Take time this weekend to experience what I consider to be one of the best new things in Norfolk during an “open house” for some fresh bicycle infrastructure.
Bike lanes have arrived in Norfolk in a real way, and you’re invited to explore them this Saturday, October 22. The “loop” you’ll ride is truly a gift to all of us sharing the road, and has completely transformed my commute from Wards Corner to Downtown. Riding my bike now feels less stressful, since I have a defined and protected area away from cars. I also feel more at ease driving to work, knowing that the roadway is perfectly balanced between bicycles and vehicular traffic.
A trip to Amsterdam this summer – including a day devoted to biking around the city – had me feeling excited about the prospect of Norfolk becoming a better place for cyclists. Coming home to see these beautiful new lanes helped affirm my faith in Norfolk’s vision for bicycling, and it’s a bucket of cold water on the argument that we can’t have nice things compared to bigger or “cooler” cities. We don’t have canals yet – at least not on purpose – but any Amsterdamer would feel right at home on our new bike lanes.
These lanes form a loop that connects Downtown to Park Place, with long stretches on Llewellyn and Colley Avenue. The City will have experienced riders stationed at several pit stops and giving tours, but the event is for riders of all levels. You’ll be welcomed whether you’re brand new to cycling, haven’t been on a bike since you were in short pants, or are a regular century rider.
If you’ve been wanting to ride, but didn’t love the idea of competing with drivers for space on the road, the new lanes are generously sized and visibly marked. Notably, historical data from other cities show that both cyclists and drivers felt safer and had fewer accidents after protected lanes were introduced.
Riding the loop will give you a taste for Norfolk’s commitment to urban mobility and more diverse transit options. It’s also a preview of coming attractions. Norfolk began working over a year ago with Toole Design Group to recommend ways to build better bike infrastructure. Toole led a series of information and planning sessions with the public and key stakeholders across the City that resulted in a detailed plan – including cost and construction requirements –to transform Norfolk into a bicycling paradise. The loop you’ll ride this weekend is the first route to be completed, a taste of what it will feel like to have Norfolk’s key destinations and neighborhoods connected and accessible by bicycle.
On my first visit to Chicago I was told that the phrase “in the loop” originated there, after construction of an elevated railway loop that now defines some of the city’s most desirable property. Whether or not the Chicago story is true, there’s no denying that better mobility options make for better city living. Norfolk just acquired a small piece of the dream with these best-in-class bike lanes, our very own Loop. Beyond the cultural value and greater inclusion, there’s good data out there that investment in better urban mobility has real economic and business benefits. Start with CityLab’s recent roundup of data from 12 studies, showing the positive economic impact from converting street parking to bike lanes. Even when cyclists bought less per trip, they made more trips than motorists and spent more overall.
For now, leave the math to the economists, hop on your bike, and ride Norfolk’s new bike lanes this weekend. There’s no better way to be “in the loop” when it comes to a bicycle-friendly vision for this city.
For the City’s webpage dedicated to the bike loop, click here.
Full disclosure: I’m currently serving on Norfolk’s Bicycle & Pedestrian Trails Commission. Meetings are held the first Thursday of every month at 4 p.m. and are open to the public, so please consider attending and adding your voice if you’re passionate about urban mobility in Norfolk!