Getting around in the Historic Triangle might become easier for residents in the next few years—that is, if you like to use your legs.
At a meeting of the York County Steering Committee on Wednesday, members from Williamsburg, York County, Hampton and Virginia Beach discussed potential plans for more sidewalks and bicycle paths to connect the localities through the Virginia Capital Trail.
“The one thing we wanted to make sure we always talk about is how we are an active destination to the world,” said Steve Lambert, a transportation planner with the Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization. “But also make us accessible to all kinds of users, to make everyone feel comfortable.”
HRTPO has performed a number of studies on existing bikeways in the area to understand where cyclists are going, where they’re coming from and how the Historic Triangle compares to similar areas.
The study found the amount of travelers using bicycles as forms of transportation in Williamsburg was very close to the same amount in Myrtle Beach. Williamsburg had .43 percent of people cycling on trails while in Myrtle Beach it was .46 percent.
The study also used data from the company StreetLight Data, which measured where people using the trail lived based on information from their smartphones. StreetLight is a company that processes geospatial data points, according to the company’s website. The data from is used to measure where and how pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles are using certain areas.
“This is a very powerful tool because it lets us know where people are coming from and going to,” said Robert Case, chief transportation engineer with HRTPO. “We could take that data and find that half the people are not from this area and so they’re bringing money from outside and spending it in Hampton Roads.”
Later in the meeting, Patrick Johnston, vice chairman of the Historic Triangle Bicycle Advisory Committee, gave an example of that and said when he and others go on bike rides, they usually start in York County and go into Williamsburg because there is better infrastructure for cycling.
Johnston said when he and his friends ride their bikes, they’re often stop at restaurants in Williamsburg and spend about $2,000 a year each.
Case went on to said while the infrastructure projects might cost a good deal of money up front, over time they would make up for those costs and more with money from events, tourists and potential business.
Lambert continued the discussion of expanding infrastructure, explaining in further detail how expanding the Virginia Capital Trail to end near Fort Monroe is the goal.
In addition to the bike trails, updates on walkways in the Historic Triangle are in the planning process. Data on pedestrian commuting showed that 15 percent of workers in Williamsburg older than 16 walk to work. In York County it was 2.1 percent and in James City County it was 1.2 percent.
Tim Cross, deputy director of planning and development services for York County, said the goal is to connect the walkways within each county to provide greater safety and ease of access.
“What we want to do is look for logical connections where people can access amenities by foot at a reasonable distance,” Cross said.
The next steps for the projects, Lambert said, is to work on future recommendations and collaborate more with localities to create public input campaigns. By the end of the year, HRTPO hopes to have prioritized the projects using a score based on feedback and need.