There are many factors that need to be addressed in order to make a city bike friendly. Since cities come in a variety of sizes, with different levels of available space for bicycle infrastructure based on the density of the population, the location of business, schools and residences, proper planning is essential.
The City of Richmond for the past 50+ years has focused its planning mostly around the ever increasing amount of paved city, state and federal roads that crisscross through the City for motorized vehicles. As more people have relied on automobiles for their mode of transportation our roads have become more congested with parked cars on the street and cars to take relatively short trips around the city. The City of Richmond has struggled with increasing access and use of Public Transportation for the majority of its residents. There is a perception that the GRTC System is not efficient, convenient and mainly used by lower income residents. With more cars on the roads it makes it more difficult to have the adequate space for bicyclists to safely ride down most City of Richmond streets. Fortunately, the bike culture in Richmond has been changing and growing with more people of all ages are using bicycles. Bicycles are being utilized more for transportation back and forth to school/work, recreation and exercise, even though a the safe infrastructure to support is lagging behind.
Now that we have a culture in Richmond that is more bike friendly it is critical that the city with the input of the surrounding counties creates a bicycle infrastructure that provides connectivity for communities to include: 2 way segregated bikeways between residences and schools, shopping areas, parks and where people work. I would caution the City of Richmond from utilizing to many sharrows on City streets to increase street bikeways since sharrows are not as safe as dedicated bike paths that are buffered from traffic with a dedicated lane and barrier for protection.
Minneapolis has become bike friendly by utilizing a variety of bike corridors for it residents to utilize, to include: bike paths both segregated and non-segregated from vehicles, share roads, bike boulevards with lower speed limits, less cars and stops signs etc. (See videos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sm1UFA3GpQs https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xcc06ilJZ94)
Promoting a culture of bicycle safety and education to both bicyclists and the drivers of motorized vehicles is critical to making a city bicycle friendly. Besides building more bicycle paths the City of Richmond needs to engage the public in the importance of bicycle safety with assistance of the State DMV and local law enforcement. The League of American Bicyclists has a good platform for safety and education. www.bikeleague.org. The 5 E’s are important part of this process: Engineering, Education, Encouragement, Enforcement, Evaluation and Planning.
We need to look other cities in that have developed successful bicycle infrastructure for their residents like Portland and Minneapolis to best use our limited resources to include, $ and space to develop a bike infrastructure that will be a viable alternative transportation system. I would recommend that the City of Richmond look at developing more segregated bike lanes, more public spaces to park bicycles, a parking program that encourage more use of public transportation and less street parking to free up space for bicycles on the city road network.
Submitted by Steven