Weekly Encouragement: Commuting Through History

“That we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.”
Romans 1:12

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

June 18th was the City of Richmond’s Department of Public Works’ “Multimodal Day,” when commuters were invited to use alternative modes of transportation to get to work. I chose the bicycle as my alternative mode of transportation to church.

Much of what I’ve previously shared in this blog about my experiences of walking and of riding the bus to church also apply to biking. It, similarly, has its health, environmental, and social benefits. My ride also included a history lesson.

In order to avoid the traffic on Broad Street and its steep downhill and uphill path through Shockoe Bottom, I chose to take the slightly longer, less traveled (shades of Robert Frost), and more level route across the Martin Luther King Bridge.

Have you ever wondered why the MLK Bridge is so wide? It has four car and two bicycle lanes. While that width matches its westbound connection onto wide Leigh Street, its eastbound connection is onto the two lane O Street, a backstreet less than two blocks long.

Read Ben Campbell’s book Richmond’s Unhealed History, where you can learn about how this viaduct was originally intended to be part of a six lane limited access freeway which, along with I-95 and I-64, would effectively have sealed off four of Richmond’s public housing projects into an apartheid-like township. Though this freeway was never extended through Church Hill, the housing projects still remain one of the most dangerous and disadvantaged areas of the city.

This past Sunday, we heard the Psalmist’s words, “my boundaries enclose a pleasant land” (Psalm 16:6). But what are we to do with human boundaries— physical, political, and economic—that enclose and perpetuate an unpleasant land?

The MLK Bridge may provide a wide transportation access into downtown, but how might you and I provide other kinds of access— physical, political, and economic—to the folks who need it the most?

God’s Peace,

The Rev. Bill Queen
Interim Rector