of affordability. Ours is only an average size rowhouse but at around 1350 square feet it’s much larger than we strictly need. After touring many apartments we’ve found that 650 sq ft is adequate and 800 is spacious for one person. We’re not concerned today with cost per square foot. It is our feeling that any tradeoff in square footage is more than offset by gains in location and neighborhood amenities between our own house and an apartment. If our own house does happen to be a deal square-footage-wise, rest assured that same deal doesn’t exist when shopping to buy in nicer neighborhoods.

    When comparing our house to an apartment, we’re mostly concerned with newer Class A buildings, of which there is currently a glut with more being built all the time. Older buildings are, of course, generally less expensive.

The conventional wisdom about Baltimore is that it’s a cheap place to live. Most longtime residents would balk at rents that approach (or exceed) $2000 a month, thinking that for that price you’d be better off moving to Manhattan. The conventional wisdom is that you can buy a rowhouse for around a thousand bucks a month and live happily ever after. We own such a house, and as we’ve detailed previously life on our block has been anything but happy. Our neighborhood continues to deteriorate. There are 16 houses between ours and the corner. Eight of them are currently unoccupied.

Our monthly payment may be about $1000, but after 7 1/2 years the true cost of ownership has been much higher. Assuming we were to sell this Spring for near our asking price, the numbers would be very similar to what follows. Beyond the mortgage our home has seen significant depreciation, and we would estimate we’ve spent well over $10,000 in maintenance. We don’t think this number is unusual. Our house has always been in generally good shape, but all city rowhouses are around a hundred years old (or more!) and they’ll all need maintenance. We spent over $7000 on maintenance last year alone, including a new roof. We pay $28 a month on our water bill just in taxes and fees. Even if apartment water were sub-metered we’d save at least this much. In many rentals water is paid by the landlord. These and the transactional costs of buying ($3850) and selling ($7000) are divided by the 90 months we’ve lived here, and other monthly expenses we’re including are the ground rent, cost of BGE above what it would cost in an apartment, and parking. We travel 6 months a year and leaving the car on the street for that time is impossible. The city would tow it. Garages run about $100 a month, so we’re averaging that out to $50 a month over the year. We’re also going to throw in $75, which is what it costs to belong to Merritt Clubs. Gyms are standard amenities in class A buildings now and outside Baltimore City most buildings include really nice pools too. Even the modest YMCA here in Waverly comes in at $50 a month. Here’s how those expenses add up over 90 months:

PITI: 1028
Buying cost 43
Selling cost 78
Ground Rent 6
Depreciation 97
Maintenance 115
BGE premium 35
Water fees 28
Off street parking 50
Gym/Pool 75
Total cost $1555

This is the number which effectively represents what we could pay for an apartment with those amenities with zero additional financial strain over the long term. This is not enough to get you to the top of the market in Baltimore, but even at this price you can find a nice apartment in a much better, safer neighborhood than Waverly. You can, of course, spend hundreds less than this. Spending more should get you a very nice place. Using the real cost of a rowhouse in the $100k-150k range, it seems clear that renting will almost always be the better deal, and come with far fewer headaches and more flexibility.

$1555 Is plenty enough to get a Class A apartment in Towson, which we’d prefer to any Baltimore neighborhood at this point anyway, and in many other cities this number will be enough to let you take your pick among neighborhoods and apartments.

So there you have it. We’re paying a $500+ a month premium to own in a bad neighborhood when we could spend the same to rent virtually anywhere. There are plenty of people in this town who think that homeowners should cheerfully carry this burden for the good of the city. Balls. It would be objectively stupid for us to remain in this house, in this neighborhood. We do not have faith that the situation on the ground will improve in any meaningful way. Our experiment in Baltimore home ownership has been a complete failure, and we are eager to bring it to an end.

First Impressions of Baltimore’s Bike Share Program

When you live in Baltimore you hear a lot about potential. If you squint real hard and look at things in a certain light and just believe a little you can see how great everything is supposed to be… how great it is going to be in the very near future. And sometimes it is. Harborplace is pretty nice. Oriole Park didn’t always exist and now it’s impossible to imagine the city without it. But then other times all that potential amounts to nothing more than a canceled Red Line, a highway to nowhere or a Superblock.

Given our city’s history and the enormous dysfunction in city hall it feels like an honest-to-God miracle that Baltimore Bike Share exists. But it does! it really happened. You can go rent a bike right now and you should!

We were eager to test drive the bikes and the system, and hit the streets as soon as we could yesterday. We’ve been hearing for several weeks now that October 28 was the launch date, but we were frustrated early when we woke up yesterday morning to see on social media that most of the stations slated to open did not have bikes on them. Where were the bikes? They were at city hall. Her honor the Mayor Not Standing For Reelection had staged hundreds of bikes there for a photo op timed to the noon news. It would have been quite sufficient to just use the bike stand already located at city hall and it’s inexcusable for the mayor to delay the rollout, and to make the contractor work that much harder on an already busy day.

Besides, the mayor has absolutely no leg to stand on in taking credit for this program. It should have been done six years ago! We’ve heard the figure $2.36 Million thrown around quite a bit as if it were expensive. This is a woman who hands out half million dollar consulting contracts by the dozen every time the BOE meets. Two and a half million is a bargain for a system of the size and quality we’re getting! And in six years six years! she hasn’t been able to find a title sponsor. But that is typical of SRB: fail in every way imaginable and when you succeed even a tiny little bit make sure there’s a ton of press there to brag in front of.

Dozens of bikes sit outside city hall hours after the mayor's photo op.

Dozens of bikes sit outside city hall hours after the mayor’s photo op.

There was a ton of press. At least what passes for a ton of press in this town in 2016. By the time we got to city hall around 2:30 there were still over 60 bikes there just sitting around doing nothing. We saw WJZ’s Pat Warren with a cameraman, who didn’t bother to say hello or ask if we’d like to be interviewed, but instead just stuck the goddamn camera in our face when we tried to rent a bicycle.

Here is how we know Pat Warren is a hack reporter. When we made it clear that we didn’t want to be interviewed but would be happy to chat off the record she became quite curt and literally turned her back on us. We’ve met some good reporters, like some of the ones the Sun is currently refusing to give raises, and it is true that good reporters want to learn as much as they can about the stories they’re covering. Given the chance to talk to a local who’s done quite a lot of cycling in Baltimore Pat Warren (and many others like her) are only interested in getting the requisite amount of footage and B-roll and getting back to the station. A story like this unfortunately requires no imagination and little effort. You just go through the checklist: a quote from the mayor or someone in the transportation department, a few questions for Liz Cornish, and maybe a smoking hot take from Doc Brown if you really want to spice it up. Nobody’s talked to the contractor or the founding members or people who live or work near stations. Nobody’s made a real comparison to other cities’ programs. Nobody really gives a shit. Here are three stories at the Brew, WBAL, and the BBJ. They all contain a HUGE factual error: Bike Share does not cost $2 per ride. It costs $2 per day. Two dollars buys you a pass that is good for unlimited 45 minute rides in a 24 hour period.

For years this blog has been limited in scope because we’ve purposefully shied away from doing reporting or anything that smacks of journalism. But we did do one thing that no reporter in this town thought to try and that’s ride the damn bike and tell you what it was like.

So what was it like? Well, we encountered some difficulty in actually getting our hands on a bike. Using the bike share website we got an error in processing our credit card and were unable to purchase a pass online. The iPhone app was even worse, as there were no selections to choose in the pass field, halting the whole transaction at that step. An email to their contact page was not immediately returned. We received an error message when we tried to buy a pass at city hall, and when we walked to West Shore Park we got a different error- which turned out to be that the machine did not take American Express. After trying again with a Visa, we got a day pass in the form of an RFID card, similar to a Charm Card.

Users can (theoretically) use the app to undock bikes, or use the pass. We’d like it a lot if the passes were merged with the Charm Card we already have instead of carrying a new card. We assume we’re meant to recharge the card the same way a Charm Card is done, as there is a panel for that on the machine, but as with many aspects of the program the vendor is unclear in the website and kiosk instructions. We imagine that for many users both locals and visitors this may be their first experience with a bike share, so more clarity and ease of use would go a long way. It’s also not clear why only some stations receive credit cards. It would be nice if they all did. The few other riders we encountered at stations seemed to be experiencing similar early-stage difficulties.

Once we had the pass, it was smooth sailing. You just tap it to the handlebars, take your bike and go.

The digital readout seen on this electric model is the same on the geared model but without the words 'electric pedal assist.' This is the view riding, making it impossible to see the wheel.

The digital readout seen on this electric model is the same on the geared model but without the words ‘electric pedal assist.’ This is the view riding, making it impossible to see the wheel.

These are indeed the nicest bike share bikes we’ve ever seen. They’re heavy, as all share bikes are, but they’re comfortable for us as a 6′ rider and we assume they’ll be comfortable for riders of all heights, ages and experience levels. We loved the digital display at the stem that alternates between a speedometer and a timer counting down the minutes you’ve got left. It also shows the battery charge and miles ridden which is good to know. We didn’t try the secondary lock feature, but if you want to make a trip to the store or run an errand each bike is equipped with a steel basket and an integrated cable lock to keep it from wandering off while you’re inside.

The basket placement is perhaps our biggest criticism of the bikes, in that it does not allow you to see where the front tire is going. These bikes have different size wheels, and the front tire is smaller than what many riders are used to. With the conditions of downtown’s streets and sidewalks being what they are, it could be quite dangerous not seeing whether your wheel is about to go into a pothole or miss it by two inches- go up the curb cut or run into a concrete lip, etc. It would also be a benefit to see what your turning circles are on the ground, particularly around pedestrians as all share bikes are difficult to maneuver at slow speeds.

Being brand new the bikes are all in mint condition. It will be interesting to see how well maintained they are at periodic intervals but today all the ones we rode were smooth and efficient. The non-electric models have seven speeds, which feels like a luxury and should be more than enough for getting from station to station. In 7th gear on Pratt Street we were able to clock a bike at 17.5 mph over flat ground. We’re also pleased to report that these things handle cobblestone streets like a champ. Being heavy and having beefy tires comes in handy there. Brakes worked well and safely as expected.

There is a certain awkward unfamiliarity with the frame and style of bike but we’re sure that for even occasional riders that won’t be an issue after several rides. These things are also drawing a lot of looks, both at the stations and in motion. This isn’t a bad thing though. People had a very positive reaction in general. If you’re an early adopter of share bikes, you should be prepared to field a lot of questions, and for the success of the system we think it’s particularly important for those early adopters to be as genial and informative as possible, and to encourage as many people as possible to try these bikes. It’s two bucks. It should be an easy sale!

We had fun tooling around downtown and seeing each station slowly start to fill with bikes, but the real fun began when we got our hands on one of the electric models. From a distance they’re indistinguishable from the traditional geared models, but the electric ones are indicated on the display panel in small type. If you’re looking for one at a station the lack of a shifter on the right handlebar is a quick way to tell.

What’s it feel like to ride? It feels like you’re Mister Burns gliding along on the front end of a tandem bike while Smithers is behind you pedaling his ass off. It’s great. The electric boost kicks in after just about a third of a pedal revolution, and it kicks off again if you stop pedaling. We got it going to 21 mph on a slight downhill, but it topped out at 14.5 over the same flat stretch of Pratt Street where the geared bike did 17.5. We can say with confidence that you could run these things uphill all the way to Charles Village or Remington easily. It would take a fraction of the effort it takes to ride your own bike that far.

The stations are, for the most part, very well located. The more we talked to people during the rollout the more we got the sense that our bike share system is meant to be primarily a solution to the problem of last-mile transit. You can come off the subway or light rail and get right onto a bike and be at the next station very quickly with no bus or long walk involved. And there are enough stations that one is bound to be close to your destination. Station locations coincide well with clusters of restaurants, nightlife, and attractions, i.e. where people want to go. It could be that they are a little too clustered, but only time will tell. A few could eventually be moved if it came to that. It is unlikely we’re going to see stations more than about five or six miles from the center of town. That’s about the distance we live from downtown, and frankly while getting around on our own bike is easy enough, trying to utilize a share bike instead of a bus to go to, say, Oriole Park would be very impractical.

But if you live near a station this is a very convenient way of making short trips. Forty five minutes may not sound like a lot of time but even on a heavy bike like this it’s possible to cover several miles in that time. It would be nice- hell, it would be a miracle if everyone who owned a car and lived near downtown didn’t see this as ‘for tourists’ or ‘for the bike people’ or whatever. It’s not that. It’s for you! Don’t look at it as a couple parking spots missing from one particular block. Look at it as you getting to keep your parking space all weekend because you can now get across town in 15 minutes by bike for $2.

We can’t say enough how great the pricing is in this program, and we wish the media and the company had been better in clarifying. Aside from the $2 day pass there’s a $15 monthly pass, which pays for itself if you ride more than 7 days in a month, and the Founders’ Pass at $100 a year, which comes with longer rides, a Zipcar membership with driving credit, and a few other perks. It’s really an exceptional value and those passes have sold well.

All in all today’s rollout was… bad. There were the problems mentioned above, as well as some issues with the app giving wrong information about the number of bikes available at particular stations and other technical issues not worth getting in the weeds about. That said it wasn’t a disaster. The bikes are on the streets. Finally. If the city can get out of Bewegen’s way and let them do their jobs there is no reason why they can’t have every single issue ironed out by the time of full implementation in the Spring. When that time arrives there’s the potential these bikes will be widely adopted and adored by people in central Baltimore.

Bike share station with large construction site in the background. We almost ate shit at a patch of missing bricks where the cones are beyond the station.

Bike share station with large construction site in the background. We almost ate shit at a patch of missing bricks where the cones are beyond the station.

But before that potential can become a reality the city needs to get out of its own way. We wrote 3 weeks ago about the current sorry state of downtown. In those three weeks we’ve seen three downtown businesses either close or announce their intention to close, with all three owners citing the downtown environment and dealing with the city government as their entire reason for either closing or moving. There were also 3 shootings near Baltimore and Howard in a week. The preponderance of construction sites and road and utility maintenance going on all over the city, but especially downtown and in Fell’s Point/Harbor East will be a major obstacle to the wide adoption of bike share. While many users may be somewhat timid riders even under ideal conditions, the industrial hellscape and poor road conditions existing downtown are challenging to any cyclist, and we found them even harder to negotiate on a share bike.

We hear a lot about the potential of the coming bike infrastructure to transform the riding experience, but the city’s track record on that so far is poor. Beyond being unsafe from a crime perspective, they never did complete Guilford avenue, and have already torn out the traffic calming circles they installed there a few years ago, leaving the road surface much worse for wear. They likewise tore out freshly installed bike lanes on Fulton Avenue a few years ago. When they do get a “complete street” built such as next to Johns Hopkins’ Homewood campus on Charles Street, the road bottlenecks and is confusing and practically invites people to drive in the bike lane. It’s a horrible thing to ride a bike through. Practically the only bike lane that’s even halfway pleasant and efficient is the one on Saint Paul Street (not without its own flaws) but even that one just ends abruptly in a chaotic mess of taxis and off-ramp traffic.

Too much of what this city calls bike lanes at this moment in 2016 are absolutely worse than nothing at all and are very dangerous. When we rode around Cathedral Street and down to Liberty Street there were cars driving in what’s supposed to be a protected two way lane, cars using the lane as a turn lane, cars turning where they’re no longer allowed to turn. These lanes are totally unprotected as of now and are ill marked even where they’re complete. Where they’re not complete they’re just a jumble of spray paint. These brown lanes on Pratt and Lombard are no better. People just drive all over those with impunity. And these are the very places where bike share stations were designed to go. It’s not hard to imagine someone picking up their first bike at Cathedral and Mulberry, running a gauntlet downhill and barely escaping with their lives, and ditching the bike at Hopkins Place in a fit of disgust. And they wouldn’t be wrong to do it, either.

Below are some pictures we took along our ride yesterday. It was a typical afternoon. There was no stadium traffic or water main break or anything. If you go riding downtown you will see all of what we saw today. These are just a select few images. The truth is that we saw construction in nearly every block and could have taken hundreds of photos. Also these are mostly from the eastern part of downtown. The sinkholes, construction, and general messes are even worse on the west side of downtown. If bike share is going to succeed, and we truly hope it does, it’s got to be in a better environment than this.

Midway between downtown and Fell's Point, which is bound to be one of the more popular riding routes.  Sign reads Share The Road. Imagine steering a fifty pound bike between the truck and the jersey wall.

Midway between downtown and Fell’s Point, which is bound to be one of the more popular riding routes. Sign reads Share The Road. Imagine steering a fifty pound bike between the truck and the jersey wall.

In search of one of the Fell's stations we followed a bike lane. It led us into a dead end parking lot surrounded by construction. The Bond Street station two blocks east fits nicely and works well.

In search of one of the Fell’s stations we followed a bike lane. It led us into a dead end parking lot surrounded by construction. The Bond Street station two blocks east fits nicely and works well.

This is what we found looking for the Baltimore Marketplace station on Center Street. It's barely possible to go west from here.

This is what we found looking for the Baltimore Marketplace station on Center Street. It’s barely possible to go west from here.

This is the state of the bike lane on President street, between two bike share stations. This was brand new just a couple years ago. Now, standing water, litter, potholes, leaves dirt and gravel. It did not occur to the city to improve this before introducing bike share.

This is the state of the bike lane on President street, between two bike share stations. This was brand new just a couple years ago. Now, standing water, litter, potholes, leaves dirt and gravel. It did not occur to the city to improve this before introducing bike share.

Another bike lane failure that combines poor design and road quality with treacherous construction.

Another bike lane failure that combines poor design and road quality with treacherous construction.

This is the bike lane on Cathedral. It's total chaos. bikes go in the opposite direction of both the lanes and parked cars, and how can this be protected if there's still parking on the other side?

This is the bike lane on Cathedral. It’s total chaos. bikes go in the opposite direction of both the lanes and parked cars, and how can this be protected if there’s still parking on the other side?

This is what you're met with when you take a bike from Hopkins Plaza and go east. It's not possible to use the sidewalk. It's difficult even to walk on the sidewalk. The street is completely impassable. Not pictured: the fourth and fifth buses also present in this block at this moment.

This is what you’re met with when you take a bike from Hopkins Plaza and go east. It’s not possible to use the sidewalk. It’s difficult even to walk on the sidewalk. The street is completely impassable. Not pictured: the fourth and fifth buses also present in this block at this moment.

Some dick parked in the bike lane on Central Avenue.

Some dick parked in the bike lane on Central Avenue.

Another dick parked in another bike lane. He knows he's doing wrong, but the city should demarcate this better. It looks as much like a parking lane as it does a bike lane. They also need to get rid of the meters and legal parking signs like yesterday. The little paper no parking sign is clearly ineffective.

Another dick parked in another bike lane. He knows he’s doing wrong, but the city should demarcate this better. It looks as much like a parking lane as it does a bike lane. They also need to get rid of the meters and legal parking signs like yesterday. The little paper no parking sign is clearly ineffective.

The first of a very long line of cars using a two way bike lane as a travel lane outside the central library.

The first of a very long line of cars using a two way bike lane as a travel lane outside the central library.

Cars cross several white lines to turn into the two way bike lane. It is inexcusable that this turnoff is not closed and this dangerous situation is allowed to exist.

Cars cross several white lines to turn into the two way bike lane. It is inexcusable that this turnoff is not closed and this dangerous situation is allowed to exist.

A dumpster left in the bike lane a block south of the previous photo.

A dumpster left in the bike lane a block south of the previous photo.

Another dumpster in the same bike lane a block south of the first dumpster.

Another dumpster in the same bike lane a block south of the first dumpster.