New trail to provide safer biking experience amid number of accidents, fatalities

RICHMOND, Va. — One of the things that makes Joel Alford’s job “the coolest” is

RICHMOND, Va. — One of the things that makes Joel Alford’s job “the coolest” is seeing all ways bikes come into his Cary St. repair shop.

“Sometimes it’s just exciting to see the new and exciting ways that bicycles find to break themselves,” said Alston, who owns ReCycles Bicycle Shop.

Many cities and counties in Virginia are celebrating “Bike to Work Week” and hosting events Friday, encouraging people to utilize biking as an environmentally sustainable alternative to driving.

Over the past few years, Alford said he’s seen a definite shift in how drivers treat people on bicycles on the roads in and around Richmond.

“Between now and ten years ago, or even, five years ago, drivers are more aware, and they’re looking for cyclists more,” he said.

The advocacy group Bike Walk RVA found that since 2013, the number of dedicated bike lane miles in the Richmond region has tripled. Despite that, advocates said there has been an alarming number of accidents and fatalities involving vehicles and cyclists in recent years.

“Our streets are not just for vehicle movement, they’re for the movement of people,” said Louise Lockett Gordon, the director of Bike Walk RVA. She said one of the biggest hurdles they face is the feeling of safety on roadways for those who do not use their bicycles for transportation.

“That’s the difference between getting folks who are interested but concerned, which is basically 50% of our population, from actually doing the thing and getting on a bike and biking somewhere,” Lockett Gordon said, adding they are working on ways to encourage more people to take shorter trips on their bikes instead of using their vehicles.

On Commerce Street, just south of the James River, a constant hum of work trucks, SUVs and sedans zipped past Lockett Gordon. That section of the roadway is set to become part of the Fall Line trail, a paved, multi-use trail that will span approximately 43 miles between Ashland and Petersburg.

Projects like it represent the next step in rethinking the region’s roadways with multimodal transpiration at the heart of design, according to Lockett Gordon.

“When I look at this corridor, I think about the potential for what we see on the Low Line section of the Virginia Capital Trail and introducing the green space,” she said, referencing the wide, concrete lanes with few trees lining the curbs. “The climate impact, the health impact, certainly the economic boost that we’ve seen. The Virginia Capital Trail’s recent impact study show it generated about $8.9 million in activity because of the Capital Trail. So imagine what that would mean if we had more dedicated infrastructure.”

Back at ReCycles, Alford said better education, more decimated bike lanes, and of course, a finely tuned tool would help more people in the Richmond Metro use their bikes more often.

“We really treat a bicycle as, it’s an awesome and exciting and joyful thing, but at the root for us, it’s a utilitarian thing that can take you places. Whether it’s on some cool adventures or just to work,” he said.

Lockett Gordon said Ashland recently finished its portions of the Fall Line Trail, and other localities are actively working on the project. Bike Walk RVA is waiting until later in the year, during National Bike Month, to host bike to work events locally because of the pandemic.

You can learn more about the Fall Line Trail here.