City to roll out Richmond Road bike lanes in June

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City of Williamsburg Planning Director Reed Nester rides his bicycle on Richmond Road May 18, 2016. (Photo by Kirsten Petersen)
City of Williamsburg Planning Director Reed Nester rides his bicycle on Richmond Road Wednesday. (Photo by Kirsten Petersen)

The City of Williamsburg will add bike lanes on Richmond Road without losing a significant number parking spots when the road is restriped this summer.

Currently, there are no bike lanes or shared-lane markings, called “sharrows,” on Richmond Road from College Corner — the intersection of Richmond Road, Jamestown Road and North Boundary Street — to Brooks Street, where the Arts District begins.

In January Planning Director Reed Nester proposed eliminating 21 of 90 available on-street parking spaces to accommodate the bike lanes.

A plan he presented to the Williamsburg City Council on May 9, which has been authorized by City Manager Marvin Collins, calls for adding sharrows between Tribe Square and Scotland Street, a stretch of the road that would have lost 12 parking spaces. The change will allow street parking along that section to remain unchanged.

“We’re using the sharrows as a compromise situation that has better identification for cyclists than we have now, but also preserves the parking in that area,” Nester said.

Additionally, a stretch of road that is scheduled to lose five parking spaces, from Armistead Avenue to Tribe Square, could regain those spaces if parking is allowed in a loading area in front of Williamsburg Presbyterian Church.

The plan will limit the overall loss of parking spaces and might prevent the loss of any spaces between College Corner and the delis on Scotland Street, Nester said.

Bike lanes will be painted from College Corner to Tribe Square and from Nelson Street to Brooks Street. There also will be a five-foot-wide bike lane next to the College Delly parking lot. Parking regulations from Scotland Street to Harrison Avenue will remain unchanged. The center turn lane between Brooks and Dillard streets, which was eliminated under the original proposal, will remain intact.

The lanes are set to be painted next month as part of the city’s paving program.

This map shows the proposed modifications between College Corner and Scotland Street to accommodate the new bike lanes and sharrows. (Image courtesy of the City of Williamsburg)
This map shows the proposed modifications between College Corner and Scotland Street to accommodate new bike lanes and sharrows. (Image courtesy of the City of Williamsburg)

One of the concerns from the cycling community about riding on Richmond Road is “dooring,” or getting hit by the door of a parked vehicle as it is being opened by a driver or passenger, said Ted Moreland, who rides with the group Williamsburg Area Bicyclists.

Nester said his proposal addresses this concern by implementing a four-foot-wide “door zone” for cars next to the three-foot-wide bike lane.

“We wanted to make sure if we’re delineating bike lanes, that’s a safe place for the cyclist to ride,” he said.

Along with the lanes on Richmond Road, the crosswalk connecting the Wawa convenience store to the College of William & Mary campus will be relocated  farther down the road to improve visibility for pedestrians and commuters.

City Council members praised Nester for devising a compromise plan that provides safety for cyclists while still meeting the parking needs of businesses and residents in the area.

“It’s a much more manageable solution,” said Vice Mayor Paul Freiling. “It might not be perfect from a bicycle access standpoint, but I think we’d all agree the one thing we can’t afford to lose downtown at this point is parking.”

The lanes and sharrows will help cyclists “quite a bit” by clearly indicating the rules of the road, Moreland said, adding that the markings will remind motor vehicle operators to be aware that  bicyclists might be traveling nearby. “If they see a bike lane, then it comes to the forefront of their mind,” he said.

The opportunity to add bike lanes comes about every eight to ten years, when the city repaves and re-stripes its roads, Nester said.

With plans in place to paint the lanes next month, the project will be one of Nester’s final contributions to the city before he retires July 1.

As a cyclist who regularly commutes to work, Nester said he intends to wrap up his duties as planning director and “ride off into the sunset.”

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