Fun ride on the Southside: Tobacco Heritage Trail

As a part of my work as a transportation planner with the Richmond Regional Transportation Planning Organization (part of the Richmond Regional Planning District Commission), I was given a chance to study and ride the Tobacco Heritage Trail, a rail-to-trail east of South Hill.

I was given a chance to share my experience with the Virginia Bicycling Federation. and they were kind enough to post my story on their website. Give it a read, please. And while you’re there, take a moment to read up on the organization — if you are a cyclist in Virginia, you’ve likely benefited from their dedication to improving the laws on cycling in the Commonwealth.

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With ‘Door to Door,’ Humes’ look at transportation in U.S. is a fast read, but worth taking it slow

Edward Humes and the Google carI rarely read books before everyone else and I’m even less likely to finish a book quickly. However, with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Edward Humes’ Door to Door: The Magnificent, Maddening, Mysterious World of Transportation, he had my attention and was I strapped in for a fast ride.

The book is a wonderful read and inspiring to me as a writer and transportation planner. Humes covers many forms of transportation — from walking and biking to rail freight and cargo ships and even self-driving cars — and he touches on how fragile our entire transportation system is, especially thanks to our addiction to the solo-driven automobile. Continue reading

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Counting what you can’t see: Downsides of Data-Based Transportation Planning

Richmond Rides bike tour in Church Hill.

I am a transportation planner. My job is primarily focused on bike and pedestrian planning, which I love. But planners cannot wave a magic wand to create the infrastructure needed to better accommodate those modes of transit.

Planning requires data and information to quantify projects. Everything costs money and elected or appointed officials are not likely to blindly approve projects because somebody wants them built. But how do you best account for pedestrians and cyclists? Continue reading

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Dominion’s coal ash polluting James River at Dutch Gap?

Dominion power plant next to Dutch Gap Conservation Area My children and I biked and hiked this past weekend at Dutch Gap Conservation Area and Henricus Historical Park in southeastern Chesterfield County. Both parks offer lovely views of the James River and a departure from our more urban areas around Richmond.

As we drove up, before we began our adventures for the day, my son wondered aloud about the smoke/steam/pollution/discharge billowing out of two towering chimneys at the Dominion Virginia Power plant that is adjacent to the two parks. I had no solid answers in regards to the pollution, but we spent time throughout the day discussing coal ash, fly ash, retention ponds and the residual effects from generating power.  Continue reading

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Why does the presidential campaign season last so long?

www.shutterstock.comAn overwhelming majority of people in the United States of America have likely grown tired of the 2016 presidential election campaign. I’ve had dozens of conversations with people about politics in the past year, but most of them have been about the length of the campaign season, not about the candidates, issues or importance of the election itself.

Let’s reform the campaign seasons into a much smaller window and make our elected officials spend a greater percentage of their time in office doing their jobs instead of campaigning. All of that time wasted yammering about our problems would be better spent fixing them instead.

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Motivation to hike the Appalachian Trail from Bill Bryson’s “A Walk in the Woods”

My daughter and I hiked along the Appalachian Trail in Grayson Highlands State Park in Virginia in June 2016.At long last, I finally read Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail. Since it was published in 1998, it only took me about two decades to check it off my reading list.

Bryson’s story telling was fantastic. It was easy to get a sense that for some the Appalachian Trail is a form of sadistic torture for those who have attempted to hike 2,200 miles up and down hundreds of mountains for weeks and months on end. Continue reading

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Do you care that 35,092 people were killed on U.S. roadways in 2015?

USDOT CHART: Occupants and Nonoccupants Killed and Injured in Traffic Crashes“The Nation lost 35,092 people in crashes on U.S. roadways during 2015, an increase from 32,744 in 2014. The 7.2-percent increase is the largest percentage increase in nearly 50 years. The largest percentage increase previously was an 8.1-percent increase from 1965 to 1966.” – U.S. Department of Transportation

After reading an overview of the 2015 Motor Vehicle Crashes Report from the USDOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and sifting through some of the statistics, it would seem that our country has a long way to go toward safe transit. And as our population continues to rise, it will only get worse if we don’t take action to stop the killing.

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