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Bike Walk RVA ‘Academy’ aims to train, empower future community leaders

Andy Thompson

@richmondoutside
August 29, 2014 2:43pm

When Max Hepp-Buchanan was the director of the Cascade Bicycle Club in Seattle he said he learned a valuable lesson from running and losing a political campaign to make the city more bike and pedestrian friendly.

Jake Helmboldt, Richmond's bike, pedestrian and trails coordinator, talks to supporters of the proposed Floyd Ave. Bike Boulevard. Credit: Sports Backers

Jake Helmboldt, Richmond’s bike, pedestrian and trails coordinator, talks to supporters of the proposed Floyd Ave. Bike Boulevard. Credit: Sports Backers

“We didn’t win, but what we came away with is that there are a lot of people who really care about walking and biking infrastructure, and they want their city to be a better place to walk and bike, but there wasn’t a good leadership structure in which for them to organize.”

When Hepp-Buchanan became the Sports Backers‘ first Bike Walk RVA coordinator a couple of years ago, he found the same thing to be true in Richmond. Thus was born the idea for Bike Walk RVA Academy, which launches this fall.

“The idea was to start creating teams of neighborhood advocates who can help increase our capacity and give them the tools to help advocate for projects in their communities,” Hepp-Buchanan said.

There are 20 slots in the ‘Academy,’ a series of eight weekly workshops from October 1st through December 3, and interested folks must submit an application by September 4. Hepp-Buchanan said a few spots are still available.

By training community leaders, the goal of the Bike Walk RVA Academy is to “leverage the momentum built from the upcoming UCI Road Cycling World Championships, Bike Walk RVA’s ongoing Connect RVA campaign, the development of the city’s first Bicycle Master Plan and the additional $4.5 million allocated for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure in Richmond’s 2014/2015 capital budget.

The Bike Walk RVA Academy aims to train and equip community leaders. Credit: Sports Backers

The Bike Walk RVA Academy aims to train and equip community leaders. Credit: Sports Backers

“Now that we have a bike master plan that’s almost done and we have money to start implementing that plan,” Hepp-Buchanan said, “it’s really important that we have people on the ground across the city making sure that when projects are built, they’re built for people of all ages and abilities, that they’re built in a timely manner, etc.”

The longer-term plan, he added, is to roll out similar academies in Henrico and Chesterfield hopefully next year.


About Andy Thompson

I was the Outdoors Columnist at the Times-Dispatch from 2007 to 2013, writing twice a week about mountain biking, fishing, hunting, paddling and much more. I live a 1/4 mile from the James River, close enough to see bald eagles soaring over my house on their way to find a meal. Pretty cool, eh?


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