Bicycle Friendly Community Workshop in Roanoke a Smashing Success

Bill Nesper, Andy Clarke, and Greg Edwards in Roanoke

The Bikeleague workshop in Roanoke last Tuesday was a smashing success! Over 70 people showed up, mostly government folks from Roanoke, but there were several from the New River Valley too.

The official press release summarized the event pretty well, so here it is:

More than 70 local planners, engineers, community leaders, and bicycle enthusiasts attended a lively and informative “Bicycle Friendly Community” workshop presented by the League of American Bicyclists on January 8 in Roanoke. The forum was hosted by the Blue Ridge Bicycle Club and the Roanoke Chapter of BikeWalk Virginia, and concluded with a series of action items that will propel Roanoke Valley communities toward official designation as Bicycle Friendly Communities.

The four-hour workshop explored actions taken by communities across the country to encourage bicycling, including strategies from striping bike lane, building trails, installing bike parking and signing popular bike routes, to education and encouragement programs that get more people riding safely. Andy Clarke, Executive Director of the League of American Bicyclists, led the workshop and praised regional efforts to develop a greenway network in creating a great base from which to start. He also recognized the work of the Blue Ridge Bicycle Club and BikeWalk Virginia for creating a strong culture of bicycling in the area.

The group then identified critical issues preventing progress in Roanoke and surrounding communities, as well as a series of action items that will overcome those obstacles, which include:

  • Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission establishing a Bicycle Committee
  • Each local jurisdiction establishing a Bicycle Advisory Committee
  • Each local jurisdiction adopting the regional bike plan of the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission
  • Encouraging local interest groups to include non-motorized transit issues in their platform
  • Hosting a candidate forum
  • Creating an awards program to recognize government officials or agencies that are instrumental in improving conditions for cycling
  • Organizing a community bike ride series
  • Organizing a “big ride” with a large number of participants including elected officials
  • Notifying businesses of the availability of free bicycle racks through the bicycle rack give-away program of the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission, information for which is at:
  • Launching a bike education program this spring
  • Airing television public service announcements to educate bicyclists on how to ride safely and motorists on how to share the road
  • Promoting bicycle rodeos, helmet give-away programs, and Safe Routes to Schools projects
  • Participating in VDOT and National Park Service public meetings
  • Each attendee participating in his or her Neighborhood Plan update process
  • Determining outcomes of action plan

Hopefully the Roanoke workshop was a good warm-up for the New River Valley, which will have its own workshop soon.

Present from VBF were Barbara Duerk, new board member James Rosar, and myself.

Andy Clarke and Bill Nesper from the Bikeleague did a terrific job conducting the workshop. We had plenty of fun too! The Blue Ridge Bicycle Club (BRBC) hosted a 32-mile ride Monday, prior to the workshop. Andy and Bill got the VIP cycling tour of Roanoke — including the Roanoke River Greenway, and several miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The unseasonably warm, beautiful weather was a treat for all of us, and set the tone for the rest of the event. Following the workshop was lunch at the BRBC’s favorite post-ride hangout, the Cornerstone Cafe, then a tour of downtown Roanoke’s new ShareBike facility.

The Bicycle Friendly Community designation has evolved a long way in recent years. To achieve the award, municipalities must perform well in an audit of 5 areas: engineering, education, encouragement, enforcement, and evaluation. Only one Virginia community has achieved the BFC designation: Arlington received a Bronze award for performing well in engineering and education.

Roanoke and the New River Valley are already known for good riding, but are threatened by growth without sufficient planning. Working toward the BFC designation can help us develop processes to ensure healthy growth, and a bike-friendly future. Some communities in southwest VA are probably close to meeting BFC criteria. By going “the rest of the way,” they can enjoy national recognition — and invaluable PR, for tourism and economic development.

This workshop has received a lot of attention and press, locally and beyond — including a front page, above the fold, feature article in the Roanoke Times. Obviously the Roanoke Times believed this story to be of great interest.

Many thanks to the City of Roanoke for such a great turnout, to the Blue Ridge Bicycle Club and the Roanoke chapter of BikeWalk for hosting the event, and especially to BRBC member David Harrison for putting the whole thing together!

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