Virginia #16 in Bicycle-Friendliness. Is that Good Enough?

The League of American Bicyclists recently revealed its latest state rankings, and Virginia came out at #16. That’s one step up from last year. Frankly, I am surprised that Virginia is ranked as high as it is.

What will it take to get Virginia into the top 10 Bicycle Friendly States? First, let’s take a look at what Virginia is doing right.

Bike Virginia is a long-established multiday ride that attracts riders from all over the country. Bike Virginia welcomes cyclists to rural parts of the state that might not otherwise be aware of bicycling’s economic impact resulting from thousands of bicyclists descending on a small town. That’s got to count for something.

Arlington County is a national leader in bicycle-friendliness. It might well carry the rest of us into the #16 spot. Those of us in other urban areas in Virginia could learn a lot from Arlington. They do it right.

Virginia Capital Trail, while incomplete, has come a long way and is generally considered a Good Thing for bicycling in Virginia.

Richmond 2015 is raising awareness of bicycling, at least in Richmond.

Bicycle Advocacy organizations are active in lobbying at the state level. The statewide Virginia Bicycling Federation should be commended for its efforts (although we need more people to get involved).

That’s all I can think of off the top of my head. Please comment with other thoughts.

Now for what Virginia can do better. The LAB already spelled out what we can do better on the Report Card. I’ll review and maybe add a few of my own ideas.

  • Adopt a vulnerable users law /safe passing law/ 3-foot rule…whatever you want to call it, just pass it already. Mississippi has a 3-foot law, for crying out loud. Mississippi!. We can do better.
  • Adopt a dooring law. We shouldn’t have to legislate common sense, but unfortunately we need to.
  • Infrastructure! In order to become a bicycle-friendly state, Virginia must become…wait for it…bicycle-friendly. That means bike lanes in urban, suburban and rural areas. Acknowledge that bicycles are a legitimate form of transportation by building bicycle infrastructure on our state’s roads.
  • Establish a state funding source for bicycle projects and programs that promote, encourage, and enable safety.
  • Apparently, Virginia actually dis-incentivises the creation of bike lanes by reducing funding to communities that provide bike lanes and center turn lanes because doing so reduces the number of car lanes. This is new to me. Virginia needs to stop this.
  • Hold a state Bicycle Summit. North Carolina does this, and they are ranked #26!
  • Establish actual goals to change the transportation mode share. This means adopting policies and implementing programs that get more people on bikes for transportation.

…and a few of my own…

  • The state Capital, Richmond, should be a leader in bicycle-friendliness. That will take political leadership and real implementation power at the Bicycle-Pedestrian coordinator level. And Richmond will be a model for other cities and counties in the Commonwealth.
  • VDOT should promote and implement bicycle and pedestrian improvements in every project. Every. Single. One.
  • Driver’s Education should include a segment on bicycle safety for drivers. You can only get your driver’s license if you pass the bicycle safety part of the exam. It will education people and maybe make them think twice when they are out driving.

In the end, Virginia has to want to be more bicycle-friendly if it is going to move up in the state rankings. Words are not enough.

What are your ideas? How can Virginia get to #15 or even #10 the next time LAB releases its report cards on the states?

Juliellen Sarver is a planner from Richmond, and among other things, an avid bicyclist and advocate (Pedal RVA).

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7 comments… add one
  • Good enough? Hell No!

  • As of July 1, thanks to Governor McDonnell’s new transportation funding package, the Virginia sales tax devoted to transportation infrastructure will increase to 0.8% statewide and to 1.5 % in Northern Virginia, while the effective tax rate on gasoline will decrease.

    It’s high time that Virginia establish a dedicated state funding source for standalone pedestrian and bicycle facility projects and retrofits!

  • Fairfax County has a great free bikemap that helps you find the easiest way through our tangle of suburbia on bike! It has several great short pathways that connect otherwise disconnected suburbs.

    “Fairfax County Bicycle Route Map – A top priority of the Board of Supervisors was the creation of a bicycle map showing bike friendly routes connecting all of Fairfax County. The map is on its third edition and was released in 2012. Staff is working with IT to update the online version and will be available soon.”

  • We’re doing a remarkable amount of stuff here in Roanoke – in fact, according to the 2010 census the number of folks in the MSA reporting a bicycle as their primary commute mode jumped 150%.

    I think there’s some good statewide opportunities, particularly when it comes to driver education – approaching them statewide could be more effective than approaching it from a local level. I’d like to see more education in law enforcement, too – understanding the law and knowing how to enforce it, for both cyclists and drivers.

    My sense is most of the work really has to be done on the local level, though, in Virginia’s main metros. I’m not sure a top-down approach is feasible or desirable. Though, where state laws or regulations get in the way of localities making decisions about bike infrastructure or policy, it should. This is particularly true for our counties, whose transportation projects are controlled by VDOT. VDOT could be a lot more responsive to requests for bike and ped accommodations in these areas than they currently are.

  • Not all of us want bike lanes on rural roads. I’m fine with them in cities and in some suburban settings, but I think they do more harm then good in rural areas because then drivers become accustomed and even expect you there. This is an ongoing debate within the velo community and unfair to suggest we all agree on it.

    Also, if it mean cutting out potential left turn lanes on rural roads, I would be entirely opposed. Not because I want more car space but because that means people going a high rate of speed will suddenly veer right without looking. A high-speed improvisation of a right hook is not fun.

    Why do we need the state to host a bike summit? BTWD does just fine with only partial government involvement. I would argue, probably does better without it.

    We definitively need a dooring law and it’s absurd we don’t have one. Also, I would prefer a three foot rule, but I doubt it will ever happen, be enforced, or even be promoted, in which case it’s almost pointless then.

    We probably need to relook at some of the roads designated as cycling routes. Parts of Rt 1 in NOVA are listed as good to cycle and it’s insane. I ride on busy roads everyday, but Rt 1, around corners, down hills, without shoulders (at all) and at 50mph, thanks, but as much as I have a right to be there, I have ZERO faith in the motorists around me.

  • Being ranked #16 is definitely unacceptable. My opinion is that if we want to move into the Top 10, look at what the states in the Top 10 are doing, and do it better!
    I’m sitting here looking at the 2013 Rankings by the League. Let’s pick #8 – Wisconsin. Wisconsin is often highly touted for its Bicycle Friendly Communities and Bicycle Friendly Businesses.
    The League evaluates across 5 criteria. Wisconsin and Virginia score equally in “Legislation and Enforcement.” We score equally in “Policies and Programs.” We score equally with failing grades in “Infrastructure and Funding.” Wisconsin outscores us in “Education and Encouragement.” The lack of support out of the Governor’s Office is telling in this area. Virginia and Wisconsin both scored failing grades in “Evaluation and Planning.”
    So, the pathway to the Top 10 is clear. Hold firm on what we are doing well and focus energy on changing our “failing grades” to “passing grades.” We should also engage the evaluation team from The League for guidance as well.
    Related to this issue is an article in the Roanoke Times today (May 24) “Regional Board OKs $14M (that’s MILLION DOLLARS) for Greenways! All of these monies are federal and local dollars. If one reads through the article, one can see that Greenways are “game changers” for local communities in terms of bringing them together and promoting economic growth and healthier citizens. It is this kind of activity across the Commonwealth that will move us into the Top 10.

  • I am an ultra-miler when it comes to cycling. I have been in Bedford County for a couple of years now (no intention to stay), and I ride more than many people drive – I certainly ride more than what is the ‘average’ annual driving miles figure (if I give my mileage total for 2013, I’d probably be called a liar by most). It is very common to see me everywhere between Lynchburg and Roanoke a half a dozen times or more a week – especially in spring, summer and fall. With that, in all fairness I will say that for the most part, I have had no problems on the roads in Bedford and the surrounding counties. I ride routes 24 and 122 extensively which are only a single lane in each direction and no shoulder. Most drivers either slow down, or move well over to their left, or both when approaching me. So I have to give credit where it’s due despite my irritation of so much traffic in such a rural county – especially on Route 122 between Bedford and Rocky Mount / Martinsville (which is on-going and continuous all day every day and every season). It’s a pipe dream to think all roads will one day have bike lanes. They will not – especially in rural areas. My mileage figures are quite accurate. I have logged nearly 20,000 miles within a 50 mile radius of Bedford alone in the 2 years I have been here with many other mlti-day rides leaving the state (most to Philadelphia and New York), and have only been hit by a side view mirror by a minivan passing me on route 24 a few miles east if route 122 in November 2012 (no injury to me despite his passing me at highway speed – but he did have to replace his mirror). With my mileage, maybe I have been lucky, because I sure do not appear to be the avid rider out there with the super-expensive road bike and attire. Bike lanes would be nice on rural roads where motor vehicle traffic is moving at 55+ MPH, but I have to give credit to drivers in and around Bedford County at least. I do see differences in driver courtesy in other areas when I get far away from Bedford – especially when I get near highly urbanized areas like the larger cties. So maybe it’s in these areas where the cycling infrastructure should start, and maybe branch out later on (if it does at all as long distance cyclists are few).

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