The State’s proposed redesign of 9th Street will sever the downtown bike network

As part of the ongoing work to implement changes and improvements to Capitol Square, the state government—specifically the Department of General Services (DGS), which answers to the General Assembly—has released a new plan that will sever a critical bike connection between the eastern and western parts of the city. This overreach by the state, as currently planned, runs counter to Richmond’s Bicycle Master Plan and will leave a hole in the City’s bike network that prevents safe connections between the Franklin Street bike lane, the Capital Trail, and points east…likely forever.

Now is the time to let the City and the General Assembly know that they cannot allow the Department of General Services screw up downtown Richmond’s bike network. More on that below, but, if you’re in a hurry, feel free to email Mayor Stoney (RVAmayor@richmondgov.com) something along the lines of: “A safe and protected bike path connecting Franklin Street to Bank & 12th must be part of any proposal to redesign the area around the Capitol. The City should do everything in its power to alter the State’s current plan for 9th Street.”

Here’s what DGS has planned: They want to build a dedicated vehicle slip lane and floating sidewalk on the east side of 9th Street between Grace and Franklin. To do this, they’ll take the right-most lane on 9th Street and flip-flop it with the sidewalk, creating a protected place for vehicles (similar to that of the Federal Reserve entrance on E. Byrd Street) entering the Capitol while maintaining a sidewalks for folks walking up the hill or catching the bus. Essentially, this removes a travel lane from 9th Street (more on that later) and would also make 9th Street a one-way, northbound street from Canal Street to Leigh Street. This will also create a dual-left turn from Franklin onto 9th Street, which is double the murder trouble for people trying to cross the street right there.

If you can wrap your head around engineering diagrams, here’s what it’ll look like:

State, Y U NO LIKE BIKES?

The purpose behind DGS’s plan to remake 9th is, ostensibly, safety and security. From their application to UDC (UDC 2019-26):

To modify both vehicular approach and screening capabilities for vehicles seeking entry to the Capitol Campus. To harden the security of Commonwealth Gate #1 thereby addressing security concerns and vulnerabilities that currently exist to pedestrians and Commonwealth of Virginia facilities (i.e. the State Capitol and the Governor’s Mansion).

Unfortunately, this proposal punches a huge hole into the City’s long-planned bicycle network and prevents a safe and easy connection from the Franklin Street bike lane to Bank Street and points east. If 9th Street is modified as shown, there is no safe way to ride a bike from the Franklin Street bike lane on to Bank Street. Your safest bet is to dismount, walk across 9th in the crosswalk, walk down the sidewalk to Bank, and get back on your bike. This sounds terrible, unrealistic, and will most likely result in an uncomfortable mixing of bikes and pedestrians. The alternative most folks will end up taking is to exit the Franklin Street bike lane a couple streets early, which unnecessarily puts riders in mixed traffic and obviates several blocks of our city’s best bike infrastructure.

Additionally, because DGS’s plan already includes removing a vehicle travel lane on 9th Street, the likelihood of taking another lane to build a bike lane on 9th—something that’s been recommended in the Bicycle Master Plan since 2014 (see below)—is close to zero.

Here’s what we want: A safe and protected bike path connecting Franklin Street to Bank & 12th. This is what’s recommended in Richmond’s Bicycle Master Plan, and it opens up both east-west and north-south connections for folks on bikes—plus it just makes a ton of sense. The Department of General Services’ proposal breaks existing and future bike connections, puts people on bikes in unsafe situations, and prioritizes vehicular entry into the Capitol Grounds over the people who use Richmond’s streets every day.

Ahhhh that’s better. A simple, safe way to move east-west through Downtown by bike.

There are a couple of different ways to go about creating a safe bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure on 9th Street, but it all begins with getting DGS to modify their current plan to include safe bike infrastructure.

So, if you’d prefer that the State government not waltz into town and blow up our bike network, here’s how you can help:

  1. The City’s Urban Design Committee will consider this plan on October 10th. Email the UDC secretary, Josh Son (Joshua.Son@richmondgov.com), to let them know that you do NOT support the current proposal. Shoot for something simple and short, along the lines of: “A safe and protected bike path connecting Franklin Street to Bank & 12th must be part of any proposal to redesign the area around the Capitol.”
  2. The City’s Planning Commission will consider this plan on October 21st. Email the Planning Commission’s secretary, Matthew Ebinger, (Matthew.Ebinger@richmondgov.com), and let them know that you do NOT support the current proposal. Feel free to use the same email you sent to UDC.
  3. One of the Mayor’s roles—and something he talks about frequently—is being a champion for Richmond across the street at the General Assembly. This is a perfect opportunity for him to do just that, and you can let him know you’d like to advocate for the City’s bike network by sending an email to RVAmayor@richmondgov.com.
  4. Finally, since this is a State plan, you can email your representatives at the General Assembly and ask them to get DGS to change their plan. You can find your legislator’s contact information here.
Look at all of those bike lanes we should have Downtown!

New bike parking on Grace Street!

Check out these new, rad-looking bike racks on Grace Street—a commercial corridor that, until today, had no bike parking.

Thanks to Venture Richmond and Bike Walk RVA for making this happen. Also thanks to the Richmond Volunteer Bike Squad (not a real thing, but totally should be!) for putting them together and getting them installed.

The southeast corner of Grace and 4th Streets.
The southwest corner of Grace and 5th Streets.
He who takes the pics, gets to put his new bike in all of the pics.

PARK(ing) Day: Streets for people

On Friday, September 20th, Richmond will join the rest of the world in celebrating PARK(ing) Day. Parking sucks, so why are we celebrating it? Well, this is PARK(ing) Day, not Parking Day. The former is an international event where folks transform horrible parking spaces into wonderful, temporary parklets for people, while the latter is…not a real thing (at least we hope not).

This year, Venture Richmond (spearheaded by our very own Max), has taken Richmond’s previously limited (but still cool!) PARK(ing) Day efforts and kicked them up a notch. We’ll have not one, not two, but 23 parklets spread across different parts of the city.

BAM!, as they once said.

PARK(ing) Day is great but, unfortunately, oh-so-temporary, which is why we’re stoked on the addition of a competitive aspect this year. About half of the groups creating parklets on Friday have opted-in to a design/build competition judged by Ryan Rinn (formerly of Storefront for Community Design), Emily Smith of 1708 Gallery, Nathan Burrell of City Parks and Rec, and Yessenia Revilla who manages the City’s parklet program. The winning group will win a nice little chunk of start-up capital and the chance to work with Venture and the City to make their temporary parket a permanent place for people to hang downtown. This new, permanent parklet would be the first to take advantage of the City’s parklet program and serve as an example for other aspiring mini-park designers.

Why does all of this matter? Because cities are, ultimately, for people not cars. So much of our Downtown is taken up by parking decks, parking lots, parking spaces, and so little space—especially Downtown—is dedicated towards giving people a humane place to simply exist. PARK(ing) Day is important because it gives us a visual reminder that it doesn’t have to be this way! In fact, it’s pretty easy to take back some of that space and make our city a more comfortable, liveable, and fun place to be.

You can check out a map of all PARK(ing) Day locations here and find a bit more information over on the Facebook event page. If you’d like to spend some time touring the parklets, check out Bike Walk RVA’s parklet bike tour or hop on the Pulse, which rolls by a by a handful of parklets at the Scott’s Addition, Arts District, and Main Street Stations. It’s against the rules to drive on PARK(ing) Day.

RVA Transit Week!

This coming week, September 16th—22nd, RVA Rapid Transit is hosting an in-town celebration of public transportation as part of the Department of Rail and Public Transportation’s Try Transit Week. They’ve got a handful of things to put on your calendar, but we want to highlight three:

  1. Monday: Bus to Work Day; Ride the bus to work, take a selfie, tell your friends.
  2. Tuesday: Brown-bag lunch at the Observation Deck; Bring your lunch to the City Hall Observation Deck and eat it while staring out across the entire city.
  3. Thursday: Scooter Symposium + Social; Listen to a panel of folks discuss the pros, the cons, and the zooms of Richmond’s nascent dockless scooter system (RSVP for that event here).

Check out the full list of events over on RVA Rapid Transit’s website. Oh, also! Make sure you enter to win an entire year of free transit through DRPT’s statewide giveaway.

#sadsidewalksigns, Part 3

Progress! Because of our #sadsidewalksigns work (see Part 1 and Part 2), the Richmond Police Department realized that they do not have a policy for where they place their trailer signs. This is an important first step! From an email they sent us last week:

It appears we do not have a policy specifically directing how/where trailers will be parked. The policy will be modified accordingly. If you want to send over recommended verbiage, the policy writer would be happy to take it under consideration.

Our first priority with these signs is to keep them out of space that’s meant for humans—sidewalks, curb ramps, bus stops, and bike lanes. Furthermore, if we could get RPD put the digital trailer signs in on-street parking spaces that’d be a win, too. Not would that make our streets safer for all kinds of folks, but it could start creating a culture of always preserving space for people at the expense of space for cars.

With those two goals in mind, here’s what we sent back to the RPD today:

Below you’ll find our priorities and suggested language for a Richmond Police Department reader-board sign policy:

  • Reader-board signs and other Richmond Police Department property shall not obstruct sidewalks, pathways, bike lanes, ADA ramps, bus stops, bus lanes, or any other pedestrian, bicycle, or transit right-of-way, as that act would undermine the goals of Mayor Stoney’s Vision Zero Action Plan.
  • Alternatively, reader-board signs should, whenever possible, be placed in on-street parking spaces as not to endanger people walking, biking, or taking transit—the most vulnerable users of our street network and transportation systems.

Please let me know if you have any questions, and, again, thank you for the time you’ve dedicated to this so far.

#sadsidewalksigns, Part 2

Our work to make sure the Richmond Police Department ends their habit of blocking sidewalks with digital trailer signs continues! In Part 1, we sent an email to Gene Lepley, who handles the RPD’s media requests. asking for a copy of the RPD’s policy regarding where and how it deploys digital trailer signs.

In just a couple hours we got back this reply:

Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

We are looking into the issue.

We should be able to provide an answer by tomorrow at the latest.

And then, the very next day, this response:

I’m told the message boards have been relocated. 

Thanks for alerting us.

This is, of course, good news! In fact, here’s a picture of the previously poorly-placed digital trailer sign relocated to the other side of Arthur Ashe Boulevard—in the parking lane, even.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get a copy of the policy (assuming one exists) nor was it even mentioned by Mr. Lepley. So! We move on to #sadsidewalksigns, Part 2–in which we thank the Richmond Police Department for moving the offending sign and then reiterate our original request. You can read our follow up email in full below.


This is great news! Thank you for taking this issue seriously and relocating the message boards. We even grabbed a picture of the relocated board on Arthur Ashe Boulevard (see below).

However, our original request was for a copy of the Richmond Police Department’s policy regarding where and how it deploys these message boards. While we’re thankful for RPD’s quick response to these specific message boards, we want to make sure the RPD has the necessary policy in place to prevent future message boards from blocking sidewalks, ADA ramps, and bus stops.

If the Department does not have a policy about where and how to deploy message boards, we would be happy to work together to come up with a policy that allows for safe placement of these signs while not endangering people as they move about our city.

Again, thank you for the incredibly quick response, for moving the message boards to safer locations, and for your further attention on this matter.

Ross Catrow & Max Hepp-Buchanan

Streets Cred — streetscred.com

#sadsidewalksigns, Part 1

We got tired of seeing the Richmond Police Department drop digital trailer signs smack dab in the middle of our city’s sidewalks, so we decided to do something about it. Thus begins Streets Cred’s first attempt at making an actual change, albeit a small one, in our city: Ending the Richmond Police Department’s habit of blocking sidewalks with these signs for good. Step one is to figure out if they have a policy regarding where and how they deploy these signs. 

A note about what we’re planning: We’re going to post all of the emails we send and receive, notes from meetings, and anything else generated by this process. Transparency is important. But, maybe more importantly, we think that by making the process of advocating for change public we can speed the actual implementation of those changes while also teaching folks how to get things done in their own neighborhoods and cities. 

Below is our first email to RPD, asking if they have a policy regarding where and how they deploy digital trailer signs and, if not, offering to help them design one.


Mr Lepley,

We’re writing to request a copy of the Richmond Police Department’s policy regarding where and how it deploys digital trailer signs.

In recent weeks, we’ve come across several trailer signs parked directly in the middle of sidewalks, blocking pedestrian and ADA access. Pictures of two of them are attached below. The first, parked in the pedestrian refuge in the middle of Belvidere at Leigh Street, blocked both ADA ramps. The second, on the southbound side of Arthur Ashe Boulevard at Moore Street, was parked directly in a bus stop. These sign placements are problematic and we observed dozens of complaints from concerned citizens. 

As you know, in October 2017, Mayor Stoney signed a Vision Zero Pledge and in early 2018, the first draft of the Vision Zero Action Plan was completed. The work to make our streets safer for people continues across many City departments and the Richmond Police Department is an import partner in Richmond’s Vision Zero strategy. Unfortunately, the placement of these signs are counterproductive to Vision Zero by forcing pedestrians out into the street, making it harder and less safe to walk on our sidewalks. We hope this can be prevented in the future. 

If the Department does not have a policy about where and how to deploy trailer signs, we would be happy to work together to come up with a policy that allows for safe placement of these signs while not endangering people as they move about our city.

Thank you for your consideration,

Ross Catrow & Max Hepp-Buchanan

Streets Cred — streetscred.com