Richmond, you need to go on a diet – a “road diet”, that is!
Roadway rechannelizations – or “road diets” – take streets that have an excess amount of carrying capacity for cars and reconfigures how the space is used through re-striping of the lane lines. When done right, a good road diet actually improves traffic flow while dramatically increasing the safety of everyone using the road, including people on bikes (by adding bike lanes), on foot (by improving pedestrian crossings), and behind the wheel (by reducing speeding and collisions).
How a road diet might work.
Richmond has a number of streets that can easily go on a diet. Best practice says that most roads with four or more travel lanes and an Average Daily Traffic (ADT) volume of 20,000 cars or less can be reconfigured to one lane in each direction, a center turn lane, and bike lanes.
Full disclosure: I am not a traffic engineer. But it doesn’t necessarily take one to see that some of Richmond’s roadways are significantly overbuilt for cars, and underbuilt for bicycles. Here’s my top seven:
The Leigh Street Viaduct (or MLK Bridge): If you’ve driven across this bridge, you’ve probably noticed there are three lanes in each direction and very little automobile traffic. It’s an important connector from downtown to Church Hill and with an ADT of 9,100 automobiles, this is a perfect candidate for a road diet. In fact, Mayor Jones has already announced plans to stripe wide buffered bike lanes on the bridge by this June.
Brookland Parkway: Between Hermitage and Brook, Brookland Parkway has four travel lanes, two very narrow parking lanes, and a wide center median. A road diet on Brookland Parkway could increase the width of the parking lane (so your car door isn’t hanging out in traffic), and include a nice wide bike lane in each direction. Extend this further east, and you’re connected to the Cannon Creek Greenway.
What Franklin St. would look like with a road diet and bike lanes. Credit: Marc Kaplan/Sports Backers
Manchester Bridge: One of the biggest bicycle and pedestrian challenges we have in Richmond is how to safely get across the James River. The Brown’s Island Dam Walk will be the great new shining star of the riverfront once it’s completed, but the Manchester Bridge is just waiting for new striping that will make biking across safe and easy. With seven total travel lanes and an ADT of 18,000 cars, the Manchester Bridge needs to go on a diet!
Hermitage Road: Hermitage is a major north/south connector from the Northside into the Fan. It also has a bunch of extra carrying capacity. Sharrows were installed on Hermitage over the past couple of years, but wouldn’t a fully separated bike lane be so much better?
Leigh Street (again): One of the best east/west connectors through central Richmond, Leigh Street generally has a lot of extra room for bike lanes. It cinches down to two lanes at times (that’s what sharrows are for), but for the most part, you can easily wedge a bike lane in there and ride comfortably all the way from Scott’s Addition to Church Hill.
Brook Road: Another important north/south connector to and from downtown for many commuters and families. Speaking of downtown…
The MLK Bridge on a road diet and with bike lanes. Credit: Marc Kaplan/Sports Backers
Franklin Street and Main Street: The idea here is to convert one travel lane on each street into a fully protected bike lane. On Franklin, you’d be biking east and on Main, heading west (this type of relationship is called a “couplet”). Franklin and Main have the potential to be Richmond’s first protected bike lanes (or “cycle tracks”) running right through downtown.
There are many other great candidates for road diets out there not listed here. And you know them better than I do, because they are in your neighborhood – you walk, bike, or drive them every day. So what are they, RVA?