NRV’s 2011 Regional Bikeway, Walkway, Blueway Plan is online!

The New River Valley Planning District Commission has created a web page for the Draft 2011 Bikeway, Walkway, Blueway Plan.  Take a few minutes to visit the site: http://www.nrvpdc.org/Transportation/bwwwbw.html.

Things that you can currently do include:

  1. Review the 2011 Draft Plan by chapter or as a whole
  2. Review each Area’s Plan: hotlinks provided across the bottom for the Floyd Area, Giles Area, Montgomery Area, Pulaski Area, and the Radford Area.
  3. Visit the Interactive Map: hotlink provided on the lower left edge; explore existing facilities and access points for different facilities in the NRV.
  4. Provide comments on the materials or site
  5. Revisit the 2000 Plan

Things to come include: local endorsements of the plan and helpful resources for planning and design.  This is a work-in-progress, so any feedback that you have will be very valuable to help make improvements.

The important thing to remember is that the plan is still under review by local governments (most are still receiving hard copies).  Because of this, the Hierarchical priorities may change based on additional review.  Also, the Regional section is not complete.  They are asking for input on how to define specific regional projects or criteria that could be used to support regional efforts.

2011 Bike Hero and Extraordinary Bike Professional Award Winners Announced

Roanoke, Va., July 6, 2011 – The Regional Bicycle Advisory Committee, organized by the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission, is excited to announce the winners of its 3rd Annual Bike Hero and Extraordinary Bike Professional awards.  The awards honor individuals who have shown extraordinary dedication to improving bicycle accommodations, education, access, and safety in the region.  Individuals were nominated throughout Bike Month, and winners were selected by the Regional Bicycle Advisory Committee.  The awards and winners are as follows:

Wesley Best, Bike Hero:  The Bike Hero Award is awarded to an individual who has shown dedication to the use and advocacy of the bicycle as a transportation alternative in their day-to-day activities, their work in the community to improve bicycle accommodations, and their encouragement through advocacy or by example for others to replace vehicle trips with bicycle trips.

Wesley Best, owner of the East Coasters Bike Shops, has been recognized as a Bike Hero for his tireless work on cycling, both as a business owner helping customers find the right bike for their needs, as well as a community activist making practical, tangible improvements in cycling accommodations in the valley.  He has been involved in extensive trail building work at Carvins Cove, volunteering his own time and leading groups of volunteers to add and maintain the Cove’s myriad mountain biking paths.  His advocacy work includes attending this year’s National Bike Summit and meeting with congressional representatives to lobby for continued, strong funding of improvement in bicycle infrastructure.  His shop has sponsored a number of events in the area, including the Junior Cycling Team, an effort to get more kids into healthy, competitive cycling.

Liz Belcher, Extraordinary Bike Professional:  The Extraordinary Bicycle Professional Award is given to an employee in the public or private sector who has shown remarkable leadership in encouraging the use of bicycling as a transportation alternative.

Liz has been the driving force behind the regional greenway network, one of the best things to happen to cyclists of all stripes in the Roanoke Valley.  Her dogged determination in seeking to complete this trail has resulted in a multiple-mile, paved, easy-to-ride bicycle highway that continues to connect some of the major activity centers in the Roanoke Valley.  With the recent completion of the Wasena bridge and expansion of the greenway into Vic Thomas Park, it’s now possible to bike from Downtown Roanoke to the Grandin Village almost entirely off-road, and the presence of the greenway is an important catalyst in the upcoming revitalization of the Wasena neighborhood. Because of Liz’s work with planning, fundraising, event organizing, and her ability to work with the many jurisdictions and stakeholders, public and private, involved with the greenway, we are pleased to recognize her with this award.

Take Your Commute Outside: Roanoke Outside’s Weekly Update

Go here to check out Pete Eshelman’s weekly update on recreation and service opportunities in Roanoke’s great outdoors.

Pete’s Picks for this update includes information about submitting trail condition reports and volunteering with Pathfinders for Greenways.  You can also check out some information on regional recycling tips and centers.

This week’s events include:

The great natural beauty of our region is one of the things that makes living in the Roanoke and New River Valleys so special.  RIDE Solutions is dedicated to preserving this beauty by reducing transportation demand to keep air quality healthy, retaining green space by reducing the need for new roads, and encouraging you to bring your commute outside by biking or walking to work.

Help Roanoke Valley Greenways Bridge the Gap

The Greenway system in the Roanoke Valley is consistently ranked as one of our most valued assets, and as connections continue to be made between disparate pieces of the network it is evolving into a useful transportation alternative as well as a recreational amenity.  Now, you can help bridge those gaps.  From Greenways.org:

Our goal is to connect all sections of Roanoke River Greenway through the urban portion of the Roanoke Valley by the end of 2013. To achieve this, we need a commitment of $7 million by June 2012 to allow time for engineering, securing of rights-of-way, and construction. While the Roanoke River Greenway is an excellent example of shared public/private vision, the majority of funding has come from government sources. To finish it will require the shared commitment and contributions of individuals, corporations, and concerned organizations.

You can donate here.

Sharrows on the Streets

Sharrow | streetswiki.wikispaces.com

If you joined us on yesterday’s Sweet Ride Wonka Ride, first of all:  thank you!  We had about 40 folks, many of them kids, join us on our brief downtown tour, ending with Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory at The Shadowbox.  Special thanks to chocolatepaper and Roanoke Public Libraries for the delicious hot cocoa, wonderful gift basket, and the Roald Dahl book packs we were able to award to some lucky kids.  We’ll keep the Sweet Ride page up at Bike Roanoke until Bike Month.

Second, you might have seen the new shared-laned pavement markings in downtown Roanoke.  These markings, called sharrows, tell drivers that the vehicle lane they’re traveling in is also used by bicycles, generally as part of a bike route.  The City of Roanoke has implemented sharrows as a way to connect the Lick Run and Mill Mountain greenways.  For more, see the City’s press release, included in full below.

ROANOKE, VA – Roanoke bicyclists and motorists will notice a new type of pavement marking called a “shared lane marking” or “sharrow” to help them safely navigate city streets.

According to Mark Jamison, manager of the city’s Transportation Division, drivers as well as cyclists are often confused over proper etiquette and traffic laws for navigating streets safely. “Sharrows indicate where a bicyclist should ride when the lane is too narrow for a conventional bike lane or for a car and a bike to travel side by side,” he says. “Additionally, they help to make motorists aware that a particular street is on a designated bike route and that the motorist should expect to see cyclists.”

Jamison says Transportation has completed installation of sharrows in seven downtown locations, along streets such as Church Avenue, Second Street, Gainsboro Road, and Williamson Road. Additional sharrow locations will likely be added in the coming months.

Sharrows have been used on an experimental basis in some U.S. cities, but were not approved for national use by the Federal Highway Administration until about a year ago. “In addition to safety and awareness benefits, these initial sharrows will help designate the downtown connection between the Mill Mountain and Lick Run Greenways,” says Jamison. “Ultimately we want to promote cycling as a healthy and safe alternative to motorized transportation.”

Tom Carr, Roanoke’s Director of Planning, Building and Development and staff to the City of Roanoke Bicycle Advisory Committee, says sharrows are a part of an overall effort by the city to promote bicycles for commuting as well as recreational use. In 2010, Roanoke became one of only four Virginia cities to be designated as a “Bicycle Friendly Community” by the League of American Bicyclists. This year, the committee will join other Virginia groups to increase awareness of the advantages of cycling and how to do so safely.

“Bicycling is a great way to get exercise, reduce your carbon footprint, and enjoy the beauty of the Roanoke Valley, but safety is key,” says Carr. “Sharrows will help us all share the road more effectively.”

For more information, contact Mark Jamison at 540-853-2676.

You’re Not the Boss of Me

As one might imagine, I get into discussions of public funding for alternative transportation infrastructure quite a bit – online and offline, though the online conversations tend to be some of the most frustrating (and perversely amusing).  As the debate moves back and forth and I make my case for funneling dollars towards bike lanes, transit service, park-and-rides, or whatnot, I am amazed at how often and how quickly the opposing argument boils down to, “Well, you just want to control my life.”

Take, for example, a recent thread on Facebook, where River Laker (Roanoke’s Car Less Brit) shared this Roanoke Times article about a VDOT plan, currently unfunded, to spend $20 million adding travel and turning lanes to the Elm Avenue Bridge, Roanoke’s hotspot for congestion (as modest as that congestion is).  A few folks, myself included, commented that $20 million to alleviate congestion for a small number of drivers during rush hour on one tiny span of road might not be the wisest use of money, particularly when the same $20 million could complete the entire span of unfinished Greenway between Green Hill Park and Explore Park.  Yes, I understand that, in reality, government spending doesn’t work that way – the money is broken up into pots and can’t be transferred from project to project, but it’s the principle that’s the point here.

A proponent of VDOT’s plan (we’ll call him K.B.) stepped in to argue against the cyclists and others who were criticizing the proposal, and after engaging him in discussion it took only 7 posts before K.B. shot back, “What you’re really trying to do is force your way of life on me, admit it.”

This response amazes me on several levels.  First, it’s just a dumb argument (I’d like to be more diplomatic than that, but I just can’t):  not funding a road improvement does not equate to denying someone the ability to keep driving as they always have.  At worst, it reinforces the consequences of their choice  – choose drive alone everyday, deal with the traffic.  To be fair, the same can be applied to cyclists and bus riders – choose to ride a bicycle, accept that the trip is going to be more dangerous.  Not providing additional service does not equal taking away service.

Second, I don’t get how providing a bike lane for someone else to use forces the driver to change his behavior.  Now, TDM professionals like myself would love if this were actually true – if putting down a bike lane forced drivers to switch to bicycles (or to adding buses forced them to ride, or HOV lanes to carpool), then our jobs would be much easier.  We’d all be engineers instead of marketers.  Of course, that’s not how it works:  building out accommodations serves as one piece of a complex puzzle of infrastructure improvements, incentives, market pressures, and education to get people to use them.  Almost always, though, there is a built in audience – maybe small, maybe large – who would use the accommodation with little to no prodding.

More important is this:  TDM is about transportation choice – that is, we’re not against cars or driving alone, but we’re for using the right mode for the right trip and educating commuters about the benefits of doing so (significant dollar savings, environmental benefits, health benefits, and so forth).  In fact, surveys in Virginia have shown that commuters who choose to drive alone each day, or do so out of necessity, appreciate other commuters having the option to bike, walk, take the train or bus, etc., as it gets those cars off the road and allows the single-occupant-vehicle drivers to move along more efficiently.  Giving people the widest variety of choice helps the entire system move more efficiently.

In terms of where public money is spent, we take a view of investment equity; that is, public money should be spent in a way that benefits all users of all modes in some respect.  The idea that that spending money on bike lanes, greenways, and other accommodations now is a waste of tax dollars is a bit ridiculous given the number of cul-de-sacs, limited-access-highways and, yes, congestion mitigation projects that have been built over the last several generations.  If the measure of success is the number of people who use it, is a cul-de-sac really that much better of an investment?  Given the lopsided way we’ve spent transportation money the last few decades, we have a lot of catching up to do to reach some level of equity.

But let’s accept for a moment, just for the fun of it, this “you’re controlling my life” argument has some validity to it.  How, precisely, is the reverse not therefore true?  If adding a bike lane is controlling his life, isn’t adding additional driving lanes controlling mine?  So, even accepting that it’s got weight behind it the argument is pretty silly – the two cancel each other out, and we’re back to debating which is the better way to spend public money.

I’m not sure what causes drivers to retreat to this point – are they threatened?  Is it guilt?  Maybe they think they should be riding that bike to the store, but have rationalized not being able to do so because of the lack of a bike lane?  Whatever the case, it’s an unfortunate position that shuts down the important conversation we should be having about public investment in transportation infrastructure.