The Richmond Planning Commission accepted the conceptual design for a planned 2-mile bike boulevard along Floyd Avenue Monday afternoon with recommendations to decrease the speed limit to 20 miles per hour, reconsider options for intersections east of Boulevard to Harrison Street and contemplate adding speed bumps.
Commissioner Doug Cole was the sole dissenting vote, saying the plan had been “watered down” from its original concept of a bicycle-centric stretch from the Museum District to Virginia Commonwealth University’s Monroe Park campus. Commissioner Melvin Law was absent for the vote.
The Urban Design Committee, an advisory group to the planning commission, submitted the recommendations, which also included larger traffic circles, highlighted pavement markings instead of white markings for shared bicycle lanes, or “sharrows,” and branding for the boulevard.
The $500,000 project between Thompson and Laurel streets includes 11 traffic circles and three curb extensions, also called bump-outs or chokers, to narrow access, slow traffic and decrease walking distance for pedestrians.
Stop signs on Floyd would be removed to make the corridor more attractive to bicyclists, project manager Andy Boenau said. Stop signs on cross streets would remain.
Cole said the plan no longer resembles similar bicycle boulevards from Portland, Ore. to Indianapolis, Ind. because the features will attract more vehicle traffic.
“I feel like it accommodates cars more than it does bikes,” he said. “More cars will come because there are no stop signs.”
Residents on Floyd have been divided while bicycle enthusiasts have lauded the project as opening alternative modes of transportation to a busy residential and business corridor.
Public meetings since last summer have highlighted parking space problems and speeding concerns in the Fan. City staff have said the plan does not eliminate legal parking spaces.
City transportation engineer Thomas E. Flynn said that by law, his staff could not decrease the speed limit to 20 mph, which would be a first for the city, without a traffic study. The study conducted a few weeks ago did not warrant a decrease in the speed limit, he said.
Several planning commission members questioned the context of the study since a bicycle boulevard should have special considerations. Commission member Amy Howard cited similar projects in the U.S. that implemented an 18-mph speed limit.
Richmond City Council President Charles R. Samuels said at the commission’s meeting the council could still decrease the speed limit — the law did not dictate that local governments had to adhere to the study results, he said.
City Council accepted about $400,000 from the Virginia Department of Transportation in its meeting last week. The city would need to provide the remaining cost.
The project affects three City Council districts: the 2nd, represented by Samuels; the 1st, Jonathan T. Baliles; and the 5th, Parker C. Agelasto.
A survey last month of 157 Richmond residents by the Fan District Association found 66 percent supported the bicycle boulevard. Less than half of those surveyed were Floyd Avenue residents. Martha Bock, an avenue resident, said the survey was sent in an email, and many older residents on her block did not know about it.
The project, if approved, is expected to be completed by September 2015.