Monday, September 1, 2014

Bicycle Master Plan meeting for south county on Sept. 15

The second of three planned meetings on the Bicycle Master Plan is scheduled for September 15 from 7-9pm at the Mount Vernon Government Center Community Room (map). Cyclists are encouraged to attend the meeting to learn more about the plan as the county prepares for public hearings before the Planning Commission (currently scheduled for October 1) and Board of Supervisors (Oct. 28).

The Mt. Vernon center is located on Parkers Lane, which intersects with Sherwood Hall Lane where bike lanes were recently striped. Why not arrive early and check out the new bike lanes?

See our report from the earlier Bicycle Master Plan meeting held in Reston (which was combined with the Reston bikeshare feasibility study meeting).

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Alexandria bikeshare system expands

Fairfax County recently completed a study that concluded that bikesharing is feasible in Reston*. The City of Alexandria installed Capital Bikeshare in 2012 and they recently doubled the system with eight new stations. See Councilman Justin Wilson's report about the expansion from his newsletter, Council Connection:
Capital Bikeshare Grows
Late last month, the City's Capital Bikeshare network doubled. The addition of eight new stations in Del Ray and Carlyle showcases the bike sharing public/private partnership that now counts the District of Columbia, Arlington, Montgomery County and Alexandria as members.

The expansion did not come without a full performance review of the existing system, which was originally installed in the Fall of 2012. 

The City's Capital Bikeshare system was originally funded using Federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) funds. The CMAQ funds now purchase new stations, while the City's Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) now fund operations for existing stations. 

Public transportation systems of all kinds depend on heavy public subsidies. In Alexandria, the DASH Bus system recovers approximately 30% of its costs from fare box revenue. Original estimates of Capital Bikeshare's performance were expected to be similar. Surprisingly, Alexandria's cost recovery in the first year reached 72% from rentals. 

The system has provided a critical, low-cost connectivity option for short trips, used frequently by our residents and visitors alike. Current plans will allow continued expansion over the next few years. Please use this link to suggest station locations.

The new stations that were just recently added were:

  • Eisenhower Avenue at Mill Race Lane
  • Ballenger Avenue at Dulany Street
  • Duke Street at John Carlyle Street
  • Mount Vernon Avenue at East Nelson Avenue
  • Mount Vernon Avenue at East Del Ray Avenue
  • Mount Vernon Avenue at Kennedy Street
  • Monroe Avenue at Leslie Avenue
  • Potomac Greens Drive at Slater's Lane
*The Reston bikeshare feasibility study was completed on June 30 but no information is available on the county's Bike Pages site. The county is extremely slow in updating the site. The last bikeshare meeting was held on June 25 but according to the Bike Pages site, an open house will be held January 29. Other old news includes an upcoming VDOT meeting on June 11 and a May Bike to Work Day announcement. There is no information about an upcoming Bicycle Master Plan meeting scheduled for September 15 or about the upcoming public hearings on the Bicycle Master Plan. The county can do better than that.

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Sunday, August 31, 2014

School starts on Tuesday - Watch for kids walking and biking

Tuesday is the start of school in Fairfax County so motorists need to be especially careful during morning and evening rush hour. We've seen an increase in kids biking to school in Fairfax, and often the most dangerous place to bike is around the school where walkers, bikers, school buses, and parents driving kids to school all converge. See Back to School Safety Reminders from Fairfax County Police.
Fairfax County Police urge motorists to be extra vigilant for pedestrians and bicyclists as county schools resume classes Tuesday, September 2.

Commuters should expect increased congestion throughout the week and build time into their schedules to accommodate for the traditionally heavy time period. Residents may also notice police officers posted in school zones and near bus stops helping ensure pedestrian safety as well as safe loading and unloading of students.
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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Bike parking counts at Wiehle station

We live near the Wiehle-Reston East Metro station and ride by the station most days. We've been stopping by the three bike parking locations at the station and counting bikes since the station opened, usually around 10am.

There are 10 U racks at the south station entrance, with a capacity of 20 bikes. On the north side there are 16 U racks outside the bike room that hold 32 bikes. Those racks are free and under cover. And then there is the secure bike room that can hold over 200 bikes.

Over time the number of bikes has gradually increased from a low of 61 on the second count to a high today of 107. If you compare the high number with the 2013 Metrorail bike parking census conducted by WMATA, the Wiehle station would rank 3rd in the category "Top Stations for Total Bikes Parked".

Here's a chart of the counts from July 31 to August 28:

The free bike room racks were over capacity 6 of the 10 days, at capacity 1 day, and under capacity 3 days. The south racks usually were in the 12-14 bike range (of 20 capacity), so there was usually place to park there. The bike room was at about 1/4 capacity with plenty of room for more bikes.

While it's great that people are using the existing racks and there is plenty of capacity in the bike room, the free bike parking at the Wiehle station needs to be expanded soon, especially on the north side nearest the W&OD Trail. We think many commuters are using the W&OD Trail to reach the station, many going to/from the Reston Town Center and other locations on the north side of the station. Ultimately there will be bike racks on the plaza outside the station entrance; those racks should be installed as soon as possible.

Information about the bike parking is located in several places online. If you visit the WMATA Wiehle-Reston East station page there are 10 lockers listed. Those are located on the south side of the station, next to the 10 U racks that are not listed. The bike parking on the north side is not listed either. If you visit the Silverline Metro Wiehle-Reston East page it incorrectly lists 15 racks on both the north and south sides. It also lists the 200 spaces in the bike room.

To rent the lockers you need to contact WMATA. To rent space in the bike room you need to contact Fairfax DOT. We were contacted recently by someone who tried to park their bike in the free racks outside the bike room but the racks were full. He checked the WMATA Bikes & Metro leaflet and there was no contact info about the bike room. He asked staff at the station but they didn't know how the system worked. Metro police told him to call the WMATA bike locker number, 202 962 1116, but they don't control the bike room. Not wanting to lock his bike to the fencing around the racks he gave up.

There is a sign next to the bike room that lists the Fairfax County DOT phone number (Information and  Lost & Found, 703-877-5600). There is also a sign on the door to the bike room with the county logo with the text County of Fairfax Virginia, Wiehle-Reston East Bike & Ride, not to be confused with WMATA's Bike & Ride, a completely different system.

People don't care who controls what at the stations; they just need clear information about how to use the facilities. Ideally there would be one point of contact for all bike facilities at the stations, but that will likely not happen for a while.

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New bike access through Ft Belvoir is now open

After September 11, 2001, Woodlawn Road through Ft. Belvoir, from Route 1 to Telegraph Road, was closed. Woodlawn Road was part of U.S. Bike Route 1 through Northern Virginia. Cyclists were forced to find an alternative route, which ended up being a dangerous, long stretch of Route 1. The new road, Jeff Todd Way/Mulligan Road, is a much needed alternative to Woodlawn Road.

Del. Scott Surovell recently filmed a bike ride on the road just before it was opened. It was my understanding that the outside lanes would be 14 feet wide but it's difficult to tell from the video. There is a wide shared use path on the west/south side of the road that was expected to be completed by the time the road opened on August 25.

For more information on the road see the Federal Highway Administration site and the VDOT site.

The new road connects to Telegraph Road that is being widened and will include bike facilities, either bike lanes or a multi-use trail. We were contacted by a cyclist who once tried to ride a long, 75-mile loop "from Herndon, down the W & OD to the Custis, along Mt. Vernon Trail to Mt. Vernon, then attempted to 'link' over to West Ox and the Parkway Trail back up to Herndon." He was not able to find a bike-friendly connection over to West Ox Road.

When the Telegraph Road widening is completed, the long loop he mentioned should work. A cyclist could ride from Mt Vernon Trail along Mt Vernon Memorial Hwy to Jeff Todd Way at Route 1, north to Telegraph Rd, west to Beulah Rd where there are bike lanes leading north to a trail parallel to Franconia Springfield Pkwy where they could head west to the ped/bike crossing of I-95 and continue west to the Fairfax Co Parkway.

The Fairfax County bike map now needs to be updated to include the new road and trail.

Here is Del. Surovell's video of his bike ride.

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Sherwood Hall Lane bike lanes installed

VDOT is completing the installation of bike lanes on Sherwood Hall Lane as part of a repaving/pavement marking project to improve safety. See an earlier FABB blog post for details. We've already heard from cyclists in that area who welcome the new bike lanes. Thanks to Supervisor Hyland and Delegate Surovell for supporting the project and to Fairfax County and VDOT staff for their work on the project. The newly configured road will benefit all users by making it safer and providing a dedicated bike facility. Please send thank you notes to Supervisor Hyland and Del. Surovell.

Del. Surovell is a cyclist. Here are his comments on the project along with a video clip he recorded on a recent bike ride along Sherwood Hall Lane, posted on his blog, The Dixie Pig:
Multimodal improvements are critical to get more cars off the road. It is also hoped that by restricting lane size, this will help to lower speeds and illegal passing on Sherwood Hall Lane which has become a real problem with increased cut through traffic.

These improvements were the result of two public hearings and significant public input. These lanes will eventually link into to a multiuse path on U.S. 1 and other bike lanes as U.S. 1 is redone, properties are redeveloped and road repaved.

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Friday, August 15, 2014

Post article on riding to the Wiehle station

Lucinda Shannon works downtown and lives two miles from the Wiehle-Reston East Metro station. Like many Reston residents, she started bike commuting when the station opened. Kelley, of FABB and the Reston ped bike committee, volunteered to help her find a good bike route and gave her some moral support. See Lucinda's story in the Post article, Meet the Silver Liners! We tagged along with a few new riders to see how it's going.
As soon as Shannon realized her house was just two miles from the Wiehle-Reston East Metro station, she decided to become a bike commuter. She could pedal to the Metro, and then ride downtown to her job with Easter Seals. Her first step was obvious: Buy a bike.

But how would she lug her stuff? Or ride with traffic? Or figure out what to wear?

Enter Kelley Westenhoff, chair of Reston’s Pedestrian & Bicycling Advisory Committee. Her group developed 10 route maps for residents looking to get from their neighborhoods to the new station. Committee members even offered to create individualized plans, meet people at their homes and lead them on a commute.

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