Phil Riggan – James River News Hub
Access Week! One of the first complaints most people have when discussing the James River in Richmond is that there aren’t enough access points. This is Day 3 as James River News Hub tackles the topic of access points.
The area between the Powhite Parkway and Boulevard bridges is so natural, wild and remote — yet right in the middle of the city. One can feel so free there among the honking geese and hunting osprey — only to hear an Amtrak train streaking its way across the arched railway bridge or a freight train roaring through the trees on either bank of the river.
The area around Pump House Park is the perfect spot to create a new access to the James at this beautiful and under-utilized section of the river. The north bank needs an access and this is the most central location to the James River Park and the population, as opposed to the Willey Bridge and Bosher’s Dam parcels.
James River News Hub had a large amount of interest and comments on a recent post asking how many people regularly ignore the Richmond law against riding bikes when crossing the Boulevard Bridge. The Richmond Metropolitan Authority provided a response:
[Richmond] City Police and RMA Special Police Officers, regardless of property ownership, can enforce the law prohibiting the riding of bicycles on the Boulevard Bridge pedestrian walkway. According to state code 46.2-904:
“No person shall ride a bicycle….on a sidewalk, or across a roadway on a crosswalk, where such use of bicycles….is prohibited by official traffic control devices.”
The official traffic control device in this case, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Safety Administration Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), is the regulatory signage, which states that riding a bicycle on the pedestrian walkway is prohibited by law.
The walkway is limited in terms of accommodating both the pedestrian traffic, as well as bicyclists riding their bikes. This can create a potentially unsafe condition for both the pedestrian and the cyclist.
The fine is up to the discretion of the judge in the case should it go to court, although according to the state code the civil penalty will be no more than $50. Court costs are $57.
Riding a bicycle in the actual roadway could also present a safety issue, particularly given fact that the Bridge does not have sufficient room for a shoulder.
Riding your bike over the Boulevard Bridge is illegal. There are signs on each end of the bridge that demand “Bicycle riding on bridge prohibited by law. Dismount and walk on sidewalk.” The 0.4 mile stretch between the signs is very tempting to ride and break the law.
So come on, admit it. Very few people obey this law. The bridge, formerly known as the Nickel Bridge, was reopened in 1993 after an 18-month renovation. A lane for foot and bike traffic was added, but regrettably it isn’t wide enough for everybody to travel safely together. Still, you will almost never see anyone walking their bike across the bridge.
How much do you love the view of the James River from the Boulevard Bridge? How much more exciting would it be for you to see a bald eagle? Rex Springston covered this recently in the Richmond Times-Dispatch:
Many Richmonders got excited when a pair of bald eagles built a nest last year in the James River near the Boulevard Bridge.
That excitement turned to sadness when the birds abandoned the nest, apparently because their eggs got cold and died.
Now the birds are back — and facing better odds for producing chicks.
The Boulevard Bridge bisects the James River Park System and is a key access for many rivergoers. For anyone that has ever crossed on the bridge, you’ve seen for yourself one of the most beautiful vantage points in the city to see the James.
But the old bridge isn’t perfect. It was completed in 1925 and has undergone many makeovers and upgrades through the years, including this past summer. For many years, a 5-cent toll levied for crossing the 2,000 foot span, and it became widely known as the “Nickel Bridge.”
There have been a handful of times that one could find stray, fallen, metal rainwater downspout pipes from the bridge in the James on the downriver side of the span. In this case, one of the pipes worked its way to the south bank of the river and actually stuck up out of the water. It must be somewhat recent because it is not completely covered in debris after the recent storms and higher water levels.