First the riverfront, now bikes: What are RVA’s priorities?

April 2, 2014 · 3 minute read

First it was the lack of funding in the mayor’s proposed budget for the Brown’s Island Dam Walk. We covered that debate a couple of weeks ago. Then early last week Phil Riggan of highlighted the lack of funding for general bike infrastructure projects in the mayor’s 2015 budget.

As Riggan wrote: There are dozens of projects and more than 20 miles of bike lanes planned for the city as it works to build a greater network of bike and pedestrian lane miles and sidewalks. A lack of funding hurts neighborhood projects like Brookland Parkway, Oliver Hill Way, Cannon Creek Greenway and the plan to create separate and protected bike lines on the Martin Luther King Jr. Bridge — which has been approved and ready for bids from contractors to begin work this spring.

There aren't enough of these in Richmond.

There aren’t enough of these in Richmond.

Riggan pointed out that Mayor Dwight Jones has made promises in the past. Speaking at the press conference announcing the courses for the 2015 World Road Cycling Championships, he said: There will be many infrastructure improvements that are going to take place by the time the race is here. The plan aims to include a dozen bus projects for completion by 2015 that can be accomplished through our regular paving schedule and also would include many bike lanes. The Martin Luther King Bridge, linking Union Hill, Church Hill with downtown, will be striped this spring with wide buffered bike lanes making this a critical safe and easy path for bicycling. Also we’re excited about Cannon Creek, which will be completed in time for the races.

Times-Dispatch columnist Michael Paul Williams picked up where Riggan left off with a column in yesterday’s paperThe underfunded riverfront and cycling plans, inextricably linked, appear to be casualties of Jones’ proposed ballpark and related development, which have created a capital budget at war with itself. Until funding priorities line up with stated objectives, our bicycle ambitions will remain largely stationary.

None of this is good news for those of us who want a more walkable, bikeable, river-centric city. And there are a lot of us. But the mayor’s budget proposal is now out of his hands. What can we do about it?

“The budget is now in the hands of City Council,” said Max Hepp-Buchanan, the Sports Backers Bike Walk RVA director. ” They have the opportunity to propose amendments to the budget and prioritize new bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. We want to see funding restored for the Brown’s Island Dam Walk and we want to see the City commit to funding bicycle projects that will get us started on a city-wide network by 2015. It’s all of our job to let Council know what we want.”

Justin Doyle, outreach coordinator for the James River Association, sounded a similar note, saying his group’s efforts going forward would be focused on City Council.

After Riggan’s piece went live, Tammy Hawley, the mayor’s press secretary, responded to a number of his points.

D.C. has spent a lot of money on bike infrastructure like this in recent years.

D.C. has spent a lot of money on bike infrastructure like this in recent years.

Hepp-Buchanan responded to those: “We’d like to see $3 million allocated specifically for on-street bike infrastructure in the Capital Improvement Program, which should be enough to build over 20 miles of new bikeways in time for the 2015 Worlds. If we want to show off a bike-friendly RVA to the rest of the world in 2015, the City needs to commit to funding a bike-friendly RVA in the FY 2015 budget. There are a few significant bike projects that might receive federal grant funding in the next year, but there are many more that probably will not, and those need to be funded, too.”

Hepp-Buchanan mentioned cities like Indianapolis, Minneapolis and Washington and the significant strides they’ve made in improving bike infrastructure. “The cities that are leading the way nationally in making bicycle travel safe and easy for everyone have done so largely with their own transportation dollars.  Bicycle travel is an equity issue, a way to attract young talented professionals to our region, and should be a budget priority for a tier one city.”

If the riverfront plan and it’s citizen-generated priorities matter to you. If a more bike-friendly city matters to you. There are less than two months to make your voice heard.