An aerial view of the Town Center of Virginia Beach.
Ample parking in downtown Virginia Beach! Nannette Turner/Flickr

Last year, city officials told transit-loving Millennials to hit the road. Now police are reinforcing a bike ban in a downtown district.

Last year, officials with the city of Virginia Beach more or less told Millennials looking for better public transportation to hit the road. Now the city is posting prominent signs forbidding bikes, skateboards, rollerblades, and “motorized skateboards” in Town Center, the privately owned, open-air plaza that amounts to the city’s central downtown shopping district.* The ban extends to public sidewalks adjoining the mall.

Beach towns skewed toward older, wealthier residents are famous for cantankerous restrictions on movement, speech, and noise that often seem to target younger peopleno boomboxes after 9 p.m., hooligans! Scrub your filthy mouths!

On this theme, Virginia Beach is a curious variation: Though it relies heavily on tourism, it’s not exactly a sleepy getaway for retirees. It’s a spread-out city of 450,000 people—the largest in the state—with numerous military bases and a fairly diversified economy. Its Millennial population is growing faster than in most places in the country.

No bikes allowed. (City of Virginia Beach)

Yet local officials seem to yearn to be as unfriendly as possible to young people and their mobility preferences. Last year, the Virginia Beach City Treasurer John Atkinson quipped that the town could do without younger citizens supporting a light rail expansion proposal (which died in the November ballots): “The city of Virginia Beach offers something to those willing to pay for it,” he said. “Those that want a freebie [of subsidized transit] can move to Norfolk.”

Now, in addition to posting signage forbidding “wheeled devices,” police say they’ll be addressing infractions consistently, having “noticed an uptick in trick bicyclists and skateboarders.

“This is for the safety of everyone down there,” Virginia Beach police public affairs officer Tonya Pierce tells CityLab. “Skateboards and bikes should not be on sidewalks and in plazas where there are pedestrians. We are just looking for compliance.” She could not confirm whether there’s been an increase in injuries.

To our noses, making a show of banning cyclists and boarders in a central downtown smells district like another way to target younger (and perhaps non-white) locals. Wheeled devices were already forbidden in Town Center’s plazas by city code, and bikes are a no-go on sidewalks and foot-friendly infrastructure in most U.S. cities. But navigating the multi-lane, bike-path-free arteries that bound Town Center on a bike or skateboard looks to be a harrowing experience without hopping a curb or two.

Virginia Beach has struggled mightily to recover from the recession. Never mind all the economic benefits of a bike- and transit-friendly downtown—this town seems to prefer to Keep Downtown Unwalkable (Still).

*This article has been updated to clarify the nature of Town Center’s place in downtown Virginia Beach.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. photo: a wallet full of Yen bills.
    Life

    Japan’s Lost-and-Found System Is Insanely Good

    If you misplace your phone or wallet in Tokyo, chances are very good that you’ll get it back. Here’s why.

  2. Design

    How We Map Epidemics

    Cartographers are mapping the coronavirus in more sophisticated ways than past epidemics. But visualizing outbreaks dates back to cholera and yellow fever.

  3. photo: Masdar City in Abu Dhabi
    Environment

    What Abu Dhabi’s City of the Future Looks Like Now

    At the UN’s World Urban Forum in Abu Dhabi, attendees toured Masdar City, the master-planned eco-complex designed to show off the UAE’s commitment to sustainability.

  4. Transportation

    Why Did America Give Up on Mass Transit? (Don't Blame Cars.)

    Streetcar, bus, and metro systems have been ignoring one lesson for 100 years: Service drives demand.

  5. Life

    Can Toyota Turn Its Utopian Ideal Into a 'Real City'?

    The automaker-turned-mobility-company announced last week it wants to build a living, breathing urban laboratory from the ground up in Japan.

×