Wanna ride bikes? Long road for Northtown Trail

onarch-northtrailWhat a cool trail! But will it ever get built?
FROM TJPDC

Sometime in the future the Downtown Mall and far-away places like the Hollymead Town Center, Forest Lakes, and the Charlottesville Albemarle Airport could be connected not by an often congested roadway, but by a 14.1 mile bicycle trail that would run parallel to Route 29. That's the lofty goal of the Northtown Trail, the final plan for which was completed by the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission and recently endorsed by the Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization.

But don't start oiling the chain on that old bike just yet. The trail is to be built in stages, as big roadways projects like the Meadowcreek Parkway and McIntire Road Extended get completed, and it also depends on finding a way to cross the South Fork of the Rivanna River, either by the construction of a bridge as part of the Berkmar Drive extension project, retro-fitting the Route 29 bridge, or a bridge where the Norfolk/Southern railroad currently crosses the Rivanna.

Closer to Downtown, to complete the route, a bridge that connects the eastern and western sides of McIntire Park will also have to built, a project that could cost as much as $400,000, according to city parks and rec officials, but that could be eligible for a VDOT transportation enhancement grant.

Obviously, it could take years before any of this gets done. But folks with people-powered transportation can dream, can't they?

To check out the final plans for the Northtown Trail, click here (careful, it's a big PDF). You can also send comments about the plan to Sarah Eissler at the TJPDC via email at seissler@tjpdc.org or by phone at (434) 979-7310 ext. 360.

38 comments

Well, Anthony, what I meant is quite valid in that both things would represent disproportionate expenditures in service of the interests of a narrow constituency. While many projects kited by some may be virtuous enough taken in isolation from their return on investment, the fact remains the public treasury is not up on the big rock candy mountain and every keeno idea can't be funded. All I'm saying is bike trails like that cost too much in the same way that light rail in rural areas does. That is it costs far more than it benefits, very unlike public schools in which everyone has an interest, not just parents. After all having each generation literate, etc. is a clear public good. Gnomemean?

Why stop the trail at the University Research Park? Why not run it another half mile to the north to an area that employs thousands of people? This would allow lots of them to bike commute to work and relieve traffic on 29.

So, Dawg, you just verified what I said about the feeling of moral condescension being a warm fuzzy to greenies. You probably couldn't believe it, but politically I'm pretty much a liberal, but I take issue with the whole idea of getting a big endorphin rush out of going through the motions of "doing good", such as holding a "walk for hunger" and other such fatuities that many liberals are fond of.

The whole darn country is totally broke and yet folks still talk seriously about window-dressing public projects. You say it's not about the bottom line, but it sure should be when it comes to asking the taxpayers to underwrite projects of this sort.
While we're on the subject of squandering public funds, how about the Carver Rec. renovation multi-million boondoggle?

I live in the burbs and would absolutely love a safe way to ride a bike downtown or to other shopping areas. I hate having to use my car for everything (before you say, "well, why do you live in the burbs, then?" note that we would not have moved from downtown but for a complicated situation involving divorce and children--long story. We are moving back downtown as soon as the kids are out of high school.)

I don't like the continued tax support of the wasteful, polluting auto infrastructure. I don't like my taxes going to war in the middle east. But we all have to pay for things we don't like. In the scheme of things, a nature/walking/biking trail offers a lot of bang for the buck. It's not all about the bottom line, and cost-benefit analysis must include intangibles like quality of life. Not everything can or should be described in terms of dollars.

I take issue with angel eyes' comment about the "smug glow of moral condescension so important to the inner workings of greenies." I really don't know where she gets that idea. It feels GOOD to do something for the environment, and I'm sorry if she interprets that as "smug condescension."

Perhaps a better term for the proposed "trail" would be "Nature Trail." This would accommodate bicyclists, joggers, walkers and others. If that trail parallels the Meadow Creek Parkway, it would not be that expensive to build. Nor does it require the registration and taxing of bikes, or legs.......nor would it need any trail-side advertising (Please!).

This would be a great addition to our community. As a Forest Lakes resident, I would love to be able to bike safely into the City of Charlottesville.

If we could just get paved shoulders on 29 from Polo Grounds/Rio Mills north to the county line, the _need_ for a bike trail system would be significantly reduced.

And taxes/stickers for bikes? Really? Sure, why not? Base it on the value of the vehicle, and the state vehicle tax relief program will basically make it cost more to administer than any revenue generated. C'mon people, roads and traffic infrastructure are no where near paid for by license fees or personal property taxes. I don't know how roads are paid for, but as far as I can tell, it has nothing to do with how or how much you use them.

This bike path could only be used what? Six or seven months out of the year? To darn cold to be pedalin' along right now. Furthermore, the topography of this area; are you kiddin' me? Only the most monster bike riders can attack some of hills that this trail will have. But hey! Have like a mini Tour de France kind of event, invite bike riders from our world wide "sister cities" bring in some tourist dollars..... JTOL.

Angel Eyes, I'm not sure what "Gnomemean" stands for exactly, but let's just say the cost-benefit ratio for a bike trail (done right, and connecting activity centers/neighborhoods) would look an awful lot better than a light rail line to Scottsville, which is why I don't care for the comparison. As in, many more people would stand to benefit at a MUCH lower cost (both economically and environmentally). Personally, I don't feel that the constituency is that narrow, especially for a heavily developed area that, as of right now, is basically entirely automobile-dependent. But I suppose we may disagree on that issue...

Bikers should not have to pay to use a trail, it's ridiculous. Everyone that rides a bike is not taking up space on the highway, is not polluting the air, and is keeping healthy. It's win-win-win. The governments should encourage biking, not discourage it.

On the other hand, I'm not sure that bikes and cars are a good mix.

I would absolutely bike to the airport to catch a flight. I've often thought about doing this on the already existing infrastructure. I like the trail idea.

Antony,

There are 28 Federal funds that can be applied to for local roads, and the Belmont Bridge rebuild itself will be utilizing such grants. The State most certainly pays for a good number of our local roads, including the Meadowcreek Parkway idiocy. If the localities of places like Albermarle actually had to pay for their roads, they would still be driving almost entirely on dirt, they are so unwilling to pay taxes.

The point is, and I think we actually do agree on this, is that bikers use the road, they should have to contribute something towards it directly like auto drivers. I have no problems doing this on a graduated level. In fact I would be much in favor, zinging the SUV drivers with a large truck tax, instead of a personal use type of tax. Bikes would pay a much smaller tax.

But, if you - and I can agree - think special pathways should be made to ride them - I think that only increases the rational that yes, they should pay a small fee annually, like everyone else who operates vehicles.

No one should ever spend money on something I don't personally use frequently.

Biking is clearly a net good for society; better health, less traffic, less stress, and less of an environmental impact. Public policies should promote the public good, so this project seems like precisely what our local government should be promoting with our hard earned cash.

@boooo
I'll buy your ticket if you dont come back

Anthony,

"But to all of you talking about paying ââ?¬Å?road use taxes” - you do realize that bikers do pay these through income and property taxes (the main source of funding for local roads), right?"

I do, of course, realize that bikers pay income and property taxes, but so do car owners. However, car owners pay all sorts of additional taxes that go to pay for all the roads. Do you think Federal dollars from the Gas Taxes don't build local roads? Of course they do, as do state funds as well, taken from things like car registration.

I don't believe that charging a nominal fee to register bikes and take a test given by the DMV online to make sure bikers are aware of the rules of the road is at all unrealistic, or unfair. So what if it's open book. The point is they have to read it to type it in.

My biggest concern is that for all these wonderful ideas of bike lanes - which I might well use - will rarely be used by the people who like to say they are green, or cry for more convenience. I refer to a previous post where I talked about a car I see parked on Locust before the 250 interchange frequently being parked over in the Belmont business section on a routine basis. Parking is very limited there, and it is within easy walking distance, yet this individual insists on driving. They could have a health problem, or a condition, and I can give the benefit of the doubt, but this is not uncommon for our community.

Angel Eyes, comparing a bike trail to a light rail line is a bit excessive, don't you think?

While we're at it and spending increasingly scarce public funds on a network of dedicated bike trails, maybe we could get an ISTEA grant for a few billion to build that light rail line out to Scottsville and its 3 daily riders could feel that smug glow of moral condescension so important to the inner workings of greenies.

The East Bay Bike Path in Rhode Island seems more appealing. I've always wanted to try it out. It goes for 14.5 miles, from Providence to Bristol, and runs along Narragansett Bay in parts. http://www.riparks.com/eastbay.htm Very cool. (you can also walk, jog and roller blade along it if you want.) Now that's a trail worth biking on. Much more interesting views. IMO

The East Bay path is part of the larger East Coast Greenway project: http://www.greenway.org/ri.aspx In case any diehard bicyclists are interested.

In the past I have been anti-biker - I have softened my view. I feel bikers having to pay road use taxes like autos is a bit of a stretch. Bikes don't weigh a couple of tons and create wear and tear on the roadways like autos.

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"Health care costs for the sedentary certainly is a monster compared to a bike trail."

Yes, there are auto drivers/owners who are overweight, unhealthy, etc. but there are also plenty of them that jog, walk, swim, go to the gym, play tennis, racketball and on and on. Sorry, but your statement comes across (to me anyway) as being a bit elitelist in that bikers are the only health minded people out there. But, assuming you are a biker, I can see where you could feel "under attack" by many of the posters here.

I agree that a nice bike "path" could be an "attraction" for tourists just like hiking trails and parks and so forth. It could also be an attraction to businesses looking to move into the area which would bring jobs.

Perhaps the biker community could find some philantropic individuals that would "help offset" some of the costs. Biker groups could have fundraising activities and donate the proceeds and then have sections of the path named in their honor. Sell advertising space (done in a tasteful manner) along the route to help defray the costs.

Share the road,

Riding three abreast on the road is not sharing it. It's hogging it and blocking. Farm vehicles are required to pull over every 4 miles to allow traffic to pass. Bikers are supposed to ride single file/tandem to allows vehicles to pass.

I really try and give bikers plenty of birth passing them, but I won't tolerate them being numb nuts either.

Bikers also don't have to register their bikes, or pay road use taxes like automobiles do, and should.

Old Timer, I tend to agree with most of the comments you post on this blog, and I agree that bikers should not "hog" the road in the same way that cars should not drive in a way that makes biking unsafe on shared roadways. But to all of you talking about paying "road use taxes" - you do realize that bikers do pay these through income and property taxes (the main source of funding for local roads), right? The gas tax mainly supports large highways such as interstates. In terms of other fees such as registration, let's not forget that automobiles impose much more wear and tear - as well as external costs - on roadway infrastructure. Automobiles utilize roadways much more than bikes and exert much more of an external cost (environmental, social, parking facilities, etc.). Automobile usage SHOULD cost more.

I tentatively support the notion of bikers registering to ride on roadways (but the fee should be much less than automobile registration). More appropriately, how about some sort of a "biker education" class? I think both bikers and non-bikers can agree that there are quite a few bikers out on roads, especially in the City and around UVA, who have NO idea what the laws are and don't even realize it.

Finally, Old Timer, I know that you support the notion of people paying for the full costs of their infrastructure usage, including external costs. Do you really believe that bikers should pay the same or even similar amounts that drivers pay to use roadway infrastructure?

At the very least, tax the heck out of spandex shorts.

I believe it is completely reasonable to tax, license, and regulate bikes. I also believe that bike and car traffic should be separated where possible. I find it interesting to see people treating bikes as some kind of novelty or cult item. In many places, even in the autocentric United States, they are a completely viable alternative. And in terms of health, there should be some kind of special heart-health tax credit for commuting by bicycle. BB, top, feels he shouldn't pay for bike path, since he doesn't use them. What about cardio wards? Shouldn't people who fail to exercise pay a little extra for our fine public hospitals?

My two cents: share the road. both bicycle and motor vehicle must share the road. would rather have a bicycle or two or three in front of me than a slow moving farm tractor. either case, share the road. the main thing is no one gets hurt. Thumbs up for the Northtown Trail and a bicycle oriented culture for Cville/Albemarle community! So slow down ,get healthy and enjoy the beautiful vistas of our area and share the road!

Get this done. Why does this town not have better biking infrastructure? Make it safer for us to ride, and we'll gladly help ease the traffic congestion for the folks that prefer their cars.

I think it's an excellent idea. Hopefully others, like myself, would be much more inclined to bike across town with such a trail in place.

Bikers are still going to clog up Woodlands Road, and Free Union/Garth Roads to make it unsafe...I have no problems with Bikers, but they should have to get a tax sticker on their bikes, take a licensing exam that teaches them the laws of the county they live in. Just because we live in a free country does not mean you can do whatever you want.

I saw a dingle-berry couple looking like Lance Armstong riding two abreast on freaking Route 53 the other day... They came awfully close to getting hit by a dump truck that day...Why is it even legal to have a bike on that road? Smart people, eh?

Why reasonable people would choose to risk their life riding a bike on roads that clearly were not made for two trucks and a biker when some guy is driving home drunk in a huge pick-up texting his people while driving is simply beyond me...

Do not spend money on that project let the bike riders pay with a usage tax,personal property or license. Why do I who don't ride bikes have to pay for the few that do? License, personal property tax, and gas tax pay for autos let the bikes riders pay their part.

I cannot wait to ride to the freaking airport on my bike. NOT

I wonder why taxes keep going up? I am going to figure it out one day.

Wow, that argument could go on and on,
I work at an onion ring factory and we have a smoking cessation program. I wonder if the workers at a cigarette factory have a healthy eating program??

angel eyes, I totally agree about the Carver Rec boondoggle.

What a great project. Build as many alternate bike routes as possible. Why would anyone be against it. I do detect some distrust of the appropriation process in c'ville. If they can't do it efficiently in this economy it won't be popular among the non bikers.

For those who don't want to pay taxes for a trail they'll never use, I suggest you think more globally. The trail not only benefits the riders, but also the community in that it could potentially generate money by visitors using the trail. The money could be funnelled into other programs that the sedentary opposition group may appreciate. Health care costs for the sedentary certainly is a monster compared to a bike trail. For the entitled motorists annoyed by bikers who would rather run them over, get therapy.

I have no children, but I'm happy to pay property taxes to support the school system. I may not ride a bicycle but I'm happy to support bikeways that will make traffic less congested, that enables healthy exercise, that provides for transportation that does not polute or use fossil fuels.

Old Timer,
Yes, I am under the impression that federal/state gas taxes aren't paying for much of our local roads (not 100% on this, but pretty sure). These mostly fund larger facilities such as freeways (which bikers don't use), as well as transit systems. Local income and property taxes fund local roads - which bikers and drivers are both entitled to use. This seems fair to me - federal or state taxes should fund inter/intra-state connectivity, not intra-city connectivity.

My second point concerning taxing is, again, automobiles impose a much larger external cost on highway facilities and the environment (realistically, bikes don't impose ANY external cost). Therefore, taxes to drive should appropriately reflect this.

I personally like the idea of off-road bicycle facilities because, as many of you feel, many of our roads AREN'T the safest place for bikes! I think off-road facilities can be especially beneficial when they connect activity centers (the 29 North area???) and can entice a mode shift.

Finally, sure, there are people who want to drive EVERYWHERE, even if it's not even practical. Heck, it's 30 degrees out or something today - I sure don't want to bike anywhere! But does that mean we should avoid increasing bike accessibility and mobility? I think biker education can certainly improve, especially around Charlottesville, but I also think facilities can improve - and that improving these facilities is worth the investment.

Kudos to the planners and everyone thinking beyond the car for our transportation needs. True, a bike ride is not the solution for every trip but that doesn't mean it's not right for some or many -- especially after considering the health, environmental and financial benefits. As taxpayers, we heavily subsidize the use of cars now so I don't see why public funds spent to promote alternatives seem beyond the pale to so many.