Bike Commuting from UMBC to West Catonsville

Once every year or so, I have occasion to bike commute from UMBC to the western part of Catonsville, MD, during afternoon rush hour.  I’m still trying to find a route I like, that doesn’t require dealing with really heavy traffic.

The first time I did this, I took this route:

  • Exit UMBC via Hilltop Rd to traffic circle
  • Proceed through circle and follow Hilltop straight through to Bloomsbury Ave intersection
  • Proceed through Bloomsbury intersection onto Mellor Ave.
  • Follow Mellor to Frederick Rd. light and turn left
  • Turn right onto Winters La. and follow to Edmondson Ave. light.
  • Turn left onto Edmondson Ave.
  • Follow Edmondson to end.

This was OK, but there’s a lot of hill climbing at the beginning of the ride.  Traffic is really bad at the Hilltop Rd./Wilkens Ave. traffic circle leaving UMBC, and at the intersection of Edmondson Ave. and Rolling Rd.  Traffic backs way up at the light, and due to the lane configuration, there’s no way to “filter” past it.  You just have to sit in it, and it’s an uphill grade to boot.

This year I tried the following alternate:

  • Exit UMBC via Walker Ave. and turn left onto Wilkens Ave.
  • Turn right onto Rolling Rd., then make an immediate left onto Collegiate Dr.
  • Go about ½ mile and turn right onto Campus Dr.  then make another left to stay on Campus Dr.
  • Turn right towards McCurley Ave.  There’s a paved path here that leads from the CCBC campus to the end of McCurley Ave. in Catonsville.
  • Follow McCurley to end and turn right onto Hilton Ave.
  • Ride through Oak Forest community to Montrose Ave.  Follow Montrose to Frederick Rd.
  • Cross Frederick and turn onto the No. 8 Streetcar Path.
  • Follow the trail until it ends at Dutton Ave.  Turn right onto Dutton.
  • Turn left onto Edmondson Ave.  and follow Edmondson to end.

This route seemed OK on paper, but was a net loss.  Leaving UMBC via Walker is better than taking Hilltop, because it avoids all the traffic queued up at the circle.  However, you still have to cross the circle from Wilkens, which is a pain.  A better alternative might be to turn right onto Wilkens and then left onto Valley.  Westbound traffic on Rolling Rd. is just horrible, even for the minuscule distance I’m on it.  Taking the lane here is mandatory, or you’ll be sitting forever waiting to cross.  I was hoping cutting through CCBC would avoid some of the up-and-down hills on Hilltop Rd., but Collegiate Dr. is just as hilly, if not more so.  The trail out of CCBC also has a steep grade.  The traffic at the Frederick Rd. crossing at Montrose is really bad too.  And to top it off, the route doesn’t avoid the Edmondson Ave/Rolling Rd intersection either.  The route does have a couple bright spots:  the stretch from Hilton Ave. to Montrose Ave. is a nice ride, and the Streetcar Path, though a bit bumpy, is pleasant and bucolic.  Unfortunately, these aren’t enough to overcome the negatives.

Rolling Rd. and Frederick Rd. are the two big trouble spots on both of these routes, and there’s no way to get through Catonsville without riding on them or crossing them.  Next time I do this (likely in another year) I’m going to try the long way, and ride through Patapsco State Park to Ilchester/River Rd., and then up through Oella.  This takes me 5 or 6 miles out of the way, but I think it’ll be a much better ride.