Signs of Progress and Examples to Follow

15 Jan

How did almost a whole month go by without a Bikeable Richmond post?  I expected to take a break for the holidays, but not quite this long.  Chalk it up to the blasts of cold air and regular rain that made my body and mind feel less, well, bike-y.

I did, however, come across some interesting tidbits, videos, and other stuff over the last few weeks.  Here’s the rundown:

Signs of Progress: Capital Trail, 2nd Street, Brown’s Island Dam, and Chapel Island Trail reported that the old railroad tracks at Rockett’s Landing were being removed in December to make way for construction of the phase of the Capital Trail that will run through that development.  Hooray!  

Richmond now has another — admittedly short — actual bicycle lane, installed recently on 2nd Street between the new connector and Canal Street.

Also, the city is holding an informational meeting next Tuesday about the plans to widen and extend the walkway from Brown’s Island on the Vepco levy to make a bicycle and pedestrian bridge over to the Manchester climbing wall, as well as the plan to create a paved trail between 14th Street and Shiplock Park on Chapel Island, which is currently inaccessible because it also houses a sewage overflow storage area.  Both are projects recommended in the Riverfront Plan.  The meeting is at the Virginia War Memorial Auditorium, 621 S. Belvidere St., Tuesday, Jan. 21, 7 p.m.

Learning from Portland
Portland, Oregon had zero bicycle fatalities in 2013.  The virtuous circle of bicycle infrastructure and culture makes a big difference, even in a city more than  twice the size of Richmond.  See the article here in Grist.  This is quite a contrast to two cyclist deaths in the Richmond region in 2013 and the recent tragic death of a runner in Hanover County.  (See coverage here, and suggestions from Bologna below).

Learning from Bologna
No, not the scary sandwich meat.  Bologna, Italy.  Kevin Krizek from Minneapolis has an article and short video here that includes some thought-provoking points.  The bicycle infrastructure in Bologna is far from ideal.  But it seems to work pretty well, according to Krizek, for two main reasons: 1) Italians are used to and tolerate a mix of bicycles, pedestrians, and motor vehicles;  2) Italian drivers are held accountable for injuring pedestrians and bicyclists to a degree that they rarely are in the U.S.  Like the Netherlands, Italian law favors non-motorized travelers, just the opposite of the U.S., where motorists usually face little if any penalty for injuring more vulnerable road users and are often allowed to keep their license even after multiple serious violations.  Elias Webb, convicted of manslaughter for killing cyclist Lanie Kruszewski, is a good example.

I know that in response for a call for stricter penalties many will argue that cyclists and pedestrians are also sometimes at fault.  That is true, and laws such as those described above take that into account.  But current law in the U.S. does not really account for the vulnerability of non-car road users, and if we move in the direction really sharing the road equally, accidents will be much less likely.  Such a change in law should come with more and better education for everyone (see Learning from Chattanooga below).  I’m also not convinced that favoring more vulnerable users would encourage cyclists and pedestrians to be careless.  I think the best way to get those cyclists who do dumb things in traffic to stop doing so is (in addition to enforcement) acknowledging them as legitimate users of the road.  Most of our streets still convey the message that cars are king.

Learning from the University of Dayton
Here’s an idea for VCU from the University of Dayton: as reported in American Bicyclist (the newsletter of the League of American Bicyclists), UD offers a free bicycle to first-year students who pledge to not bring a car to campus.

Learning from Chattanooga
The most recent issue of American Bicyclist also profiles a program in Chattanooga, Tennessee that addresses a huge need: educating drivers on how to interact with other road users.  The four-day driver education class for 15-22 year-olds not only includes significant instruction on how to share the road with bicyclists and pedestrians, it also includes a ride through downtown using the city’s bike share system to give students a direct sense of what it is like to ride a bicycle in traffic.

Scholarship to Attend Women’s Bike Summit
Ride Richmond is offering a scholarship for one female bicycle advocate to attend the Women’s Bike Summit in DC.  Applications due January 20.  Click here for more details.

Richmond MORE is hosting an event called “Trailicious” on Saturday, February 22 to benefit the improvements being done to make Pocahontas State Park a Ride Center for mountain biking.  Tickets are $20, available in advance only.

Here’s to lots of safe bicycling and more infrastructure in 2014!


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