The City of Williamsburg recently added new bike lanes along Jamestown Road stretching from Ukrop Way to South Boundary Street going east, and from Landrum Drive to Ukrop Way traveling west.
Because these additions were made during move-in week, bike lanes adjacent to the College of William and Mary dormitories between Landrum Drive and Confusion Corner are not yet painted. Parking regulations along that stretch of Jamestown Road have been adjusted to accommodate cyclists.
Previously, on-street parking was permitted on portions of the section from Ukrop Way to Landrum Drive, and on both sides of the road on Sundays. Now, it is prohibited except on Saturday and Sunday mornings to accommodate religious services. This allows for continuous bike lanes from Confusion Corner all the way to John Tyler Highway, on both sides of the road.
According to Planning Director for the City of Williamsburg Reed Nester, the new bike lanes were part of the city’s street repaving project and were recommended by the 2013 Williamsburg Comprehensive Plan.
“In our capitol improvement program every year we repave a number of streets and we were repaving subdivision streets,” Nester said. “This was one of the major streets. So after we repave, we restripe, and that’s what presented us with the opportunity to restripe in the bike lanes.”
Nester described bike lanes as necessary to city transportation. He said that they try to accommodate for all modes of transportation while planning the city.
“We’ve been working specifically on bike lanes and so we’ve first adopted the regional bikeway plan in 1993,” Nester said. “So we’ve tried to develop a regional system that is connected together allowing people to use bicycles for both transportation and recreation.”
The new lanes have also received attention from administrators at the College. Director of Parking and Transportation Services William Horacio, who is also co-founder of the Student Bike Alliance, expressed support in an email for the new bike lanes.
“It’s about protected space, having a dedicated lane allows cyclists a buffer from oncoming traffic (all modes),” Horacio said. “According to the NYDOT’s Pedestrian Safety Study and the most recent Sustainable Streets Index, streets with bike lanes have about 40 percent fewer crashes ending in death or serious injury, and that’s for all street users: drivers and pedestrians included.”
Horacio added that the new bike lanes on Jamestown were especially necessary for protecting cyclists from the hazardous “door zone.”
“As a cyclist riding along a line of parked cars you have to look through the car from a distance to make sure there isn’t a driver ready to pull out in front of you, or worse, ready to open their door to exit the vehicle,” Horacio said. “Swerving for an open door suddenly puts a cyclist in the lane of traffic and in danger of a collision. Bike lanes help prevent this when accompanied by removal of curbside parking.”
President of the Student Bike Alliance and former Student Assembly Secretary of Transportation Gabriel Morey ’16 also talked about the benefits of bike lanes.
“Any time you expand your network of bike infrastructure in a city, you’re going to create a positive experience for cyclists,” Morey said. “For me, I feel more protected and less in danger from cars, especially on sections of Jamestown Road where it’s fairly fast, and that’s an even bigger benefit for less experienced cyclists.”
Nester emphasized the importance of creating a network of streets all around the city for cyclists.
“It’s not only a matter of striping bike lanes,” Nester said. “It’s a matter of providing an interconnected street system so that you can chart out your own bike routes and have the opportunity to ride through neighborhoods as an alternative to riding through the major streets, so that’s just good planning principles to have subdivisions and have them interconnect with each other.”
Nester touched on some of the benefits of being a bicycle friendly city for transportation and recreational use. He said that the lanes make it so people can ride to work or on errands, but also purely for sport — many of the lanes traverse rural areas for this purpose.
The new bike lanes have been installed simultaneously with another bike infrastructure project: bike racks. According to Nester, the Williamsburg Economic Development Authority (EDA) and the Williamsburg Health Foundation granted him a $5,000 stipend to contribute to a cause of his choosing. This stipend was part of Nester’s 2014 Health Foundation Annual Award, and with a matching contribution from the EDA, Nester created the “Bicycle Rack Grant Program.” He used the funds to encourage businesses to install bike racks by offering discounted installation for $25. A bike rack normally costs approximately $200.
“What’s important is that you want to encourage bicycle use for transportation, you know, riding to work, running errands,” Nester said. “What’s important is providing a … safe place to lock your bike up to, say if you want to go to the food store or drug store on your bike, and there’s no safe place to lock it up, you’re not going to want to do it.”