Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving and #OptOutside Friday from FABB!

bikes@vienna's Guilt Reduction Ride 2008
Hope everyone is having a good Thanksgiving. Some of you may have joined the Reston Thanksgiving Ride this morning. There are other opportunities to ride this weekend and avoid the shopping crowds, especially on what looks to be a great long weekend weather-wise.

REI set a great precedent this year by closing on Black Friday and suggesting everyone #OptOutside. Here are a few riding opportunities. Except for the bikes@vienna ride, be sure to check with the shop or club to make sure the ride will be held this weekend:
bikes@vienna's Black Friday Ride (via Meetup) - Riders are will depart from bikes@vienna on Friday at 10 a.m. They will proceed along the W&OD Trail to Herndon, returning to the shop for coffee and tea afterwards. Be sure to bring canned goods to Committee Helping Others.

Spokes, Etc. Carl's Vienna Shop Ride - "Join Carl at the Vienna store for 20-25 miles of road and trail riding every Saturday morning! We will meet at the shop at 7:45am for a 8am roll-out and a 1-1.5 hour ride. Please join us! More information is available by joining the Vienna Shop Ride Google group. Please contact to join!"

The Bike Lane Saturday Rides - TBL sponsors two Saturday rides: WheelWomen Road Bike Rides, "a 20 mile ride women's road ride along the roads in Reston, VA. Our average pace is 12-15 mph and its a no drop ride;" and TBL Saturday Morning Road Rides, "a ride on the rolling roads of Reston. We average 17/18mph over 29 miles and travel through neighborhoods and on main roads. The majority of the ride is on the roads on rolling terrain with a few hills to climb." Both rides leave The Bike Lane at 9am.

Performance Reston Saturday Ride - "A beginner level Saturday morning group ride, starting and ending at Performance Bicycle. The ride is for beginners, those getting back in the saddle, or riders who want to add some variety to their cycling. The ride will last approximately one hour, and will go at an average pace of between 12 and 15 miles per hour." Ride leaves at 9am.

Also check the Reston Bike Club and Potomac Pedalers ride calendars for more rides. If you know of other group rides open to the public this weekend, use the comments section.
If you are going shopping, consider doing so by bike. See the account of a holiday shopping trip in Fairfax posted on the WABA blog in 2013.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Safety First, Expansion Later - Double Standard?

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Foxx recently said that WMATA should fix safety problems with Metro before expanding. Imagine if that same logic applied to our roads. Each year nearly 300 people are killed on our roadways vs. about 1.3 per year killed in Metro-related incidents by my rough count.

Replace "Metro" with "regional DOT" in the following statements by Sec. Foxx and imagine what an impact this would have on traffic safety, a much  more serious problem in the DC Metro area:
"the Department of Transportation will continue to restrict federal funding to Metro’s [regional DOT's] ongoing safety and state-of-good repair projects, not expansion.

“When we are comfortable they’ve achieved levels of safety that are commensurate with what the traveling public should expect, and until that time they are going to be focusing on safety,” Foxx said.

Foxx said expanding capacity eventually may be necessary, but federal funding will not start paying for new stuff until Metro [regional DOTs] fixes what it already has.

“Over the long, long, long haul, this is a growing area and obviously there will be pressures on the system to grow in the future, but that future right now is far off because the focus needs to be on safety,” he said.
Hat tip to GGW where I first heard this idea mentioned.

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Reston Association to Plow Snow on County Trails in Reston

County trails in Reston
[click on image for pdf version]
At their October 22 meeting, the Reston Association Board of Directors voted unanimously to work with Fairfax County to remove snow on county trails in Reston. Many of those trails are used to access the Wiehe-Reston East Metro station.

The RA Board agreed to "authorize Reston Association’s CEO to enter into trail maintenance agreements with Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and the Fairfax County Park Authority to provide limited routine maintenance on County-owned trails in Reston, subject to the review and approval of the Association’s land use counsel."

According to the draft snow removal agreement (p. 117), RA will "provide routine maintenance on approximately 1.5 miles of County and Park Authority owned trails throughout Reston. Such routine maintenance will include general debris removal, minor asphalt patching, pruning/edge mowing, leaf removal as necessary, and snow plowing. In the proposed agreement, the County trails will be repaired before the Association accepts any routine maintenance responsibility (including especially problematic stretches such as those on Wiehle Avenue and Sunrise Valley Drive), and the County will be responsible for major repairs and capital replacement." (emphasis added).

According to Reston Now, RA will cover the $15,000 cost for this routine maintenance. Reston currently spends over $800,000/year to maintain their 55 miles of trails. This year Fairfax County budgeted a measly $300,000 for "emergency and critical maintenance requirements for County trails (229 miles), sidewalks (425 miles) and (67) pedestrian bridges." Can't we do better than that? Is it any wonder that our exiting trails are crumbling and that almost none of them are plowed in the winter?

Kudos to Reston Association for helping bicyclists and pedestrians safely reach the Wiehle station and other nearby destinations throughout the year. Fairfax County needs to fund basic maintenance of their trails and come up with a plan for clearing snow near important destinations such as activity and transit centers. NoVa Parks recently agreed to plow the W&OD Trail. It's time for Fairfax County to get with the program.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

I Drive Like Grandma and Proud of it

Isn't it interesting how motorists refer to other motorists who obey the law with the denigrating term "Drive like Grandma." If you go the speed limit, stop at stop signs and red lights, and generally are a safe driver, then you probably drive like Grandma, and by implication, some people think that's a bad thing.

I've noticed this when driving lately. Being sensitive to criticism about scofflaw bicyclists, and there certainly are some, I've become a more conscientious bicyclist. I've also decided to become a better driver, going at or near the speed limit, coming to a complete stop at STOP signs and before turning right on red lights, looking both ways for bicyclists and pedestrians. In other words, being a safer driver and doing what is taught in Driver's Ed.

It seems the more I obey the law, the more upset motorists behind me get. People ride on my bumper, honk when I slow down to turn right, almost rear-end me when I come to a stop before turning right on red. Almost no one stops at STOP signs or before turning right on red anymore unless they absolutely have to. This behavior is very dangerous to pedestrians and bicyclists.

As Fairfax becomes a more urban place, more of us are going to have to start "Driving like Grandma," and you know what, that will be a good thing. Please, Drive like Grandma.

We might as well get used to it anyway, since before long we'll be riding in autonomous vehicles. See the article Google Cars 'Drive Like Your Grandma':
“Google cars drive like your grandma, they’re never the first off the line at a stop light, they don’t accelerate quickly, they don’t speed, and they never take any chances with lane changes (cut people off, etc.).”

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Monday, November 23, 2015

CTB Public Meeting on I-66 on Dec. 8

On December 8 the public will have an opportunity to speak to the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) about plans for changes to I-66 inside and outside the Beltway. The meeting will be held at George Mason High School, 7124 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church from 6-8 pm. Cyclists are encouraged to attend the meeting and sign up to speak in favor of the proposed parallel trail and bike facilities on the rebuilt bridges. The parallel trail would be an extension of the very popular Custis Trail inside the Beltway.

Information is not yet posted on the meetings page but it should be there soon. See FABB's previous coverage of the project and info about our efforts to ensure that safe, convenient bike facilities are included. If the project goes forward, bicyclists should be able to travel safely along this congested corridor to commute and take short trips. The county Trails Plan and Bicycle Master Plan recommend including the parallel trail. It has also been endorsed by the Board of Supervisors.

If you cannot attend the meeting you can provide comments at

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Faces of Fairfax - Sarah

Sarah talked to FABB on Bike to Work Day 2015 while proudly wearing her BTWD t-shirt.  She lives in Falls Church and commutes by bike to DC to her job in the NoMa neighborhood just north of Union Station. Sarah told FABB that she has been commuting by bicycle all around the DC metro area for many years. She said she loves riding and, in particular, loves the wind in her hair and how energized biking makes her feel.

Sarah added that she would like to see improvements in the bicycle facilities for Rt. 7 from Tysons to Bailey's Crossroads. And, she would really like to have more protected bike lanes in Fairfax to make riding safer.

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Friday, November 20, 2015

Free Access to Metro Bike & Ride Parking

Photo: Washington Post
As reported in the Post recently, Metro introduces free, covered and secured bike parking. The Bike &  Ride parking at College Park will now be free with use of a SmartTrip card. Planned Bike & Ride facilities at East Falls Church and Vienna will also be free.

Like the Wiehe-Reston East bike room, the fees to use the secure room were very affordable. Nevertheless, the fees and application process were a barrier to use of the room. Making the rooms more accessible should encourage more people to bike to the stations.

At the Wiehle station, the free, covered bike parking just outside the secure room is usually filled to capacity. The bike room, while heavily used, has considerable room for additional bikes to be parked. We think the county will now face some pressure to follow WMATA's lead and make the Wiehle room more accessibly as well. It would no longer be a "secure" room since anyone with a SmartTrip card could enter, but most people lock their bikes in the room anyway. Cameras are located in the room which add a level of security if access is opened up.

The Wiehle bike room isn't exactly secure now. Not long ago, on two occasions we were filming a segment on bike parking in the covered area outside the bike room. Within a few minutes security guards approached and asked what we were doing. They told us that several unlocked bikes had been stolen from the bike room recently. It's reassuring that they were keeping watch to ensure it didn't happen again. That was the first we had heard of the problem. We've been told by the county that they are working to make the room more secure.

Police do report bike thefts. We have tried to get geo-referenced bike theft data but have not been successful, although we haven't pressed the issue. We know the data is available in The Daily Blotter published by Fairfax Co police.

When we asked for a digital file we were told that the "police blotter is a report put together manually with the creator looking at the exact address and changing it in the Word document to a block number. This is not a field that is readily available." Sounds like the process could be relatively easily automated. If you'd like to volunteer to extract the bicycle theft data for the blotter, please let us know. The goal would be production of a map showing bike thefts in the county. Wouldn't you want to know where thefts are occurring?

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