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March 05, 2010

Trail report prompts Councilor Szakos to call for study of bike registration fee

Reader comments (1) By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, March 3, 2010

After hearing a status report from city staff on efforts to create new bike lanes and trails, City Councilor Kristin Szakos has directed a city bike and pedestrian committee to explore the possibility of requiring cyclists to register their vehicle.

“You pay $5 for a little tag that you put on the back of your bike and it funds bike [projects],” Szakos said. She argued money raised by the fee could go towards building priority projects the city wants but cannot currently fund.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20100301-CC-Bike-Pedestrian-Report

Her comments came after Jim Tolbert, the city’s director of Neighborhood Development Services, gave a progress report on efforts to build new sidewalks and bikeways in Charlottesville.

Download Download maps of Charlottesville's bike trails and sidewalks

A committee created in 2008 to address pedestrian safety issues will be made permanent, and Tolbert said cyclists would be invited to join.

City-sidewalks Click to enlarge
In 1997, the City adopted a list of 99 priority locations for new sidewalks. Since then, crews have been able to build a third of that goal according to Tolbert. The public works department currently spends about $200,000 a year on sidewalk construction, but that will increase to $300,000 in FY2011 if the city manager’s proposed budget is adopted. 

Tolbert said the list is in the process of being updated, with staff suggesting 30 more locations. 

Neighborhood associations will be asked to review the list this spring, with approval of a new priority list by both the planning commission and Council.

Eleven audible pedestrian signals were installed at 11 locations throughout the city, and Tolbert said several more would be installed in the coming year. LED crosswalks were also installed in several locations.

“I think these have done a lot to increase the safety of pedestrians,” Tolbert said. He also reported that none of them were destroyed by snow plows during recent storms.

Tolbert also reported that the City has run out of roads where there is enough room to easily bike lanes just by drawing a line. Parking will have to be reduced in locations in order to build more lanes within city limits.

“What we’ve realized is our greatest opportunities for bicycles are off-road because of our narrow streets,” Tolbert said.

Trail planner Chris Gensic has been acquiring easements to build more bike trails. Tolbert said this work will become to come into fruition this year with several projects scheduled to be completed.

“We’re on the verge of really building some off-street trails and getting some things implemented that Chris has been working on for a couple of years,” Tolbert said.

Special signals have also been installed in several places along West Main and Emmet Streets that allow bikes to tell the traffic lights that they are present.

Councilor David Brown asked Tolbert to make sure the bike actuation signals were installed in places they would truly make a difference.

“The busy streets aren’t the problem,” Brown said. “Cars are going to come along anyway and activate the signal.”

City-bike-lanes

Brown also called for one aspect of the Old Lynchburg Road project to be accelerated. Part of that plan involves north-bound bike traffic through Azalea Park in order to take them off a curving and hill road. The city is also looking into the possibility of having full color bike lanes to better distinguish areas where bicycles have the right of way.  Staff will also explore a potential ordinance which would make helmets mandatory for bike riders under the age of 14.

In addition to her proposal regarding the bike fee, which was not pursued by Council, Szakos called herself a “militant pedestrian” and said she wanted to make sure crosswalks have better lighting. Szakos also said public meetings should be held in locations without active neighborhood associations to find out what residents of those areas think.

Councilor Satyendra Huja said gaps in the network should be filled in as soon as possible.
“It would be nice to have a connected network of bike lanes so that you can go to point A to point B,” Huja said.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 01:00 - Staff report from Jim Tolbert, director of NDS
  • 12:00 - Response from Councilor Szakos regarding lighting at sidewalks
  • 16:00 - Councilor Brown asks if recommendations from the Alliance of Community Choice in Transportation were considered
  • 18:00 - Councilor Huja calls for network of 
  • 20:15 - Szakos asks for study of a bike registration fee
  • 21:20 - Mayor Dave Norris asks for status update on legislation that could encourage railroads to give more right of way along their tracks

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