Riverfront Plan

22 Aug

A call posted recently on Bike Forest Hill’s Facebook page.

Over the past few months the firm Hargreaves and Associates worked with local planners to develop a comprehensive plan for the riverfront in Richmond.  The final draft of that plan can be found here.  There are things to quibble with, but there is a lot to like.  The vision is to make the riverfront more accessible and a central place of recreation and social life even more than it is now.

There are several aspects of the plan that will impact cyclists.  One is the proposal to widen the walkway that now goes part way out into the James on the former Vepco levy and extend it across the river — to convert it into a bridge, in effect.  There are a few other recommendations for making areas near the river more bicycle-accessible, such as putting a ramp rather than stairs on the Manchester Bridge.

Now the plan is being considered by the Planning Commission before being sent on to city council.  The commission put off a final vote on the plan after a previous meeting to look more closely at a couple of issues, including how the proposed Echo Harbor site is designated in the plan.

Another proposal that has received less press but is just as important is to put the Mayo Bridge on a “diet.”  Road diet is something many cities are now doing to give greater priority and make safer conditions for pedestrians and bicyclists, and to make their urban spaces more inviting in general.  In this case it would remove one lane on each side to create a much better situation for cyclists and pedestrians.  This goes hand in hand with the proposal that Mayo Island (currently under private ownership) could become a central recreational space for Richmonders, and maybe even a site for staging the 2015 cycling championships.  And with some adjustments to traffic patterns, the Manchester Bridge could easily handle the car traffic that would presumably no longer be on the Mayo.

Here’s the problem: traffic engineers, who often represent the biggest obstacle to changing roads for the benefit of non-motorized users (not just in Richmond), say that the capacity of the Mayo Bridge cannot be reduced this way because it’s part of Route 360 and must be maintained as something more like a highway, presumably because a military convey needs to be able to use it — just in case, you know.

This is really important for a number of reasons, but the most important one is that putting the Mayo Bridge on a diet would send a crucial signal that 1) it’s necessary and worthwhile in some cases to move some priority away from cars and toward other users; and 2) making bridges over the James friendly for pedestrians and cyclists is a crucial aspect of making the city as a whole better for these users.  At the moment the options on Richmond bridges are far from ideal.

So, if you can possibly make it to the meeting on Tuesday, 9/4, please do (I unfortunately cannot get away from work that day).  It’s really important to have many bodies and voices there to make the case.  If you really can’t make it, consider writing to members of the Planning Commission with your thoughts.

If your email program uses a semi-colon between addresses, use this block:

lawmanchem@yahoo.com; whutchins@tcva.com; Jane.Ferrara@richmondgov.com; Doug.Conner@RichmondGov.com; lynn.mcateer@betterhousingcoalition.org; dcole@cite-design.com; CWray@BCWH.com; Rodney@thewiltonco.com; Amy.Howard@richmond.edu

If your email program uses a comma between addresses, use this block:

lawmanchem@yahoo.com, whutchins@tcva.com, Jane.Ferrara@richmondgov.com, Doug.Conner@RichmondGov.com, lynn.mcateer@betterhousingcoalition.org, dcole@cite-design.com, CWray@BCWH.com, Rodney@thewiltonco.com, Amy.Howard@richmond.edu

Thanks!

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One Response to “Riverfront Plan”

  1. Garth Maxfield August 22, 2012 at 8:59 PM #

    I’m all for the lanes on the Mayo but if it means more traffic and still no bike lane on the Manchester headed south then it certainly doesn’t make my day. As it is on Manchester you’ve got the choice of cars buzzing you at 50+ MPH because you need to be two feet into the lane to get around the drainage grates or the raised walkway, steep stairs and no way to get safely back onto the roadway at the far end. All for traffic that (mostly) is just trying to avoid the downtown expressway and Powhite tolls.

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