Tom Bowden is a bike commuter from Richmond VA, a "suit" – a corporate lawyer with an MBA, and a conservative "“ You betcha! He is also a board member of BikeWalk Virginia, a pro cycling and pedestrian group in Virginia that raises raises money to promote cycling, walking and active lifestyles. Tom’s lawyerly blogging can be found at http://vabizlawyers.com/author/tbowden/
It's been a long, hard-fought campaign, but in the end, it wasn't even close. Richmond was selected to host the 2015 World Championships of Road Racing by the Union Cycliste Internationale, or UCI "“ Cycling's international governing body for bike racing of all types.
Just prior to the final vote in Copenhagen, the last remaining competitor withdrew at the last minute, leaving Richmond alone on the home stretch.
This is a spectacular achievement for Richmond, and for the US cycling community at large. It has been 25 years since the US last hosted the World Championship "“ far too long in the opinion of many, but now that gap has been addressed.
In what started as a three-way competition — between Richmond, Quebec and Muscat, Oman — Richmond emerged with the strongest bid. After an early abandonment by Quebec, Richmond was locked in a wheel to wheel struggle with Oman for the center spot on the podium.
Oman? Oman!? you say? What in the world did they have going for them? Other than former world champion and five time Tour De France winner Eddy Merckx leading the bid, backed by ASO, (l’organisateur de le Tour), an unlimited bank account flush with petro-dollars and some surprisingly striking scenery "“ not much, actually.
Richmond won going away, in a fist pumping no-hands victory sprint. US bike racing fans are in a state of near euphoric anticipation, and so they should be.
So… what has this got to do with bike commuters?
At first blush, it might seem as relevant to your daily commute as the latest NASCAR standings or Indy 500 winner. With an exaggerated yawn, you turn back to reading the latest review of studded 700×35 snow tires for your cyclo-cross winter commuter rig, or maybe you finally get around to mounting that new rear flasher to the Tubus rack on your new Dutchie with the creamy white balloon tires.
I don't care about racing, you mumble, I'm a real cyclist "“ not some EPO enhanced science experiment, all legs and lungs but lacking in soul and a true sense of the Tao of heavy lugged frames and the Zen of slow cycling.
I wouldn't blame you if you had exactly those thoughts, smug and condescending though they may be.
But listen up, you tattooed alleycatters and tweedy randonneurs, you trailer-dragging recumbent riders and fat tire aficianados. Here is the BIG picture: Racing brings cycling into the public's consciousness.
Seeing our City of Richmond highlighted worldwide for something other than avenues of stately Georgian brick mansions punctuated by statues of confederate generals will elevate the Capital-B BICYCLE in the eyes of taxpayers, motorists, policy wonks and transportation planners for years to come. Economic impact studies predict that this one week event will bring nearly one half a million spectators to Richmond, dragging with them some 135 million dollars in out-of-state and European cash for everything from posh first class rooms in hotels that have yet to be built, to beer koozies with 3-D pictures of Mayor Dwight C. Jones screen printed in holographic ink.
I'm talking economic development. That's right: E-D and that rhymes with T and that stands for Tax — as in revenues. And when we, the advocates, point out in our ever so polite and respectful way just how much filthy lucre our little lycra-fest has injected into this sleepy little town, we will have our say. And it won't just be a few miles of sharrows we'll be asking for.
Already, the feeling is palpable that Richmond is on the good side of a tipping point. The Capital Trail from Richmond to Jamestown is scheduled to be finished in time for 2015 — sharrows and greenways and even a new hostel, practically at the intersection of bike routes 1 and 76 are in the works. There's talk of a bike station at the old Main Street Railroad station, and in a matter of days, our Bike Share program will be announced.
All of these developments work together symbiotically, building on each other, to help Richmond realize its full potential as a pedal-powered, people-oriented city. So before you shake your head in apathetic bemusement, just imagine what kind of bike/ped infrastructure you might be able to spec out if your city was as fortunate as Richmond.
By the way — you are all invited, and bring your cyclo-dollars and velo-bucks with you — we know just what to do with them.