RICHMOND, VA – The Richmond Memorial Health Foundation has awarded the Sports Backers $300,000 over three years ($100,000/year) to fund its Bike Walk RVA program. With the grant money from the Richmond Memorial Health Foundation, the Sports Backers will hire a Bike Walk RVA Director to lead the effort to make greater Richmond more bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly. Funding will also support the development of a regional bike summit and open streets event each year.
Bike Walk RVA is a significant component of the Sports Backers’ new five-year strategic plan focused on building a more active community. The goal of Bike Walk RVA is to establish a culture of active living that ultimately improves the health of Richmond region residents by increasing their physical activity levels through biking and walking.
“The Richmond Memorial Health Foundation is happy to support Bike Walk RVA because we view it as a clear path to help achieve our goal of creating healthier communities,” said Jeffrey S. Cribbs, Sr., President and Chief Executive Officer of Richmond Memorial Health Foundation. “We believe improvements in bike and pedestrian infrastructure are integral in elevating the health of the Richmond region, and hiring a Bike Walk RVA Director to lead the charge is the first step in the process.”
The Bike Walk RVA Director will develop and maintain relationships with key local government officials, bike organizations, transportation officials and others interested in building improved bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. Other key roles of the Director will be to advocate and mobilize support to encourage the construction of more paved multi-use trails, sidewalks and bike lanes, as well as work to improve and expand the off-road trail systems. The Director will also coordinate support for annual programs, such as open streets events, that encourage biking and walking. By temporarily closing off streets to automobile traffic, open streets events are a rapidly growing way to promote and encourage active and healthy lifestyles as well as build support for non-motorized modes of transportation.
“With this generous gift from the Richmond Memorial Health Foundation, we will be able to start moving on Bike Walk RVA, a key element of our strategic plan,” said Jon Lugbill, Executive Director of Sports Backers. “The new Bike Walk RVA program will improve the bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure in our region, which will make physical activity an integral and routine part of life throughout our community. Studies have shown that improvements to bike infrastructure can dramatically increase the number of people who exercise regularly.”
A critical component of Bike Walk RVA will be to increase and enhance access to places for physical activity in low-income neighborhoods where the most vulnerable populations lack these opportunities and suffer disproportionally from poor health. Working closely with local governments, an emphasis will be placed on paved trails and bike lanes that are safe and accessible to the underserved in our community. The Sports Backers will also work with local school districts to apply for Safe Routes to School funding to make improvements to infrastructure in and around schools to make it safer for children to ride their bikes or walk to school.
For more information on Bike Walk RVA, visit www.sportsbackers.org.
About Richmond Memorial Health Foundation
Richmond Memorial Health Foundation is a private foundation that envisions a healthier future for the communities we serve. As the foundation for better healthsm, we invest financial, intellectual and social capital through responsive grants, Foundation initiatives, program-related investments and community investment strategies. The Foundation partners with nonprofit organizations, foundations, government, business, academic institutions and others to create a healthier community. www.rhmfoundation.org.
About Sports Backers
Sports Backers own, manage or partner with 40 different sporting events in the Richmond region that help drive over $50 million in economic impact. These events and programs strengthen the local economy, provide health benefits to participants and make the region a better place to live. www.sportsbackers.org.