by Ned Oliver
The Richmond Planning Commission deferred action Tuesday on a proposal to turn Floyd Avenue into the city’s first bike boulevard.
At this point, hardly anyone is excited about the project, which calls for replacing four-way stop signs on Floyd Avenue with traffic circles.
Proponents did their best to muster enthusiasm, arguing that at least the project represents a start toward building a network of bike friendly streets in Richmond. They said it can always be improved upon later if it prove inadequate.
Opposition fell into two camps: those who think the project doesn’t do enough to discourage car traffic and those that are obsessed with the idea that the project will reduce the number of on-street parking spaces.
Regarding parking, planners said the project would eliminate eight illegal spaces. They showed diagrams to that effect.
Some opponents were not convinced, insisting the plan will make it impossible for residents to continue parking within 20 feet of the intersection, which is illegal under city code but not enforced in the Fan. More than one suggested city planners were actively attempting to deceive them.
Those who said they wanted the project to go further to calm traffic cited experience in other cities, such as Portland, Ore., which has a network of bike boulevards. Planners there say they’ve shifted away from traffic circles as a means of discouraging car traffic because they don’t slow down cars enough.
Instead planners in Portland opt for diverters and mid-block speed humps. Diverters push thru car traffic onto neighboring streets while allowing cyclists to pass. Speed humps are exactly what they sound like.
Both measures were deemed too aggressive for Floyd based on feedback from residents at a series of community meetings last year, said Andy Boenau, a planner with Timmon’s Group contracted by the city to design the project.
Planning Commission members focused less on the parking issue and more on the efficacy of the project. They asked the city to implement the suggestions made by the Urban Design Committee, which voted last week not to recommend approval of the project.
Those conditions addressed lowering the speed limit, adding unique signage labeling it a bicycle thoroughfare, and requiring a future evaluation of the project with more public comment. They also touched on tees, lighting, and ADA accessibility, and yes, parking.
The commission will take up the issue again in 30 days.