W. Main is important to people who ride bicycles. It is also important for all people of Charlottesville whether they ride or not.
W. Main has a strong history in Charlottesville. As with many other things, it comes down to geography. The W. Main corridor the direct route between the two largest residential and employment centers in the City, UVa and downtown. It is by far the shortest route between these two areas. And, of particular importance to people who ride bicycles, it is by far the flattest. Charlottesville is built on a series of generally north/south ridges. To traverse these, you have to go up and then down and then up again. W. Main sits on a rare east/west ridge that has very little elevation change between downtown and the University.
The link below is a terse analysis I did of crowd sourced data collected by the Jefferson Planning District Commission a few years back.
This is the bicycle trip density map I created.
It is pretty clear that W. Main was by far the largest used corridor by people riding bicycles.
Having more people riding bicycles in Charlottesville is good for every person in town whether that person rides or not. People who ride bicycles are good for business, the economy, the environment and the person and provides the best return on infrastructure investment over other forms of transportation funding. The citizens of Charlottesville should be asking what more can we do to incentivize bicycling.
Research has shown there are four types of people who ride bicycles:
By far the largest group is the Interested but Concerned. These are people that would like to ride but for some reason, usually fear of riding in traffic, are not riding. Research has also shown that many of these people will ride if they have protected bike lanes. Over time, many of these people will become Enthused & Confident and will take up bicycling regularly.
The BEST thing we can do is provide a safe bicycle network around the City to keep people riding and encourage those who might. W. Main is the heart or backbone of any future bicycle networks in Charlottesville. The populations at both ends of and along W. Main are growing rapidly. Many of those new residents want to ride bicycles. Many are afraid to venture on to W. Main with its currently unfriendly environment to people riding bicycles. I have to sympathize with them.