- Letters to Editor
By GABRIEL FERNANDES
Eastern students may have a better time commuting through Richmond on bicycles and on foot if the Richmond City Council follows through with suggestions for improving existing traffic routes by installing bike lanes and multi-use trails.
City officials invited the audience to provide feedback on the specific changes they would like to see at a Richmond City Council meeting on Sept. 25. One of the greatest concerns residents expressed was the lack of connectivity between residential and commercial areas in Richmond.
The council wanted to have alternate methods to get to places like the Richmond Mall and Kroger. Cyclists living close to East Main Street expressed troubles with getting to places such as the Richmond Mall and Kroger. The installment of bike pedways along the Eastern Bypass was suggested to ease access to locations along the Bypass. Other suggestions included the installment of bike lanes on Main Street and creating a way for bikes to cross the Eastern Bypass close to the Center for the Arts.
Jennifer Koslow, assistant professor of biology, was present at the meeting. She summarized the problems of pedestrians and cyclists in Richmond.
“It is not a walkable community,” Koslow said. “We don’t have alternative transportation as an option.”
Mike Hale, owner of Mike’s Hike and Bike, spoke at the meeting. He spoke excitedly about the prospect of the city taking the idea of different modes of transportation seriously, but was concerned that many people do not know the laws that govern the traffic for cyclists.
“We need to make drivers and cyclists aware of the law,” Hale said. “Cars are not allowed to drive on the sidewalks, just like bikes are not allowed to be on sidewalks.”
Hale said making Richmond friendly for cyclists could bring economic benefits to the city. He mentioned the Virginia Creeper Trail, a 34 mile trail that connects the cities of Damascus, Va. to Abingdon, Va. Thousands of cyclists come from other states to travel the trail, generating income for local businesses.
“Trails like that are easy to maintain and bring in money in tourism,” Hale said.
Some other members of the community also provided important feedback on changes the city needs to make. Alice Jones, director of the office of sustainability, voiced the benefits students would have if bicycle transportation became viable in Richmond.
“We will all benefit if it is possible for students to live in the city without needing to drive,” Jones said. “We have, for instance, a large number of international students who may not have been used to drive in their home countries, and when they get here they feel isolated because they need to have a car to go anywhere.”