Program will create organized campaigners for City bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.
“The goal is build a close-knit community of walking and biking infrastructure advocates in Richmond that become, in a way, an extension of the Bike Walk RVA program on the ground in their neighborhoods,” said Max Hepp-Buchanan, Director of Bike Walk RVA.
Hepp-Buchanan created a similar program in Seattle as the advocacy programs manager at Cascade Bicycle Club. “It really developed this close-knit cohort of people1 who were all working toward the same vision for Seattle,” he said. “They were all on the same page in terms of how do you go ahead and plan a mini campaign for your community and how you execute that together.”
When Hepp-Buchanan moved to Richmond last year to work at Bike Walk RVA, he wanted to bring that program with him, waiting until the “right time” to do it.
“With the Bicycle Master Plan being almost completed, the millions of additional dollars in the City budget for implementation of that plan2…it seemed like the time was right to go ahead and start training a community of advocates to help make sure the Bike Master Plan is implemented and that money is spent the way we want it spent,” he said.
The Bike Walk RVA Academy consists of eight workshops running from October to December. Each workshop — ranging in topics from setting goals, executing tactics, crafting leaders — will cultivate bicycle/pedestrian advocates to hold the City accountable on infrastructure at city- and neighborhood-wide levels.
Those advocates will learn from Hepp-Buchanan on Wednesday classes that run two hours in length over a three-month period. “We’re looking for a pretty serious commitment out of people, people who are going to stick with us in the long term,” Hepp-Buchanan said. “But we also want people to know that this is going to be fun, and they’re going to make friends and they’re going to be with people who care about the same things that they do.”
Bike Walk RVA is accepting applications for the academy through September 4th. While the program and applications are free, not all applicants will be admitted. “We’re looking to fill about 20 spots in this first class. I’ve found that more than 20 gets a little bit hard to work with to make sure everyone gets enough attention and we’re collaborating well,” Hepp-Buchanan said.
He hopes the first class includes one or two people from each council district, as well as members from neighboring counties. He also said that people who aren’t accepted for the first class shouldn’t be disheartened.
“This will be an annual program, so for people, for whatever reason, who don’t fit into this first round, we’ll heavily consider [them] for the second round, and the third round, and so on,” Hepp-Bucahnan said. “Because we want to keep this going, keep the momentum going, keep training people who are going to be effective advocates out there.”
Apply for the Bike Walk RVA Academy here.
Photo by Tom Woodward