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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.

Go Bike! Design Contest

2 Sep

headercontest1

You might have seen this on the back cover of the latest Style Weekly, but in case you didn’t…

The local group i.e.* is sponsoring the Go Bike! Design Contest.  I was kind of hoping for a contest for funky bike racks kind of like the ones designed by David Byrne for New York City, but this could be cool too.

Here’s the scoop from the i.e.* web site:

Win $2500 for the design of an iconic artistic symbol to grace the tops of 30 bike racks to be installed throughout the City of Richmond before the 2015 World Cycling Championships.

 We will cast 30 replicas of the winning design in metal, to be bolted atop the city’s bike racks. The metal design will be distributed to 30 artisans throughout RVA who work in a wide variety of media to embellish the symbol into original works of art, creating a customized finish for a uniquely RVA bike rack and art piece.  The locations of the bike racks have been determined based on the City’s Master Bike Plan.

 The winner will be recognized at all GoBike! sponsored events, will be credited with the creation of the original design in official documentation, and will be announced  in local newspapers, the i.e.* website, and in all communications related to the project.

i.e.* describes itself as “a collaborative community initiative to discover, support, and showcase creativity and innovation in the Richmond region, and amplify it to the world.”

So check out the specs by following the link above and start sketchin’!

Who is a Cyclist?

19 Aug
Image from radialsblog.com.

Who is this street made for? Image from radialsblog.com.

The Virginia Capital Trail Foundation just released a great little video called “I’m a Cyclist!”  It conveys in an upbeat and very Richmond-focused way a basic fact that is easily forgotten on the road: people on bicycles are people — and all kinds of people at that.  I’ve considered getting one of those jerseys with “I’m a Dad” on the back to convey the same message.  But why is that necessary?

Those *&^%^$!

People in traffic — especially in motor vehicles but sometimes using other modes too — find it easy to forget that they are sharing space with other human beings.  A person on a bicycle (or a pedestrian or other car driver, for that matter), all too easily becomes something less than that — an obstacle, an irritation, an “idiot,” or worse.

Bicyclists seem to be the “other” (a lesser being, not where they belong) even more than pedestrians precisely because we share space with cars more; and more than other motorists because, well, we’re not fellow motorists at the moment and we go a bit slower.

The basic, usually unstated notion that people on bicycles are not equal and don’t have the same right to the road underlies a lot of the arguments against bicycle infrastructure.  This is the only way I can make sense of the statement that seems to come up in every debate of this sort: “I’ll be okay with this when bicyclists stop breaking the law.”  I won’t go through the whole rebuttal again, but of course people who see themselves as drivers (and not bicyclists) would never say that about other drivers, would they?  It’s hard in this country to imagine the inverse situation, but doing so underscores the point: if roads were made primarily for bicycles, imagine bicyclists saying, “We shouldn’t widen this road to make room for cars because they don’t always come to a complete stop at stop signs.”

Cars themselves limit our perceptions of  other road users too — by putting us in our own little world, hiding our faces, making us unable to communicate with others much.  And that in a very high-stakes, very social activity of getting around on public streets.  If you think of it this way, it’s really kind of crazy: let’s put you inside a machine that weighs many times more and can travel many times faster than a human body can on its own; and even though this makes your movement much more dangerous to yourself and others, you’ll be constrained in your hearing and sight, and the primary means of communication you’ll have are one loud sound and a couple of lights.

The Message our Streets Send

It also doesn’t help that our society and our roads themselves discourages motorists in particular from seeing bicyclists and pedestrians as equals (much less the comparatively vulnerable road users they are).  Try to imagine what it would be like if our streets were made to give pedestrians and people on bicycles the same or greater priority as cars.  They would look very different.  As it is, a majority of our streets call out to pedestrians and bicyclists something close to: “Tough sh*t.  Your safety is less important than the speed and convenience of those bigger and faster than you.”

People who live on Forest Hill Avenue on the opposite side from the Forest Hill Park had to fight hard, for example, to just get some blinking yellow lights to help them cross the street to enjoy one of the best features of that neighborhood.  And it’s less than fully clear that those lights help much.  What if — gasp — we had crosswalks with lights that actually stopped traffic every quarter mile or so on a street like that?  I can hear the traffic engineers already: “But that would slow down traffic!”  Exactly.

Which brings me to a little preview of sorts.  Based on some reading and a couple of experiments, I’m working on a series of posts focused on safety and speed.  Spoiler: slower is better and really not much slower.  More on that soon!

 

Cycling into Spring

31 Mar

Despite the rain today I think (hope) it’s safe to say that spring is finally really here.  Of course that means better biking weather!  It also means that more cycling-related stuff is happening.

• The folks at Ride Richmond are gearing up (sorry for the worn out pun) for Bike Week.  Events include a festival of short films focused on cycling.  Submissions are invited until 4/15, and those selected will be screened 4/27 at Movie Loft, a new film-screening space in downtown Richmond (yay!).  Also coming up is the annual Bike Swap at the VMFA on 4/21.  See this Ride Richmond post for more details.

• Yet another Bike Week event is a screening at the Byrd of Reveal the Path, a new documentary.  The film’s web site describes it thus:

Reveal the Path is a genre-defying adventure film that contemplates what it means to live an inspired life using the bicycle as a mechanism to explore, dream and discover.  Regions explored include Scotland’s lush valleys, Europe’s snow capped mountains, Morocco’s high desert landscapes, Nepal’s rural countryside and Alaska’s rugged coastal beaches. Ride along and get lost in the wonders of the world… Meet the locals living modest yet seemingly fulfilling lives, leading us to question what it means to live an inspired life – however humble or extravagant. Filmed across four continents and featuring Tour Divide race legends, Matthew Lee & Kurt Refsnider, this immersive film is sure to ignite the dream in you.

Proceeds will benefit Ride Richmond.  See the event Facebook page for more details.

• As noted in my previous post, this spring is also bringing a new, full-time bicycle and pedestrian advocate to Richmond.  RVA News has now published an interview with Max Hepp-Buchanan, the recently hired director of Sports Backers’ BikeWalk RVA initiative.  I’m encouraged by what the piece reports as Hepp-Buchanan’s recognition that bike lanes and sharrows are not enough to get most people who don’t already bike onto the streets.

• Spring in Richmond also apparently brings the birth of new bike blogs!  In addition to the recently-launched Ride RVA, we now have Pedal RVA.  The blogger describes it as follows:

Kicking and screaming, Richmond, Virginia is slowly but surely being transformed into a bicycle-friendly city. We will document the transformation by riding and reporting on the changes we see. It might be a slow start, but the people of RVA are energized and ready to make it happen. Witness it here.

Just like the city’s various cycling organizations, Richmond’s bike blogs have overlapping interests but distinctive approaches and areas of emphasis.  Perhaps it’s getting to the point that we need a single site from which people can access all cycling-related information and blogs in RVA.  Even more ideally, it could be the site for an umbrella group that would bring together the city’s bicycling organizations together as a more effective lobbying and organizing force.

Rag & Bones Co-Op Moving

4 Jan

Rag and Bones Bicycle Co-op recently had to move out of its location near Virginia Union University.  Posts on the co-op’s Facebook page suggest that a new location is being made ready, and that the recent call for donations to help with the cost of moving and securing a new location got a positive response.  Further donations are no doubt welcome, though.  There is a link on the Facebook page that you can use to submit a secure donation.

In case you’re not already familiar with Rag and Bones, here’s how they describe their mission and methods:

We plan to keep people riding by empowering them to do their own maintenance and repair. We plan to get more bicycles on the road and keep them there by providing a space with the resources needed for bicycle repair. We plan to sustain this service to the public through donations and refurbished bicycle sales to cover our costs.

If your ride is a bit of a clunker, bring it to us and we will show you how to fix it. We have refurbished bicycles for sale, and depending on what we have in stock, you can build your own. We also have repair manuals and other types of literature for you to browse while hanging out on the couch during down time.

We provide you with a few work benches, repair stands, tools, and parts.

You fix your bike, buy one, or build one up. Simple as that.

Tuesdays 5 – 9 p.m.

Saturday 1 – 5 p.m.

If these hours don’t work for you call Joe, the head mechanic, to schedule an appointment.

Please call ahead if you plan to visit.

Joe Bock – 804.397.1475

Hopefully the new location will give the co-op a good home!  I’ll pass on the information as soon as the new address is made public.

Everyday Cycling

21 Dec

Know someone who, with a nudge and good information, might start cycling more to get around?  And for whom you still need a holiday gift?

You might consider one of a couple of recently published guides to cycling aimed at just this kind of person.  I confess that I have not had the chance to read either one of them yet, but both authors are known quantities in this area, and the reviews are generally quite positive.

The newest one is Everyday Bicycling by Elly Blue, a Portland cyclist who has written for BikePortland and Grist.  Urban Velo says the following about the book:

Blue takes cycling and makes it digestible to cyclists and would-be’s in a friendly, laid-back tone. Absent of any authoritarian voice, this is the book I wish I had years ago, when getting acquainted with the elements of cycling meant drifting through online forums, bike shops and co-ops, gleaming bits and pieces of the big picture over time. “Everyday Bicycling” is comprehensive without being daunting, an ideal read for anyone who wants to learn how to integrate cycling into their lives, or just brush up on the basics.

The other book is  Just Ride by Grant Petersen, maker of Rivendell bicycles.  Click here for a New York Times review.  Like Blue, Petersen offers practical advice for practical riding, but it’s also about what you don’t need to cycle for fun or transportation, namely lycra shorts, a $2,000 bike with skinny tires, or a jersey with logos on it.  Some think Petersen goes too far in his opposition to this kind of thing.  As someone who is seen now and again in lycra on a road bike, I might be inclined to agree.  But I really appreciate what he’s trying to do: move cycling away from being a special “sport” for athletes with special equipment back to something everyday people with regular bodies and budgets find appealing.

You can order the books directly here and here, or if you’re not in a rush, why not bike over to a local bookstore and see if they have it in stock?

Richmond is an Official BFC!

18 Oct

The League of American Bicyclists’ updated list of Bicycle Friendly Communities (BFC’s) is out, and Richmond is on it!  With a Bronze designation, this is the first time that Richmond has appeared on the list.  On top of VCU’s Silver award as a Bicycle Friendly University, this puts Richmond on the cycling map.  Click here for coverage on Richmond.com.

According to the LAB web site, “the Bicycle Friendly Community Program (BFC) provides incentives, hands-on assistance, and award recognition for communities that actively support bicycling. A Bicycle Friendly Community welcomes cyclists by providing safe accommodation for cycling and encouraging people to bike for transportation and recreation.”

I think it’s fair to interpret this award as recognition that Richmond has taken notable steps and has built some momentum with respect to infrastructure and other programs.  In other words, it is a sign that we’re going in the right direction — and should let leaders know that they should double down on these efforts financially and politically.

Aiming for the highest designation (Platinum) by 2015 might be a bit of a stretch.  At present only Boulder, CO, Portland, OR, and Davis, CA have it, and they’ve been working on this stuff for more than a decade.  But I think it’s quite possible for us to achieve Gold by that time if city leaders remain committed.  Let’s go for it!

While we’re on the subject of recognition, a person who has been very active in the efforts that have gotten us this far is Michael Gilbert, co-founder of Ride Richmond.  He’s included in this year’s Top 40 Under 40 issue of Style.  Click here for the profile.