A Citizen Letter to City Council re Bicycle Infrastrucure

Posted with permission:

City Council Member/ To whom it may concern,

My name is Joseph Hoskins and I have lived in The City of Charlottesville for the past 15 years. During that time I have increasingly become a part of the vibrant biking scene here in The City of Charlottesville, the surrounding County of Albermarle and Central Virginia. I am a member of several biking organizations including the local IMBA chapter, CAMBC (The Charlottesville Area Mountain Bike Club). A fellow bike enthusiast and I have started and run an all girls mountain bike team (The Cutaway Girls Mountain Bike Team), in affiliation with The Miller School of Albermarle, serving elementary and middle school students, seeking to expose them to the joy of biking as a lifelong pursuit. Our Mission and Vision Statements are available on our Team Page, http://cutawaybikecamp.com/girls-mtb-team/

This season some of our riders (and parents) have asked for an ‘urban biking practice’ to be part of our program schedule. Shamefully, my co-coach and I do not feel that there is a place in the city limits that we would feel comfortable leading a group of young riders on such a practice, it is just too dangerous.

Actually, in my own experience and the experience of fellow riders, it seems Charlottesville is an inhospitable city when it comes to welcoming and promoting biking within the city and in the interface between the city and the county. In fact, I would go so far as to say that Charlottesville is still mired in the ‘dark ages’ with it’s continued dependance on carbon based transportation models as the basis for future transit system development.

The existing city infrastructure for bikes and bike transportation is deplorable and egregious; bike lanes beginning and ending randomly, little or no space for bikes to operate safely on the streets (causing a very real and dangerous interaction between vehicular traffic and those on bikes), traffic lights that are not activated by a biker’s presence and the lack of clearly defined bicycle commuter corridors within the city and into the county.

In comparison with other model cities in the U.S. and abroad, Charlottesville seems woefully behind the times when it comes to promoting alternative transportation methods. Instead of showing itself to be a nationwide leader and investing in the needed infrastructure to support the a better paradigm in urban transportation, the city seems willing to cave in to a few individuals who worry about increased traffic on their streets (hint: more bikers equal less traffic) and disgruntled business owners who decry the ‘loss of revenue’ they perceive bike lanes will create.  This despite the fact that many studies have shown that creating this type of urban landscape anchored by biking and walking increases the business opportunities that surround it and diminishes the amount of people using automobiles as their sole means of transport. One has only to look at the effectiveness of bike transportation systems in other cities such as Portland, Ore. and foreign countries such as Denmark and The Netherlands. In other cities, innovative solutions have been developed to address the inevitable change away from a carbon based transportation system. These are not ‘piecemeal’, ‘stopgap’ development projects meant to pacify ‘fringe-element, bike riding greenies’ in the community, these are comprehensive plans to deal with an alternative transportation future. Not only have these cities provided the minimum, basic, base-marker of a unified system of “bike lanes” for safety; they have developed entire transport systems around the bike, including groundbreaking urban architectural projects where the bike is celebrated as the heart of the city as opposed to the antiquated paradigm of the automobile as the deciding factor in transportation development.

Projects of note:

  • The Agade Bridge and Green Cycle Routes, Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Hovenring Bridge, The Netherlands
  • Barclay’s Cycle Hire and system of bike superhighways, London, UK
  • The BIXI public bike system, Montreal, Canada
  • The Capitol Bikeshare system, Washington, D.C.
  • The Hawthorne Bridge and Bicycle Boulevards, Portland, Ore.

It is worth noting that on City of Charlottesville home page there is a ‘Green City’ link that trumpets all sorts of initiatives that promote the city as a destination for those who wish to diminish their reliance on carbon producing fuels and minimize their impact on the environment. The headline reads, “Creating a sustainable environment for all our citizens”. Really? There are no articles on developing the bike infrastructure to reduce carbon emissions. There are no articles promoting or encouraging the use of the bike as a alternative to the car (and the increased health benefits from this activity). On the “Charlottesville Transit System” link, there is no mention of bike transportation. Where does The City of Charlottesville stand? Is the leadership of Charlottesville up to the challenge? Or, will those clinging to the deplorable current state of highly politicized, hidebound, and near-sighted transportation development win out? Doesn’t Charlottesville wish to have the image of being at the forefront, a leader, in the solution of urban development issues confronting cities across the U.S. and globally instead of a provincial backwater that modern, environmentally responsible, transportation system modernization passes by?

In the interest of the parents and riders on our bike team, as well as others here in the bike community, I am writing to you today to consider giving your full support to the West Main corridor bike lanes and other bike oriented transportation initiatives within the city and into the county.

Joseph P Hoskins

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