RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - It’s been nine months since the protected bike lanes along Franklin Street in downtown Richmond were installed.
The two-way bike lanes are protected by a row of floating parked cars along Franklin Street, extending from from Monroe Park to the Capitol. Franklin Street is reduced to one lane most of the day, aside from rush hour.
Hit and run traffic incidents are up nearly 78 percent, according to online data from Richmond Police. There have been 16 hit and runs along Franklin Street since the lanes were installed from June 2018 through February 2019. During the same time period a year before, that number was nine.
Calls to 911 reporting traffic accidents along the stretch are also up by 45 percent. According to data from the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications, 45 calls were placed after the bike lanes were installed. Thirty-one were placed during the same time the year before.
Several neighbors say they’ve also seen more parked cars get swiped or ‘near misses’ as drivers pull into traffic.
City Councilwoman Kim Gray, who resides over the district, says complaints over the lanes still regularly inundate her office.
"They complain all the time,” said Gray, who also acknowledges the flurry of calls has lessened some, since the bike lanes first debuted.
A main concern for Gray continues to be emergency vehicles having the ability to navigate through a narrower, one-lane road safely.
"We've had a couple of fire engines that have been damaged and that have damaged other vehicles, trying to make turns down this narrow stretch," said Gray.
The amount of bicycle traffic on Franklin Street has doubled since the bike lanes debuted, according to Bike Walk RVA, which is a part of Sports Backers.
“More people are out, largely because they feel more comfortable being on protected infrastructure,” said Louise Lockett Gordon, lead organizer of Bike Walk RVA.
Cycling advocates say that traffic slows when bike lanes are installed, also known as a ‘road diet.’ Lockett Gordon says supports the city’s Vision Zero plan of reducing crash fatalities to zero.
"I do think that Richmonders are adaptable, and the more time that goes on, folks are going to get used to this kind of infrastructure,” said Gordon.
Sharon North, spokesperson for the city’s Public Works Department, said that it generally takes at least three years, ideally five years, of data before any statistically valid conclusions can be drawn.
Gray also pointed to an electric scooter share recently approved by the city. Those scooters will share bike lanes with cyclists.
"I’ve ridden one before and it’s a lot faster when you’re actually on it… than when you’re watching someone ride it,” she said.