We Do Exist: Biking on Brook Road
Brook Road can be challenging and problematic for Northside residents, with its wide lanes, excessive speeding, and faint crosswalks. Traffic data shows that 65 percent of drivers go over 40 miles per hour on the 35 mph street. This makes it extremely dangerous for anyone who isn’t in a car and able to move at the increased speed of traffic to be in or around the street. Despite the difficulties of navigating Brook Road while biking or walking, we still know Brook Road to be a crucial connection for those who rely on riding a bike for transportation.
The residents who brave these conditions on bike and on foot demonstrate why we need safer bike and pedestrian infrastructure in Northside. They illustrate the potential for others who are interested in riding, but concerned about safety, to follow suit given some safer riding conditions. The Brook Road/Chamberlayne corridor is home to many of Richmond’s residents who are unable to afford a car. The approved road improvements on Brook Road would provide upgrades to a vital connection already used by residents, as well as help to dismantle barriers to transportation and mobility that some of our underserved communities encounter.
Community voices should be valued as an essential part of the process when determining infrastructure needs. So, we decided to spend some time on Brook Road, site of a proposed (and funded) bike lane, making connections with people who were there, to listen to as many voices as possible, and discuss why they ride, as well as figure out how a bike lane on Brook Road would affect their everyday lives.
“Brook Road is a vital street for those of us in Northside who need to get around without a car. The bus system only goes so far, and is only so helpful,” Bubba D’s bike takes him to work, to the grocery store, to the doctor, and to family, on Brook Road every single day, stating “For me, a license, let alone a car isn’t an option.” He mentions that most of his friends are in the same boat, with their bikes representing a large part of their agency as an individual, granting them mobility despite potential limitations or delays that come when you must rely on public transit. “The ability for me to get up and go somewhere when I need to, even though I can’t afford a car, means so much to me. Please help me protect that.”
“I take my bike from my apartment down in Chesterfield to my nearest GRTC stop. From there, I bus into Northside. I’m on Brook almost every day on my bike, and I promise you, it’s scary. I started riding in the street, but realized very quickly that cars saw me as a threat to THEIR safety… somehow. I can’t tell you how many times I have been pushed into the parking lane or the median. Then, I figured the sidewalk was where I should go. Even there, it’s not safe. I would love a bike lane in order to have a protected place…to get up and down Brook, and into the rest of the city.”
Courtney, Piper, & Pru:
Courtney and her two daughters, Piper and Pru live right off of Brook Road. They were preparing for their morning bike ride to school, which happens “as many days as they can get it together,” Courtney said, adding, “even though it really isn’t safe at all for us out there.” While they love these rides, she does feel concern for the safety of her and her daughters while riding on or near Brook Road. “A bike lane on Brook Road would send the message that our community is meant for the people who live, work, and play here, not the cars or trucks using Brook Road as a gateway to go elsewhere,”
John a.k.a. “Bike Man”:
John uses his bike for everything, to go everywhere, and summarizes his approach with one quote: “I’ll ride anywhere there is pavement.” While he uses our local bus system quite frequently, John relies on his bike for the trips to and from bus stops. John is frequently riding up and down Brook Road for transportation. “I use Brook Road every day to get where I’m going, but it’s terrifying. Like I said, I’ll ride anywhere there is pavement. But, a bike lane would make that ride something much different,” John said. “I could stop worrying about the cars flying past, and the fear, and take in how beautiful our city is. It seems to me, anyone that is bound up about a bike lane on Brook Road, should take a ride to burn off some stress. There are too many people in this city, just like me, who rely on a bike for everything. We need this.”
If you’d be interested in sharing your story about why and where you bike in RVA, you can contact [email protected]. For more information about the Brook Road Bike Lanes project and how you can help make Richmond safer for biking and walking, check out our information sheet here.