EDITOR’S NOTE: This semester WTVR.com has partnered with VCU’s School of Mass Communications “iPadJournos” mobile and social media journalism project. Those VCU students reported the following story.
By Annie Cocke and Katelyn Tatti (Special to WTVR.com)
RICHMOND, Va. – An empty plot of land on Belle Isle’s east end will soon become home to a bike skills course that all bikers in Richmond can enjoy.
Proposed by Mayor Dwight Jones’ Pedestrian, Bicycling and Trails Planning Commission, this new bike course is designed to not only be recreational, but also for instructional purposes for new riders.
The mayor’s commission is part of the city’s recent push towards increasing green initiatives. Jones created the commission in light of winning the bid for the World Cycling Championships in 2015.
Robby Osborne, a biker and employee of VCU’s Outdoor Adventure Program, believes that the new course will be beneficial to the entire Richmond community
“Not only will this course attract people to the sport of cycling, but it will promote a healthy lifestyle and environmentally friendly transportation,” said Osborne.
With a price tag of $100,000, volunteer groups like The Friends of James River Park, James River Outdoor Coalition, International Mountain Bicycling Association, James River Park and The City of Richmond Trails Division are working together to make the course accessible from many areas of the city.
“Considerable funding is coming from local non-profits. Sand, clay, and rock are being repurposed from other projects,” said the city’s Pedestrian, Bicycle, and Trails Coordinator Jakob Helmboldt.
Craig Dodson, founder and director of Richmond Cycling Corps, is also working with the mayor’s commission to promote cycling as “a platform to promote youth outreach.” Dodson’s vision of introducing cycling to underprivileged youth coincides with the overall goals that the city has in mind for the course.
Currently, Belle Isle and other Richmond parks are home to more than 18 miles of trails. These trails serve as a recreational attraction for tourists and residents alike.
“The skills course should be a good place to train with a little bit of a safety net and to create an environment of learning and fun without the immediate pressure of highly skilled trails,” said biker Phil Riggan.
The bike skills course will add a rugged element to the serene and calming feeling of Belle Isle itself, something that will draw both athletes and casual bikers to the park.
“I love the challenge and being able to combine exercise and being connected with nature. Biking is a great way to stay fit and get from place to place, but on the trails, there is the extra element of developing the skills and endurance to hit the trails,” said Riggan.
The course will include obstacles for both new and skilled riders, similar to a BMX course. Right now, the area for the proposed bike course is used to facilitate storage of maintenance materials for the project. Dodson said there is no exact timetable for the completion of the course, but he said that construction could start in the spring or summer.
This story was reported by the “iPadJournos” mobile and social media journalism project, a cooperation between WTVR.com and VCU’s School of Mass Communications.