RideRichmond’s League Certified Instructors are teaching Traffic Skills 101 this Saturday September 13 in Richmond. The course will be partly classroom instruction and discussion and partly outdoor, on-bike skills practice as well as an 8-mile urban ride to practice new skills.

Registration can be found at RideRichmond.net. Please come join us!

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I was down at Rocketts Landing yesterday, walking the dog and wondering about how the Virginia Capital Trail is going to eventually go through Rocketts Landing. The old railroad still runs between the condos and the James River, until it fizzles out into some piles of gravel and dirt at the western end, but the remnants of the rail bed continue on. The rusty skeleton of an old building–a mill or a warehouse, perhaps–quietly stands between the gravel, weeds and water. It would make an interesting and historical backdrop to the trail that will soon pass at its base.

2013-08-08 16.15.22Yep, this blog has been quiet for some time. But that’s changing now. First off, I spent last summer pedaling around Europe for a few months. I was trying out Bike Share systems in various cities, and blogging about them in a series entitled European Vacation: Project Bikeshare over at Mobility Lab. It was great fun and I learned so much about bikesharing, and how they work from the user’s perspective. You can read about my experiences in London, Lyon, Dijon, Paris, and Stockholm. Well, the Stockholm piece hasn’t been published yet, but it’s sure to be soon. At least that’s what they tell me.

I’ll be revamping the PedalRVA website over the next few weeks. I’ve had some inspiration and ideas and I want to share them here.

Meanwhile, pedal on.

 

 

Yes, you can go to the farmers’ market by bike. Here’s how I did it. Try it sometime, it’s fun.

It took me 15 minutes, photo opps included, and it’s about 2-1/2 miles away, I guess. I don’t have a bike computer on my urban bike because I really don’t care how far or fast I’m going. I put my panniers on my bike and headed to the Tricycle Gardens farmers’ market on Jefferson Street. I also took an iced coffee break on the way home.

Distance: about 5 miles, give or take.

Total time: 1 hour, including riding there and back, shopping, packing, stopping for coffee, and taking photos.

Best part: I’d have to say the fun I had going down my hill. And the iced coffee. And the nice people at the market. And the strawberries. And the knowledge that I did it all on my own power and had fun.

Worst part:  going back up my hill.

You just don’t stop and smell the roses when you commute in a car. Happy Bike Month!

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First in a series of Learning From posts that explore what Richmond can learn from other cities’ actions to become bicycle-friendly.

Spending the week in Asheville for work and a family visit allowed me to experience Asheville by Bike recently. There’s SO MUCH to learn from Asheville’s efforts; I’ll try to keep it brief.

Asheville is a small-medium southern city in the mountains of North Carolina. Asheville has a river running through it, the French Broad River. Asheville has a university, UNC-Asheville, a thriving arts scene, and a bunch of hipsters. Asheville has hills, lots of them. There are differences, too, between Asheville and Richmond, but Asheville has plenty of lessons to offer RVA:

1. Asheville has a Comprehensive Bicycle Plan. Yes, indeedy, it does! It was developed by a nationally-known transportation firm with serious expertise in bicycle planning, Toole Design Group out of Maryland (although with strong ties to NC, as founder Jennifer Toole is a graduate of NC State University’s School of Design in Landscape Architecture). The Bicycle Master Plan was adopted in 2008 and implementation is ongoing thanks to the efforts of the Bicycle-Pedestrian Task Force and an active bicycle advocacy organization Asheville On Bikes. More on them below. Lesson for RVA: let’s fund, develop and adopt a Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan.

2. Asheville’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Task Force meets regularly with meetings open to the public and scheduled after working hours. The best thing about the Task Force, aside from the work it does, is that it has a dedicated webspace on the city’s website with lots of useful information to anyone who might want to find out about pedestrian and bicycle developments in Asheville. Although the Latest News And Information page is out of date, the rest of the Task Force’s website is obviously maintained pretty well, has an overall friendly and welcoming tone and includes:

Lesson for RVA: let’s make the Pedestrian, Bicycle, Trails Commission more transparent and put up the commission’s information on the city’s website and make it easy to find.

3. Asheville has an active and coordinated Bicycle Advocacy organization. Asheville on Bikes’ tagline is Ride Your City. I like that! AOB seems to be the glue that holds much of the bicycle advocacy together in the city, and is an important player in making Asheville bicycle-friendly. Specifically, AOB has a great Advocacy page that lists all sorts of interesting and useful information on what’s going on in Asheville to make it a more bicycle- and pedestrian- and transit-friendly place. Lesson for RVA: let’s keep up the great advocacy work, and maybe the advocates should get together more in order to be more effective. We seem a bit scattered.

4. Asheville adopted a Complete Streets policy in June 2012. The Complete Streets policy ensures that all users (pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users, and drivers) are considered in any street improvements and developments. In short, the policy recognizes and implements that streets are for people, not just for cars. Lesson for RVA:  adopt a Complete Streets Policy, and then implement it.

BRBP_logo.47141032_std5. Asheville is part of the Blue Ridge Regional Bike Plan, undertaken by the French Broad Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Land-of-Sky Regional Council and funded by a grant from NCDOT. The Regional Bicycle Plan includes seven counties in western North Carolina, and recognizes the economic importance of bicycling to the entire region. Imagine that kind of cooperation in the Richmond region! Lesson for RVA: let’s get the region talking about a regional bicycle plan.

6. Asheville has bicycle infrastructure projects and will be getting more in the coming months and years in accordance with the Comprehensive Bicycle Plan (that’s why they have the plan, afterall, to proactively guide the implementation of infrastructure projects).

Public BiAVL Repair Stand 1ke Repair Station is located in the city’s thrivingRiver Arts District, an area that is at the intersection of Downtown and the increasingly popular West Asheville. The River Arts District is where I work when I’m in town, and I’m amazed at the transformations at every visit.

 

 

Bike Lanes. Yes, actual bike laneAVL YTBs. Not everywhere, yet, and not yet on one of the main roads that needs them (Biltmore Avenue), but they are here.

 

 

AVL bike pkgBike Parking. Asheville has some good bike parking in places where people want to park bikes. Like in front of cafes and in front of office buildings.

 

 

Lesson for RVA: Let’s do this stuff (and get that bike plan underway)!

7. Finally, Asheville has New Belgium Brewing Company coming to town. Soon. New Belgium is known for its progressive bicycle-friendliness in everything it touches, and Asheville is no exception. New Belgium’s east coast brewery will be in the aforementioned River Arts District (just across the railroad tracks from my office here) and it’s going to be a Very Big Deal. New Belgium is very serious about bicycling and bicycling advocacy. They chose Asheville for a reason. The economic payoff for the city and the county will be huge. Construction is already underway, creating jobs, jobs, jobs. The bicycle-friendliness of Asheville will only continue to climb as New Belgium comes to town and settles in. Lesson for RVA: let’s develop RVA’s bicycle infrastructure, policies, and culture with the understanding that bicycle infrastructure and bicycle-friendly cities mean big economic advantages for us all.

Well, that wasn’t brief (but it sure was fun)!

 

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Newish R2 Bike Route sign, Government Road

In the interest of documenting living, working, and playing in RVA–by bike–I’ll be posting a series of By Bike entries here. I’ll document my ride to my destination, noticing what works and what doesn’t–yet.

One of the best things about working from home is the flexibility to work away from home from time-to-time. Today is one of those times. I was out of half-and-half anyways, and I can’t drink coffee without it.

I packed up my computer into my pannier and started out to Buzzy’s Beanery in Church Hill. Buzzy’s holds a special place in my heart, as it was the only cafe in this part of town when I first moved here in 2007. There may be others now, and they might have better lattes, but nothing beats Buzzy’s iced coffee with coffee ice cubes. Buzzy, indeed!

My ride to Buzzy’s is short but steep; I live less than two miles away on a hill, and Buzzy’s is on a hill. Bike facilities haven’t taken hold much in this part of town, but that’s sure to change in the coming months. This sign has already popped up on Government Road!

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Edge of Government Road heading up to Chimborazo Park

The first challenge, aside from the slope (which is my own problem), is this neglected stretch that is Government Road. This would be a great place for a few sharrows, if not an outright bike lane. It also deserves some sidewalk love. It’s part of RVA’s East-West Bike Route (R2) and it’s a major corridor for cars, pedestrians, and bikes going between Church Hill and Fulton on to Williamsburg Road and points east.

Government Road connects two major city parks–Chimborazo and Gillies Creek–and is an extension of the Broad Street corridor. Contrary to popular belief, Richmond does not end at Chimborazo Park! There’s a vibrant and active community to the east called Greater Fulton that is full of artists, long-time residents with stories to share, historic cemeteries and neighborhoods, the famed Neighborhood Resource Center, and businesses.

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Broad Street in Church Hill at Chimborazo Park

At the top of the hill, one is greeted with Chimborazo Park and Church Hill. It’s beautiful in the springtime. Wouldn’t a few sharrows, though, be a good reminder to motorists that Broad Street is also a place for bicycles? It’s also part of the East-West Bike Route 2.

Church Hill is a success story in terms of getting heavy truck traffic off of Broad Street. Although that traffic pre-dates my arrival in RVA, I understand that the stopsigns at every block are the result of a concerted effort by residents of Church Hill to take back their streets. It has worked pretty well. People are out walking with dogs and even pet geese (it’s true!), drivers are courteous, and there are a few cyclists out and about.

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*sigh* Bike Parking, RVA-style

Once I got to Buzzy’s, I was faced with the absence of bike parking. This is not Buzzy’s fault; it’s difficult to get bike parking on a public right-of-way in Richmond. The city’s current regulations do not enable affordable and effective bicycle parking should a business wish to provide bicycle parking for customers. It’s something that the RVA Pedestrian and Bicycle Coordinator, Jake Hemboldt, is aware of and no-doubt working to change.

So I parked where I could. Rumor has it that the RVA police are going to start cracking down on bicycles parked on public fixtures such as parking meters, sign posts, street trees, and light posts. Well, where the heck are we supposed to park?

Buzzy's 19April14I do enjoy working from cafes. I like having people around, even if I don’t know them. Buzzy’s has some great Motown tunes and is a friendly and warm place to be. And that iced coffee with the coffee ice cubes–that stuff rocks.

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Bicycle commuter

This article first appeared on the Virginia Bicycling Federation‘s website. Thanks to VBF for posting it.

It looked like a summer hat straight out of Season 3 of Downton Abbey—pale green and breezy. But I was at a bicycling conference and I suspected there was more to that hat than first met the eye.

Sure enough, it was a bike helmet, one cleverly disguised as a summer hat. It was inspiring, and I bought it, even though it wasn’t in my budget and I already have a bike helmet (or two).

The next day, I decided to ride my bike to the conference, a trip of about eight or nine miles. I used to commute by bike almost daily when I lived in Washington, DC, 14 miles each way. Those miles were the sometimes the best part of my day!

My commute to the conference was entirely in dedicated bicycle lanes, including one that is a “protected” bike lane. I was treated as a real commuter by the drivers, accepted as just another person going to work, albeit on a bicycle. I got respect, and I wasn’t odd or in the way.

Since moving to Richmond, however, I haven’t commuted much by bike. And I miss it. I telecommute from home these days, so I don’t have a commute at all, by any means. But honestly, even if I worked in an office away from my house, I would need to work really hard to overcome some of Richmond’s bicycle commuting challenges.

In Richmond, when I ride my bike in the city, I’m in the way. The lack of bicycle infrastructure and the attitude of many drivers make sure I know that I’m not welcome. I dodge potholes and ride through sand and debris on the side of the streets. I get honked at and buzzed by cars and trucks passing too closely to me, and sometimes I get yelled at—all in the span of the three miles between my home and downtown Richmond. I can deal with it, having been a hardened bicycle commuter during the years I lived in DC. But what about those people who want to ride a bicycle to work in Richmond but for whom these challenges are too much to overcome individually?

What can Richmond do, collectively and as a community, to make bicycle commuting within reach of more people?

Ride Your Bike!  For starters, more of us—people like me who are comfortable in rough commuting conditions—can get out there more and be seen on a bike. I pledge to do that, and if you are reading this, I encourage you to do the same. But that’s not enough.

Fix the Roads! Fixing roads will help: identifying bicycle commuting routes, analyzing the road conditions, and making the necessary repairs, from road debris and glass to potholes and striping. Grab the low-hanging fruit.

More Bike Lanes and Sharrows! Putting in more bicycle infrastructure is a very important step in getting more people to ride their bikes in Richmond. A bicycle lane says, “You Belong Here” to anyone on a bicycle. It also says, “Bicycles Belong Here” to drivers. Sharrows are a start, let’s keep adding them throughout the city, as well as adding bicycle lanes where they are appropriate.

Bike Parking! And what about when we get to our destinations? Bicycle parking would be a welcome addition, and I’ve actually seen a few parking meter poles that have been re-purposed as bicycle parking racks in town. That’s an exciting step.

Bike To Work Day! Let’s create some excitement around bicycle commuting. Let’s have a rocking Bike To Work Day and Bike To School Day celebration this year, with convoys and goodies and prizes. Let’s get people out who have not yet participated in a Bike To Work Day event. Maybe that means organizing practice runs. Maybe that means going to civic associations and employers and talking up BTWD. Let’s build on the successes we’ve had in past BTWD events with the goal of getting more people out.

Celebrate…and Keep Moving! Finally, let’s keep talking…and doing! There are strides being made, let’s celebrate those and publicize all the improvements that are happening.

Commuting to and from the conference in Washington was fun. I couldn’t wait to ride back the next day, on the smooth bike lanes of Arlington, along the Mt. Vernon Trail, and across the Potomac to the bike lanes on the DC side. Once I got to L Street, it was like riding in a dream on that protected green bike lane.

As I clipped my new summery helmet on for the return trip to Arlington, the sky was threatening snow. Undaunted, I set off towards Arlington in my own bike lane, happy to be part of the infamous DC rush hour commute—because I was a commuter, too, and I belonged there. I arrived at my friend’s house refreshed and energized.

So if you are out on your bike or in your car in Richmond, and you see a bicycle rider in a green hat disguised as a helmet, be sure to wave hello. I look forward to working with you to make Richmond a bicycle friendly city!

Richmond will host the UCI World Road Racing Championships in September 2015. Richmond is the first US city to host the World Championships since Colorado Springs did so in 1986. Richmond2015, as it’s known here, is very important event for the city, region, and the country. There’s alot of work to do. Let’s get started.