Monticello Road is a community arts project in Charlottesville, Virginia. Through photography and a series of public events and conversations, we explore how an art can be an essential, integral and everyday part of a healthy community.

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Friday, August 30, 2019

The Flow is about to Flip

Westbound traffic on Monticello Road will be routed to the left onto Levy. Eastbound traffic coming from Graves and the Bridge PAI will need to make this hairpin turn on to Levy. My solution would allow them to continue to Rialto or some easier turns than this.

The pilot project to reverse the direction of the westernmost block of Monticello Road starts Sat. October 5 with a 1-hour trial. If that doesn’t cause too much pandemonium, there will be a longer [short-term] trial. I will be interested to see how it goes.

Logistical details and the rationale here.

This is happening because the new Belmont Bridge design will not permit left turns out of Graves Street onto 7th Street/Avon at Quality Pie. Without this change, all else remaining the same, residents and visitors will need to either drive under the bridge (private road, which will be closed during portions of construction) or via a winding half-mile detour to Goodman.

In this trial, outbound traffic from Graves will drive contraflow on Monticello, right on Levy and exit at the traffic light. Eastbound traffic on Monticello Road will be routed onto Levy and also exit at the light. Levy is extraordinarily wide and is expected to handle the cars waiting at the light.

I reported on the plan in detail last year and I analyzed the issue in a bit more detail than I will here.

As did Elliot Robinson

I did not agree with the decision to eliminate the left turn out of Graves—it seemed like a solution without a problem. If we accept that decision as a done deal (and I think it is) then something needs to change and this could be workable solution, worth a try. Not everyone agrees with it, but there was also opposition to the Downtown Belmont sidewalk enhancements, which have been a big success. Engineering brief | Oral History

My preference would be for the one-way portion of Monticello Road to be reconfigured as a yield-street where all users share a narrow road in both directions and occasionally need to move over and wait a moment to let each other pass. It may seem strange but this type of street is among the safest for all users because it forces people to drive slowly (As they always should on a residential street). They exist all over the world, including, it must be noted, the rest of Monticello Road, which operates in that manner (in practice if not in theory).

This western portion of the road is slightly narrower than the rest of the historic and naturally speed-controlled byway butw what really makes this stretch different is the preponderance of parking. Let's be real though: most spaces are used by commuters seeking free spots, restaurant-goers, and employees. Some of this would need to be eliminated but it would be interesting to do a full count and measurement to see whether the concept could work if only residents are accommodated. I’ll do that soon if I get a chance. Email me if you would be interested in helping with this project.

In answer to a question I receive frequently, the question of bicycle facilities on the new configuration will settled after the trial and the road gets repainted (hopefully including contraflow lanes or signage permitting contraflow riding) after the configuration is finalized (or undone).

In the meantime, I support the idea of the pilot as a low-cost, low-commitment way to try something new. If it doesn’t work, no harm done and we switch it back. But we should encourage traffic engineers to try new things. Monticello Road is one of the oldest and most interesting streets in the region. A big part of that is because its quirks force people to acknowledge and accommodate one another. And the mix of preservation and experimentation is what makes Belmont fun.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Taking a Personal Celebration Up a Notch

Running has always been a passion of mine, but it is also one of the main ways I stay mentally (as well as physically) healthy. I lost that outlet for a while last winter due to injury and it took me many months to regain what I had lost. Happily, by summer I was back fully fit—and even better because my rehab had improved my strength, balance, and flexibility. I’m grateful for the process and I wanted to celebrate my return to wellness in a way that adds abundance to the community that helped me get back on my feet.

Charlottesville is blessed with many beautiful (but often hidden or even private) places to experience nature. Perhaps the crown jewel is the Rivanna Trail, a twenty-mile hiking path that encircles the city. It is a favorite spot for running, walking and mountain biking and I have probably logged thousands of miles on it—but I’ve never done the whole thing at once. There is a group that runs the loop every year around the winter solstice so I made that my goal: I trained and prepared for the 20-mile loop run in December as my own celebration of good health.

From my 20-years’ work on the New York City Marathon I knew that running—that seemingly solitary sport can—can also be a massively collective celebration of the Possible. I wanted my personal milestone to happen in a way that could inspire other people, draw strength from those around me, and have a direct positive financial impact: all things that happen abundantly with the five-borough race. I decided to do the run as a fundraiser for my employer, the Piedmont Environmental Council, which among other things promotes trails in my area.

This decision to run for a cause had consequences. It made it larger than me and created accountability. Once I announced publicly that I would do it, there was no going back. It also rallied lots of support to my side in the form of encouragement from family, friends, and even a group of my teammates who volunteered to run all or part of it with me. That group of champions happened to include the physician who oversaw my rehab, which was a nice connection.

The run got delayed by a week due to epic flooding on the trail, which was actually kind of good because it landed the run on the day after the Solstice. It was a bit of a sogfest: we still had to wade through waist-deep water in several places. It was also more beautiful than I had imagined, with a mist, clear light and a big full moon that set at sunrise of that first lengthening day. Although I was obviously tired at the end and it was plenty challenging, it was easier on my body than I had expected. That might result from the joy of celebration: it felt more like renewal than closure.

I easily exceeded the modest ($400) goal I had set. I could have probably raised much more but that wasn’t really the point. I mainly wanted to demonstrate that the ways that we each personally strive to become better at whatever we do can be shared with others. It will inspire them; and when they rally to your cause, it will further energize you and make your goals easier to obtain.

I’m telling you this in the hope that it will inspire you. As you make plans and do your cool and even wacky projects, be sure to let other people know about them so they can help you and get better together. It’s good for everyone.