A bid to nix a North Richmond bike lane encountered spirited pushback Tuesday from more than 250 people, many of them cyclists, who said the project would make the road safer for them and pedestrians if the project moves forward.

Richmond City Council President Chris Hilbert, who represents the 3rd District, and 2nd District Councilwoman Kimberly Gray are attempting to halt plans for new bike lanes on Brook Road between Charity Street and Azalea Avenue.

Using federal grant money, the Richmond Department of Public Works plans to convert one lane on each side of the four-lane thoroughfare into so-called floating parking, separating the remaining lane of vehicle traffic and new bike lanes that would be buffered by paint and pylons.

The city instituted a similar setup on Franklin Street between Belvidere and North Ninth Street earlier, using floating parking to create a barrier between vehicle traffic and bike traffic.

In June, Gray and Hilbert introduced an ordinance to prohibit bike lanes along Brook. Allowing the project to move forward as currently designed, the ordinance states, “will cause traffic congestion by removing an existing lane designated for motor vehicle travel or otherwise hinder the efficient movement of motor vehicle traffic, and reduce safety for travelers.”

Mayor Levar Stoney’s administration opposes the ordinance. The measure prompted an outcry from the city’s cycling community at Tuesday’s meeting, held at the Richmond Police Training Academy on Graham Road.

Susan Miller, a 2nd District resident, said her husband cycles to his job at VCU Medical Center using the new Franklin Street lanes. The lanes made it easier for him to navigate, even if it required drivers to make an adjustment. She asked Gray to withdraw the ordinance opposing the Brook Road lanes.

“I understand this takes some time to get used to for cars, but I think this is a small inconvenience for my husband’s life,” Miller said.

Current plans to accommodate the lanes call for the elimination of two traffic lanes on the four-lane road. Planners and traffic engineers working with the city administration said converting the lanes would not result in gridlock for drivers, or more congestion at intersections. Nor would the changes impede emergency vehicles or first responders from reaching their destinations.

What the project would do, the traffic engineers said, is reduce speeds significantly among the 8,000 to 12,000 cars that travel on the road each day. While the speed limit is 35 mph, cars routinely travel in excess of 45 mph on the stretch. Lower speeds would make it easier for cyclists and pedestrians alike, say supporters of the lanes.

“Right now, I don’t want to ride on Brook Road because of the traffic,” said Susan Ann Glass, a cyclist.

Gray and Hilbert said they had requested that Stoney conduct a comprehensive study of the bike lanes’ impact on traffic. The engineers and city staffers in attendance said the effects had already been studied as a part of a three-year-long planning and design process.

Gray said she had heard complaints from constituents who would have to contend with the changes that the project came as a surprise to them.

“The information has not flowed to the people who will be impacted the most by this,” Gray said. “The residents — it is glaring that they didn’t know anything about this project.”

Plans for the Brook Road lanes were outlined in the city’s Bike Master Plan, dating to 2015.

Some longtime residents on the street or in the area who were in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting said they had reservations about the plans. They worried that if — or when — the neighborhood continues to grow, a single lane for cars on Brook Road would not be adequate.

“The community is concerned,” said Harris Wheeler, who said he, too, was a cyclist and had lived in North Side for 35 years. “It’s not ‘We hate bikers. We don’t like bikers.’”

The council’s Housing, Land Use and Transportation committee is set to weigh the proposal on Tuesday.

mrobinson@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6734

Twitter: @__MarkRobinson

Mark Robinson covers Richmond City Hall.

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(33) comments

JASON JAMES

Wow. The dismissiveness and venom directed toward "cyclists" here gives you a sense of why it's often unsafe to ride a bike on Richmond streets. People who ride bikes are apparently criminal freeloaders who just want to make life terrible for people in cars. Funny, I don't recognize myself there. I thought I was a Richmonder whose family uses bikes because we can only afford one car and would like to be able to get where we need to go without putting our lives at such risk.

It's easy to paint "cyclists" as evil extremists rather than people who might have a legitimate reason to advocate for bike lanes. Partly because I am also a person who drives a car in Richmond, I appreciate that some worry about the effects of a bike lane like this or might think it's crazy. I get it. I just don't think it's usually very charitable or well-informed. Has anyone bashing the project and "cyclists" actually looked at the plans or any of the documents and news coverage that talk about why the city (like many, many others) are doing this? Or are you just convinced that people on bikes don't really belong on the road or don't deserve to get where they are going safely? If you feel that way, please remember that those "cyclists" may well be your neighbors, co-workers, friends, and certainly fellow Richmonders. Maybe recognizing us that way won't automatically make you in favor of bike lanes, but it might lead you to get more information and find better reasons to oppose them.

Fred Mertz

Ride a stationary bike at the YMCA for exercise instead.

Edward Sorret

It's for transportation, not exercise. Exercise is a by-product.

HAL DAVIS

For clarification, I very much favor adding bicycle lanes wherever possible for many valid reasons. But one must weigh costs versus benefits. I still believe I have misread something here. This story is mindboggling.

HAL DAVIS

I am sure I misread this. We are eliminating one of the two traffic lanes (each way) of a heavily travelled thoroughfare road to benefit one percent of the commuters at the great expense of the other 99% of the commuters?? I re-read this, and this is too asinine to be true. What am I missing here? This seems to be a joke?

JASON JAMES

Not a joke. It's been done hundreds of times where the capacity of the street is much higher than what is actually used. The 10,000 cars per day on Brook (per VDOT count) is well within Federal Highway Administration guidelines for doing this, and it has the benefit of slowing down speeds (65% of cars on Brook are exceeding the speed limit of 35). And Brook is the best option to connect Northside to downtown. The "cost" to people in cars has been determined to be a matter of seconds at most, in part because the major intersections will still have the same number of travel and turn lanes as they do now.

Edward Sorret

I think it's a joke that citizens think we can accommodate the growth of our population with the accompanying rise in traffic, and believe we'll have lanes and parking spaces for everyone at home AND work - one is presumably empty, when the other is being used, so wasted space. Bikes are safer, better for the environment, better for the population - we might even save healthcare costs that burden the tax payers if people feel more comfortable cycling. And dont "1% of all users" the issue - you don't decide to build a bridge based on how many people are swimming across the river. Once there is a safe passage, people will use it.

Ron Melancon

These bike riders take over the roads and do not obey the rules. They blow through stop signs..... do not move over on roads thst are not bike lanes. They wear dark colors.... they simply are not aware ..... I have seen almost fatalities they need a license to drive a bike because they have no clue about bike safety

Edward Sorret

They also arent a high risk, which is why you haven't seen fatalities. Cars driving in excess of the speed limit are the better target for your angst. People die in cars and cars kill pedestrians in richmond. Re-direct your anger towards the actual threat that has taken people's lives.

MICHAEL WILLEY

Thankfully, motor vehicle drivers always obey the laws and are very safe and there are no fatalities in cars.

Fred Demey

If the cyclists want a Bike Lane, then they can come up with the money to widen the roads and put in the barriers and pave it, until then these freeloaders can go pound sand.

Edward Sorret

It's already funded.

Fred Demey

Yea, does it use taxpayer money?, if so, then it isn't funded by the correct people.

Edward Sorret

I'm a tax payer. Who are the correct people? I don't have children, yet i don't complain about funding public schools. Your financing ideas don't jive.

Fred Demey

Edward, you sound like a freeloader, if you want bike lanes, get together with other cyclists and start crowdfunding them rather than stealing money from everyone for your recreational welfare projects

Edward Sorret

You sound like someone that doesn't have a coherent argument, so you reduce to name-calling.

Fred Demey

Edward, my argument is 100% coherent and clear, pay for your bike lanes with your money and the money of like minded bicyclists, and if you want crowd fund the money, but don't use taxpayer dollars for you recreational welfare, because you are freeloading off of the taxpayers.......Clear enough for you Edward?

Edward Sorret

It's a safer mode of transportation than the automobile. The health benefits of people cycling have the ability to decrease our tax burden that cover health care costs. It also is infrastructure that won't require the upkeep because the wear is significantly less. It's not about recreation. It's about having transportation alternatives for people that don't want to buy into the high cost of automobile ownership. Ride a bike sometime! You might enjoy it! Your feelings on how transportation initiatives are funded are not well-grounded, I'm sorry you feel that way. It's not how we do things in a modern society. I get that some folks like to be grumpy and say such things, but it's counterproductive.

SUSAN MASSEY

Where does the Constitution grant the Federal government the authority to pay for local bike lanes?

JAMES MCTAMANEY

Is this the same kind of process that resulted in bike lanes appearing on Cherokee Road without any advanced warning to residents? Cherokee has no shoulders, is quite sinuous and visibility is limited. Significant hills are present.


Consequently, residents are forced to play "Frogger" when trying to leave their homes and encounter cyclists riding side-by-side, often taking up half of the road r going up hills at 5 mph blocking access. My daughter almost killed one of them when they fell into traffic after being unable to get up one of this hills.


There needs to be a bit more common sense when choosing "bike paths", especially when the roads have no shoulders and visibility is limited.

BLAIR NELSEN

When residents of the First District complained about the reduction of Patterson and Malvern to one lane each direction and our lack of knowledge of the plans, we were told "the plan was available for review and comment at the Main Library." As if we all go there daily. This plan has been pushed by the City and a small consitituency without regard for the opinion of the majority of city resident.

LINDA FREEMAN

I don't understand why the city feels the need to make life miserable for motorists. I have seen cyclists completely ignore traffic signals and stop signs, thus creating a precarious situation for all around. While motorists pay license and insurance fees and are held accountable for their accidents, cyclists do none of this. There is no recourse against a cyclist who causes an accident. Reducing Brook Road to one lane in each direction will wreak havoc. What kind of professional survey was done to analyze how much bike traffic takes place on Brook Road?

JASON JAMES

Linda, I see people in cars speed and ignore stop signs and text while they are driving. How people drive or ride a bicycle has nothing to do with the issue of whether we should provide safe roads or lanes. I am not, by the way, a "cyclist" but a person who rides a bicycle AND drives a car and pays all of the same taxes you do. As far as people riding bikes on Brook, there are counts done twice a year and we know really well the effect of bike lanes on usage from hundreds of examples in Richmond and elsewhere. I'm guessing most Richmonders would not want their tax dollars spent on studies to determine something that is already well-established: building bike infrastructure increases biking. And in this case it also slows traffic down and makes the road safer for everyone.

DAVID BELL

Replace the word "cyclist" in your comment with "black person". That would be a very ignorant statement, wouldn't it? All cyclists aren't rule breakers any more than all black people do whatever you expect they do.

Edward Sorret

I'm a cyclist. I also have a car - I pay all of those fees. I also safe a parking space downtown for someone that needs it, every time i ride my bike down there. I also make the streets safer by cycling - bicycyles arent dangerous until you introduce traffic into the equation. Cars have actually killed fellow richmonders this year, while you describe chaos, there havent been any news stories of cycles killing or maiming anyone. I think your outrage should be in proportion to the risk presented by each mode of travel. Cars kill almost 40,000 per year, while bikes account for the smallest fraction of fatalities in comparison. Our time is better spent addressing speed limit enforcement if our main priority is saving american/richmonder's lives.

Fred Demey

Sorry Edward, but most of your comment is garbage. Bicycles can't keep up with traffic in most cases, just that fact makes them dangerous on the roads, and while you may be considerate of motorists who pay taxes to support roads and bridges, too many of your fellow bicyclists are outright dangerous to themselves and others on the roads. Cars don't kill anyone, people kill people by hitting them, and when a bicyclist is weaving in and out of traffic, running stop signs and red lights and in some cases jumping curbs and riding on sidewalks, and gets hit, they want to blame it on the car driver. Bicycles need their own space, and if you and others want bike lanes, great, just come up with the money and THEN lobby your elected officials to build them with your money, not the taxpayers money

Edward Sorret

Fred - I think we agree! If cyclists had their own lanes, they wouldnt have to keep up with traffic, they wouldnt ride on sidewalks, jump curbs, or weave in and out of traffic! They also hardly put any wear on the infrastructure. problem solved. We have already come up with the money from a federal grant. Thanks fred!

Fred Demey

So Edward, you are going to use Federal taxpayer money to fund your special interest bike lanes.

Edward Sorret

we are going to use federal tax dollars to solve transportation challenges that we confront. Some of these challenges will include figuring out how to handle a growing population that doesnt have the space to support additional motorist infrastructure. We need options so that people keep cars away from downtown, not bring them in.

Edward Sorret

Cars take up too much space and there isnt enough space in the city to accommodate the current growth and have parking spots for everyone on the streets at home and work. If the city is going to continue to grow, there needs to be sensible transportation alternatives that save space. This is just a step in the process. Other cities have gone through these growing pains. There isn't any more space to just keep adding parking spots and roads for cars.

STEPHEN HANER

The bike lanes will be a disaster for the residents and the businesses along Brook Road. Publishing a thousand pages of engineering drawings on line is not notifying the public, and I expect Gray and Hilbert fear a constituent explosion when the travel lanes disappear. I appreciate the TD coming last night and getting the word out, but the story is very one-sided and ignored voices of alarm and concern. The bike groups were organized, but I was heartened by the number of people who did come to support finding another way to develop a bike lane. If people are speeding, enforce the law.

Edward Sorret

It ignores the voices of alarm and concern because there isnt any data to support those alarms and concerns - they're without precedent or anything to support them except "feelings"

JASON JAMES

Great article. I would add that I was surprised at Mr. Hilbert's and Ms. Gray's criticism that residents don't know about the plan. Hilbert has been in office since these plans were first discussed years ago and just now decides that there has not been enough communication? That's partly on him. Ms. Gray had a year and a half to bring this up, but does it now when the project is just ready to begin and halting will be a waste of the city money already invested and a sacrifice of the federal grant that will pay for it.

The Brook Rd. lanes are part of a forward-looking way for Richmond to deal with car traffic by offering people safe alternatives. It will make the road safer for people on bikes as well as on foot AND in cars by slowing people down.

Welcome to the discussion.

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