Richmond has a rich international cycling history, having hosted the Tour of America, the Tour de Trump, the Tour DuPont and the CapTech Classic. Some of cycling’s biggest stars have competed in Richmond, including Greg LeMond (USA), Laurent Fignon (FRA) and Gianni Bugno (ITA).
And next year, Richmond will be the first American host of the UCI World Road Championships since 1986.
With 450,000 on-site spectators and 300 million TV viewers expected over the nine days of racing, Richmond 2015 will be a fantastic platform for the promotion of cycling. So how can competitive cycling help promote the use of bikes for education, recreation and transport? Richmond 2015 is showing the way by building a legacy that will benefit everybody who cycles.
Next year’s event is positively influencing many bike initiatives throughout the Richmond area. A number of bicycle friendly infrastructures will be completed before the event in September 2015, which will bring lasting benefits for people who cycle in Richmond every day.
There are two main goals:
- promote cycling as a recreational activity
- promote cycling as a form of transport.
In fact, the two go hand in hand. It is all about connectivity. Bike lanes will be built in and around the downtown area. “The City Council’s decision to boost the city’s budget for bike infrastructure by $1.5 million means work in other parts of the city also will begin soon,” explained Jakob Helmboldt, the city’s bicycle-pedestrian coordinator. “The lanes will replace markings that encourage drivers to share the road with cyclists,” he said.
The view of local residents is taken into account at meetings between the city’s administration and its inhabitants. . “The overarching theme we’re hearing is a desire for safe places to walk and ride,” says Heather Barrar, project manager in the Chesterfield Planning Department. “The second thing, people want destinations. They want to be able to go somewhere on a bicycle or walking. We’re moving away from driving to a park and walking in a loop. They’d like to walk to a restaurant. It’s a little more utilitarian.”
The city plans to release a bicycle master plan by the end of the summer. The plan will propose a route network so that cyclists and walkers can travel safely throughout the city.
Richmond is also becoming a more friendly community for recreational and racing cyclists. In July 2013, Richmond 2015 was part of an announcement unveiling plans to create a Richmond Region International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) Ride Centre. The centre will focus on mountain biking trails at Pocahontas State Park and Richmond’s James River Park System. The Richmond Region will become the 12th nationwide site of an IMBA Ride Centre.
At the unveiling, Wilson H. Flohr, Jr., CEO of Richmond 2015 said: “More than one of the world’s preeminent cycling events, Richmond 2015 has always been about leveraging the World Championships as a catalyst for transformational change throughout our region. In this case, Richmond 2015 provided a spark for this outstanding regional project. The Richmond Region IMBA Ride Centre will be yet another emerging asset in our community for people, of all ages and abilities, to enjoy bicycling.”
According to a study carried out by Mangum Economic Consulting, Inc. the Ride Centre will annually increase economic activity in Chesterfield County by $2.7 million and by $4.5 million in Virginia. It will also generate 31 new jobs in Chesterfield and 51 in the state.
Road racers are not forgotten in Richmond. Every Tuesday from late May through early September, races are organised in the city’s Bryan Park by the Altius Cycling Team, a club affiliated to USA Cycling. Racing is open to riders in two categories:
- An Open race in which everyone can take part and which aims to attract new riders
- A higher level race for people with a USA Cycling license.
The club also organises the Richmond Festival of Cross, a two-day cyclo-cross event. Explanations can be found onthe club’s Facebook page.
It is clear that Richmond is earning a reputation as a cycling destination. Sceptics will be convinced after reading this article in the Los Angeles Times.
On the Richmond 2015 website, a blog shares inspiring stories about cycling in Richmond and explains the sport to the readers. In one of the posts, local cyclist Emily Kimball summarises perfectly what the UCI Road World Championships will bring to the Richmond cycling community: “It gives me great hope that because it is coming here we will move ahead swiftly to make our region more bicycle friendly. We certainly haven’t been in the past. It is exciting to see all the activity that 2015 coming has encouraged… things like the Floyd Ave bikeway, the pedestrian/biking bridge across the James, finally the finishing of the Cap-to-Cap trail, the new arrows on roads and the designation of bike routes around Richmond. It is really amazing to me, who worked so hard for bike facilities and safe trails during my professional life with so few results, to witness all that is happening now. The 2015 happening has heightened the visibility of bike riding in the area and given it more importance than ever before.”