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Bike to Work — Treats and a Rally!

13 May

cycle track-2255_1

Bike to Work Day is this Friday.  Could be that for you bike to work day is every day, which is awesome.  If it’s not, why not give it a shot?  You could find yourself addicted.

To help reward your diligent commuting or entice you into biking addiction, Bike Walk RVA has organized commuter stations at five different locations from 7-9 am.  You can get treats, smiles, and high-fives as you make your way to work:

  • Floyd and Morris (VCU Monroe Park Campus)
  • 2nd Street north of the Belvidere Bridge (VA War Memorial)
  • Leigh and 11th just west of MLK Viaduct (MCV)
  • 10th and Cary (James Center Plaza)
  • Leigh and Lombardy (Across from Sugar Shack)

And if you already have your bike at work, why not head over to the James Center at noon for a Bike to Work Day Rally with Mayor Jones?  Here’s the scoop:

Bring or buy your lunch from one of downtown’s many food trucks, grab your bike, and gather with your friends and colleagues in the James Center Plaza (corner of S 10th St. and E. Cary St.) for a Bike to Work Day Rally and ride.  Mayor Jones will make a special announcement a little after noon, followed by a group ride up Main St., around Monroe Park, and down Franklin — following the route of the proposed protected bike lanes on Main and Franklin.

We’ll end in front of the Capital around 1 PM and send you on your way to work, smile on your face!

RSVP here if you plan to attend.  See you there!
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A Wall on Broad?

2 Apr
From Bike Walk RVA.

From Bike Walk RVA.

This is not about bicycling per se, but could certainly affect people on bicycles as well as those traveling by foot downtown.

You probably know that the city is working on a Bus Rapid Transit project — funded by a federal grant — planned to run from Rockett’s Landing to Willow Lawn, primarily on Broad Street (learn more about the project here).  This kind of bus both physically resembles and works a bit like a trolley, but without as much infrastructure needed.  There will be more substantial but also widely spaced stops where passengers can buy tickets and board the bus from a platform.  In the downtown segment, it will travel on a dedicated bus lane.  This helps to make these busses more “rapid,” along with technology that allows the driver to control traffic signals.  That could be very nice for the bus passengers but maybe not so great for folks trying to cross the street.

There has been a lot of back and forth about the route, where the stops will be, and a number of other things.  One thing that hasn’t been addressed much yet is how the busses and stops will impact pedestrians and bicyclists along this part of Broad.  There are lots of people on foot and bike there already — and if BRT is successful there will be more and more.

Bike Walk RVA raised this issue in a recent blog post asking whether BRT threatens to create a wall on Broad Street that would actually make the street more dangerous — including for the people using transit. Two public meetings about BRT are being held next week — a perfect time to ask planners what they have in mind for keeping pedestrians and others crossing Broad safe:

Monday, April 6, 6-8 pm, at University of Richmond Downtown, 626 E. Broad Street, Suite 100

Tuesday, April 7, 6-8 pm, at the Department of Motor Vehicles, 2300 West Broad Street

See this GRTC post for more details.

The Case for Bikes and Bike Share at ODU

30 Mar
Protected bike lane (cycle track) in Bogota, Colombia.  From https://cbuscyclechic.wordpress.com.

Protected bike lane (cycle track) in Bogota, Colombia. From https://cbuscyclechic.wordpress.com.

In case you might have missed it last weekend, the regional public radio program With Good Reason highlighted bicycling last week in a episode called “Pedal Power.”  The first segment is an interview with Ralph Buehler, a Virginia Tech professor in Urban Affairs and Planning, who does a nice job laying out benefits of building bicycle infrastructure so that everyone can use a bicycle as a transportation option, and some of the reasons we have yet to do that in the U.S .

The episode also highlights the bike share program at Old Dominion University and explores the growing popularity of e-bikes, bicycles with electric motors that allow a wider range of people to use a bike for transportation in a wider array of contexts.

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!

Snacks for Bike to Work Day!

15 May

 

cycle track-2255_1

Image from bikeleague.org.

If you’re someone who does not usually bike to work but took the plunge during Bike to Work Week, May 12-16, good for you!  If you need a bit more of a nudge — or a reward if you bike to work anyway — then Bike to Work Day is your day.

One of the many rides and other activities that your fellow Richmonders have put together for Bike Month (see the calendar here) include refreshments and rewards for morning bike commuters at several locations this Friday, May 16, from 7-9 a.m.  So if one of these locations is on your route or close to it, stop by for a high five and some free coffee and snacks:

Oregon Hill (2nd Street behind War Memorial)
Floyd Ave (at Morris)
Leigh and Lombardy
MLK Bridge (MCV side)
James Center
Main St. Station

If you’re still thinking about commuting by bike, or are trying to convince someone to do so, check out this piece from Momentum Mag with basic tips on doing it comfortably.

Busy Bike Month

1 May
Photo: New York Times.

Photo: New York Times.

Thanks to all of you who have written to council members and the mayor in support of amendments to the mayor’s budget to fund the Brown’s Island Dam Walk and other infrastructure.  If you haven’t had a chance to do so, click here asap so they’ll see your message before the 3 pm meeting today.

How Will You Celebrate Bike Month?

Bike Month 2014 looks like it will be the best yet.  As mentioned in a previous post, Bike Walk RVA got people together to plan their own rides and other events to celebrate Bike Month.  You can check out all of them on this handy calendar.  There’s something for everyone: lunch rides, donut rides, family rides and bike parades, a tweed ride, women-only rides and workshops, and much more — not to mention this weekend’s races and the Cap2Cap ride on May 10.  Or just find opportunities to ride your bike somewhere instead of driving!

There are also workshops for people who have considered bike commuting but would like more information and encouragement.  In cooperation with Active RVA, another Sports Backers initiative, Bike Walk RVA is hosting three seminars.  Please share with anyone you know who might be interested:

May 7th at the Boulders on Southside. 5:30pm.
May 8th at Innsbrook for West End riders. 6pm.
& May 21st at MeadWestVaco downtown. 5pm.

According to the release published on rvanews:

Commuting by bike is something we can all aspire to and it’s chock-full of benefits. It kickstarts your heartbeat, makes your first hours at work much more alert and energetic, and can sometimes even be quicker when you trade traffic jams for neighborhood short cuts.

But it can take a little help to get started. That’s where Active RVA comes in. To support more Richmonders to use their bikes for commuting and running errands, we’ll help you to pick safe routes, learn how to navigate traffic, and get advice on what gear (if any) you could use to feel more comfortable.

These gatherings are informal with time to socialize, drink and chat. And we’ll make sure that you leave feeling more prepared to experiment with a bike commute you’d like to try. Plus, they’re FREE!

Connect RVA

If all of that were not enough, Bike Walk RVA has also just announced a new initiative called Connect RVA.  According to Richmond.com:

Bike Walk RVA has announced the launch of Connect RVA, “a multi-year, regional campaign to make Richmond, Chesterfield, Henrico, and Hanover better places to walk and bike for everyday activities,” according to a release. Connect RVA is now gaining traction in the city of Richmond and has recently become an official legacy project of the Richmond 2015 UCI Road World Championships.

“The Connect RVA project is a perfect example of the kind of legacy that we had hoped would emerge as a result of hosting the World Championships and a benefit for the entire community for years to come,” said Tim Miller, COO of Richmond 2015, the organization behind the effort.

What better long-term legacy could there be for the 2015 races?  It’s great to see this kind of collaboration in the effort to ensure that Richmond becomes a truly bike-friendly city.

Bike Master Plan

Word is out that the Bike Master Plan for the city is coming together, and there will be a public meeting this month to get input on the routes and infrastructure choices for Richmond’s bike network.  More on that soon!

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.