Brakes get put on Baltimore Grand Prix due to Scheduling Conflict

Article originally published on CarNewsCafe

The brakes, so to speak, for the Baltimore Grand Prix have just been slammed hard.  It was announced by Race On, the company behind the Baltimore Grand Prix's organizing and scheduling, that the street race will not be coming back to Baltimore for Labor Day Weekend in 2014 and 2015.

Why was the Baltimore Grand Prix cancelled?

This is due to a scheduling conflict with an Ohio-Navy football game taking place at M&T Bank stadium next year and the following year there will be an American Legion convention on Labor Day weekend.  Race organizers tried to broker a deal that would work for all parties but it seemed that no compromises or agreements were able to be made.  Alternatives dates were considered but nothing worked for the Orioles or other conventions that were happening during August in Baltimore.  This includes the Firehouse Expo and Otakon, a convention for Anime and Manga fans, that takes place in August at the Baltimore Convention Center.  Asking any convention or conference to radically alter their schedule would have been in bad taste for city tourism officials.

How do people feel?

City officials and Baltimore's Mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, are putting a positive spin on the cancellation for the next 2 years.  They believe the Baltimore Grand Prix has showcased the city to the country and world in a positive light and hopes it increases tourism.  (They forgot that “Homicide” and “The Wire” are what the Charm City is best known for though.)

Some residents are quite disappointed with the news of the cancellation and especially race fans.  In addition many drivers and people involved with racing events for the Baltimore Grand Prix seemed to love Baltimore as a street race location.  Many think Baltimore was a better city to hold a street race than the Long Beach Grand Prix, widely considered the crown jewel of the IndyCar and American Le Mans circuit.

Of course there are also residents of the city felt the Baltimore Grand Prix was an inconvenience for those that lived and work in Downtown Baltimore though as it disrupts traffic and makes it difficult to get around town when the the track is being setup and the race is taking place.  (It really is in case you are wondering.)  Also many business owners felt the race keeps away locals who would normally visit downtown businesses on Labor Day weekend and they didn't receive much foot traffic from race attendees.

What does the future of the Baltimore Grand Prix look like?

Hard to say but as of I write this IndyCar and American Le Mans, the two racing series that take part in the Baltimore Grand Prix, have not announced another Mid-Atlantic city where they will be holding a street race.  It is likely though they will try to work out a deal with another city within the region for 2014 and 2015 since each series needs to keep attendance and interest in the sport up.  Racing spectators and fans have been dwindling over the past few years and it's imperative to hold street races to generate interest.

Overall it seemed race promoters and organizers were really happy with Baltimore as a stop on the circuit tour.  It is also possible it will come since let's not forget that the Baltimore Grand Prix is a street race with “9 Lives.”  After the Inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix 3 years ago the was largely hailed as a success by city leaders and race promoters but it turned out that the company that organized and put on the race, Baltimore Racing Development, was bankrupt and couldn't pay vendors and the city of Baltimore fees it was owed.  To this day though it is unclear if Jay Davidson, who ran Baltimore Racing Development, got screwed by the city and not the other way around.  I imagine that is the case since politics are as dirty and corrupt as you can get here.  However, Davidson and BRD did hire ‘consultants' which didn't do anything for the race.

After Baltimore Racing Development lost the contract to run and organize the Baltimore Grand Prix the city let another company step in.  The company, DownForce Racing, was run by Felix J. Dawson, Daniel Reck, and Dale Dillon.  This looked promising as Dillon was an Indianapolis based commercial contractor that was heavily involved in racing and helped get the Baltimore Grand Prix on track for the first year.  However, Downforce Racing failed to make certain obligations and give reports to the city that it was expecting at certain deadlines.  Therefore the city decided to drop their contract with only a few months to go.   That is when Andretti Sports Marketing along with Michael Andretti, son of legendary race car legend Mario Andretti, would take over organizing the race in 2012 with only 3 months to go.  Micheal Andretti even claimed that the street race in Baltimore could be “The premier street event in the world” which seemed like a lofty claim in my opinion.  Surprisingly Andretti Sports Marketing and Race On put on the Baltimore Grand Prix in 2012 with a limited timeframe and it was successful.

Final Thoughts about the Baltimore Grand Prix

The first year the Baltimore Grand Prix there were 160,000 attendees, but only 110,000 paid for tickets apparently.  The past 2 years didn't meet those numbers though.  Also the city has shelled out $7+ million on road improvements to make the Baltimore Grand Prix a reality and over $2 million around Camden Yards, the Baltimore Orioles stadium, which doesn't include the money the city needed to shell-out for support services for the race.  Such as overtime paid for police and firefighters that needed to be present during the race.

The claim from city officials and race promoters was that the economic impact for Baltimore was $130+ million in total for the 3 years but it is unclear how much the city truly got back in taxes and how much business was lost during the 2 weeks it takes to setup the track.  The Baltimore Grand Prix still hasn't made money and it would take many years for the street race to do so.  It is arguable whether Baltimore, a poor city, could front that type of money for so many years without seeing a return on it's investment.  Also due to the corrupt political climate it's pretty clear money is getting pushed around to unsavory people.

Leave your Thoughts

What do you think of scheduling situation with the Baltimore Grand Prix?  Should city tourism officials have been more aggressive in pushing for another convention to move out of town?  Should American Le Mans and IndyCar honchos have been more firm as well? If you are a racing fan, resident or business owner in Baltimore, or were part of the Baltimore Grand Prix the CarNewsCafe team would love to hear your thoughts about it.

Charm City Pedal Mill: “You Drink, You Pedal, We Drive!”

Charm City Pedal Mill!

Looking for something unique and fun to do on a weekend night, or any time in Baltimore? Look no further than the Charm City Pedal Mill.

You are probably wondering, ‘What is a Pedal Mill?' Basically, a Pedal Mill is a cycle with pedals and gears, 4-wheels, disc brakes, and a steering wheel like a car. It is powered by people, outfitted with 16 seats for adventurous riders to get it moving. It's a Rolling Bar. A ride on the Pedal Mill is a great way to spend a night out with friends in Fells Point and Canton.

Pedal Mills are inspired by similar machines in Germany and the Netherlands called Fietcafes. Amanda Linden, the owner and entrepreneur behind Charm City Pedal Mill, first encountered Fietcafes when she was living in Germany, spending time abroad.

Later in her hometown of Milwaukee, Amanda saw some people she had known in high school. Funny thing was, they were going by on one of these crazy Fietcafe contraptions. She started talking with them, and it turned out they had started running pub crawls around Milwaukee with it. “That's where I got the idea.” said Amanda.

So in August, 2011 she launched Charm City Pedal Mill. She runs the company along with help from a great group of dedicated friends. “Couldn't do it without them all,” says Amanda.

Using social media and a go-getter attitude, Amanda dove head first into getting the company started. After purchasing a vehicle, she went around to all the bars in Fells Point and Canton, told them about her Pedal Mill, and gave them her business card. “Some people were like this is the coolest thing ever!” However, there were bars that she never heard back from. Now with the success of the company and pub crawls, “Those bars are now calling me saying. ‘We really want to be on your tour!” says Amanda.

The Pedal Mill stops at about 10 bars on any given night. Tours will vary depending upon the time and day. Special requests are welcome.

Amanda is no stranger to the food and restaurant business, having worked in the industry for about 13 years. However, she longed for something more. “I didn't want to bartend, and didn't want to manage a restaurant. I had done that before!” she lamented. With Charm City Pedal Mill she has found her true calling, running pub tours in Baltimore. “It doesn't feel like work at all” Amanda said enthusiastically.

Amanda estimates that there are about 10 other cities that have Pedal Mills running tours, like her high school friends in Milwaukee. She emphasized that this is the, “First one in the Mid-Atlantic, which is kind of cool.”

For those interested in trying out this awesome contraption, it is $25 Mondays-Thursdays to rent out a seat. “You make that up with specials at the bar,” says Amanda. As part of being a rider on the Pedal Mill you will get a special wristband that lets bars know you are a Pedal Mill passenger, and that entitles you to specials. Each bar is different but you typically save 10%-15% on drinks and get shot specials. Tours are generally two miles long, which is great for working off all that beer and food during the night. (When else are you gonna do that, huh?)

You can also rent out the entire Pedal Mill per hour for $155. (Prices are a bit higher on the weekend.) The price goes down per hour the longer you rent it. People rent it out for birthdays, bachelor/bachelorette parties, corporate events, and other special events. “The groups coming out are usually celebrating something.” said Amanda.

The Pedal Mill is equipped with a sound system, so you can bring CDs or an MP3 player and listen to your favorite tunes through the night.

You can celebrate all you want on the Pedal Mill. Lots of people dress up in crazy costumes, “We had a whole crew of pirates last week,” Amanda told me.

One key person who helps run Charm City Pedal Mill is Jason. He fills a number of roles, acting as the main entertainer, head driver, and oversees operations and maintenance. You can see him on board the Pedal Mill most nights. He emphasized that the drivers stay sober, like all drivers should. “You drink, You pedal, We drive!” is the Charm City Pedal Mill slogan. “Never had a bad experience on here.” said Jason when talking about what it is like when they take the Pedal Mill out with customers. Jason fixes the Pedal Mill often, and was doing an alignment when I went to check it out. “He is good with the mechanics of it,” Amanda commented.

The drivers consist of a fun group of people, who all add their special skills to the business. Kevin is an electrical whiz helping fix any issues with the lights or sound system. Jeff is very good with bicycle mechanics. Sarah is the only girl driver, “She's great, really really good” says Amanda.

You might think getting this Pedal Mill business started and getting the permits would be difficult. Amanda told me that generally the city has been receptive because Baltimore is supporting bike initiatives. She also mentioned that businesses are particularly generous in helping each other out. The company partnered with Wedding411 and some hotels to be featured in Where magazine (that magazine that is always in hotel rooms). In addition, Drink Baltimore will run specials for them.

Sounds and looks awesome, right? What are you waiting for? Go get a group of friends together and rent it! Then come back and leave a comment and tell everyone about your fun experience on the Charm City Pedal Mill.

Let the Good Times Roll!

Call (#443-956-6455) for booking a tour or seat. You can also email: charmcitypedalmill@gmail.com.  For additional info visit:  http://www.charmcitypedalmill.com/

Jalopnik Rates Baltimore 2nd Worst Driving City in Country, DC 1st

The Grand Prix in Baltimore

Baltimoreans… our humble city has been rated the 2nd worst driving city in the country!  Why such a rating?  Apparently drivers of Baltimore get into 88% more accidents than the rest of the country.  “Charm City residents apparently see their vehicles as just another crustacean waiting for its shell to be cracked open” is the way Jalopnik put it.  Somehow there is some truth to that statement.  The rankings were taken from Allstate's data, which insures 10% of all US drivers.  Jalopnik sorted through the data to compile the list.  It's hard for me to believe we are the 2nd worst in the country, but I guess the numbers speak for themselves.  No wonder insurance is so expensive here!

The first city on the list is Washington DC.  All the super yuppies (as I like to call them) are apparently twice as likely to get into an accidents as the rest of the nation.  “There are so many possible reasons — the city's cross-hatch street layout, it's population of drivers with diplomatic  immunity, tour-bus related congestion — that it's hard to assign blame, exactly the kind of problem Washington excels in creating.” commented Jalopnik.  Essentially this means the Baltimore-Washington Metro area is the worst driving area in the country!

I would definitely like to hear people opinions on this.  Do you agree or disagree?

Ten Worst Driving Cities in the US! 

  1. Washington DC
  2. Baltimore
  3. Glendale, CA
  4. Newark, NJ
  5. Providence, RI
  6. Philadelphia
  7. Hartford, Conn.
  8. Jersey City, NJ
  9. San Francisco 
  10. Alexandria, VA