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Bike projects continue despite lack of finished plan

Andy Thompson

@richmondoutside
November 12, 2014 12:32pm

Back in October, Richmond City Council passed a resolution adopting a “Complete Streets Policy.” As RVA News reported recently, the resolution puts city officials on the hook to create and implement guidelines that’ll ensure future transportation improvement projects will be planned, designed, and constructed with pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit passengers in mind, in addition to motorists…City officials now have one year to create those implementation guidelines, which will be included in the City’s construction standards manual.

Bike lane approaching the MLK Bridge near VCU. Credit: Phil Riggan

Bike lane approaching the MLK Bridge near VCU. Credit: Phil Riggan

This talk of a Complete Streets Policy reminded me that the city is also working on a Bike Master Plan, something that I feel like has been referred to in news reports as “almost complete” for a long time. So I gave Jakob Helmboldt a call for an update. Helmboldt is the Bicycle, Pedestrian and Trails Coordinator for the city, and he’s the one, I figured, who’d be knee deep in the bike master plan. Helmboldt explained that the Bike Master Plan is actually “being done as kind of an appendix to the strategic multi-modal transportation plan” that was completed over a year ago by the city. The multi-modal plan had some vague bike stuff in it, but the Bike Master Plan was created as a change order to that plan and is really intended to get into specifics for bike infrastructure and planning in the city.

Helmboldt had just received a draft of the plan from transportation planning consultant, Alta, and was making edits, additions and subtractions. So in one sense, the plan really is almost done. But it’s also part of the multi-modal plan, which Helmboldt said won’t go through official adoption process until sometime next year.

The good news is that while the Bike Master Plan won’t become official until next year, it’s already guiding public works decisions.

“To a degree there’s been sort of a parallel process,” Helmboldt said. “We’ve already been identifying some key corridors that we needed to start aiming for, started getting some of the design work done. So, the Manchester Bridge, the Lee Bridge are pretty much 90 percent planned for — getting those re-striped and marked for buffered bike lanes. There’s been this process where we filtered out some things that we knew we’d be moving forward on because we obviously didn’t want to wait for this process to be wrapped up.”

A complete street approach in Stockholm, Sweden.

A complete street approach in Stockholm, Sweden.

You can see that in the new bike lanes on Forest Hill Avenue, Brookland Parkway and the Martin Luther King Bridge. Helmboldt also stressed that the Bike Master Plan won’t be just a snapshot of what Richmonders want right now.

“This is a living document. Because it’s aimed at infrastructure stuff, it’s gonna be a roadmap toward implementation. Every five years we’ll go in and update it.”

For example, he said, the arrival of Stone Brewing, “that’s providing a bit of an impetus for the Gillies Creek Greenway, which was conceived from the bike/ped trails commission back in 2010. With Stone going in right there, that’s right at the southern terminus of the greenway and that connects right into the Virginia Capital Trail. So (Stone) could potentially spur development of that.”

“As these opportunities come up we start putting those things into action.”

Bottom line: The Bike Master Plan isn’t done, but it’s very much alive and guiding Richmond’s next steps toward greater bike/ped friendliness.


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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