Archive | November, 2013

How Does Richmond Compare?

25 Nov
Sharrow (shared lane marking) on Harrison Street.

Sharrow (shared lane marking) on Harrison Street.  From Richmondgov.com.

The brief answer is, not as badly as you might think.

The League of American Bicyclists recently released a report based on 2012 data from the Annual American Community Survey (done by the Census Bureau, obviously a bit more frequently than the big census).

It comes as little surprise that Richmond does not appear on the list of top biking cities in terms of sheer numbers of people commuting, or among the 25 cities with the largest percentage of commutes done by bike.  Top honors in that category go to Davis, California with 19.1%, with Boulder, Colorado coming it at second with 12.1%, and Palo Alto, California at  9.5%.  In case that list of top contenders might leave the impression that you have to be in California or live in small, expensive city in the mountains to compete, it’s worth noting that the list also includes Madison, Wisconsin (6.3%) and Bloomington, Indiana (3.9%).

But get this: on the list of top 20 cities in the East on this same measure, Richmond comes it at #5 with 2.6% after Cambridge, Massachusetts; D.C.; New Haven, Connecticut; and Somerville, Massachusetts.  It also comes in third among cities with a population between 200 and 300 thousand, after Madison, Wisconsin and Boise, Idaho.

So what does this tell us?  Well, the glass-half-full reading would be that Richmond could fairly easily stand out on the East Coast given that we already do comparatively well with very little dedicated infrastructure (so far).  We already have a larger percentage of bike trips than a lot of other cities.  But then again, is it really grounds to feel smug if we compare ourselves to, say, Bridgeport, Connecticut (#20 on this list), with its whopping .08% bicycle mode share?

So the glass-half-empty reading is: it’s not that hard to stand out in the field, especially on the East Coast.  The U.S. has a handful of cities with a mode share above 5%, but not many.  Even Davis, far and a way the best biking city in the U.S. in terms of mode share, still doesn’t come close to many cities in other countries.  Compared to a few years ago, a lot of cities are doing very well, but there’s still a lot to do.

For the time being, what if we set the fairly modest goal of reaching 5% in Richmond by 2016?  That would be a better rate than the #2 eastern city D.C. is doing now (4.1%).  That would be another couple thousand people biking to get around Richmond — and at least a few hundred of those would probably be leaving their car at home.  That would be good for everybody.

How Has D.C. Done It?

12 Nov
Richmond area visitors enjoying the buffered bike lane down the center of Pennsylvania Avenue in D.C. during a informational visit organized by Bike Walk RVA last spring.

Richmond area visitors enjoying the buffered bike lane down the center of Pennsylvania Avenue in D.C. during a informational visit organized by Bike Walk RVA last spring.

The Richmond chapter of the Partnership for Smarter Growth is holding its annual River City Saunter this Thursday, 11/14.  This is not a bicycling-specific event, but therein lies a crucial point: promoting bicycling as transportation is (or should be) one part of a broader array of efforts around revitalization and transportation.*  Click here for details and free registration.

The program will include a walking tour of downtown sections of Broad and Grace Streets, followed by a keynote address by Harriet Tregoning, Director of the Washington, D.C., Office of Planning.  Here is PSG’s overview and the event agenda:

Tregoning … will inspire and inform Greater RVA with stories of the transformation of the National Capital Region.  Today, D.C. and its core suburbs are booming with an influx of young professionals and downsizing empty-nesters attracted to vibrant, walking and bicycling-friendly, transit-oriented communities.  This transformation didn’t happen by accident, but is the result of the leadership of local elected officials and planners like Harriet Tregoning, the advocacy of PSG’s counterpart in D.C. (the Coalition for Smarter Growth), the investment and commitment of private sector developers, and strong community involvement.

Harriet Tregoning will connect the dots, showing the linkages between transportation, land use, urban design, and multi-sector partnerships that are necessary to create a great city and a great region.  This is not an event to be missed!

*      *      *      *      *      *      *      * 

Forum Agenda

4:50 PM          Check in for walking tour of revitalization along East Grace and Broad Streets beginning at 5 PM
6:00 PM          Registration and networking reception (light appetizers, cash bar)
6:30 PM          Welcome and PSG Highlights
6:40 PM          Keynote Presentation by Harriet Tregoning
7:20 PM          Question & Answers with our Panel
7:50 PM          Call to action – A Greater Greater Richmond Region
8:30 PM          Continue reception until 8:30 PM

*That’s an important thing to keep in mind and communicate, by the way, about projects like the Floyd Avenue bike boulevard.  It’s easy to get caught up in the details of a specific project and its impact on immediate residents.  Both are important, but it’s also crucial to keep the big picture in mind: a project like this is not just “for the bicyclists” but is one piece of a larger puzzle, or really several puzzles: its one piece of an emerging network of bikeways; and, combined with many other things, will make Richmond a better place to live for everyone.

VDOT $$ and More on Floyd

6 Nov

Bicycling is becoming a more and more significant part of the transportation mix in Virginia, and will likely continue to do so.  But it still does not register as prominently in state and local budget numbers as it should.

Tonight the Commonwealth Transportation Board is holding a public meeting in Richmond to get input on its Six-Year Improvement Plan for roads, rail, and transit.  Probably not the most exciting thing to do on a Wednesday night, but lots of transportation money is at stake!  This is an important opportunity to weigh in on the state’s decisions about where to put its transportation money.  Open house and informal discussion begin at 6, formal presentation at 7 pm, at VDOT Central Office Auditorium, 1221 E. Broad Street.

Meetings will be held in other localities as well, and the CTB is offering the possibility of participating in a virtual meeting as well.  Click here for more details.

RTD Column on Floyd Avenue

I was delighted to read Michael Paul Williams’ column on the Floyd Avenue bicycle boulevard (aka neighborhood byway) yesterday.  The main take-away points are that these streets (combined with other bicycle infrastructure in a comprehensive network) have contributed to a significant increase in the use of bicycles for transportation, and that once people see their positive effects for the neighborhood, they tend to want one on their street too.

I attended the Mobile Open House on Saturday on Floyd and at the VMFA, and came away encouraged.  About 50 people, mostly on bikes or in pedicabs, made several stops along Floyd, posing questions and listening to city bike-ped coordinator Jake Helmboldt explain how the street might change.

There are still some residents with serious concerns, one of the big ones being whether street parking spaces might be reduced, mainly by curb bump-outs that improve visibility and safety by preventing cars from parking too close to an intersection.  (Think of how you have to creep out into the intersection, especially if you’re traveling on a north-south street in the Fan, to see if anyone is coming on a street like Floyd).  The city has pledged to aim for zero net loss of parking spaces, which could be accomplished by adjusting or removing parking restrictions on other areas.

Preliminary design for Floyd are supposed to be finished by February, when they will be presented to the public for discussion.  Be ready to come out and voice your support!