Bike Summit: Community Groups Advocate for Better Infrastructure


Despite the emphasis in West Virginia on the state’s natural beauty and abundant opportunities to take in the outdoors, West Virginia is not considered a bike friendly state, according to the League of American Bicyclists. 

Advocates, however, are working to change that. On Sunday, bike advocacy organizations, community members and state employees gathered in Charleston for the first West Virginia  Bike Summit. Organizers hope that the two day event that continues today will not only make West Virginia communities more cycling and walking friendly, but will also improve the finances and health of the people who live there.

About 30 people gathered in front of the Marriott in downtown Charleston Sunday for a casual ride through the city to learn about its bike & trail plan.

In 2013, advocates worked with legislators to update the state bicycle code to require motorists to give bicyclist 3-feet of clearance. Now, they hope to create better state-wide infrastructure to support safe biking and walking to include “either dedicated bike lanes, additional shoulders where you can ride safely, there’s a significant bike project to be happening later this year out on the boulevard that will provide more room for bikers,” said Tom Smith, the senior transportation advisor for the Appalachian Regional Commission. “To make it so that the roads accommodate both the automobile, which it certainly has for years, but also the other road users like cyclists.”

Smith said the biggest challenge with improving bike access on roads is the West Virginia terrain. Traditional West Virginia roads are narrow and curvy and can be difficult to widen. However, Smith said the West Virginia Department of Transportation is expanding usage where they can.

“What I’ve seen as I’ve moved around in other places, is that when you provide better facilities for pedestrians and bikers people start having a healthier lifestyle and certainly younger families will be out using the facilities,” he said. “It encourages a much healthier lifestyle and there will be health benefits from it. And we hope that when the facilities are readily available we see people getting up and using them who might not have otherwise.” 

In addition to the group rides, the summit includes speakers presenting on topics such as health and quality of life, tourism and economic development and state and federal transportation policy.

Appalachia Helth News

Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, with support from the Benedum Foundation.