Sunday, August 31, 2008

Bike sharing a success at Democratic convention

According to Bike Portland, the Freewheelin' bike sharing program sponsored by health care company Humana Corporation, Bikes Belong, and several bike manufacturers was a big success at the Democratic convention in Denver last week.

"Blumenthal [of Bikes Belong] says so far the program has been a smashing success. 'Right now, it’s the middle of the day, and I just got a report that 875 of the 1,000 bikes are out.' He also added that the bikes have made a big impact on the streets of Denver. 'The bike dynamic here,' he said, 'has changed dramatically in the last three days. Not only have we put 1,000 bikes on the road, but the whole scene is different… the "safety in numbers" thing is totally happening.'"

Denver has installed sharrows in several locations in anticipation of the increase in cyclists in the city. Check out a video of the bike sharing program in action.
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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Cycling's Widening Patchwork World

Another article about bicycling is scheduled for the front page in Sunday's Washington Post. Cycling's Widening Patchwork World: U.S. Lags Behind Two-Wheeled Boom describes some of the measures countries are using to encourage more people to use bikes for transportation:

"Commuters in Northern Europe have been lured out of their cars by bike lanes, secure bike parking and easy access to mass transport. At the same time, steep automobile taxes, congestion-zone fees and go-slow rules have made inner-city driving a costly pain in the neck. In the Netherlands, where such carrot-and-stick policies have been in place for decades, 27 percent of all trips are by bike."

We can do the same here in the states. It takes a commitment from all levels of government to start providing transportation alternatives for everyone, including good bike facilities.

"Germans are 10 times more likely than Americans to ride a bike and three times less likely to get hurt while doing so. On any given workday, more commuters park their bikes at train and subway stations in Tokyo (704,000) than cycle to work in the entire United States (535,000), according to the Tokyo government and the U.S. Census."

While the Census figures are probably quite low, especially now that gas prices are in the $4 range, the comparison with Tokyo is interesting. Among the many services the Japanese provide cyclists is a unique robot-controlled parking facility at a Tokyo subway station. See a short video about the system that was part of the Post article.
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Friday, August 29, 2008

Revised FABB goals

We've posted a revised list of FABB goals on our site. Fortunately we're able to retire some earlier goals that have been accomplished. Our primary early goals were for Fairfax County to create a bicycle coordinator position, to produce a bicycle map of Fairfax County, and to develop a network of on-road bike routes. After much lobbying of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and others, the Board implemented their Comprehensive Bicycle Initiative which included the hiring of a bike coordinator, Charlie Strunk, who along with his staff, focuses on bicycle projects in the county.

Also part of the initiative is the new County Bike Map which was released on Bike to Work Day. A revised version will go to press soon. The third and fourth parts of the initiative: "examining roads and streets that may accommodate on-road bike lanes with minimal reconstruction and establishing a pilot program for an interconnected bicycling network" have not fared so well.

After discussion with County and VDOT staff, it is clear that a major reason so little progress has been made in creating an on-road bike network is the lack of a comprehensive bicycle master plan, which is now our major goal. While the current Trails Plan does contain some on-road routes, it was last modified in 2002 by a volunteer citizen group and a major revision, conducted by professionals, is needed.

We plan to meet with the Board of Supervisors and County staff over the next year to discuss the need for the plan and to determine the best method for getting the planning process started. A great deal of work has been done to create the bike map, and this work can be used in developing the bike plan.

Other goals include: identifying a prioritized list of bicycle projects, such as short segments of road that need shoulders such as Idylwood Rd between Hurst and Idyl; development of a bicycle parking policy by the County; identification of a number of cross-county bike routes; bicycle safety and police outreach; identification of data collection and analysis needs; and establishment of a VDOT bicycle advisory committee.
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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Cross country bicycle routes in Virginia

There are two major cross-country bicycle routes that pass through Virginia and another that is under development. In today's Post the article Bike Trail Down East Coast Takes a Spin Along the Mall discusses development of the East Coast Greenway. The Greenway is a planned off-road trail parallel to the Appalachian Trail. Instead of connecting wilderness areas it connects cities. Currently only 20% of the "trail" is off-road. The rest follows mostly low-traffic roads.

U.S. Bicycle Route 1 is one of the two original cross-country bike routes. It is an established route that could be considered the on-road equivalent to the Greenway, extending from Maine to Florida. I believe this is the same as the Adventure Cycling Atlantic Coast Bicycle Route. U.S. Bicycle Route 76 is the other original route, stretching from Virginia to Oregon. It is also known as the TransAmerica Trail and was the route used in 1976 by BikeCentennial which later morphed into Adventure Cycling.

As noted by the Post in the Virginia Briefing, both of these routes will be shown on the new Virginia state highway map. The routes are labeled with with a blue dotted line and symbol (see sample above). The map is available for free and pdf files can be downloaded from the VDOT site.

U.S. bike routes 1 & 76 were established in 1982 and no "official" routes have been designated since. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) is the official body that oversees the routes. There has been discussion recently within AASHTO about expanding the U.S. Bicycle Route Network (pdf).
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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Regional climate change report recommends more bike facilities

The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments just released the National Capital Region Climate Report (pdf) for comments. The report contains recommendations to help reduce greenhouse gases in the region. One of the primary recommendations is to improve bicycle conditions:

"Goal 5. The Washington metropolitan region will plan and develop a transportation system that enhances and protects the region's natural environmental quality, cultural and historic resources, and communities. Strategy: 7. Implement a regional bicycle/trail/pedestrian plan and include bicycle and pedestrian facilities in new transportation projects and improvements."

While we applaud their recommendation for improving bike conditions, the focus seems to be on trails instead of a comprehensive network of on- and off-road facilities. We plan to suggest that the trails recommendation be expanded to include on-road facilities as well. You can provide comments as well:
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Monday, August 25, 2008

BikeWalk Virginia 2007 Bike/Ped Benchmark Study

According to the BikeWalk Virginia 2007 Bike/Ped Benchmark Study, Fairfax County has a Bicycle Plan, a Bicycle Advisory Committee, a Pedestrian Plan, and a Pedestrian Advisory Committee. The county does have a Trails Plan and a Trails Committee, but these are far from being true bicycle and pedestrian plans or bicycle and pedestrian advisory committees. The Trails Plan is a map of planned trails and bike lanes. It is called a plan, but does not contain the many aspects of a true bicycle plan.

A true bike plan should contain an assessment of current bicycling conditions. It should contain guidelines for development of bicycle facilities, including goals and objectives for on-road bike routes, bike parking, bike facilities in large residential and commercial developments. There should be an education and safety component. It should also contain a prioritized list of recommendations for future facilities, including a bike network. The only one of these contained in the county Trails Plan is the bike network, developed over 6 years ago by volunteers on the Trails Committee.

The Trails Committee consists of representatives from each supervisor district, from county government, from the horse community, from WABA, and others. While there are several bicyclists on the committee, it is not what most people consider to be a bicycle advisory committee. With the various groups represented on the committee, bicycling is only one of many often conflicting interests.

FABB is very interested in Fairfax County developing a true bicycle master plan and having a bicycle advisory committee. Our main goal this year is to encourage the county to begin the development of a comprehensive bicycle master plan. Only then will the county and VDOT be able to move forward with a well-defined road map for improving bicycle conditions in the county.
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Sunday, August 24, 2008

SmartBike DC film

Streetfilms recently visited DC and produced a short film on the new bike sharing system, the first in North America:

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Friday, August 22, 2008

They're Everyone's Roads

That's the title of a letter to the editor of the Post in response to an earlier letter Sharing the Road But Not the Load. The earlier letter tried to propogate the myth that only motorists pay for our roads: "Kande Hooten [letters, Aug. 19] suggests that Tom Arundel should find another route if he dislikes having to share MacArthur Boulevard with bicyclists who won't use the adjacent path [letters, Aug. 15]."

"Who does she think pays for the roads she and other bicyclists ride on? People who drive cars. We pay taxes on gasoline and taxes on car purchases to provide federal and state funds for new and existing roads. Maybe we should institute a road tax on bicycles. Maybe they should have to be licensed and registered."

In They're Everyone's Roads Nancy Taylor of Bethesda points out that bicyclists and other non-motorists pay plenty of taxes for roads "...last year the [Maryland] General Assembly decided to allocate a portion of sales tax revenue to the transportation trust fund, meaning that every person in Maryland who buys a bell, book or bicycle contributes to maintaining state roads, even if that person doesn't own a car."

"Money to maintain county roads, such as MacArthur Boulevard, comes from a county's general fund, with property tax and local income tax being the biggest sources of revenue."

"Everyone who owns property or pays local income tax contributes to the maintenance of county roads, whether that person drives or not."

She goes on to point out that most bicyclists also own cars and pay related taxes. For an in-depth analysis of the topic see Whose Roads?—Defining Bicyclists' and Pedestrians' Right to Use Public Roadways published, a pdf document published by the Victoria Transport Policy Institute.
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Riding the W&OD Trail after dark in Vienna

We've been stopped twice in Vienna in the past year while riding on the W&OD Trail after dark. The most recent time was when we were with two other FABB members returning home after our monthly meeting. While it is the official policy of the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority that the park is closed after dark, many, many cyclists use the trail for commuting and other purposes, especially in the winter. (The "rule" states: "Do not use the trail after dark.")

We were told that we shouldn't be on the trail and that there are "dangerous people out there". This brings up two questions: What dangers are present, and what alternatives do cyclists have to the Trail after dark? To get an answer to the first question we called the Vienna Police. After a long wait we were told that there were no specific dangers but that trail users should be careful.

The answer to the second question, what alternatives are available, is very few. Between Herndon and Vienna, there are almost no roads that are bike-friendly, especially after dark. At the Beltway there are is one that involves riding on Idylwood Rd, not know for being very bike-friendly.

In the past we have not advocated strongly enough for alternative, parallel routes to the Trail. That will have to change for several reasons. We need a legal alternative after dark. Since so many people rely on the trail, a parallel route will help those people reach their destinations after dark and during the winter when the trail is closed due to snow and ice.

The Trail is also getting too crowded, especially during the weekends and on some of the milder spring and late summer evenings. Fast road bike riders should be on the roads ("Road bikes belong on the road"), and many walkers and runners could use the parallel unpaved trail ("We've got two trails, let's use them"). In order for road cyclists to use the roads, we need better on-road routes. We need a pro-active VDOT that knows what cyclists need and provides better facilities. We need a comprehensive Bike Plan for Fairfax County that outlines the prioritized list of roads needing improvements.

The parallel W&OD Trail needs improvements as well. Where there are no bridges crossing streams, walkers and runners need a better way to get across. They also need to be warned ahead of time that there is no bridge and the paved trail is the best route, instead of walking a long distance on the unpaved trail and discovering they need to walk on water to get across.

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Going too far

Going too far is the title of an editorial in the Fairfax Times about the proposed measures to harass day laborers in Herndon. It sums up the wrong-headed nature of these measures:

"..ideas now circulating in Herndon border on the absurd – confiscating bicycles chained to trees or signposts, revoking ABC licenses of some businesses and removing pay phones."

"These measures would affect all residents, not just day laborers. As the main reason that the laborers are in Herndon is for work, the proposals also seem unlikely to meet the council's goal of chasing the laborers out of town."

"In this 'green' era of fuel conservation, to discourage bicycle riding is counterintuitive. With relatively few bike racks in the suburbs, often a tree or signpost is the only place to chain a bicycle, and with the Washington and Old Dominion Trail passing through the middle of Herndon, most cyclists are not day laborers."
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Cleremont Dr bike route to close Sept. 1

As part of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge project, the bridge over the Eisenhower Ave Connector will be reconstructed. VDOT plans to route Beltway traffic on the exit/entrance ramps at exit 174, Eisenhauer Ave Connector, to avoid the bridge. This was expected to happen this summer as we noted earlier. The bridge work was delayed until 2009.

There is an important connection for bicyclists at this location, the Clermont Drive bike route leading to Eisenhower Ave (see the Fairfax Co bike map, Back side). There is a break in the sound barrier where Cleremont Dr ends, allowing cyclists and pedestrians to travel north to Eisenhower Ave and connections to Alexandria bike routes.

On Wednesday we learned that the bike connection will be closed for 5 days starting Sept. 1 or 2. Work will be done on the Beltway bridge forcing closure of the roads in the area. The closure is supposed to be limited to 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. so it should not impact many cyclists. However, some cyclists do travel during that period, and for them there will be no detours provided, despite assurances from VDOT that if the bike route is closed there would be a detour. Signs will be posted in advance. We've requested that the signs be posted that overcome any language barriers, such as using graphics showing the closure. Here is the proposed detour that was discussed earlier.

We also heard that in 2009 the bike route will be closed for a much longer period. Fairfax County and Alexandria are working on getting permanent improvements for bicyclists in this area that can also be used as a detour during construction.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

FABB meeting Wed. August 20

FABB will be meeting tomorrow night at bikes@vienna at 7:30pm. Now that more people are attending the meetings, we plan to move to the Vienna Community Center for meetings through the end of the year. We've been very lucky to have a supporter like John Brunow of bikes@vienna who has allowed us to meet at his store for the past 3 years.

Among the items on the agenda is a discussion of the following topics: Herndon policy to remove bicycles parked in the right of way, the proposed Bicycle Master Plan, and a Fairfax County update. If you plan to attend, please let us know.
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Friday, August 15, 2008

Bike parking film

StreetFilms has produced a good film on bike parking in Portland showing a couple of interesting options that could be installed in the Town of Herndon. A bike corral is a series of inverted U racks placed in what was formerly on-street car parking. Instead of having space for one vehicle, there's space for 10 or more. A bike oasis is a curb extension where several U racks are placed under a canopy. There's also a display board where walking and biking maps are posted. Thanks to Bike Portland for the link.
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Post article mentions Herndon bike confiscation policy

Herndon Could Tighten Screws On Day Laborers is the title of an article in the Post on proposals by the Herndon Town Council to discourage day laborers congregating in public: "The measures are designed to make life difficult for day laborers. The workers have a constitutional right to solicit jobs in public, but their presence has infuriated town leaders, who say they are a nuisance." As mentioned earlier, they also want to confiscate bikes parked in the public right-of-way.

While some of the anti-day labor measures are limited to a specific area of town, the bike parking proposal would be town-wide. According to a memo sent by a town councilman to the council, one of the proposals would "Establish a Town policy to confiscate all bicycles that are chained, tied to trees or road sign posts in the public right-of-ways."

What this tells me as a cyclist is that I'm not welcome in Herndon. Since there is almost no bike parking in the town, just about anywhere that I park my bike will be considered illegal. I rode through Herndon today looking for racks and saw one full of bikes at Herndon Middle School, one at Great Harvest Bread Co. and that's about it.

Regardless of what you think of the day labor issue, I think it's time the council heard from some of the cyclists who pass through Herndon on a daily basis on the W&OD Trail. The bike policy would apply to us all. Many of us patronize stores and restaurants there, others work there. You could start by sending a message to the mayor. See the town website for other council email addresses.
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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Valet parking a success

FABB provided bike valet parking at the DC Asian Festival held in Reston on the weekend of August 9 & 10. WABA provided the bike racks and The Bike Lane transported the racks and other supplies and generously provided one of their Reston store employees on each day. Over 100 cyclists took advantage of the free valet parking. As far as we know, it was one of the first times that bike valet parking has been provided in Fairfax County. People were surprised and pleased by the service. We hope to be there again next year at the Asian Festival and possibly other events.
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Friday, August 8, 2008

Herndon council discusses confiscating bicycles

In order to harass day laborers in Herndon, Councilman Husch wants the town to confiscate bicycles parked in public rights-of-way. Maybe if the town provided adequate bike parking people wouldn't have to chain bikes to trees and signs. There is almost no bike parking in Herndon despite the fact that the W&OD Trail runs through the center of town. Our favorite bread store, Great Harvest Bread Co. has a rack, but they are the exception.

We plan to find out more about Councilman Husch's proposal and will also contact the county bike coordinator to make sure that Herndon police don't start harassing bicyclists. You can tell Councilman Husch what you think of his idea by sending him an email message. He's not the only one on the council to support the idea:

"At least three other council members - who along with Husch make up a majority of the seven-member council - agreed.

In e-mails obtained by The Times, Vice Mayor Connie Haines Hutchinson and council members Bill Tirrell and David Kirby all voiced agreement that the issue should be addressed."

We're surprised that the town council is discussing town business via email since according to the Virginia Open Meetings law "All meetings of public bodies shall be open" and "No meeting shall be conducted through telephonic, video, electronic or other communication means where the members are not physically assembled to discuss or transact public business." As we learn more we'll post info here.


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SmartBikeDC program in beta test phase

According to The Wash Cycle, the DC bike sharing program, SmartBikeDC, is now in the beta test phase. The program is scheduled to launch on August 13. They are starting small, with 10 bike stations that hold 15 bicycles:

"Each bike station consists of a rental kiosk and docking points for secure parking of bikes. The kiosk processes the rental of bikes and provides information for users. It also transmits the operational status of a specific location to the operations center and sends diagnostic information and alerts to the central server."

"Bikes may not be available at a particular bike station at all times, depending on the frequency of usage. You may check availability of bikes here."

If you plan to rent a bike and have internet access, you can check the availability of bikes at a station by checking the Bike Availability page.

There is a $40 annual subscription fee which allows you to use a bike for up to three hours at a time. See the SmartBikeDC FAQ page for more info.

There are many applications in Fairfax County for this type of program in higher density areas such as Tysons Corner, especially once Metro arrives.
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July Newsletter

For those who have not signed up to receive our newsletter, the July Newsletter is now online. If you would like to receive the September and subsequent newsletters, send us a note and we'll include your name on our e-newsletter list.

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Saturday, August 2, 2008

Another bicycling article in the Post

In today's Style section of the Washington Post is a good article about bicycling in DC, Cycling Back Around: Four Wheels Good, Two Wheels Better. In the City, an Old-Fashioned Conveyance Returns: "Somewhere along the line, we made biking a hobby and a sport instead of a way to get around," says Alexandra Dickson, an architect who commutes from Southwest Washington to her downtown office on a blue Breezer Villager that she calls Babe, after Babe the Blue Ox. "I'd like to see it get back to being a way of getting around."
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Friday, August 1, 2008

Asian Festival bike valet parking

The DC Asian Festival will be held in Reston on the weekend of August 9 & 10. Twenty five Asian restaurants will be represented along with a multi-cultural marketplace. Music and other entertainment will be provided on four stages around the venue, located across from Lake Anne Plaza adjacent to the Lake Newport tennis courts (See the location using FABB's draft bike map or see the Fairfax Bike map Front section).

Since there is very little parking available, FABB, in cooperation with The Bike Lane and WABA, will be providing a bike valet parking service for all bicyclists who attend. We are looking for volunteers to help with parking and retrieving bikes for a couple of hours on Saturday or Sunday. Please contact us if you can help out.

By providing this service we hope to encourage more people to get out of their cars and ride their bikes. If you plan to attend, you can ride to the Festival on bike-friendly roads from the W&OD Trail by turning right on Old Reston Ave, right on Temporary Road, then left on North Shore Drive. Take North Shore Dr. to Lake Anne where you will take a left on Village Rd., crossing Baron Cameron Ave and veering left to the Festival.
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