Friday, October 31, 2008

Bike commuting takes off in New York City

Commuter Cycling is Soaring is the title of an article in the New York Times about the increase in bike commuters this year in the city. New York has been counting cyclists since 1980 at key locations "at the Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queensboro and Williamsburg Bridges; at the Whitehall Terminal of the Staten Island Ferry; and along the Hudson River Greenway, at West 50th Street."

"Based on figures from an annual count of bicyclists conducted since 1984, the New York City Department of Transportation announced on Thursday that commuter cycling rose a remarkable 35 percent between 2007 and 2008."
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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Public hearings tonight

There are two public hearings tonight that affect cyclists:

Telegraph Road Citizens Information Meeting - Bike lanes are included in the proposed design for the widening of Telegraph Road between South Kings Highway and Beulah St. The road will be widened from 2 lanes to 4, with 4 foot striped bike lanes. A Citizens Information Meeting is scheduled between 5:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. A brief presentation will be given at 6:15 p.m., followed by a question and answer period. The meeting will be held at the Hayfield Secondary School, Lecture Hall 1604, located at 7630 Telegraph Road in Alexandria, Virginia. See map of school location.

Springfield Mall redevelopment public hearing before the Planning Commission - A major redevelopment of Springfield Mall is being planned. This is not a bike-friendly area, but there is a great potential for using bikes for local trips between the Mall, the Franconia-Springfield Metro station, and surrounding neighborhoods. Bike lanes are referenced in the plans but it's not clear where they will be installed. It appears that only a single bike lane is proposed along the perimeter of the mall, which VDOT will not allow for good reason. Now would be the ideal time for the county to work with VDOT and others to ensure that bike lanes are installed on both sides of the perimeter roads.

The Planning Commission public hearing for this case will be held on Thursday, October 30, 2008, at 8:15 p.m. Cyclists are encouraged to attend the public hearing and speak up for including bike lanes, long and short term bike parking for residential and commercial users, and bike changing and shower facilities. See the county project web page, along with the staff report.
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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Springfield Mall redevelopment

We attended a meeting on the Springfield Mall redevelopment sponsored by the Sierra Club on Oct. 21. The owners of the Mall plan to create a mixed use development surrounding the existing. The Franconia-Springfield Metro station is located just over 1/2 mile away.

While there was some discussion of bike facilities, there is no comprehensive plan for bicycle transportation in the vicinity. The developers planned to add bike lanes to Frontier Drive and Loisdale Road but only on the side of the road that adjoins their property, which is never a good idea and will not be allowed by VDOT. As a result, there will be no bike lanes as part of the project, despite statements in the County staff report that bike lanes should be provided on the streets within the development and leading to the Metro station.

While extensive plans have been made for vehicle parking, there are no specific plans for bicycle parking or other bike accommodations. When asked about bike parking the usual response was given: "of course we'll have bike parking throughout the development but we haven't got the details yet." It is early in the process, but bike parking should be given as much attention as car parking. If it isn't included now, it will be a struggle to provide it after the fact. The Reston Town Center is a prime example.

Why is it so difficult to create relatively inexpensive facilities for cyclists? VDOT, the County, and developers can explain all the reasons why facilities cannot be provided rather than working together to make them happen.

We encourage cyclists to contact Supervisor McKay of the Lee District to demand that proper bike facilities be included as part of this project.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Study Confirms: Safer Bike Routes Get More People Riding

A new study looks at the effect of dedicated bicycle infrastructure, such as bike lanes and bike boulevards, on bike trips.

"How effective are bike lanes at enticing people to ride? Portland State University professor Jennifer Dill has been looking into that question for more than a year, and her research (PDF) is starting to get some attention. Using GPS trackers to map more than 1,700 bike trips, Dill found that about half of all bike travel occurs on dedicated infrastructure like bike lanes or bike boulevards, even though such routes comprise only eight percent of Portland's street network."

From Streetsblog.
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Friday, October 17, 2008

Two Fairfax bike events on Sunday

There are not many public bike events in Fairfax County throughout the year. There are club rides (Reston Bike Club and Potomac Pedalers Touring Club) and bike shop sponsored rides, but not many major events. This weekend there are two, the Tour de Lee and BikeOctoberfest. FABB will hand out literature and have e-newsletter sign up sheets at both events.

Tour de Lee is sponsored by Lee District Supervisor Jeff McKay. The main "tour" starts at 9:30am and is a 10-mile ride around the district. It is very family oriented and police keep a close watch on the group. Trails and some sidewalks are used, and most intersections are controlled by police. There is also a longer, 25-mile ride around Lake Accotink Park that begins at 1pm.

BikeOctoberfest is sponsored by Revolution Cycles: "Biketoberfest is a one-of-a-kind event where visitors from the DC Metro area can check out over 30 vendors and bicycle advocacy organizations focused on introducing you to the great sport of bicycling! Experienced riders and newbies alike will enjoy this experience." Like The Bike Lane's Demo Days scheduled for Thurs. Oct 23, there will be several new bikes for cyclists to try out.
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Fence at Reston Town Center transit site

A few years ago Fairfax County built a bus transfer center adjacent to the W&OD trail at the Reston Town Center. There's a bike rack adjacent to the station that is well-used, and many people who use the W&OD Trail want to catch a bus.

When the transfer center and the adjacent Sallie Mae properties were developed, local bike/ped advocates met with the county and argued for direct connections from the trail to the Town Center and the bus station. Despite the fact that it was obvious that people would take the shortest route to these destinations, many excuses were given for not providing access.

Surprise, surprise, people cut through the woods next to Sallie Mae and others walked up a bank directly to the bus station (you can almost see one trail in the first picture). What was the response? Building two fences, one at Sallie Mae and one along the perimeter of the bus station. Fences to control pedestrians is usually an indication of poor design. When the county proposed the fence, it was contingent on providing two new trail connections to the Town Center and the station. Now there's just a tall fence.

We're expressing our displeasure to Supervisor Hudgins' office.
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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Herndon forms bike committee

According to the Herndon Town Clerk,

At last night's meeting, the Town Council adopted the mission, objectives & purpose for the Town's Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee. The committee will provide advice to the Town Council on matters relating to pedestrian and bicycle matters through the promotion of safe walking and bicycling as a viable means of transportation and physical activity.

If you are interested in serving on this committee, please complete a talent bank application and return it to the clerk's office for consideration for appointment by Council. For more information, contact the clerk's office at, (703) 435-6804.

October 14, 2008

Town of Herndon
Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee (PBAC)

Mission - To improve the quality of life in the Town of Herndon through the promotion of safe walking and bicycling as a viable means of transportation and physical activity, and provide advice to the appropriate bodies (Town Council, Planning Commission and/or the Town's Transportation Engineering Improvement Committee - TEIC) on matters relating to bicycle and pedestrian issues, in order to provide health, recreation and transportation benefits for all Town citizens.

Objectives - To facilitate alternative modes of transportation within the Town and provide safe streets that are friendly to pedestrians and bicyclists;

To support the integration of pedestrian and bicycle facilities with the street and transit network through the Trail and Sidewalk Program and other components of the Town's Capital Improvement Program involving transportation improvements; and

To support pedestrian and bicycle initiatives and strategies in accordance with the Town's 2030 Comprehensive Plan and the Town's visioning document titled 2027: A Vision for the Town of Herndon.

  • Review pedestrian and bicycle issues, to include matters affecting pedestrian and bicycle transportation and its relationship to parks, schools, transit stops and other major town facilities and, through coordination with Town staff, make recommendations to the appropriate bodies - Town Council, Planning Commission and/or the Town's Transportation Engineering Improvement Committee (TEIC);
  • Perform studies and projects as requested by Town Council on pedestrian and bicycle matters;
  • Facilitate citizen participation in the Town's consideration of matters involving pedestrian and bicycle questions;
  • Integrate walking and bicycling into the Town's policies and practices;
  • Seek funding for pedestrian and bicycle programs and facilities and advocate for the needs of Town pedestrians and bicyclists to applicable county, region, state and Federal departments and agencies;
  • Study changes on applicable regulations, laws and best practices concerning pedestrian and bicycle issues;
  • Promote safety programs and provide incentives for increasing walking and bicycling and promote physical and mental health benefits of walking and bicycling; and
  • Promote intergovernmental and public/private cooperation and coordination on pedestrian and bicycle matters.
  • 1 - Town Council representative, who shall be chair
  • 1 - Planning Commission representative
  • 1 - Heritage Preservation Review Board representative
  • 6 - Citizens
  • 1 - Department of Community Development staff, who serves as the primary staff
  • 1 - Department of Parks and Recreation staff, who serves as an "ex-officio" member and support staff
  • 1 - Department of Public Works staff, who serves as an "ex-officio" member and support staff

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

W&OD/Fairfax Co Parkway Connector Trail

Today my wife and I were out for a ride that took us along the trail that connects the Fairfax Co Parkway Trail to the W&OD Trail. We were pleased to see that the vegetation had been cut back and the trail was clear for a change.

In the past this short trail had become very overgrown and there was so little room in some places that it was difficult for two cyclists to pass each other. In one place you couldn't see oncoming cyclists either. Because this is a side trail off of the W&OD Trail, it doesn't get the tender loving care of the main trail. We're lucky if the trail crew visits once a year to cut back all the accumulated foliage.

Well this year a couple of enterprising cyclists took matters into their own hands (we won't mention their names). They brought their gardening tools and cut back the trees and weeds and made life a little bit better for the rest of us. Thanks guys.

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Thursday, October 9, 2008

Bike Commuter Act FAQ

The League of American Bicyclists has posted a frequently asked questions page on the Bicycle Commuter tax benefits passed as part of the Congressional bailout package:

"As the parking, transit, and qualified parking programs, the bicycle commuter provision is a fringe benefit, so your employer will still have to set up a process to administer the benefit that works for your organization."
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Monday, October 6, 2008

Biking after dark in Montgomery County parks

Montgomery County plans to issue permits to cyclists who use their parks to commute by bike in the early morning and late afternoon hours. The permit would cost a nominal fee and would come with a reflective tag. The Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority should implement a similar program for the W&OD and other trails in the area.

(from Commuter Page Blog, a good alternative transportation blog maintained by Chris Hamilton, Commuter Services Chief, Arlington DOT)
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Friday, October 3, 2008

Bicycle Commuter Act passes as part of bailout bill

The final text of the bailout bill includes the Bicycle Commuter Act otherwise known as SEC. 211. TRANSPORTATION FRINGE BENEFIT TO BICYCLE COMMUTERS. What it amounts to is that cyclists can deduct $20/month for expenses related to bike commuting: "bicycle and bicycle improvements, repair, and storage, if such bicycle is regularly used for travel between the employee's residence and place of employment." Even though Congressman Blumenauer of Oregon who introduced this in 2005, he voted against the bailout. Read more at Streetsblog and Biking Bis. Full text of the bill.

Update 5Oct2008: Bike Portland has a good post on the Bike Commuter Act portion of the bailout bill, including a comment from Congressman Blumenauer's office that: "the reality is that no one really knows how/when this will be implemented.

Under normal circumstances, it would take several months at least for this to be figured out... and now with the crazy budget situation we're in.. who knows.

this has just been authorized... but the funds have not been appropriated and how it will be written into the tax code is still to be decided.

best I can say at this point is stay tuned. i've asked Blumeneauer's office for more information and will share it as soon as i can."

In another comment there is a link to the tax code that is amended by Sec. 201, which currently gives an employer a $200 per month tax write-off for parking.

In a third comment: "It seems like if you rode every month of the year your employer could give you $240 in this type of benefit and write it off and the employee would not have to pay income tax."

There are still many unanswered questions about how the benefit will be implemented.
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Thursday, October 2, 2008

Fairfax Co Parkway trail

Today I did some shopping using my BOB trailer. Part of my route was on the Fairfax Co Parkway trail. On the return trip, as I entered the trail at Stringfellow Rd I hit a large gap in the trail and broke a spoke. It was a long, slow ride home.

The trail is in terrible shape. While the Parkway has been repaved several times, the trail is almost untouched since it was built years ago. Here is a picture I took of the trail just south of Rt 29. We've complained about the bad conditions in the past. Some sections have been patched, but as you can see, some sections are in really bad shape. That's one reason that most regular commuters use the paved shoulder instead of the trail.

Not only is the trail in bad condition, there are no directional signs in the northern part of the trail. It's been a goal of FABB for a couple of years to get VDOT to sign the route, especially at the detour at I-66. Still nothing. How much would it cost to put up a couple of directional signs? Very little. We've even located places where signs are needed, but nothing has happened. We'll keep trying.


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Transportation fringe benefit to bicycle commuters.

Regardless of how you feel about the Wall Street bailout bill recently passed by the U.S. Senate, if you're a bike commuter you should be pleased that the bill includes a "Transportation fringe benefit to bicycle commuters" in Sec. 211. Congressman Earl Blumenauer has promoted this legislation for many years. He introduced H.R. 1498, the Bike Commuter Act, extending commuter benefits to bicyclists. It was included in the Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Tax Act, H.R.5351, which passed the House of Representatives. The same wording has now been passed by both the House and the Senate.

You can read the full text of the bailout bill at CNN. Here is part of Sec. 211:
  • QUALIFIED BICYCLE COMMUTING REIMBURSEMENT - The term 'qualified bicycle commuting reimbursement' means, with respect to any calendar year, any employer reimbursement during the 15-month period beginning with the first day of such calendar year for reasonable expenses incurred by the employee during such calendar year for the purchase of a bicycle and bicycle improvements, repair, and storage, if such bicycle is regularly used for travel between the employee's residence and place of employment.

  • APPLICABLE ANNUAL LIMITATION - The term 'applicable annual limitation' means, with respect to any employee for any calendar year, the product of $20 multiplied by the number of qualified bicycle commuting months during such year.

  • EFFECTIVE DATE - The amendments made by this section shall apply to taxable years beginning after December 31, 2008.
If the bike commuter provision remains in a bill that is signed into law, it will be a great excuse for a New Year's Day ride to celebrate.
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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Walk and Bike to School Day

Walk to School Day is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 8. Kids are encouraged to walk and bike to school on that day and many schools around the country sponsor events. Louise Archer Elementary School in Vienna is holding an event that day as well as a Safe Routes To School Walk and Bike to School Challenge from October 8-17. During the challenge students participating in walking or biking to school will receive small prizes as encouragement.

One wonders why in a county of over 1 million people there is only one school participating in this program, despite Federal funds available through the Safe Routes to School program administered by VDOT. If you have children in Fairfax County schools, why not ask the school administration why they are not participating in the program and why more kids don't walk and bike to school.

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