“The World is coming.”
If you follow local news, you know that Richmond was chosen last fall to host the 2015 UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale, or International Cycling Union) World Road Cycling Championship. Perhaps you’ve also heard that this is going to be a big event, with 1,000 world-class athletes participating, approximately 450,000 spectators expected to descend on Richmond, and 300 million people tuning in to broadcasts of the nine days of racing.
Think of it: for more than one week in September 2015, the Richmond region’s population is expected to swell by almost half a million enthusiastic cycling fans who will be here to share their love of bicycle racing with us, the Richmond region. An additional 300 million bicycle racing fans will be tuning in via television or Internet, and almost all of them will be making their first acquaintance with Richmond via this event. The 2015 UCI Worlds, as the race is known, is going to give us an incredible opportunity to introduce the world to our city and region, and to capitalize on future bicycle tourism. All we, as individuals and a region, have to do is be prepared.
Information on how the City and surrounding counties are preparing is thin on the Internet, but you and I already know what our local governments and Richmond 2015, the group that mounted the campaign to bring the UCI Worlds to Richmond, need to do to make sure our region is ready: improve our roads, ensure we have ways to house and move our visitors around efficiently, make sure we can feed all our guests, and communicate early and often with local residents whose day-to-day lives will be affected by the races. But what can you do to prepare yourself?
My best piece of advice to you is to go ride a bike. What better way to connect with out-of-town visitors than to share a pastime or a passion? Richmond and the surrounding counties are home to miles of bike trails, rural roads, busy streets, any kind of biking environment you might want to experience. If you’re not already familiar with a favorite route or two, now is the time to start. Hop on a bike now, and your role as bicycling ambassador will feel like second nature when your new best friend from Belgium asks you to recommend a nice ride she can get in before the next race.
Whatever your confidence and desire level, there is a place for you, on a bike, in our region. If you’re new to bicycling, go visit a local bike shop and ask its knowledgeable staff to help you pick a dependable bike you’ll enjoy riding. They will also be able to give you the names of local biking organizations that sponsor group rides and skills clinics to help you build confidence riding in any conditions. Finally, be sure to familiarize yourself with the rules of the road. The Virginia Department of Transportation page “Bicycling and Walking in Virginia” covers the laws governing biking in the Commonwealth, and is a good place to start.
Above all, have fun. We’re going to have front-row seats to an exciting international sporting championship. Our streets are going to be full of people on bikes and hundreds of thousands of others cheering them on. Let’s join them in the joy of the moment.
Lora Toothman is APV’s Deputy Director for Richmond, Virginia’s Local Government Task Force.