Where’s the $$$?

26 Mar
A new bike lane in Memphis, TN, formerly known as one of the worst U.S. cities for cyclists.

A new bike lane in Memphis, TN, formerly known as one of the worst U.S. cities for cyclists. From Memphis Flyer.

It’s budget season in RVA.  The Mayor recently released his proposed budget, and those of us still waiting to see some real action on bike infrastructure are uneasy.  This is the last opportunity to ensure we have a least a few bike lanes in place before the UCI world Championships in October 2015.

Check here for a quick way via Bike Walk RVA to let your representative on city council — which will make adjustments to the budget — know that we need specific, dedicated funding for bike projects.  Read below for reasons you might want to do so.

$100K for Bike Lanes?

Richmond.com’s Phil Riggan raised the reg flag on Tuesday: the Mayor’s proposed 2015 budget sets aside only $100,000 specifically for on-street bicycle infrastructure (along with an additional $50K for more racks).

For most of us that amount of money sounds like a lot, but even considering how cheap bike infrastructure is compared to roads, it’s peanuts.  By way of comparison, the RTD recently reported that the state has spent $300 million on a new Route 460 to connect Petersburg and Suffolk — without a single bit of dirt being moved and without the required permits having been obtained.  The project has now been put on hold.

A bit closer to home, according to a follow-up on Richmond.com published today, the budget also includes $972,000 that is likely there to pay for yet another bridge to Brown’s Island.  I’m not in a position to judge whether that bridge is really needed, but it’s not what we most need when it comes to bicycle infrastructure.

Need for Transparency and Signs of Commitment

That “likely” points to a big problem with the Mayor’s budget that came up recently in concerns that it also does not include funding for the Brown’s Island Dam Walk: the way the budget is presented to the public is far from transparent.  Mayor Jones admitted as much in a statement responding to concerns about his dedication to completing the Dam Walk.

Similarly, the Mayor’s responses to Riggan’s questions in the follow-up piece don’t provide much more clarity or inspire great confidence.  It’s great for the mayor to verbally affirm his commitment to these projects, but those words need to be backed up by specific commitments of funding.

More specifically, the items listed by the Mayor’s spokesperson Tammy Hawley include a number a line items labeled “Pedestrians, Bikes, and Trails Services” but do not specify what they are for — and they still don’t add up to much.  Given that there is a line item for bike lanes elsewhere (the $100K), it’s hard to feel assured that these other funds will be available for bike lanes in particular.  If that’s what they’re really for, why not put them with the $100K.

Some money for bike lane striping may also be embedded in budget items for street repaving and similar things, but that is not the same as making clear that these projects are going to happen.  And while it’s true that the Bicycle Master Plan is unfortunately not yet complete, it’s been clear for some time that the city would need to move forward quickly with some bike lane projects if they are going to be complete by 2015, with or without the plan.

Let’s Be Sure

Given the importance of this last (really first) push to get some real bike lanes in place before millions of people see how bicycle-friendly Richmond is in 2015, we need more than just vague assurances.  Show us the money!  Click here to let your council rep know you support dedicated funding for bike lanes!



One Response to “Where’s the $$$?”

  1. Mark Lewis March 27, 2014 at 9:58 PM #

    Should I really leave a comment? Oh it seems it is always sad news coming from our city and how they neglect the citizens request, but focus their efforts on their own projects. Sometimes I feel this city is a joke. sorry for being Debbie Downer.

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