Friday, June 29, 2007

Williamsburg bike lanes

We just finished riding Bike Virginia 2007 with 2,000 other cyclists who descended upon the historic Williamsburg/Yorktown area for 5 days of bike touring. It was an excellent tour, well-organized as always. This was the 20th anniversary of Bike Virginia.

Much to my surprise, Williamsburg has many miles of bike lanes; 44 miles in a relatively small three county area. Most are wide shoulders with a single white stripe creating a 3-5 foot bike lane, often with a bike lane symbol painted in the lane. If Williamsburg can do it, why can't the rest of Virginia? After a little searching on the web we came across the article Majestic town: How Williamsburg leads on wheels
According to Williamsburg planning director Reed Nester, the area has successfully “institutionalized“ bike/ped in all thinking. Developers automatically know today that every street must have a bike lane and sidewalk to get Planning and Zoning approval, and contractors consistently figure in the cost of eight feet of bike lane in every re-paving bid.
The key is to make bike planning part of the daily thinking of planners, engineers, and government officials. Fairfax County has started that process with the hiring of a bike coordinator. Now it's up to us to continue to urge them to make bicycling an integral part of our transportation network.

Update: Williamsburg has a very active bike club, the Williamsburg Area Bicyclists. They sponsor many rides and they advocate for better bike facilities in the Williamsburg area. They are featured in this VDOT Bike Planning and Design document under Grass Roots Support.
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Parliamentary bike commute

Emily Thornberry is a member of Parliament and a regular bike commuter.
As a member of parliament, my four-mile round commute to Westminster takes under half an hour (with the trip back, uphill after the 10 o'clock vote, taking a bit longer). It is by far the quickest way to get to the House of Commons. In fact, most traffic in London moves at the same speed it did a century ago - barely 10mph. On a bike you can easily keep up with or beat that speed.—Guardian Unlimited, Saturday June 16, 2007.
In the article she discusses some of the common myths that people claim prevent them from commuting by bike.
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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Planned closing of Clermont Drive at I-495, Summer 2008

As part of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge project, the bridge over the Eisenhower Ave Connector will be reconstructed. Due to the nature of the construction material, that work can only be done in the summer months. During construction, planned for the summer of 2008, the outside through lanes of I-95/I-495, the Beltway, will be routed onto the off/on ramps. This means that the existing bike route along Clermont Drive leading to Eisenhower Ave that crosses the planned route for the through lanes, will be closed. See the Alexandria Bike Map.

FABB recently met with staff from Fairfax County, Alexandria, and the bridge project team to discuss options for cyclists. A detour has been proposed by the project team. Much of the detour on the south side follows low traffic neighborhood roads. However, a major section of the proposed detour follows the narrow, overgrown sidewalk along Franconia Road, an unsafe, inadequate bike facility. Experienced cyclists will ride on-road, but as we understand the route, there will be no signs for the on-road cyclists.

A major possible benefit of the project is redevelopment of the bike route along the Eisenhower Ave Connector under the Beltway. This section is in poor condition and could be rebuilt with bike lanes and a trail.

We will work with the above parties to ensure that cyclists have a safe, reasonable alternative route once the closure occurs. If you are familiar with the area, we would like your feedback as we discuss this issue with the bridge project team. Contact us at

It was a long but pleasant ride to the meeting in Alexandria from Reston. Most of the route was along the W&OD, Custis, and Mt. Vernon trails. We noticed the sharrows used on the Mt. Vernon trail through Alexandria, and we followed the old Alexandria Bike Map to find a mostly on-road route from the trail to the meeting site. At the meeting we met Yon Lambert, the Alexandria Bike Coordinator, who handed out copies of the new Alexandria Bikeways map, which was just published in May 2007.
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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Stringfellow Road project public meeting

Last night (June 12, 2007), many cyclists came out to speak out for better bicycling conditions on Stringfellow Road between Route 50 and Fair Lakes Blvd. Thanks for coming out and showing your support. It does make a difference. The Stringfellow Road VDOT project involves widening the road from 2 lanes to 4, adding a multiuse trail on one side, a sidewalk on the other, and a wide curb lane for cyclists. FABB has worked with VDOT to come up with a road cross section that allows cyclists to be able to safely ride on-road in this section.

We feel strongly that on-road cycling is safer and more convenient than using off-road paved trails. Paved trails that are implemented properly in a complete network with safe road crossings, can be very good bike facilities. However, there are still many potentially dangerous conflicts when trails cross roads. When cyclists ride on-road, they become part of traffic and motorists generally see them as such. Both facilities are needed. Many younger and beginning cyclists, and some experienced cyclists, prefer to use off-road trails.

The current design for Stringfellow Road contains both an off-road multi-use trail for cyclists who prefer not to be part of traffic, and a wide curb lane which allows cyclists to ride with traffic. The normal travel lane is 11-12 feet. The wide curb lane is 14 feet, which provides at least 3 feet of room for cyclists. The AASHTO standard for a striped bike lane is 4-5 feet (1.2-1.5 meters). FABB has argued that this can be achieved by making the travel lanes narrower. VDOT disagrees, and the compromise is a wide curb lane.

One method of marking wide curb lanes as a bicycle facility is to use "sharrows" or "shared lane markings". While there are not currently an accepted AASHTO standard marking, they are being used experimentally in many areas, including Alexandria along the Mt. Vernon Trail. They can be very effective, and we hope that by the time the Stringfellow Road project begins they will be an accepted lane marking.

There is one distinct advantage to a wide curb lane over a bike lane. While motorists usually respect bike lanes and do not travel in them, the bike lanes tend to accumulate sand, gravel, and other debris. When cyclists are not riding in a wide curb lane, motorists will occasionally ride in the outside part of the lane, effectively sweeping the lane of debris. In order for bike lanes to work well, they must be regularly swept of debris. With a wide curb lane, it is less of a problem.

Some of the people who attended the meeting were concerned about the amount of right of way needed for the both the wide curb lane and the multi-use trail planned. Both are needed and we ask for your strong support for both.

FABB will continue to monitor the Stringfellow Road project and keep Fairfax cyclists apprised of any updates, in this blog, on our website, and through our newsletter. To sign up for the newsletter, send an email to and ask us to add your email address to our list.

If you have not sent in written comments, or you sent in comments before the public meeting, please send them (again) to and please copy The comment deadline is June 22.
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Monday, June 11, 2007

Fairfax County gets serious about on-road bike routes

On June 8 Supervisor Smyth's office sent out an email message to Providence District bicyclists. The message contained a letter from Kathy Ichter, head of the Transportation Department of Fairfax County, to VDOT with a list of roadways to be retrofitted with on-road bike lanes, and to ask that roads that are undergoing summer maintenance be modified to include bike routes.

This is an excellent first step toward creation of a network of on-road bike routes in Fairfax. On-road routes are the most direct, safest method of cyclists to get around the county. Currently there are very few, and almost none of them are connected. We envision a system of signed routes that will allow cyclists to easily and safely ride to major destinations in the county. Thanks to Kathy Ichter and to Charlie Strunk, the county Bike Coordinator, for initiating this process.

Update: VDOT recently responded to this request.
Starting this year, two percent of our annual maintenance budge is dedicated to accommodate bicyclists by providing at least 2 feet (4 feet is desirable) of paved shoulder as part of our regular pavement plan.
Read the complete VDOT response.
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Sunday, June 3, 2007

Arlington & Alexandria Community Bike Ride

The ride around Arlington County expanded to include Alexandria this year to become the Arlington & Alexandria Community Bike Ride. It's a fun, low-key ride along the roads and trails of the two communities. Despite a light rain, we had a very enjoyable ride with several hundred other cyclists this morning, including several members of the Arlington County Board. The event is sponsored by WABA and the two communities. Maybe in the future there will be a Fairfax Community Bike Ride.
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