Election day is less than a month away, and Richmonders have lots of choices to make. The city is facing a number of challenges. Safe and connected biking infrastructure is one of them. Some progress has been made under Mayor Jones, but not nearly enough. We need a mayor who is truly committed to moving forward with expanding the network and make connections with bike lanes that everyone feels safe riding on.
Bike Walk RVA sent out a questionnaire to the candidates asking them about several issues, including expanding access to safe walking and biking infrastructure. As I see it, a few candidates stand out in their understanding and support for this issue, and at least one looks like a bad choice in this regard. (I have copied that question as well as the responses of the candidates still in the race below, so you can judge for yourself. And you can click here for all of the questions and responses on bike and pedestrian-related issues).
Here’s my quick take: Baliles, Berry, Mosby, and Stoney seem to get it. Baliles’ answer below is rather brief, but his statements at Mayorathon were good, and in response to a question about creating a connected network of bikeways, he suggested doing “trial runs” with new infrastructure to test designs and potentially persuade skeptics that the infrastructure will not create as many problems as they think. This is a great idea. I would love to see, for example, a test of diverters at selected intersections on Floyd to reduce traffic volume.
Williams and Junes would probably be okay but do not seem to be as educated on the issue. Morrisey seems to have very little interest (to put it mildly) toward funding bike infrastructure. In response to the question below about expanding access to infrastructure, he talks about fitness programs (?). It might be possible to bring him around, but the four mentioned above are better bets if this is near the top of your list of issues.
Here is the question and their responses if you’d like to check it for yourself:
Biking and walking not only improves public health, but it is a prevalent form of transportation for people who can’t afford a car and/or gas, are too young to drive, or are not mentally or physically able to drive. According to Census data, nearly 22 percent of Richmond households do not own or otherwise have access to a car. The challenge for Richmond is to increase access to safe biking and walking for opportunities for all citizens.
What measures can we expect your administration to take to expand access to safe walking and biking infrastructure for all Richmond residents?
Jon Baliles: As a Council member, I have added funding for increasing bicycle infrastructure and pedestrian crossing infrastructure as a category in the Capital Improvement budget. As mayor, I will continue to do this. It is essential as more people are biking and walking that we make crossings and streets as safe as possible. I have been demonstrating that, not just promising it.
Jack Berry: Transportation equity reflects a commitment to build networks that serve everyone, not just those who can afford to drive a car. Richmond’s transportation network should be multi-modal and balanced to serve the whole community. More emphasis on biking and walking will have positive benefits in shaping the community, promoting economic development and influencing health. Bike-ped infrastructure must be seamless, convenient and safe. It should incorporate protected lanes, not just lines painted on a street. We should build safe, walking and biking infrastructure that is part of a comprehensive network, not just a series of disconnected fragments. Walking and biking infrastructure is important in attracting the young professionals who will power RVA’s economy in the future, and it is even more important for those residents who do not have access to a car. Richmond’s bike infrastructure has a lot of catching up to do if we aspire to be among the great cities in America. The next mayor should commit to a sustained effort to build out a network of protected lanes, leveraging transportation grants with annual appropriations of local funds. Most importantly, the mayor must be capable of building a strong City Government organization that will ensure prompt execution of approved projects so that thoughtful plans become a reality, not just a talking point.
Bobby Junes: Best communicated as a “Two Way Link” system. Would have the Planning Commission start to enforce or start to acknowledge the Complete Street Resolution. All future individual projects to be looked at as if a link in a chain. How could / can the proposed project add to the inter-city biking as well as walking avenues of travel. Put the horses in front of the cart.
Joe Morrissey: I will challenge both the public and the private sectors to develop a series of “Richmond Moves” walking- and biking-designated routes of varying lengths and difficulty around all areas of the city. For example, Heart Break Hill, would be a short but difficult hike up Broad Street from 17th Street to 12th Street. A Fine Arts Stroll, would be a long but easy walk or ride down the Boulevard from Broad Street to Byrd Park. Patriot’s Passage, a long and strenuous path, would take you from Tobacco Row, up 25th Street to Patrick Henry’s St. Johns Church, and back down again to the Flood Wall. The Veterans Salute would be a long but manageable two circuits of the McGuire VA Hospital campus.
I engage in vigorous exercise at least five times a week. The positive physical, emotional, and spiritual health effects of walking and biking are well established. I personally would challenge each member of City Council and the School Board to lead efforts in their neighborhoods to establish and lead walking or biking groups. Leading by example is a very effective way to encourage behavior change.
Michelle Mosby: If we are to be a multimodal city (and all great cities are) then we must invest in the expansion of initiatives that increase access to biking and/or walking infrastructure. Our City has experienced a significant resurgence and population growth over the past several years. Through our strategic planning and redevelopment initiatives, we can take advantage of the opportunities that are before us to improve our transportation infrastructure that includes bicycle, pedestrian and transit facilities. I think UCI and some of the upgrades made for the event have given us insight into the important role that bike lanes can plan in allowing people to have safe mobility options that will provide everyone mobility freedom. The added benefit to investing in our multimodal infrastructure results in a healthier lifestyle and, for many, these this safe infrastructure is a necessity to their daily lives. You can expect to see improvements on all of our transportation facilities reflected as new development moves forward in our city.
Levar Stoney: The city has done a great job of going after “low hanging fruit.” We need to stop thinking in terms of “the show” and start thinking in terms of the user. In my administration I will work with organizations like Sports Backers, along with neighborhood and civic associations and City Council, to think about where we are putting lanes and work to finish the Bicycle Master Plan. The blueprint is finished, now it’s time for City Hall to get to work. I will find the political will necessary to fully implement the Bicycle Master Plan by actively engaging the community and having a working relationship with City Council. I have experience building coalitions to implement real change — as Mayor, I will use that experience to harness the city’s momentum and put us on par with other cities who are becoming more pedestrian friendly.
Lawrence Williams: I have been advocating greenway development since the 2004 elections and would like to think my advocacy to make Richmond the most livable city in America has finally paid off. 12 years have past and the creation of bike ways, restored parks and nature trails have become a popular acceptable topic for political discussion.
I have two bikes sitting in my living room as modern decoration, however I do use them to travel downtown from Church Hill. Too hot now however. When neighbors see me ride they feel more committed to ride.
As Mayor, I would work closely with existing groups like yours to establish green way right of ways that would link residential communities to public amenities and downtown. Presently I am a founding board member with GroundworkRVA a successful organization with a proven track record of working with inner city youth, neighborhood associations and city agencies. Like many organizations I would support, GroundworkRVA promotes the relationship between our next generation of citizens and Richmond’s environmental infrastructure.
A city wide master plan and comprehensive rezoning is due for revision in the coming years. As mayor and trained architect, naturally this coordination of land uses will be important to me. My goal is to make Richmond the Most Livable City in America and that is my top priority. Traffic and bike lane safety with public awareness campaigns would be appropriate.