Transportation and Safe Streets
In November 2019, I took part in the No Car November challenge, where I lived without a car for a month. I learned multitudes about traveling in our city from this experience. GRTC and the Pulse do a great job in the places they reach. I was able to plan my trips well on the Transit App and the Pulse was reliable even in the early morning.
I walked quite a bit during my No Car November challenge. The number of streets that were unwelcoming to pedestrians or impassable shocked me. I’d often begin to cross the street only to narrowly dodge a car taking a right on red whose driver was checking his left. Many sidewalks were closed due to construction, making walking precarious.
Changing our streets and transit systems is not just for convenience. In Richmond in 2018, 176 people were seriously injured and 12 killed while traveling. Each one of these cases is a preventable tragedy, but traffic deaths are on the rise in our city. Nearly 25% of Richmond households do not own a car, and need other options to get to work and live. Additionally, biking and walking promote good health, and the city should encourage citizens to use these options by making our streets safer for all.
I have been the strongest advocate on City Council for making our streets safer.
More work needs to be done, but I have already led several changes to traffic rules in our district to make walking, biking, and driving safer. Here are some examples:
- Grove Avenue in the Museum District now has two raised crosswalks to encourage cars to slow down and make pedestrians more visible to vehicles.
- The intersection at Libbie and Grove now gives preference to pedestrians.
- The 25 mile per hour speed limit on Grove has been extended to Matoaka Avenue. All parts of Grove that had 35 mph speed limits have been reduced to 30mph.
- Westmoreland Avenue by Mary Munford now has a raised and well-marked crosswalk to make it safer for children to cross the street.
These changes are in the spirit of my comprehensive legislative package for safer streets called “Safe Streets for All”. I worked closely with transportation advocates like BikeWalk RVA, the Richmond Area Bicycling Association, the Virginia Bicycling Federation, and Families for Safe Streets to develop these proposals. You can read the full proposal and news coverage of the package.
City Council has already passed some of the provisions of Safe Streets for All. We made parking in a bike lane illegal and subject to a $60 fine. This will stop bicyclists from having to veer into traffic to dodge cars parked in bike lanes. To reduce pedestrian deaths and injuries, City Council directed City Hall to study giving pedestrians a head start at high use intersections so they can cross without cars cutting in front of them. City Council also directed the Mayor’s office to budget at least $1 million to fulfil Vision Zero, the city’s plan to reduce traffic deaths and injuries to zero.
Over the past four years, City Council has added pedestrian safety features and new bike lanes all around the city.
GRTC funding has increased by 50% during my tenure on City Council. I worked to create the Central Virginia Transit Authority, a regional collaboration to coordinate transportation in the Greater Richmond Area. Because of the CVTA, Richmond’s spending for GRTC has fallen by half, but overall GRTC funding has gone up.
GRTC’s routes have grown and we have added more bus stops citywide. Public transit is a vital service to Richmonders, especially for Richmonders who do not own cars or are too young to drive. GRTC provides access to jobs, education, and opportunities needed to make a better life that would otherwise be out of reach. Robust public transportation also attracts young professionals, many of whom wish to not own a car or only use a car occasionally
We can end traffic injuries and deaths and make our streets safe for children and families, no matter how they travel. I am leading the charge on this issue and am listening and working with you to create the changes we need. These changes have become more urgent because of the coronavirus, which has many stuck at home and made walking a crucial form of exercise and activity.
Parts of my “Safe Streets for All” plan are still making their way through City Council. I have proposed to lower the speed limits from 35 mph to 25mph on Patterson Avenue between Willow Lawn Drive and Pepper Avenue, as well as on Libbie Avenue from Guthrie Avenue and the city limit.
I want you to have choices for how you move around Richmond. I am working every day to make Richmond a better place to walk, bike, ride public transit, and drive.
I am working to require construction companies to create temporary pedestrian and bike pathways if their construction blocks normal routes. This measure will preserve safe routes that pedestrians and bicyclists already use, as well as prevent traveling becoming more dangerous because of construction.
I am committed to expanding GRTC, creating more bike lanes, and building and repairing more sidewalks. These measures provide access to opportunity, make our streets safer, and promote healthy lifestyles. As more people move to Richmond, we will use our expanding tax base to invest in our transportation options to make our city better for all.
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