Henrico resident Lloyd “Bud” Vye was 51 years old and working at Best Products when his boss invited him along on a weekend bike trip.
Vye had never had any interested in cycling before. He didn’t even own a bike.
But he found an old 10-speed of his son’s that had been destined for a yard sale, and asked a colleague to teach him how to shift.
He came back from that weekend ride a changed man.
Before long he was heading out on 30-mile evening and weekend excursions with Richmond Area Bicycling Association – a group that likes to cycle together from Henrico to Ashland for Saturday morning breakfasts.
After a decade or so of recreational riding, Vye – now working for Circuit City, but approaching retirement –expanded into activism.
No longer simply a way to relax with friends or to enjoy a workout, cycling had become a passion and a way of life.
So when RABA’s advocacy director needed to step down, Vye was “inspired” – as he says now – to step up.
By then, he’d had years to observe the lack of bike-friendly infrastructure in Central Va., and the general apathy toward issues of cyclist and pedestrian safety.
What’s more, he wasn’t the least bit shy about sharing his opinions on the subject.
As Vye told a reporter in 2012, he worked early in his career with the city of Philadelphia’s recreation department, and served for a time as a deputy commissioner and manager of Veterans Stadium.
“I knew my way around City Hall,” he recalled. “I had no compunction about standing up and speaking.”
Landmark laws and a top-notch trail
Fast forward 20-odd years to the present, and Lloyd “Bud” Vye has become a familiar face at General Assembly meetings and committee hearings. Along with the Virginia Bicycling Federation and numerous traffic safety groups, he has lobbied for bike-friendly, safe-driving legislation, such as a mandate for motorists to pass cyclists at a minimum distance of three feet, and a law banning texting while driving.
“In 2015,” he says, “we finally got a law passed to stop vehicles from following cyclists closely. Motorists can now cross a double line to pass cyclists; we pushed for that for years.
“And we pushed numerous bills to restrict cell phone usage while driving.”
Among the most significant legislative achievements for Vye, VBF and various safe-driving groups is a landmark anti-distracted-driving law that took effect Jan. 1. Long at the top of the wish list for bike advocacy and traffic safety organizations, the new hands-free law prohibits all hand-held phone use while driving – not simply texting.
Vye also worked with Greater Richmond Transit Company to get bike racks placed on every bus, served on a committee that guided the development of a regional bike and pedestrian study, and spearheaded the local effort to get applications for a “Share the Road” license plate, first issued by DMV in 2005.
What’s more, he was instrumental in the planning and development of the Virginia Capital Trail, from attending some of the initial hearings for the trail in 1992, to working with VDOT to help design the trail route for final construction around the I-295/Route 5 interchange.
Today, Vye calls his involvement in the now-completed trail the volunteer effort of which he most proud.
“Twenty-five years of work,” he says, “and to see the finished product and all the use it gets is special.”
To no one’s surprise, Vye has racked up an impressive list of awards in addition to accomplishments.
In 2009, he was named national “Advocate of the Year” by the Alliance for Biking and Walking.
In 2012, the Virginia Capital Trail Foundation installed a bench in Vye’s honor along the trail near Great Shiplock Park; the bench was sponsored by VBF and RABA, in addition to VCTF.
Upon his retirement from bicycle advocacy last year, Vye was recognized with dual commendations from the General Assembly and the Senate of Virginia. He has also been honored with a lifetime achievement award as part of the Governor’s Transportation Safety Awards.
And in a virtual ceremony last month, Vye was celebrated by the Valentine Museum – not to mention an online audience of hundreds of ardent fans – as one of six Richmond History Makers for 2021, for his achievement in the category of improving regional transportation.
Asked if any honors stood out as having special meaning for him, Vye cited four that he treasures most: the 2020 awards from Virginia legislators, the national recognition from Alliance of Biking and Walking, and the recent History Makers designation.
‘History Makers was fun,” he said, “as I was able to share the event with my family, and have a nice party in our living room to celebrate.”
Sadly, his wife of 61 years was missing from the celebration, having died only a few months earlier.
Her husband noted, however, that Dottie Vye would have been delighted to see the History Makers award presentation.
“Dot had a long history of civic activism going back to our days in Philadelphia,” he said. “She was very much into local advocacy herself, and was very proud of what we accomplished.”
And while he may have transitioned into a less-active phase of advocacy, Bud Vye has no plans to abandon his unofficial promotion of cycling and bicycle safety. He believes it is a wholesome way to enjoy physical activity in the great outdoors, and that getting exercise is more important than ever in light of the incidence of obesity and increasingly sedentary lifestyles. Cycling is also an inexpensive way for many people to commute, which benefits the population as due to the corresponding reduction in traffic, air pollution, and wear and tear on roads.
In his home county of Henrico, he will continue to push for measures that make the community less car-centric and more friendly to cyclists and pedestrians.
“If you notice,” he says, “Henrico does not have hardly any sidewalks, crosswalks, benches at bus stops or shelters at bus stops. I fought for years to get the county to approve money for these things, and met with a lot of resistance.”
Citing police and fire departments, schools, libraries, and parks among Henrico’s many exemplary programs, Vye has often expressed disappointment that the county lags other localities in bike amenities. He believes that legions more would walk or ride if conditions were improved, and has criticized the walkability around Short Pump Town Center as “laughable” — because crossing Broad Street traffic is impractical and unsafe in anything but a car.
(Henrico recently has begun investing in more bike- and pedestrian-friendly measures, with several miles of new sidewalks completed recently or targeted for completion in the coming year, and the addition of bike lanes on a number of streets.)
On the other hand, he says, Richmond and its suburbs have come a long way since the “almost zero” level of bike friendliness that existed when he first climbed aboard a 10-speed in 1984.
He is grateful for the progress that’s been made, and – judging from the growing popularity of the Capital Trail and expanding trail and bike lane networks — anticipates that ridership, tourism, and recreational opportunities will continue to expand.
If the congratulatory messages Vye received during the History Makers celebration are any indication, that gratitude goes both ways. It’s clear from recent feedback that hundreds of cyclists, pedestrians, and motorists appreciate his contributions to their safety and enjoyment in the great outdoors.
For those who have yet to express their appreciation, Vye doesn’t mind; he didn’t volunteer for the acclaim.
But as fun-lovers and commuters alike hop on their bikes, lace up their skates and walking shoes, hitch their wheels to bus racks – or simply drive in the company of more focused fellow motorists – they would not be out of line if they took a moment to offer silent thanks to one Lloyd “Bud” Vye.