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Richmond: Cycling Capital?


Bike Race 05Richmond is about to embark on a crash course to become a world-class city for bicyclists:

Last month, Richmond won its bid to host the 2015 UCI Road World Championships, bringing the nine-day event to the United States for the first time since 1986. The elite racing series is projected to have an economic impact of $86 million in town, and $130 million in the region. But more importantly, bike advocates in Richmond, including its recently converted mayor, Dwight Jones, are hoping the event will prompt new bike infrastructure, new bike commuters, new jobs in bike-related industries, and even new businesses interested in relocating to a “bike-friendly” city.

Currently, Richmond only has about three miles of bike lanes, and just 2.2 percent of people commute to work by bike according to the most recent census estimates (Helmboldt, though, adds that he’s cautious of census statistics on this question). The James River that cuts through Richmond also makes cross-town biking difficult. […]

So the city has committed to building new infrastructure to accommodate the championships (which will run primarily through a 10-mile circuit within the city’s urban core), but it’s also planning to use the championships as an excuse to ramp up bike routes and programs not necessarily intended for the international cycling elite. By 2015, the region plans to have completed a 52-mile paved trail from the state capitol in Richmond to the old capitol of Williamsburg, so tourists will be able to take in the entire Virginia “Historic Triangle” without setting foot in a car.

Richmond also plans to expand the trails along its riverfront, knit together its existing greenways, and install more bike lanes and bike parking, all while rolling out outreach programs that will help translate cycling from an international spectator sport into a local commuting solution.

One-time events often don’t have the impact their sponsors tout (see: the DC Le Mans fiasco in 2002). But if this race is an excuse to give Richmonders a cheap, easy, zero pollution way to get around, why not? Heck, I don’t even own a bike, but a Richmond-to-Williamsburg ride sounds like a fun weekend. Will there be any brewpubs near the trail?


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