By Sean Tubbs
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Cyclists from all over the Charlottesville region gathered recently to share ideas on how their favorite form of transportation could be better supported in the community. The summit was the conclusion of Bike Week 2010, a celebration of the role the bicycle plays in society.
“The reason we’re here tonight is to answer the question, ‘What can we do to make the Charlottesville region safer and easier for bicycling?’” asked Vince Caristo, the executive director of the
Alliance for Community Choice in Transportation
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Caristo said there is a growing awareness of how vulnerable cyclists can be in the wake of several high-profile accidents, including the death of a UVA grad student in April. The summit was an attempt to discuss potential solutions by stakeholders who have the most to contribute.”All of us as bicyclists or bicycle advocates ride our bikes on the road, and so we know where the problems are and we have an idea what to do about it,” Caristo said.
The work to develop an action plan was guided by a presentation by Chris Gensic, Charlottesville’s trail planner. He pointed out several projects that are underway, such as construction of a bicycle trail that will run alongside the Route 250 bypass.
Participants were split into several groups to brainstorm on specific areas of how cycling could be improved.
One group was asked to suggest ways to better enforce existing traffic laws that protect cyclists. Ideas included assigning someone to serve as a liaison between the biking community and the police and changing laws to allow for cyclists to yield at stop signs (but not lights). Another idea would be to penalize people who use bike lanes incorrectly, such as runners and cyclists who use them to travel in the wrong direction.
Groups also discussed ideas to encourage people to consider commuting to work on bicycles. Thoughts included the creation of tax incentives, developing informal bike routes with input from cyclists and encouraging bike friendly development. The idea of marketing the region as a tourist destination for cyclists was also discussed.
Another group came up with ideas to educate people about cycling. One idea was to make sure UVA first-years are educated about traffic rules and the greater biking community. Another was to make it a priority to get Charlottesville ranked on
Bicycling magazine’s list of the top fifty “bike-friendly” communities
At the end of the meeting, all of the participants were asked to vote for the ideas to be worked on further. A similar process in 2006 led to the creation of a list of priority projects, many of which have been acted upon. ACCT volunteers will collate the information into a new list for 2010.
“What the voting indicated to me is that there is strong interest in programs that span all of these areas and that are necessary to improve bicycling in the region,” said Caristo in an interview.
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