Sunday, June 29, 2008

Bicycle racing in Reston

The Reston Town Center roads were closed to motorized traffic today as amateur cyclists raced through the streets during the Reston Town Center Grand Prix (flyer). Bikes for the World was there collecting many bikes to that will be shipped to various countries. The event is sponsored by Evloution Cycling, The Bike Lane, and Golds Gym. It was also opening day for the new Reston Town Center branch of The Bike Lane.

It was great to see the Town Center devoted to a cycling event, one of many that occur there each year (Reston Bike to Work Day, the Reston Century, the Tour de Cure). Shouldn't it be a regular occurance in more places, closing the streets to cars and opening them up to people on bikes, skates, two feet, etc.?

There is a term for such a thing, Ciclovía, or life in the streets. Every Sunday in Columbia many of the main streets in the major cities are closed to cars and trucks and opened up to everyone else. Maybe one day the same will happen to Route 7 in Tysons or Route 123 in Vienna. We all pay for these roads, why shouldn't everyone be able to use them safely?
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Fairfax Bike Map meeting

county map segmentOn Tuesday July 30 the Fairfax bicycle map advisory committee will meet to discuss changes to the Bike Map that was released on Bike to Work Day, May 16. The Bike Map is available on the County website. It has been very popular, with the first limited printing of 3,000 gone in the first couple of weeks.

Proposed changes include correction of spelling and labeling, correction of the location of facilities, and whether some routes should be included or removed. In the area with which I am most familiar, some routes included on the map are rarely used by cyclists, such as Fox Mill Road. It is a narrow, hilly road with no shoulder. Cyclists do use short stretches to connect to other side roads, but rarely do they ride the length of the road. Without it, there are many gaps in the route network. Including it may give some cyclists the false notion that it is a common bike route, albeit "Less Preferred".

In another case a trail is located on the wrong side of the road. Errors can be expected in any map, especially one with the rapid production of the county bike map that was schedule for release on Bike to Work Day. Now that most of the map work is completed, including the design, color scheme, route network, etc., the changes should be able to be made quickly and a new edition should be out by late summer.

If you have used the map and have comments, please send them to me at and I will bring them to the advisory committee.


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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Big Initiatives

At the June FABB meeting we reviewed our goals. Our early goals of encouraging the County to hire a bike coordinator and to publish a county bike map have been met over the last couple of years. We still have a long way to go to achieve our main goal of having more on-road bike routes. We have made some progress with future projects such as the planned wide curb lanes on Stringfellow Road and bike facilities on the Beltway bridges. VDOT has funds for adding shoulders on existing roads but Fairfax received none of those funds last year. Several roads are scheduled for getting paved shoulders this year, but none will be stripped bike lanes or wide curb lanes with sharrows.

Fairfax County has had funds for bike lanes on Gallows Road for several years. VDOT has found many reasons why it can't be done. The latest absurdity is to demand a feasibility study that will cost over $100,000, more than some communities would spend for the entire project.

We didn't get far in our discussion of the goals. We plan to devote some time during the next couple of meetings to the topic. In the meantime, thanks to a reference by The Wash Cycle, we will ponder the The Big Initiatives: 17 things on which advocates of bicycling should concentrate from Google Maps Bike There blog. Comments?
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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Dangers of NOT Cycling

EcoVelo has a good post on two studies that show the benefits of cycling, and as a consequence, the dangers of NOT cycling:

“According to a 1996 study funded by the Australian Department of Transport, regular cycling reduces over four times as many heart attack fatalities as it increases in collision fatalities¹. By choosing not to ride to work, you’re substantially increasing your probability of dying prematurely, even when weighed against the risks associated with cycling in traffic.”

“A similar 2000 study, funded by the Danish Medical Research Council and the Danish Heart Foundation, found the dangers of cycling are far outweighed by the health benefits derived from the daily, moderate exercise that is typically associated with bike commuting.”
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Monday, June 16, 2008

Rolling Road widening project public hearing

Several members of FABB met with Supervisor Herrity on June 11, the day before the VDOT public hearing on the Rolling Road widening project. After Supervisor Herrity told us about his ride to work on Bike to Work Day we discussed our background and goals, including our support for both the wide outside curb lanes and the multiuse trail along the widened road. Supervisor Herrity was supportive of the wide curb lanes but not the trail. Instead he will likely recommend 5-foot sidewalks, depending on what he hears at the public hearing and from various constituents and county residents. He made it clear that he is not opposed to bike facilities. He has reservations about devoting excessive roadway to bicyclists in this situation with property frontage constraints.

FABB members also attended the public hearing the following evening. During the Q&A session there were many negative comments about the bicycle facilities, mostly from residents who live adjacent to the road. Because there are few cyclists riding on the road now, some think there is no need for the facilities. This ignores the fact that there are very few facilities now, and there will likely not be many new cyclists unless we provide facilities for all cyclists. We spoke out in favor of VDOT's plan and recognized VDOT and the County for finally including bike facilities in road plans. The plans should be supported in the long term interests of the county.

Cyclists need to let VDOT know there is a demand for bike facilities on Rolling Road. Please send comments to VDOT before June 22. Email your to Include "Rolling Road Widening" in the subject line.

Cyclists should also contact Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity, Fairfax County Board Chairman Gerry Connolly, and other members of the Board of Supervisors and ask that on-road bicycle facilities be part of the VDOT plan.
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Monday, June 9, 2008

Obama unwinds on his bike

What does the new Democratic candidate for president do after one of the longest primary battles in history? He goes for a bike ride with his family. According to the AP news item Obama family joins neighbors for a lake shore bicycle ride, Senator Obama and family went for a ride along the Chicago lake shore.

In a related story, the president and CEO of the bicycle component company SRAM will hold a fundraiser for Obama. “the event’s goal is to introduce Obama to industry leaders and to discuss cycling’s positive impact on health, energy policy, transportation issues and the environment.”


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Supervisor Herrity rides on Bike to Work Day

There are photos of Supervisor Herrity's 15 mile ride to work on Bike to Work Day back on May 16 on the Supervisor's website:

“On Bike To Work Day, Friday, May 16, Supervisor Herrity rode his bike from his home in the Little Rocky Run neighborhood in Clifton to one of the regional pit stops at University Mall at Braddock Rd. and Rt. 123. After meeting several fellow riders, he continued to his Springfield District Office on Rolling Road, for a total of 15 miles.”

Congratulations to Supervisor Herrity for being an example to others and participating in Bike to Work Day.

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Helmet use and motorist behavior

Today's Post contains an article on page 2 entitled Taking More Risks Because You Feel Safe that includes a reference to a study about helmet use and motorist behavior. A British researcher rode his bike equipped with a distance sensor on several stretches of road. He rode with a helmet, without a helmet, and with a wig:

“Walker was trying to figure out whether his interventions changed the way drivers passed his bike. He came to two conclusions: Cars gave him more leeway when drivers thought he was a woman with curly black hair. And they gave him less leeway -- getting dangerously close -- when he wore a helmet.

“Walker thinks drivers are influenced by unconscious stereotypes -- they may believe that female bicyclists are less steady, and that helmeted bikers are pros.”

I'm not sure what to think about the study but it certainly shouldn't affect one's use of a helmet, the benefits of which far outweigh most negative aspects. It was interesting that the photo used to illustrate the article was taken at the FABB Tour of Tysons last year when we hosted a ride for local government officials, including Kathy Ichter, head of the Fairfax County Dept. of Transportation, and her husband Larry Ichter, who also works for the county Department of Public Works and Environmental Services. Larry is adjusting Kathy's helmet in the photo. Yours truly is in the background giving the pre-tour talk.
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Wednesday, June 4, 2008

VDOT to count bicyclists and pedestrians this summer

There is very little solid information available about the number of people who bicycle in Northern Virginia. In 2004 the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority conducted a W&OD Trail use study that indicated that there are approximately 1.6 million trips made each year on the trail. While this confirms what many of us know about the popularity of the Trail, we need quantitative information about bicycle trips throughout the county. Without this information, it is impossible to determine if the number of bicycle trips is increasing.

This year VDOT Northern Virginia District Bicycle and Pedestrian program has contracted for bicycle and pedestrian counts at various locations throughout the district. Counts will be conducted during the late spring and summer. We have created a map of the count locations.

There are only 19 locations, heavily weighted toward major trail intersections, including the W&OD, Custis, and Mt. Vernon trails. It's important that future counts include more on-road locations. The city of Portland, OR conducts annual bike counts and they increased the number of locations from 60 in 2006 to 98 in 2007.

We hope to review the data once it is released and to provide comments on count methodology and locations.

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Cycling for Everyone

EcoVelo pointed out this video of John Pucher, professor of planning and public policy, Rutgers University, entitled Cycling for Everyone: Lessons for Vancouver from the Netherlands, Denmark, and Germany. He has done extensive research on bicycling in Europe and the video, while long, contains some excellent info on why people ride bikes much more frequently in some European counties than in the U.S.
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