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.

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3 Responses to “Calls to Action”

  1. Stuart May 13, 2013 at 8:41 PM #

    In my opinion the money and time it would take to develop a bicycle master plan would be better spent on bicycle infrastructure. Developing a plan would cost ballpark $100k to $500k plus 2-3 years to develop and approve. Compare to the 80-odd miles of lane markings going down that cost about $276k and two years to install. We have a bike/ped coordinator, I don’t see why he can’t just implement the things he already knows we need. We have to keep in mind too that a master plan is not a binding plan for development so once created, there is no trigger to make anybody do anything suggested within (see Richmond’s Downtown Master Plan and compare to reality.) “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” I’d rather see tangible results than a great plan that won’t be implemented, based on Richmond’s track record.

    • bikeablerichmond May 14, 2013 at 1:48 AM #

      Actually the time frame will likely be much shorter. In the current environment it makes a lot of sense to have something that has very specific recommendations backed up by both significant public input as well as city council. You’re right that a plan doesn’t guarantee anything, but without it we will most likely end up with a fragmented network and only the most minimal infrastructure. The coordinator is unfortunately not in a position to just put infrastructure in place. If only!

      • Stuart May 14, 2013 at 3:30 AM #

        You cannot have a shorter time frame if you are looking for meaningful public input AND city council approval. Two years, minimum for that. Moreover I’m not sure why people think this type of infrastructure needs to have a public participation component. We know very well how to do it correctly, and there are many precedents around the world to copy. VDOT certainly wouldn’t hold a series of charrettes to ask the public how they would like to stripe a highway and I don’t see why bicycle infrastructure should be any different. Also you assume the public supports bike infrastructure- what happens when the anti-cyclists and tea party penny pinchers come and shout down the public hearings? Confusion at best, backward steps for cycling at worst.

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