Archive | April, 2013

The Bike Commuter Challenge is Back!

30 Apr

Giant Escape

May is Bike Month in Richmond, and the city is joining forces again with Ride Richmond, Giant Bicycles, and other sponsors to organize the 2nd annual Bike Commuter Challenge.  This is a great time to try commuting if you haven’t before; or if you already commute by bicycle, nudge that c0-worker or friend who you think might be tempted to ride along.

Here are the details from the press release:

The Commuter Challenge, a part of Richmond Bike Month, is a great way to discover just how easy, affordable, and healthy bike commuting can be. We will be celebrating bicycle-friendly employers and sending along helpful tips to make your commute the best part of your day.

Participants are encouraged to ride their bicycles to and from work and report the days commuted at the end of the week for the entire month of May. Each week participants can win bike gear from Giant, Richmond2015, and local bike shops, and one lucky winner will ride away with a Giant Escape city bike!

A bicycle may be used for part of the commute, such as to join a car pool or ride the bus. Participants can register online now through May 6, and are able to log their weekly commutes at www.riderichmond.net/bike-month-commuter-challenge. All commutes must be reported on the website by Friday, June 7, and the results will be announced by June 15.

Bike to Work Day will be celebrated May 17. The Richmond celebration will again take place in Monroe Park, meeting at 7:00 am to leave at 7:30. Refreshments will be provided.

RideRichmond is a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to cycling education, culture, legislation, and empowerment. More information about Bike Month events, including group rides, weekly statistics, and promotions can be found on www.riderichmond.net.  Contact info@riderichmond.net with any questions.

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The Skinny on New Bike Parking Laws

25 Apr
Image from transitmiami.com.

Trees are not bike racks.  Image from transitmiami.com.

Monday’s city council meeting included quite a bit of bicycle-related discussion.  Joined by Parker Agelasto and Charles Samuels, Mayor Jones addressed about twenty representatives of Richmond’s cycling community to officially declare May Bicycle Month.  Amy George of Ride Richmond and Tom Bowden of Bike Virginia spoke about the need for a detailed, comprehensive bicycle master plan as key to the city to develop a network of bicycling infrastructure that will serve all residents (more on that in a later post).

The rest (in fact, most) of the discussion focused on legislation introduced by Parker Agelasto focused on bicycle parking.  In essence the laws are intended to 1) curb the practice of people using city trees for bicycle parking (bad for the trees); and 2) allow the city to remove inoperable (aka “dead”) bikes from signs, meters, and city bike racks.  Especially in the case of bike racks, this is important because an accumulation of dead bikes makes the racks useless for people who need them.

The legislation passed, albeit by a small margin.  Votes against were due in part to concerns expressed by some citizens that the new laws could make it too easy for bicycles to be impounded by the police.

RVA News has posted an interview with Jake Helmboldt to clarify the laws and how they will and will not be enforced.  It boils down to this:

• Never lock your bike to a street tree.  The smaller trees in the city have a rough enough time as it is.  Find a sign post, marking meter, or bike rack (more of those are coming).

• Don’t leave your bike sitting locked in one spot for more than 10 days.  If you are leaving town for vacation or something, find another place to store it.  (If you rely your bike for transportation, wouldn’t you want to put it inside somewhere anyway to minimize rust and the chance of being stolen?).

• If someone strips a part off of your bike that makes it inoperable (say, a wheel or handlebars), you need to take it somewhere else within 72 hours.  If you don’t want to deal with getting it fixed, consider donating it to Richmond’s Rag and Bones Bicycle Co-op.

The reality is that the time limits listed here kick in only after your bike has been tagged by the police, and they are likely to do that only if someone alerts them or they’re doing a periodic sweep.  You’ll also have up to 30 days after it’s impounded to get it back from the police if you can prove ownership.  (So write down the serial number or keep your receipt, or both).

Petition for a Master Plan

22 Apr

My fellow bike blogger at Ride RVA has started a petition calling on Richmond City Council to fund an approve a bicycle master plan.

While it’s true that we have the report of the Mayor’s commission, which was also approved, it does not have the status of a plan per se and is not specific in every case about what kind of facility (cycle track, bike lane, etc.) should be used.  The soon-to-be complete Strategic Multi-Modal Transportation Plan also includes recommendations for pedestrian and bicycling improvements, but as part of a much broader plan it also does not have the level of detail we need.  (I’ll have a bit more to say about that plan in an upcoming post).

A bicycle master plan would map out a network of cycle tracks, trails, and lanes to be put in place in the coming years.  Having it approved by City Council will give these projects legitimacy in case of conflict with other city departments, and will give our Bike-Ped Coordinator Jake Helmboldt a clear reference point when soliciting city and regional funds to pay for them.

So, if you’re behind the effort to make Richmond bikeable for all ages and levels of rider, take a minute to sign the petition.

And if you’d like to make a statement with a ride and your physical presence at a meeting with Mayor Jones, meet tomorrow 4/22 at the VCU Compass (near Cabell Library) for a ride to City Hall and a meeting with Jones to declare May Bike Month in Richmond.

Date Correction!

18 Apr

The ride to celebrate the declaration of Bike Month was listed in the first version of my previous post as 5/22.  It is actually this coming Monday, April 22.

Days, Weeks, Months

18 Apr

Earth-Day-2013-iconI feel like I’m seeing more people on bicycles, or is it just spring (or pollen allergies) making me see things?  Certainly the weather has spurred a lot more people to hop on their bikes.  And now a bunch of events are coming up to add even more momentum.  Richmond is getting ready to celebrate various bike-relevant days, weeks, and months.  Here’s an initial list:

Earth Day.  What better way to embrace green living than to ride a bike or walk to one or both of Richmond’s two Earth Day events this year?  The Enrichmond Foundation Earth Day Festival will take place at the 17th Street Farmer’s Market in Shockoe Bottom from 11-5.  I’ve heard that BikeWalk RVA and Ride Richmond will be there, along with Kasper’s Cargos, which sells funky Danish Bullitt cargo bikes in part for the purpose of promoting their use to get disabled children onto bicycles.  The second event is easy biking distance from the first: in Manchester you’ll find Style Weekly’s RVA Earth Day Festival from 12 – 7.

Bike to School Day is May 8.  Get some friends together and ride with your kids to school!  It’s always easier and more fun with lots of riders.

Bike Week.  Since Bike Month in May comes (too late for most VCU students to be around for it), Ride Richmond celebrates Bike Week in late April.  Events include a Bike Swap on Sunday at the VMFA (new and used bikes, parts, and equipment for sale), rides, races, and films.  Check out the full schedule at the above link.

Bike to Work Week is May 13 to 17.  This is a perfect time to ask that co-worker if she or he might like to try biking together to work, or to dust off your own bike if you haven’t had a chance yet.  Events for the week are in the works and details will be posted as they become available.

Bike Month.  The weather doesn’t get much better than during May for biking!  A ride to celebrate the official declaration of May as Bike Month for the city is planned for Monday, 4/22.  Arrive at 5:30 at the Compass on VCU’s main campus and ride en masse to City Hall for the declaration.  This can serve as your warm-up for Ride Richmond’s casual, late-night Tour de Richmond, which starts at 10 p.m., also at the Compass.

Richmond’s Transportation Future: We Need a Bit More Ambition

9 Apr

In the next week there will be not one but two opportunities to think and ask big questions about the future of transportation in Richmond.  As noted in my last post, the city recently announced the final opportunity for public input on Richmond Connects, the city’s soon-to-be finalized multimodal transportation plan.  That meeting is this Thursday, April 11, 5:30-7:30 p.m., in the VDOT auditorium, 1221 East Broad Street.

I’ve begun reading over the plan, particularly the bicycle and pedestrian projects it recommends.  You can get to the draft plan at the above link: pages 59 and 60 include a list of the highest priority projects.  By my reading there are three new projects listed that would produce the kind of infrastructure that would get the more fearful among us onto bikes for getting around the city: 1) cycle tracks (bike lanes separated by a curb or other barrier) through downtown; 2) a bicycle boulevard on Floyd through the Fan; 3) and a buffered bike lane on the Leigh Street/MLK Bridge.  Everything else recommended is “on street bike lane or sharrows.”

As thrilled as I am to see the 3 projects above, I can’t help but ask, “Is that it???”  They are a good start, but just that: a start.  This is meant to be a long term plan.  To be sure, there are places where a cycle track or something of the kind may not be feasible.  But if the city really thinks that these three projects plus more sharrows and regular bike lanes is going to significantly increase the number of cyclists, they are dreaming.  Actual lanes are better than sharrows, but especially on busy streets, that large percentage of the population who according to surveys say they’d like to bike more but are fearful, are not going to take the leap in large numbers.

I don’t expect Richmond to immediately become Copenhagen in only a few years, but I would like to see at least a few more proposals that go beyond lanes and sharrows.  Cycling poster child Portland, Oregon got to about 8% mode share for bicycling with an extensive network of mainly bike lanes; the top bicycling cities in the world are over 50%.  They didn’t get there with sharrows and painted lanes.  So what has Portland starting doing?  Creating more protected lanes.  Even taking into account Richmond’s conservative, go-slow approach to things, I think we can do better than the three projects above.  If you agree — or have other input or thoughts about the plan, please share them at the meeting or via the web site above.

It’s unfortunate that it’s not happening prior to the above public input session, but I wanted to share another event called Transportation Transformations for Richmond coming up next week sponsored by the Richmond area chapter of Partnership for Smarter Growth.  Here is a link to the Eventbrite invitation (registration is required but free), and below is the blurb:

You will never look at transportation the same after you hear Jeffrey Tumlin of Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates!  Jeffrey is the lead-off speaker in the Partnership for Smarter Growth’s 2013 forums program, Transportation Transformations for a Competitive and Sustainable Future.

Parking trouble in the Fan? Wondering how there can be so many parking garages downtown but you can never find a space? Wondering why our bus service isn’t working and dreaming of modern rapid transit?  Want to turn our strip corridors into beautiful boulevards? Well then Jeffrey’s the expert you will want to hear.  He will offer a range of creative ideas and examples applicable to Richmond’s needs.  We’ll have a robust question and answer period following his presentation.

Jeffrey is the author of Sustainable Transportation Planning: Tools for Creating Vibrant, Healthy, and Resilient Communities and we’ll have his book for sale and available for signing.

Good News for Cyclists

7 Apr
A cycle track in Portland, Oregon.  Richmond could see something like this downtown in the near future.  (Image from Treehugger.com)

A cycle track in Portland, Oregon. Richmond could see something like this downtown in the near future. (Image from Treehugger.com)

A bit of catching up on 4 pieces of good bike-related news that came out in the last week or so…!

• Today’s RTD includes an opinion piece by Mayor Jones announcing the Richmond Strategic Multimodal Transportation Plan.  It’s encouraging that Jones mentions two significant bicycle infrastructure projects included in the plan: a cycle track downtown and a bicycle boulevard (probably in the Fan).

This coming Thursday, 4/11, will be the final public forum where you can get more information and weigh in.  It will be 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the VDOT auditorium, 1221 E. Broad Street.  Here is a link to the plan so that you can look it over before arriving.  You can also submit input via the site.  Either way, even if you don’t come up with specific suggestions, just letting the city know you support this effort to expand transportation possibilities in the city (especially for bicycling, of course) is important.

• The RTD also reported this week that the Richmond Area Metropolitan Planning Organization adopted a six-year plan that includes, along with the usual road-widening and similar projects, money for “coordinating traffic signals and pedestrian crossings at the foot of the new Huguenot Bridge at River Road near the University of Richmond, and $1 million to begin developing a citywide bike-sharing system.”  There have been concerns about the situation for cyclists coming off the new Huguenot Bridge, so hopefully this will help with that.  And a bike-share system for the city sounds great — assuming we’re really moving forward with the cycle tracks and other places for people to ride those rented bikes.

• The third big piece of news from the city was the announcement of an event coming up in late June called RVA Streets Alive!  The city is partnering with Sports Backers to finally have a large-scale ciclovia-style event in Richmond (though I’ve heard there will be some closed streets devoted to cycling and other non-motorized ways of getting around on Earth Day).  Lanes of the Mayo and Manchester Bridges, along with parts of Hull Street, Commerce Avenue, and Byrd Street will be closed to make a loop.  Apparently there will be various activities, booths, and other attractions along the route as well.

My first reaction to the route was, “Hmmm.”  Previous conversations about this kind of event envisioned closing off streets with more businesses — like Cary Street from Nansemond down to the Bottom.  After I thought a bit about it, the route does have the advantage of promoting the idea that we need bicycle-friendly bridges.  The Manchester Bridge in particular is shouting for a diet — two lanes in each direction is more than enough to handle the volume.

• The final news was an RVA News profile of Parker Angelasto, the new council representative for the district formerly represented by Marty Jewell.  It did not come as a surprise to me since I’ve seen Angelasto at some cycling-related events and know he’s been working on an ordinance to deal with “dead bikes,” but it’s nevertheless encouraging to see bicycling highlighted among his interests.