The Richmond region has a long way to go before it can truly be considered a bicycle-friendly town. The entire region has only 18.25 miles of paved bike lanes — “sharrow” lanes marked with bicycle icons don’t count — and those lanes are fragmented, unconnected to a broader network.
In 2015, hundreds of thousands of visitors are expected to descend upon the region for the World Road Cycling Championships, creating an “urgent need” for the region to upgrade its bicycle infrastructure.
That’s the appraisal of a new report by Sports Backers, the organization dedicated to transforming promoting an active lifestyle in the Richmond region. The report couched its findings in diplomatic language. I’m under no such obligation. Let me give it to you straight.
The region has 146 miles of dirt trails, but most are unpaved. A third of the total mileage is located in Pocahontas State Park on the region’s periphery, and none of the trails form a cohesive network. That’s not so bad if you’re a recreational mountain biker but the trails are pretty worthless if you’re relying upon bicycles to provide utilitarian transportation. The paved Virginia Capital Trail, which will link Richmond and Williamsburg, is another tremendous asset. But it, too, is free-standing, not part of a network.
The study details the fragmentation of the region’s bicycle assets: 164.2 total miles of bike trails split into 55 mostly unconnected segments.
“The lack of significant plans for more paved trails in the region will ultimately limit the use of bike infrastructure in the community,” the report states dryly. “Paved multi-purpose trails provide the ultimate level of safety and separation from motorized traffic that provides freedom to bikers as well as runners and walkers.”
The fragmentation might not be a long-term problem if there were a long-term, region-wide plan to tie the pieces into meaningful whole. But there is no plan. Not a single local government has a comprehensive plan for bicycling, the report notes. The City of Richmond is working on one — that’s about as good as it gets.
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