Archive | May, 2013

2 Ways to Wrap Up Bike Month

30 May

Just a quick reminder:

• Tonight (5/30) is the Ride Richmond bike clinic from 6-8:30.  Learn all the basics you need to know for comfortable and safe cycling in the city.  See the event facebook page for more info.  

• Tomorrow (5/31) is the Bike from Work Day party at Hardywood Park 5-8 p.m. to celebrate the end of bike month.  10% of beer sales will go to the newly formed Greater Richmond Bicycle Coalition (though the incentive to support the coalition is by no means meant to encourage cycling under the influence).  Some of the recent prize winners from the Bike Commuter Challenge will receive their prizes (although the grand prize will be announced later to allow everyone time to enter their final commuting data for the final week).

Hope to see you there.


Cycling Clinic This Thursday 5/30

28 May
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Do you know someone who might try bicycling more but doesn’t know where to start?  Or maybe you yourself just want to be clear on the basics.  Well, Ride Richmond has the perfect thing: a cycling clinic that covers the basics of choosing and maintaining a bicycle as well as riding in the city.  It’s coming this Thursday, May 30, 6-8:30 p.m. at VCU RamBikes, 201 N. Belvidere.

Here’s what the Facebook page for the event says:

We will … discuss bike selection, fit, basic DIY maintenance, and teach you how to be confident urban cyclist. All are welcome (gotta spread the bike love around)!

Here’s the basic course outline. Bring your bike and helmet if you want to ‘play along’ and adjust the fit or practice some of the maintenance tasks we’ll cover.

First half 6:00 – 7:00
1)what kind of bike should I buy? Where should I buy my bike, should I buy used or new, how much will it cost? How to tell a “good” garage sale bike/craigslist find.

2)how to make it fit (general frame size guidelines, how to adjust a saddle, different types of handlebars and how to adjust them, stem, brake levers, toe clips/clipless pedals)

3)pre ride “ABC-Quick”check (Air, Brakes, Chain/Cranks/Cassette,Quick Releases,overall check) and quick adjustments that may be made.

4)maintenance: how to fix a flat, when/how to lube chain, how to tell when brake pads and tires need replaced

5)clothing & accessories: helmet fit, dressing for the weather and what kind of riding you’ll be doing, other accessories

7:00-7:15 break,more tire patching practice,Q&A

Second Half – 7:15-8:30

6)bike handling (starting, stopping, steering, scanning, and signalling)

7) bicycling in traffic (traffic law, changing lanes, crash types, avoidance maneuvers)

New Coalition & Bike Month Wrap Party at Hardywood!

24 May

GRBCIt’s been an eventful Bike Month!  In addition to the usual events, we’ve gotten word that the city will be getting a detailed, comprehensive bike master plan.  And Sports Backers’ Bike Walk RVA initiative has really taken off with the arrival of its new director, Max Hepp-Buchanan.

As of yesterday Richmond now officially has a long-needed bike-advocacy coalition, the Greater Richmond Bicycle Coalition (look for them on Facebook and Twitter too).  The  focus, I’m thrilled to report, is getting infrastructure in place that will allow pretty much anyone to feel comfortable using a bicycle to get around in Richmond.

As its inaugural event, the coalition is hosting a Bike Month Wrap Party at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery on Friday, May 31, 5-8 p.m.  Live music from Solpocket.  Why not ride to work that day, take a spin by Hardywood afterwards, and celebrate the coalition and biking in Richmond?  Ten percent of beer sales will benefit the coalition.

Further details about the coalition from the press release (via

The coalition is a new partnership of organizations and individuals formed to coordinate and encourage progress in bicycle infrastructure projects within Richmond and the surrounding region….

With combined membership numbering in the thousands, Coalition partners will be active in promoting bike-friendly plans, policies, and funding within the Richmond region by encouraging local elected officials to prioritize development of a connected network of shared-use paths, protected bike lanes, bicycle boulevards, and other bicycle infrastructure needs….

The Coalition partners share a vision of a Richmond region that is vibrant and where people want to live, work and play; where people are healthy and active; and where quality of life is made better because bicycling is safe, convenient, and comfortable for people of all ages and abilities. The mission statement of the Greater Richmond Bicycle Coalition is, “Building a Richmond region that is bikeable for everyone.”

The list of participating organizations and businesses is quite long.  Their combined forces, in conjunction with the master plan, could be a real game-changer.  Hope you’ll lend them your support, and hope to see you at Hardywood next Friday!

We’re Getting a Plan!

21 May

As usual there was good but not overwhelming turnout for the Bike to Work Day event at Monroe Park last Friday (coverage here and here).

Mayor Jones offered fairly standard comments about the importance of bicycling and so on, but an announcement from bike-ped coordinator Jakob Helmboldt indicated that Jones is still — at least to some degree — putting his money where his mouth is.  We are going to get a Bike Master Plan.  The goal is to lay out exactly what we want and where to have a good network of bikeways in place over the long haul.

Having a plan that includes specifics and has received the stamp of approval from the relevant city agencies and city council will really help in making the case for installing infrastructure in cases where it’s not easy — say where underused parking might be removed or an underused travel lane repurposed for a cycle track.  It will also be something the cycling community can rally around as a public document of what we are aiming for.  Even if we don’t have a great network in place by the time the 2015 championships take place (and we won’t), we can point to a solid plan that sets the bar high.

Reality Check

16 May
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Car Love is on the Wane

Ask a random person whether our culture is changing and my guess is that they will respond with a resounding “Yes.”  Social media and computer technology alone have impacted the way people go about socializing and living daily life in huge ways.  But I’m guessing most people do not immediately include among those changes a decline in driving and affection for cars.  The car traffic in most cities would seem to contradict this, but people following these things closely say we’re at the beginning of a shift away from the decades-long love affair with the car.

A recent post on Grist cites recent studies that confirm what forward-thinking leaders and traffic engineers have already realized: the era of planning communities and transportation around individual auto travel is coming to a close.  That doesn’t mean cars are going to disappear anytime soon, but the trend — especially among millenials — is away from driving and car ownership.  The evidence is pretty clear: despite population growth, the number of miles traveled by car in the U.S. is going down, and there are clear indications that for many young people it’s not just due to the recession.

So why would this be the case?  One author cited in the piece suggests it boils down to two things: Facebook and Brooklyn.  The first makes physical mobility less important to building and maintaining social connections; the second — cities with exciting social and cultural scenes that are walkable, bikable, and have good transit — is where many millenials want to live.

Getting the Region Ready

So the question is whether the people guiding development in Richmond will see the writing on the wall early enough to compete with other “cool” cities.  If bike infrastructure is any indicator, the answer is that the city is already behind, as the recently released Sports Backers Baseline Report made clear (see RTD coverage here).

The good news is that people seem to be coming around.  “Smart Growth” does not seem to be a far-out concept anymore.  Enter Reality Check RVA: an urban planning game/exercise organized by the Urban Land Institute that took place Tuesday at VCU (RTD coverage here).   The game was set up like this: teams of 10 placed legos representing jobs and housing on a map of the Richmond metro region.  The number and “value” of the legos was made to reflect the projection that the region will grow by over 400,000 residents and 200,000 jobs in the next 20 years.  So basically the question was, “Where should all of the housing and offices and other business facilities go?”

I’m not quite ready to claim that everyone is on the same page with this, but I was struck by the fact that  the patterns of development that dominated for the last few decades are no longer viable.  The whole exercise was introduced in a way that made it clear that mixed-use development and multi-modal transportation is the future, so it would have been hard for anyone to insist on more big-box stores and subdivisions along the lines of Short Pump (minus West Broad Village).  That said, I think there’s a widely shared sense that the practice of moving development ever further out for cheap land and building more roads to accommodate that is on its way out.

The main piece missing in all of this is a regional approach to transportation — transit in combination with biking and walking — that will connect Richmond city and the new higher-density, mixed-use developments.

National Bike to Work Day is Tomorrow

16 May

Hope to see you at 7 am-ish at Monroe Park.  Prizes and breakfast goodies are to be had, along with the chance to become a poster-child for bicycling in Richmond if you stick close to Mayor Jones!

Calls to Action

13 May

BaselineFirst of all, the annual Bike to Work Day rally will be this coming Friday, May 17.  Find some buddies and bike to Monroe Park for some breakfast goodies at 7 a.m. and a ceremonial ride at 7:30 with the mayor and other cyclists to City Hall.

This is an especially important time to come out in support of real bicycle infrastructure in Richmond.  Okay, it’s pretty much always important in my eyes, but if there’s a chance that anything meaningful beyond sharrows will be in place on Richmond streets before the UCI World Championships come in 2015, there needs to be a sense of urgency now.  It’s also clear that for the longer term we need a detailed Bicycle Master Plan that incorporates substantial input from local cyclists and others in the community.  (See my recent post on why the bicycle infrastructure section of the Richmond Connects Multi-Modal Transportation Plan does not get us there).

Hopefully those in city hall in a position to get a master plan as well as some initial projects off the ground feel a bit more urgency after the release last week of Sports Backers’ Baseline Bicycle Infrastructure Report for the region (see RTD coverage here, which includes a link to the report).  It will not come as news to anyone who rides a bicycle in the Richmond region that we look rather good when it comes to trails for mountain biking, but paved and on-street infrastructure is minimal, to put it nicely.

More specifically, the entire region (Richmond city, Chesterfield, Henrico, and Hanover) has a total of about 18 miles of bike lanes, and about half of those are on Route 10, mainly in Chesterfield.  By way of comparison the report details existing infrastructure and goals for the cities of Washington DC, Portland (OR), Chicago, and Minneapolis.  What’s impressive in these cities is not just the existing infrastructure, but also their specific goals for new infrastructure,  percentage of trips to be taken by bicycle, and cyclist fatalities.  In addition to mapping out exactly what should go where, a bicycle master plan should include such goals for Richmond.

Apples to Oranges?  Okay, how about Madison?

I can imagine at least a few people are asking “Is it really fair to compare Richmond to Chicago?”   Keep in mind that the report includes data from the whole region.  But if we just want to look at Richmond city, another great point of comparison (not included in the report) is Madison, Wisconsin.  It’s just slightly bigger than Richmond city, and is a state capital and college town.

Just a quick look at the city’s Bike Madison site broadcasts its commitment to bicycling very clearly: in addition to maps and tips for getting around, it includes very detailed information on infrastructure projects as well as ways to get updates, plan trips, and report problems on existing routes.  A quick glance at Madison’s bike route map is both impressive and depressing, especially if you compare it to the Baseline Report graphic that shows a few lanes scattered all around the region with nothing connecting them.

So how many miles of bike lanes do you think Madison has?  Answer: 112!  Richmond city?  Less than 10.  Paved off-street paths in Madison?  46!  Richmond?  5.  If that wasn’t enough, the Bike Madison page also lists 10 additional bike lane projects in design phase.

The Baseline Report was joined yesterday by an Op-Ed in the Times-Dispatch by Sports Backers’ new Bike Walk RVA director Max Hepp-Buchanan, who makes a very eloquent case for the need to create not just any bicycle infrastructure, but rather the kind that will allow anyone, young or old, to use a bike to get around.

So: hats off to Sports Backers for putting its clout and resources behind this effort.  But that alone will not be enough.  It will also require us — anyone who rides a bike or would like to — to keep up the pressure and keep reminding our leaders how much real infrastructure will benefit the city.