Beware Drug Peddlers on Pedals

by James A. Bacon

It is hard for me to imagine, but not everybody is thrilled about the idea of having a bicycle trail run near their home. D. Gareth Embrose Jr., of eastern Henrico County, says he would rather have a road cut through his property than the Virginia Capital Trail bicycle trail. At least a road would benefit the public, he says. Bicycles are an entirely different matter.

“They’re going to take from the little man to give to a special interest group — the bicyclers,” he told the Times-Dispatch. “I’m the one who will have to deal with vandalism and trash and people screaming and cursing all night.”

The 52-mile bicycle path between Richmond and Williamsburg, scheduled for completion in 2014, will run parallel to historic Route 5 and the James River. The Virginia Department of Transportation routed the path near Embrose’s house to connect with existing trails in nearby Dorey Park and Four Mile Creek Park. Embrose is concerned that the trail will open an entrance to his property from the park. raising the specter of drug dealers using the park entrance as a rendezvous.

I doubt there’s anything that anyone could say to allay Embrose’s fears, although they do seem exaggerated. Drug dealers using bicycles as a preferred means of conveyance in rural Henrico County? It sounded like a stretch to me.

But that’s before I Googled “drug dealers bicycles.” Imagine what I found! A SeeClickFix report from Hazel Park, Michigan, runs as follows:

While in my front yard last week, two black men turned the corner, heading west on Milton, a skinny middle aged white male on a bicycle came from the west direction. They met up in the middle of the street and the man on the bike handed a package to the 2 black men, who walked back the way they came (in the middle of the street), they then disappeared, (must have had a vehicle waiting) the man on the bike headed north on Ford. Drug deal right there in front of me. Also I have seen a hooker walking the area.

Other articles around the world reveal that drug dealers steal bikes, they use children to deliver cocaine on bikes, and they flee police on bikes. OMG!

OK, out of the hundreds of thousands of small-time drug dealers in the country, a handful of them ride bicycles. My hunch is that they’re a miniscule minority. Really, if you want to project an image as a bad-ass, wearing spandex and strapping on a goofy-looking bicycle helmet really doesn’t help your cause! Let’s focus instead on the impact of bicycle paths upon property values. Many people see bike trails as an amenity.

According a 2009 report by the League of American Bicycles:

A study of home values near the Monon Trail in Indianapolis, Ind. measured the impact of the trail on property values. Given two identical houses, with the same number of square feet, bathrooms, bedrooms, and comparable garages and porches – one within a half mile of the Monon Trail and another further away – the home closer to the Monon Trail would sell for an average of 11 percent more.

The irony is that that the more bike trails are used, the less likely they are to attract the criminal element. Hoodlums and vandals go where no one else is around. Moreover, I have yet to hear of an instance of roving packs of predatory bicyclists, or of burglars making off with a big-screen TV on a bicycle.

Unfortunately, many Virginians think like Embrose does. The pro-bicycle lobby has a lot of irrational fear to overcome. If bike trails attracted disreputable elements, however, I doubt that property values would rise. If Virginia’s pro-cycling movement can document that bike trails increase property values rather than diminish them, we will convert Embrose’s neighbors, even if, as I suspect, we never convince Embrose himself.

4 Responses to Beware Drug Peddlers on Pedals

  1. The Hazel Park comparison isn’t fair. Having lived there for grades 3rd through 5th, it is a densely-packed, poor suburban community bordering some of the roughest parts of Detroit. Daytime drug deals were never unheard of, and it was not unusual for me to encounter discarded bottles, pipes, needles, and other low-income ephemera on my walk to school each morning. It’s the equivalent of saying bicycle-riding drug dealers in the Randolph neighborhood in Richmond will create a problem for a trail in eastern-Henrico.

  2. Someone needs to take the doubters on a little tour. Pack them up and drive them down Route 5 into the western end of James City County, where the Capital trail “begins.” Observe the parents taking their kids out for bike rides, or the deer that wander alongside the path in the mornings and evenings. Check out the historical markers along the way. Maybe see the local HS Cross Country team out for an afternoon practice.

    Even better is how the County has built off of it, running spurs into nature preserves, county parks, to local schools, looped into and around neighboring communities… hard to imagine western JCC without it.

    Oh, and no drugs or unseemly behaviors at all… though there was that teenager that one time whose iPod volume was kind of distracting…

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