Richmond is on the verge of becoming a more bike- and pedestrian-friendly city, but according to someone who spends most of his waking hours advocating biking in Virginia, cyclists need to keep reminding our elected officials to approve non-vehicular projects and funding. “Right now we have about three miles of bike paths in Richmond, so […]
Richmond is on the verge of becoming a more bike- and pedestrian-friendly city, but according to someone who spends most of his waking hours advocating biking in Virginia, cyclists need to keep reminding our elected officials to approve non-vehicular projects and funding.
“Right now we have about three miles of bike paths in Richmond, so we really aren’t where we want to be,” said Champe Burnley, president of the Virginia Bicycling Federation and chairman of the Pedestrian, Bicycling and Trails Commission, which was appointed by Richmond’s mayor to promote expanded opportunities for cycling and other non-motorized forms of transportation.
Burnley appeared on Open Source on WRIR 97.3FM on Friday with host Will Snyder and spent 30 minutes discussing biking in Richmond. The show airs each Friday morning at 10 a.m. and supplies a fantastic podcast later that afternoon.
When asked about why the Downtown Masterplan didn’t include a plan for bike lanes, Burnley said that it was decided on before the bike commission was in place.
“I think there’s a lot of interest in getting the downtown to be bicycle and pedestrian friendly,” Burnley said. “There’s a lot of talk about getting a lot of the one-way streets to be two-way. With one-way streets, people tend to just zoom through, they don’t stop, therefore businesses don’t thrive, people don’t stop and park there. What we tend to find in livable, bikable communities is just the opposite — when you slow traffic down, people tend to stop and they stay and they spend their money.”
Why are bike lanes important and how do they help cities? Burnley mentioned Mia Burke, a Bike & Pedestrian director in Portland, which has roughly 300 miles of bike lanes and built them for the price of one mile of urban freeway, he said.
On top of all the advantages “when you pull that many cars off the streets and put people on their feet or on bikes, suddenly you don’t have to build more highways to get people around. It really is an investment in the future.”
In addition to approximately 20 miles of fantastic off-road trails, the city will be moving forward with creating sharrows and establishing the east-west and north-south routes as lined out by the Bike Commission, he said.
“Last year, United States spent 288 million gallons of fuel on school buses in the U.S. Could we walk or bike?,” Burnley quipped. “People have forgotten how to do anything without a car.”
A caller asked about adding bike racks downtown and why Richmond doesn’t use the affordable method of pulling meter heads off poles to create bike racks.
“The city looked at some various bike rack designs and one of their preferred designs was a device that was almost like the Greek letter Phi,” Burnley said. ”It actually goes over the parking meter, so that instead of spending a lot of money taking up a lot of room for bike racks, we can put those in and they are relatively affordable. I think they are about $100 a rack….We just haven’t done enough to let out elected officials know we wanted this.”
He was asked how should the city mediate the angst between drivers and bikers on city streets?
“Best thing to do, we as cyclists need to show that we obey the laws and set a good example.” “People have to realize that when you’re on a bike, you’re a vehicle just like driving a car…You’re not above the law. To get respect, you have to earn that.”