The Floyd Avenue bicycle boulevard project is already making waves! As the RTD reports in a featured story today, the Metropolitan Planning Organization for the Richmond region has approved funding for initial design and planning as well as public outreach. That’s great news!
I’m both excited and anxious to see how the plan is presented and received. This is the first bicycle infrastructure project the city has undertaken that would have a really transformative effect on bicycling and the street itself.
According to the RTD, John Baliles, who represents some of the neighborhood that would be affected, is positive but also (understandably) withholding judgment until the details are clear. Although bicycle boulevards have been implemented with great success in many other U.S. cities, this is very new to Richmond, and local residents will need to have their concerns heard.
As someone pointed out to me recently, Richmond already has a small example of this kind of infrastructure: a diverter located at the intersection of West Seminary and Watkins on the north side prevents their use as through streets. This was not done in a way that directly benefits cyclists, so I can only assume that it was done for traffic calming. But it shows that this kind of infrastructure is 1) feasible and 2) desirable for reasons other than just making cycling easier.
The Floyd Avenue project will be real test of whether city leaders can make the case for significant infrastructure and really follow through — and perhaps after that kick things into a higher gear. The reality is that many other cities are moving faster and more dramatically in making themselves more bike friendly.
This story and accompanying video about Indianapolis from Urban Velo is alternately envy-inducing and just plain inspiring. Republican mayor Greg Ballard — yes, cycling is not just a “liberal” thing — has taken his city in just five years from 1 mile of bike lanes (sound familiar?) to 75, and is aiming for 200 (!) miles of lanes and trails by 2015. He has also transformed downtown Indianapolis with a multi-use “cultural trail” running through the heart of it. Wow. And he’s very explicit about why: to attract the kind of people that make a city vibrant, and the companies that want to recruit that kind of people. Also sound familiar?
I can only hope that wariness about trying something new in Richmond does not overwhelm the very positive aspects of this project. It happens very often with new trails (think Capital Trail) and bike boulevards that people are initially wary or even fearful, and once it’s in place they love it and wonder why they were ever skeptical. Even if we’re not moving as fast as some other cities, the Floyd Avenue project could open the door to some bigger and better things for cycling in Richmond.