New ordinance could halt Brook Road bike lanes project

RICHMOND, Va. -- Currently there's a back and forth on the future of bike lanes on Brook Road in Richmond. Those lanes are currently being used by drivers, but the plan is for drivers to eventually share the road with cyclists.

Robert Brown, who has lived near Brook Road all of his life, said Chamberlayne and Brook Road are very dangerous for bike riders.

"We've had a few people who have almost gotten hit," Brown warned.

Reporter Stephany Holguin and Robert Brown.

Reporter Stephany Holguin and Robert Brown.

To help with those concerns, the city proposed a 3.5 mile "protected bike lane" in 2016 for Brook Road from Azalea Avenue to Charity Street. [BONUS: Click here to read the city's reponse to concerns.]

The project, which has the funding in place, would be accomplished through a so-called "Road Diet." That would mean removing one lane in each direction by still keeping critical turn lanes.

Richmond City Council,'s Kim Gray

Richmond City Councilwoman Kim Gray

Even though the plan was previously approved by Richmond City Council, current council members Kim Gray and Chris Hilbert have proposed an ordinance that would halt the project.

"I am all for bike infrastructure, but it has to be intelligently designed," Gray said.

Some of the points that worry Gray is how emergency response could be affected by the new traffic pattern.

"And if you think about it, you got one lane of traffic -- where are those fire engines going to go when they are trying to get down to Brook Road if there's a back up?" Gray pondered. "Or if there's an accident, someone rear-ends someone and if you think about it, how do you get the medical attention, the firefighters, the police to that incident when there's only one lane?"

Sports Backers supports the plan to add a bike lane to Brook Road. It says engineers have looked at Gray's concerns and found emergency responders would not be impacted. The group believes the project will help anyone who uses a bike as a primary method of transportation.

"When we think of biking or cycling in the city, we think of people in spandex and kind of the people who are riding for recreation," Sports Backers Program Coordinator David Ramirez said. "But there's loads of people who can't afford a car, who don't want to ride a car, who can't drive a car, who need their bike for transportation."

Richmond City Council is expected to have an ordinance meeting on this plan on January 28 at City Hall.

BONUS: Click here to read more about the city's bike lanes initiative

What do you think? Should the Brook Road bike lanes project go forward? Weigh in on the WTVR CBS 6 Facebook page.

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