Non-motorized transportation should receive the same consideration as motorized transportation in the planning, design, construction, and operation of Virginia's transportation network.
Charlottesville's urban commuters who want to bike or walk to work have bike-friendly public transit and a growing system of bike paths, sidewalks, and trails available to them. What's more, thanks to a forward-looking state government, more people than ever will be able to enjoy the benefits that come from cycling and walking.
Resources for planning your route
If you don't already have one, request a copy of the Regional Mobility Map from the Alliance for Community Choice in Transportation. It's a fantastic, high quality map of the greater Charlottesville area with clearly marked bike routes, bus routes and walking trails. Additional resources can be found in the Bike and Walk section of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission.
Once you've decided on your route, make a weekend test to uncover any problems and see how much time to allow. Carry the same amount of clothes and other items that you would on a workday. Check to see if you’re comfortable with the hills, intersections, and traffic you'll encounter. If not, explore alternatives. Imagine traffic conditions during regular commute hours, and remember that your route will look different after dark. If you are new to biking, you might consider some free instruction through the Charlottesville Bike Mentor Program.
- Regular, quick walking is the simplest and the most effective way of preventing cardiovascular disease for both men and women; a brisk tempo -- over 5 km/hour (about 3.1 miles per hour) -- is more important than the duration, according to studies in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
- Walking reduces the risk of Type II diabetes by lowering blood-glucose levels.
- Biking and walking after an initial investment in equipment, are relatively inexpensive.
- You save lots of money using pedal power instead of buying gasoline.
- You do your share to help the environment.
Dealing with Business Clothes
If you're planning on the slower pace of a leisure walk to work, you can most likely get away with wearing your work attire. However, even leisure walkers must wear good walking shoes, so you may want to consider leaving a pair of dress shoes at the office. Carry your personal effects in a backpack or a messenger bag to leave your arms free.
Cycling and power walking, however, almost always require a change of clothes. Does your employer offer bike lockers or showers? Many employers want to help employees use alternatives to driving alone, so ask your employer if lockers or showers can be installed or provisions can be made for bicycles inside your building. Additionally, some health clubs offer "runner's" memberships, where, for a reduced rate, you can use the showers and locker rooms.
A word about helmets
You should always wear a helmet while riding. A good helmet (with ANSI or SNELL safety certificate) can be purchased for as little as $20. It should consist of an outer polycarbonate or fiberglass shell, an energy-absorbing inner liner made of semi-rigid foam, comfort pads, and an adjustable strap. Replace your helmet if you have an accident and break the foam liner.
Know the law
In Virginia, a cyclist is recognized as a legal driver of a vehicle. Therefore, drive your bicycle as you would any vehicle. Obey all traffic laws. Further, there are laws specifically regulating bicycling; you'll find them on the Virginia Department of Transportation website.
Bikes on Buses
Charlottesville Transit System and JAUNT welcome cyclists aboard and provide bike racks on all their vehicles. The racks are located on the front of regular buses and trolleys, and at the rear on the vans.
The following procedures will make your bike-bus experience easy and safe:
- When the bus arrives at the stop, signal the driver that you want to load your bike.
- Load the bike by squeezing the handle at the top of the rack and pulling it down.
- Place the bike in the rack slot, grasp the support arm and pull it over the bicycle tire.
- When you reach your destination, remind the driver that you will be unloading your bike.
- Make sure the driver acknowledges your intent.
- Unload your bike by lifting the support arm from the tire, removing your bicycle from the rack and pulling the rack back to the upright position.
Tips for bike and car coexistence
Whether you're one of those new cyclists, an experienced bike commuter, or one of the poor souls who simply has to drive a car that day, the following tips will help us all enjoy safer streets:
Tips for Assertive Cycling
- When merging left (either to pass a stopped vehicle or to make a left turn) first look, signal, then move into the flow of traffic. Start looking over your left shoulder about 200 feet from where you plan to merge, and wait for a gap in traffic. When you find one, be confident and consistent in your movements. Don't swerve! Predictability is key. If a driver lets you in, acknowledge them.
- Always take the lane if you are moving at the speed of traffic, even if the lane is wide enough to be shared. It's the safest place to be. If there are cars needing to pass, and there's room for bikes and cars to travel safely side by side, then move over (but never ride closer than four feet to parked cars). If the lane is too narrow to share, hold your ground in the middle of the lane and ride predictably, no matter what your speed.
- If there is a line of vehicles turning right, and you need to go straight, pass them on the left if possible.
- Use all the clues available to you to determine what a driver plans to do-listen to engine noises, look at tires to see which way they're turning, and most of all make eye contact with drivers!
Tips for Respectful Driving
- Don't be a bully and insist on passing cyclists just so you can get to the red light first. Take a deep breath and ease up on the accelerator.
- Step on the brake. If in doubt about whether you can get by a cyclist, slow down and wait. Too many drivers squeeze past with insufficient room.
- Respect cyclists' right to the lane; in the eyes of the law they have the same rights as a car.
How to power walk
- Head: Keep your head up and centered between your shoulders. Keep your chin up, and focus your eyes straight ahead. Your head and neck should "float" above your shoulders in a relaxed, easy manner.
- Shoulders: Keep them back and down. Don't allow them to round forward or creep up toward your ears.
- Chest: Your chest should be naturally lifted, as if a string were attached to the center, gently pulling it upward.
- Arms: Your arms should be bent at slightly less than 90 degrees. Swing them back and forth -- not side to side -- like pendulums, and keep them close to your body. At the top of the arm swing, your elbow will be level with your breastbone; at the bottom of the arm swing, your hand will brush your hip. Swing your arms briskly and definitely. Remember: In power walking, your feet follow your arms. In other words, you use your arms to propel your body forward.
- Hands: Keep them loosely cupped. Pretend you're holding a butterfly that you don't want to let escape but you don't want to crush either.
- Abdominals: Lean forward slightly so that you feel as if you are "tumbling forward in control" as you walk. Pull your belly button gently in toward your spine to help protect your lower back.
- Hips: Because your stride is quick and linear, move your hips in a sort of exaggerated wiggle. Use your hips to propel you forward so that you walk at a fast rate.
- Thighs: Take more steps per minute at your normal or a slightly shorter-than-normal stride length. Straighten the advancing leg so that your knee is fairly straight from the moment of first contact with the ground until you are just about to swing forward with your other leg.
- Feet: Imagine that you are walking along a tightrope. Each footfall should land squarely on the imaginary line directly in front of you so that you don't stray from walking in a straight line. Get a good toe lift by using your ankles. Land heel first, roll through the foot, and then push off firmly and vigorously. Your footfall should match the rhythm of your arm swing.
Breathing and heart rate: Your breathing will be deep and strong, but try to keep it regular and steady. Your heart will be pounding, but focus on staying relaxed.