Following a series of public meetings with a handful of residents who voiced strident opposition, the city seems to be back on track with a plan to give bicycles and pedestrians priority on Floyd Avenue between Monroe Park and North Thompson Street.
The plan, which is expected to cost about $500,000, is fully funded in the city budget, augmented by a $400,000 state grant.
The name, which is used across the country to describe streets that discourage car traffic and encourage biking and walking, was confusing enough to some Richmond residents that city planners have abandoned the term in favor of “RVA bike-walk street.”
The comments that residents submitted about the proposal at the last meeting offered some insight into the misunderstanding that’s surrounded the issue.
“Who will patrol the late-night skateboarders and bikers who will party on the bike lane?” one wondered. Another resident worried about bicycle noise. (Bikes make considerably less noise than cars.)
As explained Tuesday night, planners intend to replace all four-way stop signs and a handful of traffic signals with traffic circles, which slow car traffic but allow bicycles to continue unimpeded.
A community survey found that 82 percent of residents supported the traffic circles. Only 62 percent supported the installation of diverters, which often are used in bicycle boulevards. Diverters direct car traffic onto side streets but allow cyclists to pass.
Some cyclists worried that the plan, lacking diverters, didn’t go far enough to discourage car traffic. One resident who supported diverters shouted that the proposal was “bullshit.” At a previous meeting, it was the opponents who were shouting their concerns. This time around, the mood was considerably calmer.
After the meeting, the three City Council members whose districts that the affected portion of Floyd cuts through said they were generally supportive of the idea. First District Councilman Jon Baliles said he "thinks it's a good start." Fifth District Councilman Parker Agelasto addressed residents who wished the plan went further.
“Here’s the thing,” Agelasto said. “I think a lot of folks are saying, well, we should just become Portland, Oregon, immediately. Well, Richmond is Richmond and we can’t do that. It’s going to take time to plan for all of our residents needs. But you’ve got to start somewhere.”
Second District Councilman Charles Samuels, the most reluctant of the three representatives, remained noncommittal, but suggested he’s open. “It’s not a done deal,” he said, “but a lot of people’s concerns were addressed tonight, and it seemed to enjoy more support.”