Archive | March, 2012

Bike Summit & the Transportation Bill

29 Mar

The National Bike Summit, the biggest conference and lobbying effort for cycling in the country, was held last week in D.C., and you’ll be glad to know that Virginia was well-represented.  We have some great cycling advocates, many of them from Richmond, who do huge amounts of work behind the scenes trying to influence state and national policy in favor of cycling.  The Virginia Bicycling Federation has a report here.  Check out the League of American Bicyclists blog for more coverage.

Unfortunately the jury is still out with respect to what funding for cycling infrastructure will look like in the new transportation bill.  As reported by Bicycling Magazine and many other publications, the original House bill essentially eliminated funding for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure projects (not to mention mass transit as well).  This is especially troubling because even the relatively generous funding for bike and pedestrian projects in recent years has made up only 1.5  percent of all federal transportation funding, while an average of 12 percent of all trips made in the U.S. are made using those modes.

Fortunately, the House bill did not receive much support, and the Senate has passed a much better bill.  As the D.C. Streetsblog reports, however, it is unclear whether the House will pass the Senate bill.  It’s not too late to contact your representative in the House to encourage him or her to support the Senate bill.  To look up your representative and get contact information, click here.  Please call or write today: representatives will either vote on an extension of the present bill (most likely) or something else this week!

There are plenty of good reasons to oppose wasteful spending, but most bicycle and pedestrian projects do not fall into that category.  And the cost-benefit ratio of bike and pedestrian projects is arguably better than highway infrastructure, especially if you factor in the benefits to public health as well as to local businesses.

Consider this: the I-295 flyover near Short Pump cost $67 million (see Phil Riggan’s previous discussion on Richmond.com here).  The entire first phase — around 80 miles — of shared lane markings (“sharrows”) and a couple hundred new bike racks for the city will cost about $1 million — 1.5 percent of the cost of that flyover.  Just imagine the kind of bike and pedestrian infrastructure Richmond would have if we had even half of that $67 million!  To be clear: I’m not saying we should let our roads and bridges rot in order to create bike lanes.  But those lanes are comparatively cheap as infrastructure goes, and the benefits far outweigh the cost.

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Awesome Assault

27 Mar

By all accounts the Urban Assault ride on Sunday was a great success.  Nearly 400 participants rode around the city to various checkpoints where they had to complete crazy tasks.  The Times-Dispatch and Richmond.com have photos, video, and stories here and here.

Thankfully the rain held off during the morning, although the shower in the afternoon did mean that the afterparty broke up a little earlier than it otherwise would have.

It will be hard to gauge the long term impact of the event, but it’s hard not to believe it will have some of its intended effect (beyond a fun time): driving home how bikeable Richmond is and how great riding in the city is (even when it’s not a scavenger hunt), and reinforcing to everyone that Richmond has a strong cycling scene.  I know a few people who did not participate and are not cyclists but took note of all of the riders around town, so maybe that planted a little seed too…

The Urban Assault ride will be back next year, so hopefully we’ll have even better weather and even more riders!

Gas Prices and Marion Nelson

26 Mar

I love Marion Nelson!  Okay, I don’t know Marion personally, but I love the photo and story in yesterday’s Times-Dispatch that show her riding her bicycle from the Fan to VCU (she’s a professor there) as a way to save on gas. Many people think that riding a bike to get around is only for college students and people who like to wear lycra.  Statistically men are much more likely to bike than women.  Marion is a perfect refutation of these assumptions and trends.

So the upside of the financial pain that comes with higher gas prices is that it could get a bunch more people into the habit of biking to get around. That means more people starting to ride or going back to it, which in turn calls for reminders on safe and comfortable cycling. Amy George at Ride Richmond recently reviewed cyclist extraordinaire Ken Kifer’s top 7 tips for safe and comfortable cycling. Many unfortunate cycling habits make it either more strenuous or uncomfortable than it needs to be, or unnecessarily put riders or others in danger. Check out Amy’s take on these, and get some nice equipment recommendations too.

Driving and Biking

So much of driving is habitual: we think of getting somewhere, we automatically think of jumping in the car, while the bike comes out only for recreation. At the risk of once again preaching to the choir, I thought I’d highlight some of the statistics that speak for biking as transportation. Here are a few numbers that might add to your motivation or help you convince someone to try it:

40 percent of daily trips in the U.S. are 2 miles or less, according to the National Household Travel Survey.  That’s a very bikable distance!  Even biking at a leisurely 10 mph would allow you to cover that distance in less than 15 minutes, and you save the time and expense of parking too.  Unless you’re traveling from one end of the city to another, you can get most places in Richmond in 30 minutes or less by bike.

Cars are used for 60 percent of trips of one mile or less.  Could you walk or bike a few blocks down to the drug store, coffee house, playground, or school?  You might also get there faster than by car, especially if it means you don’t have to deal with parking.  And although individually those short trips by car don’t seem to cost that much (you don’t really see the gas gauge move), taken together all of those short trips are actually expensive, especially since driving in town and starting and stopping all make for lousy gas mileage.

Why pay to exercise?  Biking helps you feel better and live longer.  If you bike and/or walk regularly to get around, you could cancel that gym membership and avoid the car trip to get there. Biking burns about 500 calories an hour!

So, if you bike already you have additional reasons to do so.  If you know someone who might consider it, maybe these numbers will help nudge them.

For more on the National Household Travel Survey, see this and associated links at the League of American Bicyclists.

Bad News and Good News

23 Mar

The bad news is that Richmond is losing one of it’s oldest bike shops.  As Richmond.com reports, after 95 years in business, Rowlett’s is closing its doors.  It looks like they’ll remain open a few more weeks, and they are offering significant discounts on their remaining stock, so go by and say ‘bye.  While we’re on the subject of bike shops, the New York Times just published a nice piece about the SoHo shop Bicycle Habitat.

The good news is that spring is here!  Well, actually it’s (strangely) been here for a while already, but it feels like there’s little chance of one of those springtime cold spells or crazy snowstorms.  Ross Catrow has a photo on RVANews that perfectly captures why it’s time to get on your bike if you haven’t already.

Speaking of spring and biking, keep a lookout for info on Bike Week events being organized by RideRichmond folks at the end of April, and Bike Month events planned for May!

Dogwood Dell Trails

22 Mar

West of the Boulevard news says that the new mountain biking trails behind Dogwood Dell are good!  The piece includes some photos and a map.  There are also hiking trails.

Now all we have to do is convince those who live biking or walking distance from the park to not drive to the place where they plan to enjoy biking or walking!

Bike Share – VCU Launches Rambikes

21 Mar

This week VCU launched a pilot bike share program called Rambikes. The program is starting with 8 black and yellow bikes: 4 stationed at Cabell Library on the Monroe Park campus, and 4 at the Tompkins-McCaw Library on the MCV campus. Bikes can be checked out for 24 hours, lock and helmet included.  (The University of Richmond also has a bike share system as part of its Green Bike Programs).

Hopefully this will be a first step that will lead the city (perhaps in partnership with local universities and other employers?) to establish a city-wide bike share program. What would be better for the 2015 UCI World Cycling Championships than to have a bunch of bikes for all of those visitors and local fans to get around the city!?

Bike share programs have already enjoyed great success in other U.S. cities, including Washington D.C.  New York, Denver, and Minneapolis have recently launched or will soon launch bike share programs. Major cities in Europe and Canada also have bike share systems, as does Mexico City. Despite having 1,200 bikes at 140 stations in the district and Arlington, D.C.’s Capital Bikeshare reportedly has been so popular that it has struggled to keep up with demand.

Capital Bikeshare. Photo by Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz, courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

These programs use portable, solar-powered stations placed in key locations. In D.C., you can get a membership for 24 hours for $7, 3 days for $15, 30 days for $25, or a year for $75.  The key is having lots of stations so that riders can easily pick up a bike and return it to another station near where they need to go.  There are several companies that now set up and run such programs.  The start-up cost is not low, but the long-term benefits are huge.  In D.C. and elsewhere the cost has been shared by local governments and corporate partners.

Just imagine it: all of those employees downtown in business suits riding RVA Bikeshare bikes to lunch or for a spin on the Canal Walk or the Capital Trail, or maybe down to Brown’s Island to dip a toe in the James.  They might just get addicted and get a membership or buy their own bike to get to and from work!

An Invitation

20 Mar

Thanks to those of you who started following or who’ve visited Bikeable Richmond!

This post is an invitation for you to contribute to the site.  There are at least two great ways to do this:

1) Send me info about events, news, anything that pertains to getting around Richmond by bike.  If it’s connected with cycling in RVA or cycling as transportation, I’ll post it.

2) I’d like to start doing profiles of people who get around the city by bike. You don’t have to travel exclusively on two wheels, but it should be a major form of transportation for you. I want to show the diversity of people in the city who travel by bike and what they love about it.  If possible I’d love to include a cool picture of you with your bike.

If you’d like to contact me about either one of these, send an email to: bikeablerichmond@gmail.com