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Bike Walk Northside’s Fall Family Fun Ride

25 Oct

Lots of fun as usual getting on a costume, getting on a bike, and seeing what it would be like to ride a protected bike lane on Brook Road.

Thanks to Bike Walk RVA for lots of support.  I AM RVA, a great new organization promoting bike safety and helping local charities through the sale of very cool helmets, provided great swag and a new helmet for costume contest prizes!

Getting ready to ride on a temporary protected bike lane on Brook Road.

Getting ready to ride on a temporary protected bike lane on Brook Road.

A perfect use for a cargo bike!

A perfect use for a cargo bike!

We should bike with capes on more often!

We should bike with capes on more often!

Bike Walk Award and Southside Family Ride

21 Mar

Bike Walk Rocks

This may be old news to those avid RTD readers among you, but our own Bike Walk RVA beat out eight competitors to win this year’s People’s Choice Award for Best Advocacy Organization in the U.S. from Bicycling Magazine and the Alliance for Biking and Walking!  Congrats to Bike Walk RVA!

If you read this blog you have some idea of what the organization has been up to that attracted the nomination in the first place, but the RTD report offers some highlights.  And clearly they have some strong support in this region and elsewhere, since the final victory was based on voting.

The competition included local and state-level organizations from Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Minneapolis, San Diego, Delaware, Georgia, not to mention the Cascade Bicycling Club in Seattle, where Bike Walk’s director Max Hepp-Buchanan got his start before begin lured to Richmond.

Southside Family Walk and Bike 

One of the things that Bike Walk RVA has done to earn this recognition is to start Bike Walk Academy, an 8-week training session meant to encourage and educate citizen advocates for bicycling and pedestrian issues.  This is a really valuable program because an advocacy organization is only as good as its supporters and local advocates.

The academy graduates have formed groups to work on issues in each region of the city.  The southside group has been meeting with residents and working on organizing local residents and getting better bike lanes and cross walks.  They are also holding a family bike and walk event for next weekend, on Sunday 3/29, 1:30 p.m.  See details below.

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A Load of Pretty Good News

24 Feb

Unless city council decides to torpedo it, the Floyd Avenue bike-walk street is going forward (see RTD story here and a very detailed account of how it worked out in a blog post by Max Hepp-Buchanan here).  The Planning Commission approved a modified plan yesterday.  And although the General Assembly killed a few bike-friendly bills, they also approved a couple, and blocked some that would have been very unfriendly.  We owe a huge thanks to the advocates from Virginia Bicycling Federation and Bike Walk RVA, along with many others, for these successes.

Modified Floyd Plan Passes

With Floyd, the city officials and consultants were apparently able to convince commission members that they had addressed concerns raised in the previous meeting, including: better signage etc. at some of the crosswalks; more specific plans for ADA sidewalk ramps, lighting, and filling tree wells; and making sure the street is marked as special corridor for people on bicycles and on foot.

The plan that passed also contained a couple of recent changes, most notably the replacement of four traffic circles with raised crosswalks at Strawberry, Rowland, Plum, and Harvie.  They will look something like this:

 

It’s kind of like a speed hump, but not as high, and also serves to highlight the crosswalk.

I was hoping raised crosswalks would find their way into the plan anyway.  They were included to address concerns of some local residents (and their council reps) and commission members.

I’m really not crazy about how much a few vocal property owners seem to be able to sway their council representatives, especially given the large majority of residents who expressed support for the plan earlier.  (Along with the fact that the few “parking spaces” they are so worried about are actually illegal and dangerous).  But getting involved more seriously in bike-ped advocacy has brought home to me the reality of what is so often said about government: it’s messy and you have to be prepared to 1) compromise, 2) to think long-term.  It’s also crucial to be just as vocal and persistent as the opponents.

We have to work on many fronts to build up support for this kind of project so that it doesn’t continue to be a major battle.  Educating and lobbying council members, electing folks who are sympathetic, having a master plan, and many other things will tilt the balance in our favor over time.

General Assembly Successes

This years successes prove especially clearly that persistence is key when it comes to the GA.  Most of what was passed this year has been proposed before, but a bill getting past of the various hurdles depends on a bunch of things that have to align just right.

Check this VBF post for the full run-down, but here are the highlights:

• Vehicles can now legally cross a double yellow line in order to give the required 3 feet of space to people on bicycles and other slower road users.

• Localities that decide to do a road diet (reduce motorized travel lanes to create a bike lane) will not lose state transportation funding for doing so.  (Previously the state only counted pavement used for motorized traffic).

• Existing law for following too closely now also applies to non-motorized vehicles.

A couple of particularly worrisome bills also died.  One would have made it illegal for someone on a bicycle to be on a road if there is a bike path nearby.  This would have banned cyclists from parts of Route 5 where the Capital Trail is, for example.

Some others, like imposing a penalty for dooring a cyclist, and requiring hands-free technology when using phones etc. will no doubt come back for another try next year.

Non-Floyd News

10 Feb
Protected bike lane in Long Beach, CA.  From la.streetsblog.org.

Protected bike lane in Long Beach, CA. From la.streetsblog.org.

The Floyd Avenue project has occupied my somewhat limited time to post lately, so there’s a bunch of other cool stuff to catch up on.  Here are some highlights:

Bike Walk RVA has been nominated by Bicycling Magazine for the People’s Choice Advocacy Award.  Vote here for to help this local organization get well-deserved recognition.  Channel 8 News also reported that the Mayor’s Bicycle, Pedestrian, and Trails Commission has been one of the more productive and successful of those formed by Mayor Jones.

The General Assembly is (hopefully) passing bicycle-friendly legislation.  Check out the Virginia Bicycling Federation site here for a detailed account of the legislation and what’s still in the pipeline.  It seems like the general trend (based on last session and this one) is greater support for this stuff.  In past years many such bills were killed in committee, but now many are making it to full senate and house votes.

This year there is a bill to change a policy that discourages the use of road diets (reducing travel lanes) for bike infrastructure by reducing the funding the state provides for roads that undergo such a reduction (see this Why Richmond, Why? column in the RTD for an explanation).  There are also bills making it illegal to door a cyclist (holding drivers responsible for opening doors safely), and to follow a cyclist too closely (the current law applies only to motor vehicles); and there’s one to make it legal for a person in a car to cross a double yellow line in order to safely pass a person on a bicycle.

Protected bike lanes coming to downtown!  The RTD confirmed that at its last meeting the Planning Commission approved acceptance of funding to do design work for protected lanes on Franklin and Main Streets (eastbound on Franklin and westbound on Main) between  Belvidere and Ninth Streets.  This is just the first step, of course, but a welcome sign of robust infrastructure on the way!

Chesterfield is showing real momentum with bike-ped planning.  In a relatively short time Chesterfield County has put together a bicycle and pedestrian plan, which is now open for public comment (see RTD piece here).  In time you could see a lot of multi-use paths along roads in the county.

Pedal party is coming to RVA.  According to RVA News, you’ll soon be able to join 13 of your closest friends on a “bike trolley” aka partly on wheels.  It’s hard to describe (there’s a photo in the RVA News story), but it looks like a covered bar with “stools” (bike seats) and pedals on all sides by which you will propel yourself through the River City.  So you can burn off calories in between brewery stops!

Bike Walk RVA Academy Round 2

26 Jan

bike-walk-rva-newsletter-bannerLast fall Bike Walk RVA held its first academy — an 8-week course for people passionate about making it safer and easier to get around Richmond by foot or bike.  The goal is to help those people make connections with like-minded folks and learn more about how to help get better infrastructure and policies for those kinds of transportation.  Graduates from the first academy have been holding meetings in their neighborhoods over the last couple of months to help build that community further.

They’re now accepting applications for the next round — a new group of Richmonders to go through the academy and join the growing ranks of advocates.  They ask for a commitment of eight two to three-hour sessions, along with passion for these issues and residence in the city (there will be sessions of the academy specifically for residents of individual counties later).

If you’re interested, check the details and submit your application here.  The deadline is January 30.  
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Humanizing People on Bikes

21 Nov

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The advocacy group People for Bikes recently launched a media campaign to do just that.  In a way it seems odd that humanizing people on bicycles would be necessary.  We’re right there, sitting on the saddle, not looking particularly like an object or animal most of the time.

But the mentality encouraged by our fast-paced habits and road design, among other things, makes it easy to see people on bicycles, not to mention pedestrians and other motorists, in one-dimensional terms.  They become an obstacle, a menace, or just a stupid *&%$.  The key thing is that you stop seeing commonality and see only how they are not like you: a bad person in one way or another.

It’s hard to not also begin seeing car drivers in this way when you’re on a bicycle, especially when they bear down on you, pass too close and fast, or cut you off.  It also doesn’t help that a person inside a big metal box is hard to see and communicate with other than through crude gestures.

It may sound a bit flower-child-y, and this is not going to make our streets safer by itself, but trying to keep a three-dimensional view of each other on the road could help.  We’re all people on our way somewhere, wanting to get there in one piece.

Getting Bikes to People Who Need Them (Updated)

13 Oct

The standard “face” of biking in Richmond is probably a VCU student — at least in the photos that tend to appear alongside stories on the Floyd Avenue bike boulevard.  A big percentage of cyclists and advocates (though certainly not all) are white, middle-class men.  And a lot of what I write here, I admit, is directed toward people who might choose to ride a bicycle instead of driving.

But there are lot of low income Richmonders who do not have many other options: depending on where you want to go and when, walking or biking — possibly combined with a bus ride — can be the only real option for getting to work, to the store, or to visit people.  As I’ve noted here many times, a car is a more significant expense than we often realize: between 7 and 11 thousand dollars a year.

Two things made me think about this recently.  One is this Washington Post story that appeared about a week ago — part of a series about efforts to reduce poverty in Richmond.  The first installment introduced readers to Jarrell Miller, a Richmond man who, with help from the city’s Center for Workforce Innovation, was trying for several months to find a job (see an RTD piece on the Center here).  Jarrell did eventually find a job at a nightclub, but his workday ends at around 4 in the morning, when no GRTC buses are running.  So for a time he spent over an hour walking home from work in the pre-dawn hours.

Local bike advocate Amy George of Ride Richmond saw the article and put out the word: How can we get a bike for this person?  I don’t know the whole story behind it, but within 24 hours Jarrell was equipped with a bike, lock, and lights.*

*Today I got that back story courtesy of Brantley Tyndall of Ride Richmond: Brantley posted the request to the Ride Richmond Facebook page.  Brantley ended up working together with Daniel Pritchett, Whit Brooks of Riverside Outfitters,  city Bike-Ped Coordinator Jake Helmboldt, and Jamison Manion of the Center for Workforce Innovation to get Jarrell connected with a bike.  

Local Co-op Expanding

No doubt there are plenty of other people who could really use a bicycle too.  Besides buying a cheap or used one, the other option is Rag and Bones Bicycle Co-op.  In addition to learning to fix your bicycle and using their tools, you can exchange volunteer hours for a bicycle of your own.  Word is that a relationship between the co-op and the Center for Workforce Innovation might be in the works, which could help connect people who need transportation and those who can provide it.

Added to that is the news that Rag and Bones in opening a second location on Brookland Park Boulevard (their current location is in Scott’s Addition).  To help raise funds for the new location, Rag and Bones is hosting a benefit bike ride this coming Saturday, October 18.  Suggested donation $5-35.  The ride will go from their first location at 3110 W Leigh St to the new one on Brookland Park.  Meet at 2, ride at 3 — free coffee and pastries for riders!