Archive | October, 2013

Floyd Ave Mobile Open House – This Saturday

30 Oct
A map of bike boulevards and lanes in Tuscon, AZ.  Blue lines are bike boulevards; red are bike lanes on busier streets.

Now that’s a network! A map of planned bike boulevards and lanes in Tuscon, AZ. Blue lines are bike boulevards; red are bike lanes on busier streets.

We made it over the latest hurdle!  Monday evening — very late — city council passed the resolution that will allow the city to submit an application for funding the project.  See RTD coverage here (the last third of the piece).

As noted previously, this was a crucial vote for the project’s survival, but it is not a done deal by any stretch.  Preliminary design is ongoing and will be presented for discussion early next year to neighborhood associations and other residents in the Fan and Museum District.

As the first bike infrastructure project that involves significant change to a city street, the Floyd Ave bike boulevard is especially important.  Making sure that residents have a say and feel that they’ve had input; calming fears and countering misinformation; and mobilizing support for bike infrastructure will have payoffs for future projects.

Mobile Open House

An opportunity for that kind of discussion is coming up on Saturday, November 2.  As RVA News reports, BikeWalk RVA and Ride Richmond have organized a Mobile Open House to give everyone an opportunity to learn more about and discuss the project while traveling the street in question:

The discussion begins at 10:00 AM at Monroe Park when bicyclists, joggers, and walkers will travel up Floyd Avenue, discussing the pros and cons of the proposed project. The discussion will continue at 12:00 PM at the VMFA’s Leslie Cheek Theater until 2:00 PM. Free bike valet will be provided in the museum’s E. Clairborne and Lora Robins Sculpture Garden.

Hope to see you there!  And many thanks to everyone who helped spread the word about Monday’s council vote and contacted their representatives.  This kind of mobilization will continue to be vital as we try to make the Floyd Avenue project and many others a reality.

Floyd Bike Boulevard Update

28 Oct

As noted in yesterday’s post, the Floyd Avenue bike boulevard project is up for a vote at this evening’s city council meeting (6 pm, city council chambers).  Word is that the resolution has been moved from the consent agenda to the regular agenda.  This suggests that there is significant risk that it could be voted down.  According to an article in today’s RTD, this would effectively kill the project before we even know what it would look like.  (Richmond.com’s Phil Riggan also has a very informative piece on the project here).

So we really really need residents of the Fan and Museum District to come out and express support.  The RTD piece provides evidence that shrill voices in opposition to something new get attention: one of the residents quoted in the piece is critical of the project because she believes that bikes hitting cars is a big problem and that cyclists should be required to have driver’s licenses and insurance.  Even if you were to grant some credence to those ideas, they are not an argument against making things safer for bicyclists and pedestrians.

Talking Points

That said, I think the best strategy for us is to not be shrill, but make reasonable points.  Here are key talking points for tonight’s discussion:

• Approving this resolution does not make the Floyd Ave. bike boulevard a done deal.  It just allows the city to pursue funding to do the project if the public supports it once the preliminary designs are presented next year.  The project will still not proceed if the community is against it.  Concerns about traffic volume on adjacent streets, access for emergency vehicles, and others can and will be addressed in discussions about the preliminary design.  Tonight’s vote is not an approval of the project per se, but simply will allow it to proceed if it is supported.  Why kill the project without full information?

• City council has previously expressed support for making the city more bicycle friendly.  This kind of infrastructure (bicycle boulevard) has many significant advantages: it makes the street safer for residents as well as those traveling through by bike, by foot, or by car; it will likely boost property values (most bike infrastructure projects do) by making the street safer and more attractive; it will likely reduce overall traffic and air pollution in the Fan by helping to increase the use of bicycles as transportation; it will show those who visit or see Richmond on television during the UCI races in 2015 that the city takes bicycling seriously.

Again, it’s vital that constituents of Charles Samuels, Parker Agelasto, and Jonathan Baliles, especially those who live on and around Floyd, let them know they’re behind this.  Thanks for your help!!

Bike Boulevard Action Alert!

27 Oct
Bicycle boulevard in Palo Alto, CA.  From Cyclelicio.us.

Bicycle boulevard in Palo Alto, CA. From Cyclelicio.us.

If you are a resident of the Fan or Museum District and support the Floyd Avenue bicycle boulevard project, we need your help!

Fan of the Fan reports that a resolution for the proposed bicycle boulevard is on the agenda for tomorrow (10/28) evening’s city council meeting.  This resolution has to pass in order for the city to pursue funding from the regional planning organization (MPO), which would fund 80% of the costs.  (Council recently passed a resolution in favor of a study to do preliminary engineering for the project).  We need to have the resolution passed at this meeting in order to have a chance to have the bike boulevard in place before the UCI races in 2015.

It’s really important for the representatives of affected districts (Samuels, Agelasto, and Baliles) to hear from residents who live on and around Floyd that they support the project.  This is a brand new kind of infrastructure for Richmond, and although many have expressed support for it, the skeptics sometimes get more attention than their numbers merit.  It’s far from guaranteed that the resolution will pass.

What Can I Do?

So if you live in the Fan or Museum District, please consider making your way to council chambers at 6 p.m. tomorrow night and sign up to speak in support of the project during the comment period.  Coming in person makes a much bigger impression than sending an email, but if that’s your only option, email addresses are below:

Charles Samuels: Charles.Samuels@richmondgov.com

Parker Agelasto: parker.agelasto@richmondgov.com

John Baliles: jonathan.baliles@richmondgov.com

Thanks!!!!

Bikes for Carrying You and Your Stuff

20 Oct

I recently posted about the cost of owning a car and options for going car-light or car-free.  There are lots of ways to get around other than by car, but traveling by bicycle has the advantages of being both low-cost, relatively fast, and more under your control than taking the bus.

If you are considering using a bicycle in place of a car, one issue that will probably come up is carrying stuff or people (especially little ones).  Depending on what you want to carry, it might just be a question of adding a child seat and/or racks and a basket or bags to your bike.  And people have been using bike trailers for kids and other stuff for a long time.  But there are now bikes that can carry a lot more stuff more easily are becoming more widely available in the U.S.  Check them out below.

Carrying Kids

There are quite varied opinions on how best to carry kids by bike.  The blog totcycle has a really great rundown of the different options and which ones to consider at different ages.

Yes, you can carry 3 kids on one bicycle!  Metafilter.com.

Yes, you can carry 3 kids on one bicycle! With large bags that attach on the back you can carry lots of stuff too. This is a Yuba Mundo long tail bike, but several other manufacturers offer their own versions, and Xtracycle sells a kit that you can use to convert a regular bicycle into a longtail. Metafilter.com.

My family ended up not using the trailer on city streets after a couple of tries because we felt it was not as visible to motorists as we would like.  We prefer having our son in a seat on the bike itself despite the fact that he’s higher up that way — it’s better for communicating with him, and it feels better to us than having him trailing behind us where we have less control.  Other people are more concerned about the kid going down with them if they crash, so for them the trailer is preferable precisely because it rides low and will not tip over even if the bike does.

Cargo!

But if you want to carry a lot, or have a bike that’s really built to handle well with cargo or kids, a cargo bike (also sometimes called a utility bike) might be for you.  If most bicycles are more like a sports car or small sedan, these are like a station wagon.

The great news is that there are a lot more options in this area now in the U.S. than there were just a few years ago, and you don’t have to invest in a pedicab or ride an adult tricycle to do it.  Some of them are pretty much regular bicycles with integrated racks, but others are built to carry even 2 or 3 children or a bunch of groceries — or paint buckets or whatever else you can strap on or put in the bags.

Box Bike

Bikes built to carry stuff have actually been around a long time.  But in the U.S. they’re mostly a distant memory.  Not so in, you guessed it, places like the Netherlands and Denmark.  The Bakfiets or box bike has been around in the Netherlands for quite a while.  Rather than stretching out the bike toward the back, this design stretches it out in the front, placing a box between the handlebars and a small front wheel (steering works with a tie-rod that runs beneath the box).

A traditional Dutch box bike.  The Bullitt is narrower and lighter due to its aluminum frame.

A traditional Dutch box bike. The Bullitt is narrower and lighter due to its aluminum frame. http://babyology.com.au.

The nice thing about a box bike is that its cargo space is so versatile.  You can strap in one, two, even three kids of varying sizes, and throw their bags and yours in as well.  No special seats to outgrow.  Then by just flipping up the seat, you have room for a week’s worth of groceries.  The down sides are that traditional Bakfiets are quite heavy and obviously require a good bit of storage space, and they tend to be pricier than long tails, partly because they’re usually custom built or imported from Europe.

I’ve tried a racier Danish version of the Bakfiets called the Bullitt (you might have seen one or two in Richmond being used by couriers).  We ended up going with a long tail because its handling is hardly different from that of a regular bicycle, while the Bullitt takes a lot of getting used to.  I’m not sure if the learning curve would be as steep for a more traditional Bakfiets.  Click here for a guide on some further types of European cargo bikes and a list of U.S. retailers.

The Long Tail Option

Probably the most common and least expensive option in the U.S. for hauling a lot of stuff is a long tail bicycle.  A long tail looks a lot like a regular bicycle, but the back end of the frame is stretched out so that you can have a really long rack and big bags on the back.  I recently strapped a heavy 5-gallon bucket of roof coating to the side of my long tail and didn’t have any handling problems‚ even with my 45-pound son also on the back.

That’s the type of cargo bike my family opted for, partly because it handles very much like a regular bicycle.  Our Yuba Mundo is rated to carry up to 200 pounds in addition to the rider, and it has enough room on the rear rack that you can even attach two child seats — or have space for as many as two older children to sit.

Trek, Kona, Surly, and Xtracycle (Edgerunner and Cargo Joe models) all have long tail models too, with somewhat different configurations and carrying capacities.  Kona and Yuba also offer “mid-tail” bikes that offer good carrying capacity but are not as stretched out (and therefore not as heavy) as the full-on long tails.

A Madsen set up for rainy weather riding.

A Madsen set up for rainy weather riding. Tacomabikeranch.com.

Madsen also offers an especially striking long tail with a big plastic bucket on the back that can carry even 3 or 4 kids.  The least expensive option is the Xtracycle Free Radical kit, which can be used to convert a mountain or hybrid bike into a long tail.  Some people swear by the Free Radical, but since the “extra” part of the frame is bolted on, it can’t carry as much weight as some of the others.

If the idea of pedaling up one of Richmond’s hills with, say, a hundred pounds of kid or cargo on a 50 or 60-pound bike sounds nuts, there are two things to consider: it’s really good exercise and not as tough as it might seem; and you can get many of these models with an electric motor that will help.

How to Choose

If you get to the point of seriously considering making the investment in a cargo bike, the toughest part is getting the opportunity to try one out.  Richmond Bicycle Studio carries Yuba bikes, and there are local Trek and Kona dealers that might have one of their long tails in stock.  A super nice guy in the DC area sells Bullitts through Kasperscargos.  He leaves bikes in stores in various cities to sell on commission, but even brought one to us to try out when he was passing through Richmond.  The closest place I’ve been able to locate traditional Bakfiets is New York City.  There are also a good number of reviews on the web, so you can do some research in advance too.

Two Steps Forward

16 Oct

resized-bicycling-symbol

If you’ve followed this site for very long you may have come away with the impression that I alternate between hopefulness and discouragement about the future of bicycling in Richmond.  It’s probably not as bad as one step back for every two steps forward, but some of those steps forward feel very slow and difficult.  This week you it’s possible to see some nice small steps forward, and in some cases some preparations for some bigger ones.

Shiplock Park Trail Head

Progress on the Capital Trail is noticeable, but it’s hard to be patient, especially with what seems like endless back and forth between VDOT and people in Varina.  Well, you’ll be glad to know that the projected date of completion for main trail between Richmond and Williamsburg is still fall of 2015, just in time for the UCI World Championships that October.  One more piece of that larger project just got a ribbon cutting today: the trail head at Shiplock Park in Richmond.  According to the Capital Trail blog, in addition to bike racks, information kiosks, and shelters, the project included some general beautification of the park.  So if you didn’t make it down for the ribbon-cutting, consider taking a peek at the new Shiplock Park.

Floyd Bike Boulevard and Downtown Cycle Tracks

Rvanews has an update on two major bike infrastructure projects being considered for the city: cycle tracks (bike lanes separated from traffic) on Franklin and Main, and a bicycle boulevard on Floyd.  If you’ve been following news on these projects, there isn’t a great deal that’s new in the report.  It does include an announcement of a forum on the Floyd bike boulevard being hosted by the Fan District Association (see info here via Facebook).  Please make a point of going if you live in the Fan or Museum District.  Critics of such projects tend to be vocal and therefore heard even if they are not in the majority, so it’s really important for residents of the area in favor of the project to come and learn more, and voice their support.  An informational flyer on the project with answers to FAQs is here.

Bikes, BBQ, and Bluegrass

For you mountain bikers, this years marks the second annual Bikes, BBQ, and Bluegrass event to be held October 26 at Pocahontas State Park.  Proceeds will benefit the further development of Pocahontas as an official IMBA Regional Ride Center, a project that entails constructing new trails and other mountain biking facilities at the park.  Tickets $15-25, kids under 12 free.  See Richmond.com for details.

Outdoorsy

A bit more on the recreational side, the RTD reported on a trio of Richmonders who recently launched a smart phone app called Outdoorsy.  It’s designed to make it easier to find other people to get together with to do outdoor activities like running, cycling, hiking, swimming, kayaking, and more.  So if you’d like to make that next outing more social, consider trying Outdoorsy.

Can You Help Staff the Folk Festival Bike Valet?

4 Oct

Richmond2015

Richmond 2015 is hosting a bike valet at the 2013 Folk Festival, October 11th, 12th and 13th.  The bike valet will be open Friday 5:30 pm – 11 pm, Saturday 11:30 am – 10:30 pm and Sunday 11:30 am – 7pm. The service is FREE and available to bicycles of all shapes and sizes. Volunteers are responsible for greeting each cyclist and giving them a valet ticket, as well as parking and retrieving bikes. Volunteers are asked to commit to a minimum four hour shift.If you are interested in serving as a bike valet volunteer, please click here to complete the volunteer sign-up form.  The reward?  A free Richmond 2015 t-shirt and a deep sense of satisfaction at having helped encourage biking as transportation in a big way.

Even if you can’t help with the valet, consider taking advantage of it: biking is the best way to get to the Folk Festival!

$$$ in Your Pocket

2 Oct
From biketoworkblog.com.

From biketoworkblog.com.

Hopefully that tag line did not lead anyone to suspect that a spammer has hacked my blog.  I’m not going to promise you big money working from home or ask you to send money to me to get more money later.

Here’s the thing: unless you make a lot more money than I do, having between $7,000 and $11,000 extra dollars per year would be a pretty big deal.  That’s at least $500 per month that you could spend on fun.  Or a house.  Or paying off your college loans.  Or an awesome vacation.

Where is Your Money Going?

You probably see where this is going.  According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), in the U.S. the average car costs $9,000 in fuel, maintenance, insurance, depreciation, and taxes.  (See the CNN coverage here).  No, that doesn’t include the cost of buying the car in the first place.

If you drive a small car the yearly cost is closer to $7,000 per year; a larger SUV or equivalent costs over $11,000 annually.  If this seems hard to believe, I’d encourage you to make a spreadsheet and enter in every gas purchase, insurance payment, repair, oil change, etc.  It’s easy to not see how much these “little” costs add up, not to mention that major repair bill that comes now and then.

And what does the average bike cost to operate?  About $300 per year, and you can easily lessen that by learning to do some of the maintenance and repair yourself — and maybe canceling your gym membership.  So the average car ends up costing you about $25 a day to use; the average bike less than $1.  Even factoring in the cost of other transportation, including bicycling and transit along with the occasional car rental, you’d still be thousands of dollars ahead with one less car (the average American household owns 2.28 cars).

Location, Location

“But this is Richmond!” you are most likely saying.  How easy or difficult it is to go car-free or car-light does depend on where you choose to live.  Unless you live in West Broad Village (the “new urbanist” development where Whole Foods is) and never leave it, most of Richmond’s suburban areas are designed in a way that makes it very difficult to get around by bike.

But many neighborhoods the city proper, including its older suburbs like Ginter Park and Woodland Heights, are within easy walking distance of restaurants and shops and biking distance of most everything else in the city.  And of course it makes a huge difference if you live on a bus line or biking/walking distance from work.

Of course you may still want or need to drive somewhere not accessible by bike.  It’s not an all-or-nothing proposition.  My family of three (two adults and one child) gets by on one small car mainly because my wife bikes to work and I bike to a car pool.  But we’re also not crazy about biking the little one to school in pouring rain or snow, and we have a deep affection for Trader Joe’s (we’re still keeping our fingers crossed for a bikeable second location — maybe at the old bus depot on Cary?).  Sometimes we even throw a bike on the car rack and do some of a trip by car and part by bike.  Even just choosing to use your car less will save you money on fuel, maintenance, and depreciation.

The rail and public transit system needs to be a bit better in Richmond to make it easy to go car-free entirely.  And I’ll confess: not having a car for every adult in the house does, occasionally, prove inconvenient.  I’d say once or twice a month it’s a pain for one reason or another.  But for us it’s far from being so inconvenient that we’re willing to take the equivalent of a huge pay cut to avoid it.  Aside from borrowing one from a friend, ZipCar is an option, as is a regular old rental for a longer trip.

Experiment

The nice thing about going car-light or -free is that requires no commitment at all to try it.  All you have to do is decide: this week we’ll leave that extra car sitting and see how it goes.  If you do that, make a list at the same time of what you’d do with a few thousand extra bucks, not to mention the built-in exercise and happiness boost you get from biking.

Using your car less does mean using your bicycle differently, or possibly getting a different bike.  Even a bike imported from Denmark that can carry a week’s worth of groceries costs way less than the cost of maintaining your car for one year.  More on that soon!