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Cycling for All

City of Richmond aims to see one in ten trips made by bike

Richmond, Virginia
Richmond, Virginia

At the end of September a thousand of the world’s top road cycling athletes, accompanied by tens of thousands of spectators and the world’s media will descend on Richmond, Virginia, for the 2015 UCI Road World Championships.

The city is not only gearing up for putting on a spectacular sporting event, it’s also planning to transform its streets so that anyone can cycle. Most of the racing will take place on a tight, 16km circuit through the centre of downtown Richmond, including stretches of pavé to rival Flanders. It is on those very streets and many others that Richmond is planning to build infrastructure suitable for everyone, from children going to school, to adults commuting to work.

We’ve already described the steps the city has taken to build promotion of cycling into the event, and outlined the range of promotional activities it has hosted. The city’s Bicycle Master Plan - published in May - sets out a series of ambitious goals, including halving the rate of injury to cyclists by 2025.

Richmond’s Mayor Dwight Jones said, “Over the past few years Richmond has become more bike-friendly. More trails, more dedicated lanes. All of the things that have happened have (happened because) we want this to be a bicycle-friendly city.”

By 2025 the city hopes that 90% of the population will live within 1.5km of a dedicated cycle facility. Future budgets permitting, the city aims to build 92km of bike lanes at a cost of $6.25m.

Richmond's planned spending on bike paths

There are also short term plans: shortly before the UCI Road World Championships, the city will complete 32km of bike infrastructure including fully segregated cycle tracks, bike lanes, shared use paths and measures to slow down motor traffic. The city has conducted an audit of all the roads, developing a ‘Bicycle Suitability Index’ to determine how comfortable and safe each section of road is to use. This has then been matched against an assessment of demand for each part of the city to determine which routes should be prioritised for upgrading - such as those which provide access to schools, or where there is a specific safety concern.

It’s not just physical changes: the city is also planning a programme of activities to promote cycling, running alongside the UCI Road World Championships, with the overall aim being to reach 4% of trips being made by bike by 2016, rising to 10% in 2025 - up from just 1.67% of people commuting by bike in 2011. The city knows that cycling often has a disproportionately male participation rate, and part of the aim will be to broaden usage amongst women and harder to reach communities. Crucial to this success, the city knows, will be better, safer roads.

The cost savings of riding a bike

Across the US around half of all trips taken by car are three miles or less, equivalent to a quarter of an hour on a bike. The economic costs of all that excess car use are astonishing: according to one estimate US motor traffic contributes to losses of $180bn from lost productivity and injury from traffic crashes; $50-80bn due to the health costs of air pollution and $142bn due to obesity from lost physical activity. Transferring just a few of those short trips to bikes could therefore generate huge benefits for society.

The immediate benefits to the city of hosting the UCI Road World Championships will come from hundreds of thousands of spectators and competitors over the week of competition. The longer term benefits will come from a more active and healthier population, using bikes more often for recreation and as a means of transport. The infrastructure and the programmes outlined through the Bicycle Master Plan could mean tens of thousands more people taking to two wheels, and consequently fewer car trips, to the benefit of everyone.

In Summary: A ten year plan for the future of cycling

By 2025 Richmond aims to:

-    Increase cycling’s share of trips to one in ten

-    Halve the risk of injury while cycling

-    Ensure 90% of the population lives within a mile of a dedicated bike facility


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