Amtrak’s Roll-On Service Expanded Through Virginia

Bicycle roll-on service is now available on trains serving the Carolinas.

Bicycle roll-on service is now available on these trains.

As you probably know by now, we’ve been working with Amtrak to get bike racks on trains in the eastern US. After much testing, they finally rolled it out on the Capitol Limited, and a few trains serving Richmond for the 2015 World Cycling Championships. Then this week they surprised us by confirming that roll-on service is now available on most trains serving Virginia:

  • The Palmetto Route, which runs from NYC to Miami through DC, Alexandria, Richmond, Petersburg and the eastern Carolinas, on its way to Charleston, Savannah and on to Florida;
  • The Silver Meteor and Silver Star, which also start in NYC and run through DC, Alexandria, Richmond, and Petersburg, but then the central Carolinas including Raleigh and Columbia before Charleston, Savannah and down through Florida;
  • The Crescent Route, which runs between NYC and New Orleans through Charlotte and Atlanta, serving Alexandria, Charlottesville, and Lynchburg.

Read Amtrak’s press releases for the Palmetto, the Silver Service and the Crescent routes.

Now you can bring your bike on most trains serving Virginia, without it being boxed. However, this roll-on service is only available at stations with baggage service; there’s still a $20 fee, and a reservation is required. This is explained on Amtrak’s “Bring Your Bicycle Onboard” page — scroll down to “Walk-Up Checked Bicycle Service.”

When buying a ticket through Amtrak’s website, an option to add a bicycle will appear. Clicking this will add the charge to your ticket, and create the bike rack reservation.

There’s no word yet on the Northeast Corridor trains serving Newport News, Norfolk and Virginia Beach, or the new service coming to Roanoke. But as the new baggage cars come online we expect roll-on service to be available there too.

While we’d rather have self-serve bike racks like the Capitol Limited’s, and we may sometimes find the $20 fees prohibitive, the box was always the biggest obstacle for touring cyclists, commuters, and anyone else needing to use their bike to get to and from the station. We’re glad to finally be rid of it, and have many new opportunities for bike travel.

2015 Annual Meeting, Sat. Nov. 14

HHI Hostel in downtown Richmond, VA

HHI Hostel in downtown Richmond, VA

Join us at the new hostel in downtown Richmond at 11:00 AM on Saturday, Nov. 14, for the Virginia Bicycling Federation Annual Meeting. We’ll elect our 2016 board and officers, and start planning our legislative agenda for the upcoming Virginia General Assembly.

We’re starting at 11:00 AM to allow for travel time from around the state. We’ll finish the day with a group ride on the newly completed Virginia Capital Trail. We encourage arriving Friday and staying through the weekend at the brand new hostel.

11:00 – 11:30 VDOT Update – John Bolecek, VDOT Statewide Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator

11:30 – 12:00 State Trail / VOP Update – Jennifer Wampler, DCR Trails Coordinator

12:00 – 12:30 Lunch

12:30 – 1:00 Business Meeting (Financial Review, Elections)

1:00 – 1:45 Legislative Discussion

1:45 – 2:30 Strategic Directions

2:30 – 5:30 Ride on the Capital Trail

All are welcome. VBF members can vote in board elections, or run for board positions. You may join at the event, but if you’re interested in serving on our board, please contact Tom Bowden ASAP (

We’ll update this page as the full agenda materializes, so keep checking back.

Hope to see you there!

The UCI to Support Bike-Friendly Cities and Regions

UCI Bike City Logo

PRESS RELEASE — Union Cycliste Internationale, 25 September 2015

The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) has today announced the relaunch of the UCI Bike City label to support and reward those cities and regions who invest in developing community cycling and related infrastructure. The first UCI Bike City label, to be awarded at next year’s UCI Road World Championships in Doha, will be for a period of four years and will be based on a city’s strategy combining– showcasing elite cycling with UCI events and investing in cycling for all.

A dedicated UCI team has been established to support cities and regions to help them develop and benchmark their plans and share best practice. Cities and regions will be assessed according to a broad range of criteria which demonstrate how elite cycling events can work best hand in hand to achieve long lasting goals in bringing cycling to all:

  • Ambition of strategy;
  • Dedicated funding;
  • Protected bike lanes;
  • Safety for cyclists;
  • Cycle training;
  • Participation;
  • Sustainability;
  • Measuring progress.

Each of these criteria will carry a weighting with strategy, ambition and bike lanes carrying the maximum weighting of 15 points each.

Brian Cookson, President of the UCI said: “Governments and regions across the globe are now grasping the huge public health benefits from integrating cycling into their transport plans and part of the job of the UCI is to provide strategic guidance in this process. The UCI Bike City label will highlight those cities and towns who are making the most of the opportunity that hosting major UCI events brings and leading the way in developing community cycling. Bike transport is increasingly becoming mainstream across the world and it is important that the UCI helps to drive forward and quicken this trend and ensure cities and regions can learn from each other. We want to work with our major event host partners to ensure that, together, we create a long term legacy of improved community cycling opportunities and infrastructure. This ambition is what lies at the heart of the UCI Bike City label.”

UCI Vice-president and Chair of the UCI Advocacy Commission Tracey Gaudry added: “Cycling is not just a competitive sport, it is also an enjoyable, healthy pastime and environmentally friendly way to get about. More than 700 cities in 50 countries now have bike-share schemes, a figure that has grown by about half in the last three years. The UCI Bike City label should be seen against this exciting context.”

For more information

Louis Chenaille
UCI Press Officer
+41 79 198 7047

John Zerafa
VERO Communications
+44 7813 814 816

A World Championships Legacy Project: Richmond Attains Bronze IMBA Ride Center Status

In 2004 several Richmond mountain bikers wanted to ride more than the 2 or 3 miles of adopted/pirate trails on the south side of the James River in Richmond Virginia. Working with the park manager and MORE (Mid Atlantic Off-road Enthusiast) the IMBA club in the Washington DC area, they formed rvaMORE – Richmond’s trails advocacy group. Relying on volunteer efforts and donations, the trails grew from a few miles to over 38 miles of trail within the City of Richmond. These trails, built mainly in under-used wooded green spaces in the park and brownfields between the adjacent neighborhoods and the river, have received national praise and press from the outdoors community. In addition to the well known James River Loop, the trails extends into neighborhood parks on both the north and south sides of the river and include small dirt jump park and a bicycle skills area.

In 2012 the community again came together to build a legacy cycling project for Richmond 2015 – the UCI World Road Cycling Championships to be held in Richmond September 19th to the 27th. The proposal was to build a new system of trails at Pocahontas State Park. rvaMORE partnered with IMBA, Virginia DCR, City of Richmond and Friends of Pocahontas Park, developed a plan and raised the funds and make this vision happen. More than simply building more trails, the vision was to build types trails that did not exist in Richmond and to give access to handcycles. Over $325,000 was raised over the course of 2 years and this past year, 7 miles of new handcycle, family-friendly and beginner level flow trail were built at Pocahontas. These trail officially opened this past June.

The designation of IMBA Ride Center Bronze Level status makes Richmond the only true urban Ride Center where mountain bikers can access great single track trail from their home or office by bike. Richmond’s urban trails bring access to the community in a way that remote trail systems cannot – no need to get in a car to access trails in remote locations, just ride your bike from home. The Richmond Ride Center is about access to all levels of great mountain biking trails, pump tracks, dirt jumps and true access for offroad hand cycles.

For more information, visit

Contact Greg Rollins

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Roll-On Service Begins on Amtrak’s Capitol Limited; Also to Richmond for the Cycling World Champs

Nate Evans, Tom Bowden, Champe Burnley, Caron Whittaker, Jeff Miller, and Linda Boxx on the inaugural run with the new bike racks on Amtrak's Capitol Limited

Nate Evans (Bike Maryland), Tom Bowden and Champe Burnley (Virginia Bicycling Federation), Caron Whittaker (League of American Bicyclists)), Jeff Miller (Adventure Cycling Assn.), and Linda Boxx (Allegheny Trail Alliance – GAPCO) on the inaugural run with the new bike racks on Amtrak’s Capitol Limited

From Amtrak’s press release:

“Amtrak is expanding the availability of bike service on the Capitol Limited to allow more passengers the convenience of traveling with their bikes. This enhanced service begins on Sept. 14 and provides passengers with a way to travel with their bicycles without the hassles of driving and parking vehicles.

This service is available at all stations along the Capitol Limited route between Washington, D.C., and Chicago. Passengers will be able to roll their bikes along the platform and onto the train and secure their own bikes on a rack in the baggage cars. Amtrak partnered with Adventure Cycling Association and other bicycle and passenger rail groups to form an advisory bicycle task force to oversee this project to establish walk-on bike service on the Capitol Limited.”

Note how Amtrak’s press release says, “expanding the availability of bike service.” So what’s new, and why is it important?

Previously, bikes had to be boxed and checked as luggage, eliminating destinations without luggage service, like Harper’s Ferry, WV. And for most riders, it eliminates the possibility of riding to or from the station — as part of a biking day trip, or an extended tour.

Now riders can take a bike on or off the train at any station along the route. This creates many new possibilities for multimodal bike and train travel, and many new customers for Amtrak.

Amtrak’s new bike racks are passenger-self-serve, to minimize delays. Note that reservations and fees ($20 at this writing) are still required. Amtrak’s bicycle page has the scoop, summed up by our friends at Adventure Cycling Assn:

“Reservations are required and passengers must have a travel document (ticket) for their bicycles. Passengers can reserve their bicycles by selecting “add bike” when they book their train travel on, by calling 800-USA-RAIL, or by visiting any staffed ticket office. Amtrak charges $20 per bicycle for a reservation. Passengers with bicycles need to walk their bikes through Amtrak stations, use elevators, not escalators, and arrive 30 minutes prior to train departure to allow time to transport the bike to the baggage car. Those traveling with panniers or trailers should remove these and carry them on the train. Amtrak will provide instructions in the train car for passengers to load and unload their own bicycles. Amtrak will continue to offer boxed bike service at stations with ticketing and baggage service.”

With so many cycling groups along the route from DC to Chicago rallying for roll-on service, the Capitol Limited got Amtrak’s attention, perhaps as pilot for system-wide adoption. Hopes are high for roll-on in Virginia, especially for the new service to Roanoke. As if to whet our appetites, Amtrak is offering limited roll-on service to Richmond for the 2015 UCI World Cycling Championships:

Click image for Amtrak info page.

Click image for Amtrak info page.

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Renaissance Bicycle Infrastructure

Cycling in traffic in Florence, Italy

Cycling in Florence, Italy – Stephen Rees photo via Creative Commons 2.0

My watch tells me it’s 3 AM here in Florence, Italy, but my body says it’s only 9 PM, so I did what I often do to try to put myself to sleep – I read my old cycling related blog posts.

Sometimes that has the desired effect – and sometimes, like tonight, if gives me an idea for a new post.

I’ve been in Florence for less than 24 hours, but already I am questioning some fundamental assumptions about bicycle transportation.

It started on the cab ride from the airport. Driving along main roads, we passed dozens of people on bikes. There were no bike lanes, no sharrows, no “Share the Road” signs (although to be honest, I don’t read enough Italian to know one if I saw it). Some passes were closer than others, but there was not one horn honked, nor any birds flipped. No sassy Italian epithets, gestures or comebacks, not even a sideways glance.

We passed through many complex intersections – some seemed to be combinations of roundabouts and standard right angles, others were obtuse merges and switchbacks. At nearly every one, there were bikes, pedestrians, and motor vehicles, including scooters – lots of scooters. Everyone got where they wanted to go, and the only bike helmet I’ve seen so far was attached to someone’s luggage at the arrivals terminal.

I don’t actually know whether Florence has a good safety record for pedestrians and cyclists. As far as I know, it’s typical for European cities. What’s notable is that you see a real cross section of the population on bikes. Everything from grandmothers with groceries to tourists, to businessmen in suits. It’s certainly no Copenhagen or Amsterdam, but it would probably embarrass any North American city for its combination of high bicycle mode share and seeming lack of serious safety issues.

There is a sense that riding a bike is just no big deal. Not a scary extreme sport, not an obscure subculture, just part of everyday life. Bikes are everywhere, in every shape and size. Mostly, they’re all beat up and kind of dirty, not the gleaming personal fashion statements we tend to ride in the U.S. Hardly a drop bar to be found, and almost every bike has a full chaincase. Not just a chain guard, but a full case, so your dress or your pants just can’t possibly get caught.

My instincts tell me that riding a bike in Florence would be quite safe. The interactions I have observed between people on foot, people on bikes and people in cars seem quite deferential. They really have to be, because the streets are sometimes so narrow that there simply isn’t room to pass, so the people in cars wait for the people on bikes, and people on bikes wait for the pedestrians, and everybody gets where they are going, eventually. I’m not the first one to notice this. After writing most of this article, I came across this piece:

…while looking for some stats to back up my hunches.

At the heart of the matter is the simple fact that Florence is a very old city and its streets were not designed for high speed motorized traffic. As in the Renaissance, people walk IN the street, not along it or across it. Cars make their way through a random flow of humanity in Brownian motion at what sometimes seems like a crawl, yet they rarely have to come to a complete stop or wait at a traffic light. At the relatively low speeds permitted by these ancient streets, lined with rows of neatly parked scooters, curb-straddling cars and throngs of people, there is hardly any need to. And yet, it seemed to me that we all made excellent time.

All of which led me to wonder whether we are thinking about this whole “infrastructure = safety issue in the wrong way. Yes, the Dutch, in their quasi-Germanic way, have proven that with the right laws, the right design, and the right incentives, you can make urban cycling safer than housecleaning. But we’re not all Dutch, and the US will never be Holland. Which reminds me, why are the people from Holland called Dutch when their country’s formal name is the Netherlands? And nether to what? Now that they have the whole cycling thing under control, maybe they can clear that up too.

But back to my point. Florence, and perhaps other Italian cities, are chaotic in comparison to their American counterparts, let alone Amsterdam or Copenhagen. And yet, from what I can determine based on limited research, the fatality rate is comparable to ours, if not better.

I remember reading about an experiment, I’m think it was in Germany, where they simply eliminated all traffic signals and signs. You would think that there would have been a cataclysm of collisions and carnage, but just the opposite happened. People in cars stopped and looked both ways at all intersections, and in the absence of green lights, they did not accelerate to try to make the next light. Presumably, pedestrians and cyclists looked both ways too, and, as in Florence, everyone got where they wanted to go safely and somewhat efficiently.

So maybe we have to rethink our entire approach to traffic control and transportation safety. Maybe if drivers weren’t so focused on making all the lights and doing at least the speed limit, as if it were a minimum, we’d all be safer and probably reach our destinations just as quickly, but with less stress. It’s an appealing notion, but we’ll have to do a lot of behavior modification to make to a reality. And yet, when I visit places like New York City and see how Times Square, formerly a traffic nightmare, is now a pedestrian plaza, I have hope. I know that Richmond will never be Florence, with its benign chaos, let alone Copenhagen, with its prioritization of cycling over motorized traffic. But maybe, just maybe, we can instill a little more of both approaches and get beyond the current us-versus-them mentality that dominates discussions of bicycle safety.

In Gear: Richmond Cycles Exhibit to Open at the Valentine

RICHMOND, Va. (July 15, 2015) – There’s no question Richmond is a cyclists’ town. This exhibition is a uniquely-Valentine take on the history of cycling in Richmond from the 19th century to the present day. The exhibition opens on Aug. 27 in time for the UCI Road World Cycling Championships in mid-September.  The exhibition runs through Jan. 3, 2016. There will be special extended hours nightly until 8 p.m during the cycling events from Sept. 19-26 at the Valentine.

“The Richmond community has been cycling in the streets, the parks, and along the sidewalks in front of their homes since the 1800s,” says curator David Voelkel.

In this exhibition, the Valentine’s rich collection of period photographs and advertising art have been digitized and turned into a media piece that showcases several centuries of cycling history. In Gear: Richmond Cycles  presents historical objects and special loan pieces representing bicycling and cyclists from the 1800s to the present day.  A late 19th century high wheel cycle, sometimes called a “penny farthing” bike – a reference to the large front wheel and the small back wheel resembling British coinage of the era will be on display.

To connect Richmond’s cycling past with its future, the exhibition features contemporary Richmonders, from many diverse neighborhoods. Richmonders agreed to share their cycling stories in a special media wall projection created by Dana Ollstead, who is  an award-winning multi-media artist and curator currently based in Richmond.

With regards to women’s freedom during the 1890s, a woman’s active wear outfit suitable for cycling will also be on display. This cycling outfit illustrates the new freedom that bikes offered Richmond women in personal mobility as well as less-restrictive clothing in the age of the corset and long skirts.

For the month of September, the Valentine and the Science Museum of Virginia will be offering a joint membership benefit. A current membership to either museum will grant members access to both museums. The Science Museum is currently featuring the exhibition Bikes: Science on Two Wheels. Also in collaboration with the Science Museum, Pedal Power will be on display in the Valentine’s In Gear: Richmond Cycles.

Pedal Power allows visitors to generate electricity while they pedal a bicycle. This electricity can then be used to power a series of everyday devices.

“The fact that Richmond was chosen to be the host city for the 2015 UCI Road World Championships this September is a great honor as well as the perfect opportunity for the Valentine to actively collect and to work with local collectors and cycling enthusiasts to present a selected history of cycling to our guests and ourselves,” says curator David Voelkel.

The Valentine is open to the public on Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and on Sunday. 12-5 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for students, seniors and groups. Valentine members, military and children under the age of 18 are free.

Please Ask Your Local Planners & Engineers to Respond to This Survey

U.S. cities are invited to respond to a new survey on protected bike lanes.

The Green Lane Project, a program of PeopleForBikes, has launched a survey to better understand the progress and challenges faced by cities building innovative new bike projects.

The survey is here. ( Deadline for responses is August 14, 2015.

This survey is aimed at city staff – project designers, engineers, bike/ped coordinators and other staff – as well as consultants working with a city. Other agency staff and consultants with a direct interest in this field are also welcome to respond. Please share this survey with planners, engineers and/or leadership in your city transportation departments.

Responses to the survey will deepen the understanding of cities’ experience with planning, funding and building protected bike lanes, the satisfaction with current design guidance, implementation challenges, training needs and more. Results will be shared in the fall of 2015.

If you have questions about this survey, please contact Martha Roskowski, VP of Local Innovation, at Thank you.

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FHWA’s New Separated Bike Lane Planning and Design Guide.