Assessing a bike commute: Boulevard at least scenic


The view heading north on the Boulevard BridgeI went to the recent Bike, Pedestrian and Trails workgroup organized by the City of Richmond at The Carillon in Byrd Park. It was very informative and the crowd of nearly 200 showed that Richmonders definitely want improvements to planning city streets for pedestrians and cyclists and not just for vehicles and public transit.

It got me to thinking about my own daily work commute between my home in Lakeside and South Richmond at the NBC12 studios on Midlothian Turnpike. I often take a route that is 10.5 miles from Lakeside Avenue by way of Powhite Parkway, Chippenham Parkway to Midlothian Turnpike. Other than the one fantastic highlight as I pass over the Powhite Parkway Bridge and get to see the James River, the commute is not appealing.

A second, more scenic and direct route for me is an 8.2-mile commute from Lakeside to Midlothian Turnpike by way of Lakeside Avenue/Hermitage Road/The Boulevard/Westover Hills Boulevard and Midlothian Turnpike.  Really, one right turn from my street and all those named streets are the same road until I reach Midlothian Turnpike.

That commute would follow the proposed North/South major route outlined by the commission. It is a shorter route and much more scenic.  I would pass Joseph Bryan Park, the huge homes on Hermitage Road, Gen. A.P. Hill statue at Laburnum, Gen. Stonewall Jackson at Monument Avenue, the crape myrtle and museum lined Boulevard and The Fan and Museum Districts, Columbus statue at Byrd Park, The Carillon, Maymont, the Boulevard Bridge and the James River, and Westover Hills along the way.

Of course, there is The Diamond and the Greyhound bus station and Midlothian Turnpike along the way to bring me down, but it can’t all be perfect. And The Boulevard is actually No. 10 on the list of the streets with most vehicle vs. cyclist accidents in Richmond.

I’ve done this commute by bike just once, and it could work if I had the time. It would take about an hour, plus the time to cool down and shower. It takes about 20 minutes by car if there is no traffic, but it costs me between $0.70 and $0.35 in tolls one way.

My workplace grades fair (especially for a TV station) on the recommendations to promote alternative transportation modes for commuters:

  • Bike rack – NO (I’d make due)
  • Shower – YES

Key issue: I’m a father of two and my family takes priority over exercise and going green. I need to drop off and/or pick up my kids daily.  But on special occasions, this would be a great way to combine a workout with a commute and save fuel. We will have to stick to the 2-mile commute to Sweet 95 for ice cream and 3-mile commute to the Lewis Ginter Recreation Association pool for now.

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7 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Jake on September 22, 2010 at 9:27 pm

    An hour each way is a fair amount of time for a commute if you can do the same thing in 20 minutes, but I wonder if you put the time thing in broader perspective it wouldn’t seem like you were taking time away from your family. Factor in the stress increase of driving and the stress decrease of biking (assuming a decent route), the extra time you spend getting gas, getting the oil changed, taking the car to the garage, washing it etc. the more you drive….

    Another way to think about it is that we really should have a good, regular bus or BRT line such that you could maybe mike 5 or 10 minutes on each end. I know we’re nowhere near that now, but it’s something to push for. Biking and walking will ideally be integrated into a bigger system of non-car transportation options.

    Reply

  2. Part of having a civilized and cycleable commute is making this a priority in your job or housing search. Perhaps you should see if ch6 is hiring 🙂

    Reply

  3. I have thought about a commute to work also — but it’s 20+ miles, and there is no safe route to bike.

    As an alternative, Hermitage behind the Diamond is not quite as hectic as the I95/Diamond/Greyhound part of Boulevard. Also — I have ridden the sidewalks on Boulevard along that part of the route — just because of the traffic.

    Reply

  4. A bike rack only costs a few hundred! They should shell out!

    Reply

    • TV stations don’t have many people that would be best served by biking — sweat + TV don’t mix well. 🙂

      Reply

      • Fair enough, and I would guess you don’t have that many visitors who would arrive on bike either. Hopefully they wouldn’t mind if you rolled your bike into your office or cubicle.

        I’m hoping the city starts a bike route program similar to the adopt-a-tree program, where business owners could have the city install a bike rack at a reduced cost.

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