Biking and Walkable Communities / Nature-Deficit Disorder

Session on Biking Safety

Session on Biking Safety

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Topic: Biking and Walkable Communities / Nature-Deficit Disorder

Location: Spring House

Convened: 10:45

Attendees and Affilitiations:

Grayson Pritchard, Shen Dao Clinic; Mike Newcomb, Pathways of Hope and Healing; Lewis Driver, Shaklee; Kathy Winters, Virginia Organizing Project;  Eric Bendfeldt, VA Cooperative Extension; Mike Ballato, Boy Scouts of America; Cory Partlow, Shenandoah Eye Care; John Eckman, Valley Conservation Council; Holly Cooper, RMH; Melissa Waite, First Step;
Sarah Fleck; Melissa Aleman, JMU; Will Koons; Diana Woodall, A Quiet Place Yoga and Shiatsu; Jeannine Cinco; Leah Rosenwasser, OCY; Kristen Wall; Judith Trumbo, RMH


First Topic:  Bike and Walking Safety/Paths

While a number of the participants were cyclists who wished there were better paths and routes in the area, most in the group were not formally involved with some of the existing groups working on these issues.  Discussion focused on sharing some of the good work that is already being done to help make streets safer, from Bike to Work Day and Critcal Mass rides to Walk to School days other efforts with youth.

-Recent bike fatality on Port Republic Road brought immediacy to issue
-Group feedback: “No walking/biking paths from my home to school or work”
-Distracted drivers—major players in the game
-Political will and money key
-US 33, Port Republic and Reservoir identified by group as unsafe areas to ride

-Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission has created a website for cycling in the area:
-The City of Harrisonburg has both a Bike Plan and a Pedestrian Plan available for download at: Several maps are available there as well.
-Bike Walk VA— coalition advocating for bikers in VA
-Safe Kids Coalition— distributes 1,000s of helmets to kids

-The Harrisonburg-Rockingham Metropolitan Planning Organization is charged with developing broad regional plans for both the city and county We have reached a level of urbanization such that federal regulations require an urbanized area to create and maintain an ongoing transportation planning process that is comprised of representatives of the local jurisdictions as well as state and federal transportation officials.

-The League of American Bicyclists releases an annual report grading the states and also designates Bike friendly communities. Learn more at

-Cyclists who rode from Harrisonburg to Uruguay are giving a presentation at Our Community Place  next Friday (Sept. 4)

One attendant said she heard recently the city widened sidewalks to get riders off the street. This needs verification with City. Are city riders expected to ride on road or sidewalk?

Proposed Actions
Critical mass ride—organize a city ride to garner awareness or possibly in memoriam of cyclist who died on Port Republic
Courses in bike safety—possible to offer through Shenandoah Valley Bike Coalition?
Second Topic: Nature Deficit Disorder

-No access to wildness/wilderness in urban areas
-Mentality of stranger danger, not letting children outside to play
-Psychological and learning issues over time—we are hardwired to be in nature
-The brain functions differently outdoors than when surrounded by four walls
-Observation: “Children of immigrants play outside a lot; those who have the means to get out may not actually be doing so.”
-Nationwide, 16 percent decrease in participation in Boy Scouts
-Systemic change

Harrisonburg’s Comprehensive Plan is – “a vision of what kind of community the City would like to be in the future. It identifies the steps required to move toward that vision by providing information about the city’s current conditions, long-term goals and objectives, and recommended implementation strategies.” Visit to learn more about the current update process and to have input in the plan.

“Last Child in the Woods” Richard Louv is a book which brought the phrase “nature-deficit disorder” widespread attention.

-Children & Nature Network was created to encourage and support the people and organizations working worldwide to reconnect children with nature. C&NN provides access to the latest news and research in the field and a peer-to-peer network of researchers and individuals, educators and organizations dedicated to children’s health and well-being.

-Girl and Boy Scouts of America  is a leading organization already working throughout the region to provide outdoor experiences for local youth.
-It was reported that recently the City schools added 15 minutes to school day to allow more time for exercise and time outside.
-Shenandoah National Park  ( is one of the under utilized resources available in our region

-“Wild at Art”—art display, high-risk city schoolchildren’s photography from structured nature outings, @ Hanks’ Smokehouse on Route 33 East in McGayhesville.

-Harrisonburg is designated as a “Tree City” by the Arbor Day Foundation. (

-Possibility of education outdoors rather than indoors? Beyond the few Standards of Learning that encourage outside investigation, are there ways to allow more time for children to explore and interact with nature in play and unstructured activities?

-What effect does being outside have on the brain? (further learning opportunity)
-The City’s Parks and Recreation folks do a fine job, but when Harrisonburg grows to 100,000 people, will we have the open space and natural areas needed to give everyone easy access to nature?

Proposed Actions
-Participate in the Comprehensive Plan review and encourage policies that give incentives for conserving open space areas throughout the City.
-Support your local Girl and Boy Scout troops
-Support local 4H extension
-Support local camps (Highland Retreat, etc.)
-Organize further learning around effects outdoors/nature has on the brain
-Wherever possible, “Bring green into town”

Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition,

John Eckman, Valley Conservation Council, john [at]


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  1. #2  IJM

    While we were talking we watched as several cyclists w/o helmets “road” by on the sidewalk.

    “Rode by”, past tence from the verb “To Ride” e.g. a bike.
    Not “Road” like the one we drive on.

    I’m sorry, I couldn’t help help it. I had to make the comment.

    I would not be fair though, if I didn’t tell you what a good job you are doing.
    I am happy to see that so many of the issues that “The ‘burg has are being, if not acted on, at least talked about and trying to do something to improve the current situation. Keep up the good work.

    09/10/22 22:12
  2. #1  Kai

    The following notes were submitted by Diana Woodall:

    Distracted drivers are an issue for bicyclists. John was hit while on his bike several years ago by a truck going only 5mph–but John spent several nights in the hospital. The recent death of a cyclist on Port Republic Road will probably turn out to be caused by a distracted driver.

    VDOT does not recognize the bicycle as a form of transportation. Roads get re-surfaced but not widened to include a shoulder for cyclists. West Virginia and Pennsylvania both have much more pro-active programs for bicycles, rails-to-trails, etc.

    Cyclists need to be educated, too, about their responsibilities in traffic, to follow the rules of the road just like cars. Several people complained about cyclists who don’t have lights at night, or who ride in a such a way that it’s difficult, for example, for a vehicle hauling a trailer to safely pass.

    Harrisonburg now has a mandatory helmet law for anyone under the age of 14.

    While we were talking we watched as several cyclists w/o helmets road by on the sidewalk, and one cyclist walked her bike going against traffic on a one-way road. Several people thought it was legal to ride on the sidewalk downtown. (?)

    Speaking of sidewalks, there are many areas w/o sidewalks or where sidewalks dissappear leaving pedestrians at risk. Example cited was Reservoir Rd leading up to Walmart. People walk with their kids and strollers across the bridge, where there is a sidewalk, but then the sidewalk disappears, leaving them very vulnerable. Suggestion made to see if Walmart would be willing to pay for a short section of sidewalk at this location–after all, they get tax breaks from the city.

    We also talked about having a critical mass ride through the city to raise awareness

    Bike to Work and Walk to School Days already exist in the National arena but here in many cases it’s not feasible or safe–eg schools with no or disappearing sidewalks.

    Also, the League of American Bicyclists has a Bicycle-Friendly Community designation a town or city can apply for.

    One simple thing cities and towns could do is provide bike racks in front of all public buildings.

    How to get changes implemented? It’s important to go to planning meetings, eg. 5-year plan for the city-county, and get the ideas written into the plan. Then you go back and say, see, it’s in the plan, and try to get it funded and implemented.

    09/09/02 09:02

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