Planning Commission approves Bike Boulevard on Floyd

The commission only asks that planners rethink a few things.

Bicycle pedaling foot

Update #7 — September 16, 2014; 12:18 PM

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that the City’s Planning Commission accepted the conceptual design for the two-mile Bike-Walk Street1 along Floyd Avenue (see below) with recommendations that planners consider dropping the speed limit to 20 MPH, adding speed bumps, and reconsidering intersection options east of Boulevard to Harrison Street.

From the RTD:

The Urban Design Committee, an advisory group to the planning commission, submitted the recommendations, which also included larger traffic circles, highlighted pavement markings instead of white markings for shared bicycle lanes, or “sharrows,” and branding for the boulevard.

The $500,000 project between Thompson and Laurel streets includes 11 traffic circles and three curb extensions, also called bump-outs or chokers, to narrow access, slow traffic and decrease walking distance for pedestrians.

Stop signs on Floyd would be removed to make the corridor more attractive to bicyclists, project manager Andy Boenau said. Stop signs on cross streets would remain.

The only Planning Commission member who dissented from the approval was Doug Cole, who feels the plan isn’t as bike-centric as originally proposed.

If City Council approves the plan, the project is expected to be completed by September 2015.

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Update #6 — September 9, 2014; 11:09 AM

From Councilman Parker C. Agelasto this morning.

During its meeting last night, City Council accepted funds from the Virginia Department of Transportation for the proposed Floyd Avenue Bike Boulevard. While funds have been set aside, the design is still under review. The Urban Design Committee made recommendations to alter the proposal east of Meadow Street. The Planning Commission is scheduled to hear the proposal and make recommendation at its next meeting on September 15 at 1:30 pm in the 5th Floor Conference Room at City Hall.

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Update #5 — July 17, 2014; 9:58 AM

Make sure you read the full FAQ distributed by the city (PDF).

Some highlights:

The term “bike boulevard” seems to imply vehicle restrictions. Can we call it something else?

“RVA Bike-Walk Street” is the term being used by the City and the Richmond Regional Planning District Commission. The intent and nature of the project does not change with the name. We heard from the community that “bike boulevard” seemed to send a confusing message to people. “RVA Bike-Walk Street” is also the term used in the context of the City’s ongoing bicycle master plan.

Why not stripe bike lanes on Floyd Avenue?

Bike lanes are typically installed on busier streets with a mix of land uses. Residential streets can be designed to accommodate both motorized and non-motorized traffic safely in the street. Additionally, striped bike lanes would require either removing parking on at least one side of the street, or widening the road. Both of these options were counter to the community vision of Floyd Avenue.

When driving/bicycling/walking up to an intersection, I often can’t see over/around parked cars. Will any of the recommended designs improve line of sight?

Yes. Bump-outs are proposed at Auburn Avenue, Belmont Avenue (side street approaches only), Harrison Street, Linden Street, and Cherry Street. It is important to note that parking cars legally will dramatically improve sight distance (i.e. public safety) at other intersections.

If more people are walking and biking, who will clean up after dogs?

People are responsible for cleaning up after their own pets.

Will my neighbors make excessive noise riding bikes?

Not compared to the noise their vehicle would make. Reducing noise pollution is one of the many benefits of a bike-friendly transportation network.

Will all the VCU students start biking on Floyd Avenue?

Probably not. But before-and-after studies of projects like this often show an increase in bike ridership by people living along the street. So you may see your neighbors riding bikes more often.

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Update #4 — July 16, 2014; 12:17 PM

Last night the City released a look at the proposed Floyd Avenue “bike boulevard,” which you’ll most likely hear referred to as a “bike-walk street” from here on out. The plan includes traffic circles, bump outs, and possibly a vehicle diverter. Also of note is the reconfiguration of the five-way intersection at Floyd Avenue and Morris Street.

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Update #3 — July 10, 2014; 6:00 AM

Following a series of public meetings seeking input from residents and business owners alike, Richmond City Council members Charles Samuels, Jon Baliles, and Parker Agelasto will reveal a conceptual plan for the proposed Floyd Avenue ‘Bike Boulevard’ next week.

The plan, which takes into account feedback received from the public, will be presented Tuesday, July 15th at the Virginia Historical Society at 428 North Boulevard.

Council members say their goal of the latest meeting is to continue the conversation with the community and pave the way for a bicycle corridor that will run from VCU to Carytown and ultimately “increase livability along Floyd Avenue in Richmond, Virginia by enhancing biking and walking ease, enjoyment and opportunity…”

The meeting is open to the public and begins at 6:30 PM. For more information contact Marianne Pitts at 804.646.6532 or via email.

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Update #2 — May 5, 2014; 2:19 PM

City officials will hold a public meeting May 19th to discuss a project that would turn a large stretch of Floyd Avenue into a bike boulevard (see bottommost post).

Councilmen Charles Samuels, Parker Agelasto, and Jon Baliles will join representatives of the Department of Public Works and Traffic Engineering in presenting the concept of turning Floyd Avenue between Thompson Street and Monroe Park into a preferred route for bicycle and pedestrian traffic, while still accommodating low-speed motor vehicle traffic.

More info on the proposed project is here (PDF). According to the City, here’s the plan in a nutshell:

The project is looking at modifying Floyd Avenue by considering the use of motor vehicle traffic-calming measures such as mini traffic circles, chicanes, speed cushions, and traffic diverters. These facilities will discourage cut-through motor-vehicle traffic, but allow local motor-vehicle traffic, while also facilitating safe, efficient bicycle and pedestrian travel along the corridor.

Jakob Helmboldt – the City’s Pedestrian, Bicycle, and Trails Coordinator – said the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has already provided partial funding for the plan. Last month, VDOT approved the concept and notified the City to proceed with its development.

At the upcoming meeting, the City’s engineering consultant will present traffic and parking data, along with proposed design elements of the plan.

Fan and Museum District residents are especially encouraged to attend the meeting on Monday, May 19th at 6:30 PM at the Virginia Historical Society.

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Update #1 — October 29, 2013; 7:14 AM

Representatives from the City, RideRichmond, and Sports Backers’ Bike Walk RVA will be on hand this Saturday to discuss ways to make Floyd Avenue better suited for bicycling, walking, and driving during a “mobile open house” that will segue into a formal discussion at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

City officials are hoping to turn a two-mile stretch of Floyd Avenue from VCU Monroe Park to Carytown into a bicycle boulevard, a low-speed street that makes it easier for bicyclists and pedestrians to traverse by dissuading vehicular traffic (see below). Last night, a City Council vote allowed the plan to move forward.

Proponents of the bicycle boulevard will discuss ways to improve Floyd Avenue alongside local residents and interested Richmonders this Saturday. The discussion begins at 10:00 AM at Monroe Park when bicyclists, joggers, and walkers will travel up Floyd Avenue, discussing the pros and cons of the proposed project. The discussion will continue at 12:00 PM at the VMFA’s Leslie Cheek Theater until 2:00 PM. Free bike valet will be provided in the museum’s E. Clairborne and Lora Robins Sculpture Garden.

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Original — October 14, 2013

Jakob Helmboldt, Richmond’s first Pedestrian, Bicycle, & Trails Coordinator, is working hard on two projects that target the City’s “interested but concerned” demographic. That’s what studies show to be roughly 60 percent of the population; people who are interested in riding their bicycle for transportation purposes (as opposed to recreation), but are concerned about their safety while doing so.

Helmboldt said their safety concerns can be mitigated with strategically-designed, well-placed bicycle routes that better (and more safely) integrate with existing vehicular traffic. The City has two such plans it’s designing that may be ready in Spring 2015.

Floyd Avenue Bicycle Boulevard

The first plan would convert a two-mile stretch of Floyd Avenue (PDF) running from VCU Monroe Park Campus to Carytown into what’s called a bicycle boulevard, or a low-speed street designed to give priority to bicyclists and pedestrians. The use of chokers, small roundabouts, and curb extensions (or bulb-outs) are typically used. Other cities like Portland have incorporated curb extensions with bioswales, patches of plants and rock to filter out impurities from storm water runoff before the water enters the sewer system, to make curb extensions both aesthetic and functional.

“It’s really about making a really nice neighborhood street,” Helmboldt said. That street would not only look better, but would give bicyclists and pedestrians safer access to it, while accommodating automobile traffic. He and other City officials will soon reach out to Floyd Avenue residents to initiate community discussions at an upcoming meeting on October 23rd at Binford Middle School. Helmboldt said he looks forward to the public interaction. “Your best projects come out of that collaboration between the community and the City,” he said.

Cycle track

The second bicycle project will connect a two-mile stretch between VCU Monroe Park Campus and Capital Square in the form of a cycle track.

While not a “track” in the common sense of the word, cycle tracks segregate bicyclists from motorists. “It’s a barrier-protected bike lane,” Helmboldt said. The barriers typically come in the form of short concrete walls, sidewalks, or parked cars. The City is most interested in the latter.

Bicyclists typically ride down streets with moving vehicular traffic on one side and parked cars on the other. Not only are bicyclists in danger of colliding with a moving vehicle, they also run the risk of being doored by a parked car.

Cycle track map

Map of the proposed cycle track (click to enlarge)

But in a cycle track that uses parked cars as a barrier, parked cars on the street move over from the sidewalk’s edge. Bicyclists then ride in a lane between the parked cars and sidewalk. In addition, these cycle tracks often create a buffer space between the bicyclists and parked cars to minimize the chance of dooring.

The proposed cycle track would stretch from VCU Monroe Park Campus down Main Street to Capital Square, and would return to VCU campus via Franklin Street.1

Cost and feasibility

Helmboldt said the Floyd Avenue Bicycle Boulevard Plan will cost approximately $500,000, and the cycle track $300,000. But with luck, the City will only pay a fraction of the costs.

That’s because the City will submit their plans to both the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and the Richmond area Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) in the form of funding applications. Those organizations have federal money to allocate to multimodal projects in the region, granting the City 80 percent of the total costs for each project. Of the estimated $800,000 total for both projects, the City would only pay $160,0002 if its applications are approved.

The City will submit those funding applications to VDOT and the MPO by November 1st. In January 2014, the City will have to show the MPO that it’s done its due diligence and rallied public support for the projects, particularly for the Floyd Avenue bicycle boulevard.

Funding awards are handed out in April 2014. Helmboldt said that if all goes well, construction could start “in earnest” in early 2015, ahead of the 2015 UCI Road World Championship. Helmboldt encouraged those who support the projects to lobby their city council member.

While admitting there’s much work to be done, Helmboldt is optimistic that the projects will materialize. “If we can keep it on track, I think this can all go forward,” he said.

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Footnotes

  1. He’d like the cycle track eventually extended beyond Capital Square into Shockoe Bottom. 
  2. $100,000 for the bicycle boulevard and $60,000 for the cycle track. 

photo by Luca Violetto


  1. Also called the Bike Boulevard. 
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