If there’s one thing I learned at A Look into the Richmond Region’s Bike Future, a presentation and discussion held a couple of weeks ago at the Science Museum of Virginia, it’s that for Richmond to realize its potential as a bike-friendly city, especially ahead of the world cycling championships coming here in September of 2015, it’s that our leaders need to truly understand the value of becoming more bike friendly. That’s why it was good to see Councilman Parker Agelasto and Richmond’s Director of Public Works James Jackson there. It’s also why it was disappointing not to see any other council members or the mayor there.
This matters, as we learned from the video presentations given, because without that buy-in from the top, without those leaders pushing, efforts can be halting, opportunities missed. We saw examples in Indianapolis and Washington, D.C. where mayors have been out front and vocal in promoting greenways, bike lanes, bike-sharing programs and a host of other bike-friendly efforts.
I’d like to see Mayor Dwight Jones do the same here. I go back and forth between hope and skepticism, but today there are signs of hope. Randy Hallman has a front-page story in the T-D about the Richmond2015 contingent that recently returned from Florence, where the 2013 world cycling championships were being held.
Among the hopeful quotes from Jones:
“Certain things caught my attention. Florence was extremely clean. … We need to put that on our to-do list.”
“The collaboration with retail merchants and the business community was remarkable,” he said. “They showed tremendous support. There were cycling motifs and displays in windows in practically every shop. Some of the windows were extremely artistic. We have to get our art community involved.”
“We want to be proactive and do the best job we can,” he said. “This is an opportunity to show that we can do it, and just as we did with the Redskins training camp, we can do this.”
What the mayor and others need to know is that it’s not just about window dressing and preparing for the onslaught of tourists. It’s about doing the little things now that will pay dividends long after those tourists are gone. It’s about thinking about bikes and pedestrians in every road project going forward. It’s about investing, not lip service, in projects like adding bike racks or developing a bike share program.
It’ll be two years before the eyes of the world are on Richmond. But our leaders need to know that the eyes of Richmond are on them right now.