Bike commuter power

I’ve noticed something as I’ve ridden back and forth from work this fall that’s pretty cool. I’m seeing more and more people obviously riding their bikes to work. It’s certainly not a flood, more a trickle, maybe one or two people each day. There’s also a few at the newspaper that are doing it now, even as the weather turns colder. While Norfolk isn’t exactly bike friendly, it’s certainly bikable once one gets to know the roads and shortcuts to keep you off the busier corridors where some truckers and most cabbies have never seen a cyclist they like.

I was delighted today to read in my paper that one such commuter, Keith Sutton of Virginia Beach, (are you Doc on a Bike?) has actually gotten the city of Norfolk to decide to make some intersections safer by installing stop signs along Myrtle Avenue near Norfolk State. The intersections had been unmarked. Sutton’s request and the city’s response show that bikers can have an impact on traffic issues.

With relatively mild temperatures, Norfolk has a lot of potential to become a truly bike friendly city. The Elizabeth River Trail is a nice, albeit tiny start. It needs to be extended – and soon – from West Ghent to downtown and north to Old Dominion University and even the Navy base. (It also needs a Web site.) More “share the road” signs and striped bike lanes on roads would also help a great deal. I can think of only three streets in the city with such facilities – Church Street, oddly Heutte Drive out by the Botanical Garden and frighteningly Northampton Boulevard where it passes under I-64, a passage I wouldn’t recommend for anyone save the fastest and most competent cyclists. The city does has enough street and ambient light that commuters really only need blinkers front and back to be visible to drivers when it’s dark out.

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My friends Liz and Wes recently conducted a bike commuting seminar at the Fair Trade Festival in downtown Norfolk, and Wes went so far as to develop the map above highlighting the best roads in Norfolk on which to ride.

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Mix all this with the recently started Critical Mass rides (as long as they don’t descend into annoying anarchy) and we may soon see even more commuters venturing to work on their bikes rather than wrapped in their carcoons. So continue to ride by example out there.

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3 responses to “Bike commuter power

  1. I commuted by bike for 4+ years while at ODU killing my braincells (um, getting an education).
    Granted I was helmetless, usually in flip flops and it was on a 50+ pound Worksman cruiser but it got me to classes from my house off-campus, 4400 club and to work at Phillips @ Waterside .

    Speaking of stop signs, there we ZERO stop signs back in the day in the neighborhood by ODU’s Bud Methany baseball complex (42nd St). I think if you had a sloping ditch in your way then you had to yield.

  2. Great post Chris. I like the inside info.

  3. I guess I have been riding too long and am jaded but I feel safe on most every street in town. There are a few streets I never ride on, but that is a short list. The key for me is speed limit. Most all main streets in Norfolk are 35mph. The most dangerous places in VB-Norfolk-Ches are where it’s 45mph and Norfolk has very few of those roads. Also what you say about the lights is true.

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