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Proposed enhancements to the MLK Bridge

Proposed enhancements to the Martin Luther King Bridge (PDF):

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Bridge, built as the Leigh Street Viaduct in 1976, provides six vehicular lanes as it spans 2,151 feet long over the Shockoe Valley between the Medical College of Virginia campus to the west and the residential neighborhoods of Union Hill and Church Hill to the east. The bridge’s capacity for vehicular traffic is beyond the current needs of both the campus and the neighborhoods, yet it serves as a vital and well used pedestrian path over the interstate highway and railways on the valley floor below.

In recognition of the bridge’s current and projected loads and modes of use, the proposed enhancements will reduce the vehicular lanes to four allowing for an increase of surface area devoted to pedestrians and bicycles. The harshness of the currently dominating concrete surfaces will be softened by the introduction of landscaping and the ‘highway’ scale of the bridge will be mitigated with the addition of human-scaled light fixtures and paving. Although these enhancements focus on the pedestrian’s experience – an average journey of 8 minutes to walk 2,151 feet – a narrowing of the surface devoted to motor vehicles will have a calming affect on traffic speed, encouraging adherence to the current posted speed limit of 35 mph.

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ChrisF
ChrisF
8 years ago

Oh, hell yes!

Sah-rah
Sah-rah
8 years ago

Any community meetings about this project? I love the idea and design, but those are some pretty pathetic/dangerous bike lanes! As a biker I feel safer riding in the third (unused) lane than cramped in a narrow gutter.

All Bark
All Bark
8 years ago

#2, for real! More bike lanes through the entire city would be great.

G.
G.
8 years ago

Please provide for strategically placed trash receptacles…hopefully, they will not forget to draw those into the plans. Other than that, this is an absolute godsend!

elaine odell
elaine odell
8 years ago

The only change I’d request is that the bike lane be on the other side of the planting/vegetation lane. In other words, the bike lane would be next to the pedestrians, and the vegetation/planting area (bounded by a curb) would be next to the car/truck lanes. This would create a physical barrier/separator to keep the faster/heavier trucks and cars away from the cyclists. This change also would prevent cars from entering the bike lanes (a big problem in NYC and other cities with bike lanes alongside the cars). This approach to putting the bike and pedestrian lanes next to each… Read more »

JD
JD
8 years ago

I’m with you John! Let’s contact the new Bike Czar and see if extending the lane is possible.

Twenty Spotter
Twenty Spotter
8 years ago

I think this is a good idea. Look forward to the aesthetics.

Max
Max
8 years ago

I’m all for urban beautification, in fact I wish Richmond did more of it. I don’t see this working out as well as the planners hope, though. There has been broken glass lying around the sidewalks on the MLK bridge for weeks so I’m not entirely convinced that people will take time to water the plants here. Bike lanes should be added here, along with better lighting, but the plants are unnecessary. I also wish the bike lane were more separated from traffic. The speed limit is 35, but I often find people driving faster, which makes a barrier much… Read more »

Jessica S
Jessica S
8 years ago

This is great news! This city needs more bike-friendly roads, especially in the Church Hill area.

reid
reid
8 years ago
Cadeho
Cadeho
8 years ago

I’d like to see the bridge lit too… from the pillars to maybe some LED lights across the top railing or maybe the deck itself… it looks too bold not to have some kind of lighting accents.

just a neighbor
just a neighbor
8 years ago

as someone who rides across this bridge on a bike, i agree that i would prefer to see a separation of the bike lane from vehicle traffic. more then once i’ve had cars intentionally cut me off (and so much as yelled at me out the window) that I certainly would not feel any safer on that tiny strip. i do disagree about removing the plants though. i think they will soften the appearance of the bridge. But also, as Elaine and others have said in others posts, beautifying the neighborhood does help foster a sense of ownership and pride.… Read more »

UnionMeetsChurch
UnionMeetsChurch
8 years ago

I love it!

Magneto
Magneto
8 years ago

AWESOME!

I agree that they should switch the location of the bike lane and landscaping bed. I’ve also biked across this bridge, and it’s a really uncomfortable feeling when cars zoom past you going well over the speed limit.

If you read more of the details in the “MLK Bridge Enhancements” image, you’ll see that they will be planting low-maintenance native grasses and shrubs with the primary water source being rainwater run-off from the adjacent pedestrian walkway.

Nickolas
Nickolas
8 years ago

To slow down traffic you also need to reduce the size of the kept lanes. A 12′ lane is too wide the city would need to reduce this down to 11′ and then the bike lane could be given an extra foot to feel safer.

Brad
Brad
8 years ago

Wow, that is totally awesome!! Does anyone know where in the process this project is? I am not clear if the proposal is for an application that the City still needs to make for funding or if the funding has already been approved. Please already be approved, please already be approved, please already be approved. Someone please post if you know of public meetings or who exactly we can email/write/call to show support for the project. AWESOME!!

Rachel Elves
Rachel Elves
8 years ago

I agree with the above comment about narrowing the lanes to 11′ instead of keeping them at 12′. Ditto to the trash cans (Myself and others have been trying to get the city to add them for years). And also about separating the bike lane from traffic. In other cities I’ve visited, this provides a much safer biking environment, although just the existence of a bike lane will definitely make me feel safer biking across the bridge every day than I do now. I think there should be some kind of ‘soft’ separation between the bikes and pedestrians as well,… Read more »

Bret
Bret
8 years ago

As far as watering the plants, it says “primary irrigation” will be supplied by run off from the walking surface. I’m not sure why they specified “primary” in that sentence, but that would sound to me like they might not need any watering. I agree it is a great idea and would ideally like to see bike lanes physically separated from vehicular traffic. While going from 3 to 2 lanes might slow people down and make bikers safer in one aspect, it is also going to bring the cars closer together and make the traffic that is there more congested,… Read more »

matilda
matilda
8 years ago

If not prohibited by City law, can’t the bikes also ride on the sidewalk?

Michael
Michael
8 years ago

Look to the NYC ‘High Line’ (http://www.thehighline.org/) for ideas and inspiration.

Brett
Brett
8 years ago

Unless this is the seed of a lengthier bike lane project I don’t feel the barrier between the bicycle lane and the rest of the traffic lanes is a good idea. Hiding behind some greenery for a quarter mile only to pop back out to unknowing traffic seems silly. Folks will slow by dropping one lane and creating a mellowier scene that seems less like an interstate. The barrier idea does work and always seems most appealing, but I don’t this it’s the best fit for this application. It’s great this many people are stoked,(myself included.)

Burt
Burt
8 years ago

If everything were extended to the white line in the roadway couldn’t the bike path be fully protected from vehicles and pedestians between the concrete planter and the bridge railing? Also, why not add an elevator from the deck to 18th Street? The old Marshall Street viaduct used to have one.

Steve
Steve
8 years ago

“If a friend calls you on the telephone and says they’re lost on Martin Luther King Boulevard and they want to know what they should do, the best response is ‘Run!”
~Chris Rock

Jason
Jason
8 years ago

Great to see this happening. So when can we start with the other bridges like Lee, Manchester, and Mayo? Those are a nightmare for cyclists and pedestrians too — and have the same effect as the current MLK of encouraging highway speeds for cars.

Jim Miller
Jim Miller
8 years ago

Paint a bike lane on the bridge in the direction now. Two walk ways are already on the bridge, one on each side.

Why spend all that money on this bridge and it doesn’t have all the traffic and besides it handles traffic just well now!

Jim Miller
Jim Miller
8 years ago

This why the bridge is where it is and what the original intentions were for it. Elaine Odell • September 12, 2011 at 8:59 pm That’s not the story I’ve always heard. Local historians and the head of a popular CDC tell this version: The Martin Luther King bridge was originally built with the intention of linking it to a multi-lane connector highway/extension to I-64 East. This would have connected downtown to I64 just west of the airport. Think Pocahontas Pkwy running right thru Union Hill/Fairmount. The goal was to have a faster way to get to the airport/Tidewater without… Read more »

Alex
Alex
8 years ago

My two cents – seems like a waste of money that could be spent better elsewhere. The original bridge failed at its purpose but has been serving nicely for an alternative purpose as is. Why mess it up by dumping a bunch of money into stuff that’s not needed. I also worry that by making the bridge area too nice for hanging out, it’s going to turn into a hang out spot for a bunch of drug dealers, undesirables and we may end up with a situation where nobody wants to use the bridge for walking, biking or driving. It’s… Read more »

Elaine Odell
Elaine Odell
8 years ago

@6 Alex, I respectfully disagree. This past Saturday as I biked across the bridge, enjoying the view and sunny fall morning, I was reminded about how the Brooklyn Bridge is now used. Cyclists and pedestrians along with sight-seers and folks “just hanging out” enjoy the view and the breeze while having an area separate from the car/trucks. Have you ever been there on a sunny weekend? Wow, it’s a happening. MLK bridge has such a great view of our city, and has residential, businesses, educational and governmental properties right smack dab up against it’s east and west termini. It’s very… Read more »

James
James
8 years ago

More bike lanes is always good, imo. I also agree with the people asking for separation if possible (between traffic and bike lane). I ride through the Fan quite often by bike. The supposed bike lanes in that area put you right next to traffic. All it takes is one driver not paying attention to drift out of lane a bit and kill a biker. I also like the separation as a driver. I hate having to maneuver around bikers when they drift into the path of traffic.

Lora
Lora
8 years ago

As a driver and a biker, I have to say I disagree with separating car and bike traffic. As long as there are separate lanes for bikes in some areas, drivers are going to be less willing to accept bikes on the street where there aren’t separate lanes. I also really believe the driving speed limit on the bridge should be reduced to 25 mph–that would make it a lot safer for everyone using the bridge.

JCH
JCH
8 years ago

James, there are no bike lanes in the Fan. They were never intended as bike lanes; the travel lanes were striped as narrow lanes for traffic calming, but people have persistently thought they were bike lanes, even though they aren’t marked in any way as a bike lane (no symbol, no outer stripe along the cars, etc.) As for for bikes drifting into the path of traffic; bikes are traffic and should be in the path of traffic unless there is a wide curb lane or designated bike lane (both rare). The problem is that people tend to weave in… Read more »

James
James
8 years ago

“the travel lanes were striped as narrow lanes for traffic calming”

Yeah, that really worked. I have seen cars/trucks/police cars going up to 50mph on Ellwood. This city needs bike lanes. Bikes are not traffic here when the traffic is going 20+ mph over the speed limit. I know the idiots in city hall think the whole “share the road” idea will work, but it doesn’t. I hate biking in this city. I always feel unsafe.

MrsAlex
MrsAlex
8 years ago

My pet peeve is when bikers keep switching between traffic and pedestrian status. It has happened to me many times in the Fan, that there will be a biker taking up a traffic lane (fine, if they consider themselves traffic), and I will have to slow down and switch lanes to pass him. Then, there is a stoplight, and the biker sails through the red light (now they consider themselves pedestrian, I guess), and then I have to be slowed down and pass them again on the next block. If bikers want drivers to respect them as traffic, they need… Read more »

Luke
Luke
8 years ago

Lora – We should not be designing traffic systems based on whether or not the changes are more likely to cause drivers to accept bicycle traffic on the roads. Bicycle traffic *is* entitled to the roads, and changes should be made to make riding safer for cyclists. Whether there needs to be wholesale aggressive education of drivers to make them understand that the bicyclists are entitled to the road is a separate question, but it never should drive policymaking that places the cyclists at more risk. This is exactly the result when these arguments are used to keep bicyclists un-separated… Read more »

Clay Street
Clay Street
8 years ago

“For one thing, cars have far worse visibility at intersections. Secondly, if a driver fails to yield the right of way to another driver, pedestrian, or cyclist, the danger to life and limb is far greater. Finally, and most importantly, the safest thing for the cyclist to do is often to run the red light.” —- Luke, this is a really illogical argument. I am glad you are passionate about asserting your rights as a cyclist, but, speaking as walker, runner, driver and a biker {umm, hello, psst, over here, you are not the only person in Richmond who rides… Read more »

Luke
Luke
8 years ago

I am not advocating for cyclists to enter intersections without first ensuring that it is safe to do so. When a cyclist comes to a red light, he is able to ascertain in most circumstances whether it is safe to proceed. For someone driving a car, that is not the case. Cyclists that ride dangerously are a problem. There seems to be this idea among car drivers that violating the law = unsafe behavior (a somewhat ironic argument given the flagrant law breaking committed by drivers every day), but that is making a large assumption, namely that the law is… Read more »

Luke
Luke
8 years ago

Oh, and Clay Street – When I suggest folks get out and ride to see the reality from a perspective different from behind the windshield, I am not talking about taking your bicycle for a ride on the canal walk on a Sunday afternoon. I am talking about using your bicycle for transportation.

Clay Street
Clay Street
8 years ago

Haha, yes, Luke, you’re right. The years that I had no car and had only my bicycle to transport me to my two jobs, grocery store, bars, and school do not qualify me to talk about bicycle safety. I guess I have no perspective at all, having ridden my bike as my main transportation in Richmond and the other cities I have lived in. I have also done long-distance riding in other countries. I absolutely agree that the arrogance of drivers causes many many more fatalities. I have quite a few friends who have suffered injuries, some life-changing, from being… Read more »

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