Members from Toole Design Group met with the public Tuesday night to go over their plan and answer questions. The meeting was really an overview of the project they’d been working on for the past year. Their first priority was to locate the most utilized streets and break the city up into corridors that needed to be connected. Public involvement was utilized with a Wikimap that allowed citizens to highlight certain streets and comment on the needs of specific intersections, as well as several meetings across the city. After they were able to highlight the more integral streets, they collected field data, ranging from physically riding the streets to taking measurements of intersections. They highlighted problem areas and focused on finding solutions to connect the majority of the city. In the end, Toole Design Group presented the city with a recreational loop that takes riders from downtown Norfolk to Oceanview and back, and spans a good portion of the city.
The loop is really just a starting point. It’s a tangible goal that can be achieved soon and used as a catalyst to make improvements to other roads throughout the city. As a measure of good faith, the city recently launched a pilot project. At a cost of $1 million, the project will create a cyclist friendly loop taking riders from Llewellyn to Olney to Colley to 35th and back to Llewellyn. The project will also serve as an extensive of the Elizabeth River Trail. It’s a small measure, but it is a step in the right direction. More importantly, it’s proof that the city is taking cycling seriously.
That timing couldn’t come soon enough. Polls conducted for the plan show that the need for safe passageways is more than needed. 48% of those polled said they rode a bike for ten minutes or more several times a week, and 58% said they walked ten minutes or more on a daily basis. As more and more Millennials make Norfolk home, those numbers will only increase.
The thing is, road improvement doesn’t come cheap. There’s a large network of sponsors working with the city on this project. There’s also grant money available if the city can prove we need it. In the end, though, it’s gonna fall on the citizens to continue to push the city. If you ride a bike and want more than a thin white line separating you from cars, speak up. If you think sharrows fall short of keeping you safe, tell the City Council. Susan Pollock is the main City liaison on this project. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org for info on an online comment card available for public input. The finalized plan goes to the Planning Commission November 12. It’s a public hearing, so show up and make your voice heard. After the plan is finalized, it will go before City Council in December. That meeting will also be open to the public.
As the urban core of Hampton Roads, the city is in a unique situation to inherit the majority of Millennial transplants that move to this area. The facts are plain to see. City officials know this, or else they wouldn’t be sponsoring projects like Better Block. They wouldn’t be supporting the NEON district if they didn’t believe in this change. They wouldn’t be putting up $140,000 for the Toole Design Group report if they didn’t see the need.