Getting Ready for 2015

2 Sep

Just in case you haven’t seen the cover story from this week’s Style, here’s a link.  Ed Slipek offers a long list of things Richmond could consider doing to prepare the city for the 2015 World Cycling Championships, which will get Richmond more media exposure and a larger number of visitors than anything else on the horizon.  There are a LOT of things small and large that the city needs to do to put its best face forward, as it were.  The international exposure can serve as impetus to deal with some things that have needed attention for a while.

Kudos to Slipek for putting this at the top of the list: Create an environment that respects bicycles.  (Last on the list, just for good measure, is: Look out for people on bicycles).  I don’t expect Slipek to have the answer to this, but the question remains: How?  The question is especially pressing given that the death of a cyclist seems not to have made a big impression on many drivers, and may have led some to the exact opposite conclusion we would hope for, namely that cyclists really do not belong on the road (see Slipek’s anecdote).  What do we need to do besides putting racks, pavement markings, bike lanes, and signs in place?  I think those things can make a difference, but they will not by themselves change an established culture of “cars first.”

Bike boulevard concept for the Catalina Islands (California). From L.A. Ecovillage blog:

To my mind it would help to put in place bicycle infrastructure that conveys the idea that at least sometimes bikes come first.  A good example would be a bike boulevard along Floyd Avenue (a possible project contained in the current draft of the Richmond Connects transportation plan).  According to Alta Planning and Design, bike boulevards are “are low-volume and low-speed streets that have been optimized for bicycle travel through treatments such as signage and pavement markings, traffic calming, and intersection crossing treatments.”  Going forward with a road diet on the Mayo Bridge (and maybe the Manchester Bridge too) would be good as well.

Cities on the forefront of bicycle-friendliness are moving more and more toward this kind of “low-stress” accommodation: along with bike boulevards, things like buffered or colored bike lanes, cycle tracks, and separated paths.  The Green Lane Project, initiated by the Bikes Belong foundation, is working on developing best practices for this kind of  infrastructure.  “Green lane” is a stand-in for treatments that go beyond sharrows and standard bike lanes in terms of separating bicycles from cars.  The cities selected to participate are Austin, Portland, Memphis, Chicago, San Francisco, and DC.

This is the kind of infrastructure that, over time, can get you from something like Portland, Oregon’s 7% mode share for bicycles to Copenhagen, Denmark’s 36%!  I know there is skepticism about this kind of infrastructure in some camps.  It often comes from people who already ride and feel that it’s not necessary.  It does have to be well-executed, to be sure, but I have yet to find a place where the mode share rivals that of European cities with separated tracks and paths for bicycles.

Are there other things — especially short-term, as in the next year or two — that we can do to change the culture?  Certainly the more bikes on the road, the better.  What are your thoughts?

If you would like to contribute in a more immediate and financial manner to the 2015 effort, the organizers are holding an event next Saturday called Bikes, BBQ, and Bluegrass out at West Creek business park.  Tickets for adults are $50, but young adults 13-20 are only $15 and kids are free.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: