Thursday, August 9, 2007

Mt. Vernon Trail to be closed temporarily

According to a press release from the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Project: “The portion of the Mount Vernon Bicycle/Pedestrian Trail that connects South Royal and South Streets through Jones Point Park in Alexandria, Virginia will be temporarily closed starting as early as next Monday, August 13 until August 24.” For more information, see the trail closure press release.
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Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Bike commuter benefit in Energy Bill

The House recently passed the Energy bill which includes a $20/month benefit for bike commuters. According to a press release on Congressman Earl Blumenauer's website:
The Commuter Benefit for bikers amends section 132(f) of the IRS code to include "bicycles" in the definition of transportation covered by fringe benefits. Included in the Ways and Means energy bill is a benefit of $20/month for those employees who bike to work, which is a clean, healthy and efficient mode of transportation. The provision is based on H.R. 1498, legislation introduced by Blumenauer earlier this year.
Apparently some Republicans were not happy about this almost minuscule effort to support bike commuting. According to Congressman Patrick McHenry:
They [Democrats] want to tell the American people, stop driving, ride a bike. This is absolutely amazing. Apparently, the Democrats believe that the miracle on two wheels that we know as a bicycle will end our dependence on foreign oil. I cannot make this stuff up. It is absolutely amazing.
I suggest that Congressman McHenry venture out beyond the confines of DC or Hickory, NC, his home town, and visit places like the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, France, and elsewhere, places where the bicycle is a serious component of their transportation system, where bicycle parking is readily available, bike lanes are built as a matter of course on most new roads, and a large percentage of the population uses the bike for trips each day. Kudos to the Democrats for passing this legislation, which by the way finally does away with the Hummer Tax Loophole, which allowed businessmen to write off the cost of vehicles weighing over 6,000 lbs.

See also the Bike Portland blog entry about McHenry's speech.

Write your U.S. Senators to ask them to support the engery bill.
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Saturday, August 4, 2007

Stringfellow Road bike accommodations in jeopardy

It's common for bicyclists and pedestrians to point the finger at VDOT for not providing adequate facilities for non-motorized users. In 2004 VDOT adopted a bicycle policy (pdf) that states in part that “The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) will initiate all highway construction projects with the presumption that the projects shall accommodate bicycling and walking.” VDOT is slowly beginning to adopt the policy, including in the proposed Stringfellow Road widening project which includes wide curb lanes for bicycle travel.

One consequence of the project is that some properties will be affected. Small segments of land on the edge of their property will be sold to the state. With the wide curb lanes, 4 feet of right of way is added to the proposed 12-foot lanes (48 feet of lanes, not including turn lanes). There is also a 10 foot asphalt trail on one side and a 5 foot sidewalk proposed on the other side.

The Poplar Tree Estates Homeowners Association recently invited VDOT to attend a meeting to discuss the Stringfellow Road project. Many members of the HOA oppose the project. We support some of their concerns regarding fast traffic and pedestrian safety. However, we feel strongly that on-road bike facilities must be part of the project. Two feet of additional lane width in the outside lane is a minimal bike facility that some residents think is excessive.

According to the article entitled Emotions Erupt at Stringfellow Meeting, few bicyclists currently use the road so some residents ask why should new facilities be included in the project. We've heard from many cyclists who now use the road, and given a wide outside lane and proper signage, many more cyclists would be willing to use their bikes for running errands, going to the library, getting coffee, etc. While we empathize with those residents who will lose some of their property, the on-road bike facility is necessary for providing transportation options for all road users, not just motorists. Cyclists will use Stringfellow Road, and Fairfax County should help make their journey safe.

In another article entitled Local Politicians Speak Out it is noted that several politicians attended the meeting:
Supervisor Michael R. Frey (R-Sully), Sen. Ken Cuccinelli (R-37th) and Del. Chuck Caputo (D-67th) took their own stands on the proposal.

"My biggest concern is the sheer size of what you're doing," said Cuccinelli to VDOT liaison Bud Siegel. "It seems to me the simplest way to shrink it is to eliminate the two-foot, additional bike path [on each side of the outer lanes]."

Later in the article there is a quote from Supervisor Frey:
"I don't believe the demand for the bike lanes is here, and I believe the adjacent bike path serves the purpose perfectly well," continued Frey. "I know [Springfield District Supervisor] Elaine McConnell supports that position, and I believe [Board Chairman] Gerry Connolly does, as well. So I believe we'll eliminate the 2-feet outside lanes."
We hope we can change their minds. On Friday a Chantilly cyclist and FABB member arranged a bike tour of Sully District for Supervisor Frey, picture in white on the right, the chairman of FABB, Fairfax County bike coordinator Charlie Strunk, and others. We tried to make the point that the trail system is incomplete and in disrepair. The ONLY way that cyclists can effectively get around Fairfax is on the road. It's just not possible to travel to most destinations on trails. It's also more dangerous riding on trails in most places.

There are many ways to reduce the footprint of the road. The travel lanes could be narrower which would lead to slower traffic. With proper on-road bike facilities, the width of the 10-foot trail could be reduced. We hope to work with all parties to try to find a solution that retains the on-road bike facility.

If you want Fairfax to become a bike-friendly place, with adequate on-road facilities, please contact your supervisor and Chairman Connolly and ask them to keep the planned wide curb lane on Stringfellow Road. Please act soon. The County and VDOT are currently finalizing the plans for Stringfellow and the Board of Supervisors will vote on the final plan at their September 10 meeting. If you don't know who is your supervisor, enter your address (in the street field use only street name, not the suffix such as road, street, etc.) and see the field District Name under the Parcel information.
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Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Cool Counties initiative

Fairfax County has partnered with several other large counties and the Sierra Club to develop the Cool Counties Climate Stabilization Declaration. The Sierra Club will soon have more information about this initiative as part of their Cool Cities website. Fairfax County is committed to reduce global warming emissions 80 percent by 2050, an average annual reduction of 2 percent.

One way for the county to succeed is to start using bicycles for more trips. County staff could use bikes to conduct some field visits. More employees could be encouraged to bike to work, possibly using financial incentives. Better bike facilities in the county would allow more people to use their bikes for transportation. At least half of all trips we take are 5 miles or less, some of which are idea for using a bicycle. Even when hauling groceries or other items, bike trailers could be used.

Charlie Strunk, the County Bike Coordinator, is trying to implement a program for using small folding bicycles donated by bikes@vienna to ride between office buildings at the Government Center in Fair Oaks. The buildings were so poorly planned that many employees drive the few blocks between them. If they were built today, they would be located on the street, with parking in the rear. Instead, they are set back a long distance from the street, with parking in front. Charlie is not having much luck due to bureaucratic hurdles, but it's a step in the right direction.

Let Chairman Connolly and your county supervisor know that you support their initiative and that it should include better facilities for bicyclists so that we can help reduce global warming emissions by riding our bikes more.
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