Juliellen Sarver is a resident of Richmond, an avid bicycle enthusiast, and a professional transportation planner with Simple Solutions Planning & Design, LLC .
Bike commuter Juliellen Sarver.
It looked like a summer hat straight out of Season 3 of Downton Abbey—pale green and breezy. But I was at a bicycling conference and I suspected there was more to that hat than first met the eye.
Sure enough, it was a bike helmet, one cleverly disguised as a summer hat. It was inspiring, and I bought it, even though it wasn’t in my budget and I already have a bike helmet (or two).
The next day, I decided to ride my bike to the conference, a trip of about eight or nine miles. I used to commute by bike almost daily when I lived in Washington, DC, 14 miles each way. Those miles were the sometimes the best part of my day!
My commute to the conference was entirely in dedicated bicycle lanes, including one that is a “protected” bike lane. I was treated as a real commuter by the drivers, accepted as just another person going to work, albeit on a bicycle. I got respect, and I wasn’t odd or in the way.
Since moving to Richmond, however, I haven’t commuted much by bike. And I miss it. I telecommute from home these days, so I don’t have a commute at all, by any means. But honestly, even if I worked in an office away from my house, I would need to work really hard to overcome some of Richmond’s bicycle commuting challenges.
In Richmond, when I ride my bike in the city, I’m in the way. The lack of bicycle infrastructure and the attitude of many drivers make sure I know that I’m not welcome. I dodge potholes and ride through sand and debris on the side of the streets. I get honked at and buzzed by cars and trucks passing too closely to me, and sometimes I get yelled at—all in the span of the three miles between my home and downtown Richmond. I can deal with it, having been a hardened bicycle commuter during the years I lived in DC. But what about those people who want to ride a bicycle to work in Richmond but for whom these challenges are too much to overcome individually?
What can Richmond do, collectively and as a community, to make bicycle commuting within reach of more people? [click to continue…]