Thursday, January 31, 2008
 

North county bike map meeting

There were about 50 people at the north county bike map meeting held last night at the Vienna Community Center. That included county and staff staff, the Providence District Planning Commissioner Ken Lawrence, Edythe Kelleher of the Vienna Town Council, and many cyclists. After a presentation on the project, cyclists took markers in hand and proceeded to mark up the maps of the proposed route network.

They also had a chance to vote on non-map content they thought was the highest priority to include on the map. Choices included Safety tips, Bike laws, Bikes on transit, List of shops/organizations, Bike Tours (routes on the map), Distances between major destinations, and Detailed inset maps of complex intersections. There is limited space on the map, so cyclists placed dots on their top 5 choices.

If you were not able to attend the meetings you can still review the proposed route network map and provide comments to bicycleprograms@fairfaxcounty.gov. You can also send comments about the non-map content as well.

We plan to send out e-news updates as work on the map progresses. Once the map is produced, then next step will be to begin work on a Fairfax County Bike Plan. The only plan available now is the outdated Countywide Trails Plan, which includes on-road bike routes that desperately need to be revised.
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Wednesday, January 30, 2008
 

South county bike map meeting

There was a good turnout at last night's south county bike map meeting held at the Lee District Office on Franconia Rd. Cyclists heard introductory comments from Charlie Strunk, the Fairfax Co. bike coordinator, and a brief overview of the project from RJ Eldridge of Toole Design Group. Then we spent some time marking up the proposed route network map (large PDF) and voted on various options for other information to be included on the map. Samples included bike safety info, bikes on transit, bike tours in the county, inset maps, bike shop locations, etc.

The meeting tonight will be held at the Vienna Community Center at 8pm. For more info see the FABB Events page. We'll write a summary of the outcome of the meetings later.

If you cannot attend the meetings, you can review the map (large PDF) and send comments to bicycleprograms@fairfaxcounty.gov
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Sunday, January 20, 2008
 

DMV Highway Safety web site

DMV has launched a new highway safety website. Unfortunately the Bicycle Safety page is geared toward children. DMV must think either that only children ride bikes, or only children need safety information. Some of the information listed is outright wrong.

On the main bicycle safety page there is no information about the use of lights on a bike. Maybe it's because they suggest that kids should never ride bikes on the street at night.

One of the Rules of the Road is “Stop at all intersections, marked and unmarked.” My commute to work would certainly take a lot longer if I stop at every intersection.

On the Bicycle Safety FAQ, there are a couple of wrong statements. Maybe it's time for DMV to form a bicycle advisory committee.


There is information on bicycle crash statistics on the site. Arlington and Fairfax Counties are not doing well. Crashes in both communities have increased considerably in the past 5 years, especially in Fairfax where the number has jumped from 67 in 2001 to 107 in 2006. This may be a factor of more people riding their bikes, but we need to do much better in preventing these injuries. Better facilities will help as will better enforcement of traffic violations.

I've sent some comments to the DMV using their online comment form about the content of the pages.
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Crosswalk law revision

Bicyclists often use crosswalks when crossing roads while riding on trails. When doing so, they have the rights and responsibilities of pedestrians. Accroding to 46.2-904, A person riding a bicycle, electric personal assistive mobility device, motorized skateboard or scooter, motor-driven cycle, or an electric power-assisted bicycle on a sidewalk, shared-use path, or across a roadway on a crosswalk, shall have all the rights and duties of a pedestrian under the same circumstances.

For the past several years bills have been introduced in the Virginia legislature to reform the current crosswalk law that requires motorists to “yield” to pedestrians and bicyclists in a crosswalk. This is what yield means in the current law: The drivers of vehicles entering, crossing, or turning at intersections shall change their course, slow down, or stop if necessary to permit pedestrians to cross such intersections safely and expeditiously. Other parts of the law are also vague regarding responsibilities of motorists.

This year VDOT and several local jurisdictions met to develop refined language for the proposed bill that addresses some concerns about language in prior year bills. Using this new language, Delegate Adam Ebbin (D), representing House District 49, introduced HB 1270 to require motorists to stop for pedestrians and bicyclists in crosswalks. A similar bill was introduced in the Senate, SB 644.

FABB strongly supports these proposed bills and urges cyclists to contact their delegates and senators to ask for their support. If you don't know the contact info for your legislator, visit the Who's My Legislator site
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Friday, January 18, 2008
 

1 World 2 Wheels

Trek Bicycle Corporation recently launched the website 1 World 2 Wheels to try to encourage more people to use bicycles for transportation:

One World, Two Wheels, a Trek Commitment is just that; a pledge by Trek and its dealers to make the world a more bike friendly place.

The goals of the program are to:
  • Give $1 million to the Bicycle Friendly Community program of the League of American Bicyclists to increase the number of Bicycle Friendly Communities in the U.S.

  • Give $600,000 to the international Mountain Bike Association for their Trail Solutions Program.

  • Increase the number of trips taken in the U.S. by bike from the current 1% to 5% by 2017.
Let's hope this is a trend, that all bike manufacturers commit to help get more people on their bikes. It really is true: “The bicycle is a simple solution to some of the world's most complicated problems.”

See also the 2 Wheels Blog.
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Wednesday, January 16, 2008
 

VDOT regional pedestrian and bicycle advisory committees

On January 8, 2008 Virginia Delegate Adam Ebbin introduced House Bill No. 855 (HB855) in the Virginia House to require the Virginia Department of Transportation to establish regional pedestrian and bicycle advisory committees, one in each of the districts.
The committees shall hold regular meetings in order to seek public input for methods of improving government programs related to walking and bicycling. Citizen members of each regional committee shall be represented on a statewide pedestrian and bicycle committee, which shall also hold regular meetings.
A similar bill was introduced in 2005 and died in committee. VBF has advocated for such a bill for many years. The issue was raised several years ago by Supervisor Hudgins and the Fairfax County Board. VDOT's response was that there are many opportunities for cyclists to weigh in on projects. We think it is a good idea and we support the bill and urge cyclists to support it as well. We plan to track the bill as it progresses through the Va. House. To contact your delegate (or senator), visit Who's My Legislator? and enter your address.
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Tuesday, January 15, 2008
 

London on bike

On NPR this morning the segment Marketplace had a feature on bicycle commuting in London. It's part of their series My Morning Commute. Geoff Brumfiel describes discovering the many benefits of bike commuting:
Every day about half a million journeys are made by bike in London. That's up 83 percent from 2000.

It makes a lot of sense, says Carl Pittam. He's London director for Sustrans, which promotes sustainable transportation. “It has all the benefits for the environment, for people's health, and it relieves congestion not only on the roads, but on public transport as well. Particularly at peak times.&lrdquo;

But what about the perception it's dangerous? Peter McBride heads the cycling and walking division of the city's public transit authority “Well, it's actually pretty safe. It's a bit like swimming: You can stand at the side of the pool and think, "I don't fancy that." But when you're in, it's very different. And it's actually not as bad as you think.”
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Sunday, January 13, 2008
 

Virginia Bicycle Federation redesigns website

The Virginia Bicycle Federation (VBF) recently redesigned their website. The home page now consists of blog entries, with links to other sections of their site. It's a simple, clean look and the content is getting updated on a regular basis.
The Virginia Bicycling Federation was formed in the early 1990s by groups of volunteers - individuals, bike clubs, bike-related businesses, and other bike-related organizations - who came together to form a unified voice, to promote bicycling in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
We look forward to checking out the site on a regular basis.
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Friday, January 11, 2008
 

Congressman Blumenauer calls for a 'national movement'

Congressman Earl Blumenauer recently visited the Bike Gallery in downtown Portland for a fundraiser. The Bike Portland blog entry, In Portland, Blumenauer calls for a 'national movement', summarizes the event and has some great quotes from Blumenauer:
We've got about 10 years to turn around the global warming equation. We've got an 80% reduction by 2050, which means we've got to get started on it now; it's energy, it's transportation, and it's land use, and the bicycle is something that can bring people together that can make a difference in a hurry, and start changing the way we work with one another, how we deal with natural resources, how we live a little lighter on the planet. So this isn't just about bicycle advocacy, this is about saving the world, and healing the political process.
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David Goodman is Arlington County's new bike coordinator

As many of you may know, Charlie Denney has moved on from his position as Arlington County bike coordinator. David Goodman, who worked with Arlington’s WALKArlington program for the past four years, has been hired as the new bike coordinator. We want to welcome David as the new bike coordinator. We asked if he could provide some information about himself and he sent the following:

In December of 2007 I was hired as the new coordinator for Arlington's Bicycle and Pedestrian programs, taking over from Charlie Denney who held the position for the past six years.

My professional training is in architecture and urban design, with a Bachelor of Architecture from the Cooper Union in New York City and a Masters in Town and Suburb design from the University of Miami. I've been working as a design professional for the past 16 years - the last 10 of which for regional and local governments. I'm an AICP certified planner as well as a registered architect.

Most recently I've been the urban designer and planner for Arlington's WALKArlington program for the past four years. In this capacity I implemented sidewalk and intersection improvement projects, helped develop standards for pedestrian design, reviewed development proposals, and generally oversaw the built environment that directly affects the quality of Arlington's pedestrian experience. I also provided staff support for the Pedestrian Advisory Committee.

Prior to my work in Arlington, I was the urban designer for Palm Beach County, FL, where I reviewed development proposals and revised the County's land-use, zoning and engineering standards to support pedestrian friendly development. I have also managed design charrettes for South Florida's Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council and taught urban design at Florida Atlantic University's School of Urban & Regional Planning.

Though this is my first official role addressing cycling needs, I've been supporting Charlie Denney and the BIKEArlington program as part of the larger Arlington County Transportation Planning staff; integrating bike lanes and bike amenities into existing and future development proposals and recently, supporting the Bicycle Advisory Committee. When I ride, I am most often seen with my 3 year old daughter riding up front in her “Bobike Mini” stem-mounted seat.
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NVTA public hearing update

About 20 speakers testified before the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority at their public hearing last night. Several people mentioned the need for better bicycle and pedestrian facilities in N. Va. There was a great deal of support for the proposed transit improvements that are on the project list. Overall, the Authority seems to be doing a good job of including many transit projects. However, there are almost no on-road bike projects on the Six Year Plan (pdf); we calculated that 0.06% of the money is going to on-road routes, those proposed in Falls Church. Full text of FABB testimony.

NVTA logo
We did learn an important fact, that the subject of the hearing was only for the projects in the Six Year Plan. These projects are the Regional projects that receive 60% of the new revenue. The other 40% is allocated to the jurisdictions based on population. Of that 40%, half is designated for urban and secondary roads, the other half for projects from the long range plan, TransAction 2030 or transit. We are waiting to see the list of projects from Fairfax County. We are told that it will include several on-road bike routes.

I see two problems. 1. The bicycle community needs to develop some Regional, cross-jurisdictional on-road bike routes that can be included in the future NVTA 60% Regional project list. 2. Those projects should be part of TransAction 2030. However, the bike projects in TransAction 2030 are based on those in the NOVA Regional Bikeway and Trail Network Study, which in Fairfax County is based on the Trails Plan (large pdf). While there are some on-road bike routes in the Trails Plan, the plan is out of date. A major goal of FABB is to update the Trails Plan, removing the on-road bike routes from the plan and including them in the Transportation Plan (large pdf) where they belong. Updates to the plan will be based on results of work being done now to produce the county bike map.

Actually, there is another problem. Is there something missing from the above NVTA logo?
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Thursday, January 10, 2008
 

Passing vehicles in the same lane

One of the advantages of commuting by bicycle is knowing how long a trip will take. Most motorists don't; they must plan their trips with enough time to account for congestion due to any number of causes. Bicyclists aren't as affected by congestion as motorists, in part because we can maneuver between stopped cars during these tie-ups. But is this legal?

Yes it is, as stated in Virginia Code 46.2-907, Overtaking and passing vehicles:
A person riding a bicycle, ... may overtake and pass another vehicle on either the left or right side, staying in the same lane as the overtaken vehicle, or changing to a different lane, or riding off the roadway as necessary to pass with safety.
When people say that bicycling on busy roads is dangerous, I like to point out to them that motorists on these busy roads are often moving very slowly if at all. Try to drive through Tysons Corner on Route 7 or Route 123 at rush hour. The average speed on these roads is about 15 mph according to the Tysons Task Force transportation consultant, about the speed of a bicyclist. Often the speed is less. In these situations, it is legal to pass a vehicle in the same lane.

Speaking of Tysons, construction related to the planned Metrorail extension through Tysons is scheduled to begin this month. According the article in the Washington Post, Utility Line Relocations to Being in Tysons, the service roads parallel to Route 7 will be under construction:
Washington Gas will begin work in the westbound lane of the Route 7 service road between Gosnell Road and the first Route 7 entrance to the Pike 7 Plaza Shopping Center. The westbound lane of the service road will be closed to motorists until work is completed in that section, but the eastbound service lane will remain open.
This is a commonly used bicycle route through Tysons.
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Monday, January 7, 2008
 

Presidential energy plans

From what we can tell, the Barack Obama campaign is the only one that mentions bicycling in their energy plan. According to the Obama Energy Fact Sheet (pdf):
Build More Livable and Sustainable Communities: Barack Obama believes that we must move beyond our simple fixation of investing so many of our transportation dollars in serving drivers and that we must make more investments that make it easier for us to walk, bicycle and access other transportation alternatives.
  • Reform Federal Transportation Funding: Obama will build upon his efforts in the Senate to ensure that more Metropolitan Planning Organizations create policies to incentivize greater bicycle and pedestrian usage of roads and sidewalks, and he will also re-commit federal resources to public mass transportation projects across the country.
The Clinton energy plan (pdf) discusses the need for more public transportation and smart growth, but there is no mention of funds for better facilities for biking and walking:
As President, Hillary will increase federal funding for public transit, including buses, light rail and subways, by $1.5 billion per year. She will also link federal public transit funds to local land use policies that encourage residential developments that maximize public transit usage and discourage sprawl.

John Edwards on Ragbrai
The Edwards transportation component of his energy plan is similar:
Reduce Vehicle Miles Traveled: Edwards will create incentives for states and regions to plan smart growth and transit-oriented development with benchmarks for reductions in vehicle miles traveled. He supports more resources to encourage workers to use public transportation and will encourage more affordable, low-carbon and low-ambient pollution transportation options.
However, this year he rode in Ragbrai with Lance, between Aredale and Dumont, Iowa.

On the Republican side, there is no mention of bicycling in the energy plans. However, Huckabee rides a bike. According to the Huckabee blog entry Things You Didn't Know About Huckabee:
4. He rides his bicycle to the grocery store.
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Sunday, January 6, 2008
 

Northern Virginia Transportation Authority public hearings

The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) was recently created by the Virginia General Assembly to prepare a regional transportation plan for projects funded by new taxes and fees that went into effect on January 1, 2008. The Authority will hold a public hearing on Thursday, January 10, 2008, at 6 p.m., at George Mason High School Auditorium, 7124 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA (near the West Falls Church Metro station and not far from the W&OD Trail) to solicit feedback from the public on NVTA’s proposed initial Six Year Plan for Fiscal Years (FY) 2008 to FY 2010.

The Six Year Plan (pdf) lists all projects under consideration. The projects are listed by mode and by a score based on various criteria. The criteria are listed on page 6 and include such features as Activity Center Connections, Multimodal Choices, Intermodal Connections, Reduce Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT), and Improved Non-Motorized Travel Options (Bicycle and Pedestrian) to and within Activity Centers. There appear to be no bicycle-specific projects in Fairfax County. Non-bicycle projects in the county include two transit projects and widening of Route 7, which will include parallel 10-foot trails. The only on-road bicycle project listed in the table is “Bicycle Route Improvements” in Falls Church, for $60,000.

FABB plans to attend the hearing and testify in favor of funding for on-road bicycle facilities. Most of the listed Roadway projects should include on-road bike facilities, either bike lanes, wide curb lanes, or paved shoulders. Read about the Six Year Plan Projects and submit comments to TheAuthority@thenovaauthority.org.Written comments will be distributed to NVTA members at the January 10th meeting.
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Friday, January 4, 2008
 

Sign blocking trail

The sign pictured here was placed in the middle of a paved trail on Sunrise Valley Dr. near the Herndon-Monroe Park and Ride lot. We discovered a sister sign on the other approach to the lot, blocking a sidewalk. As you can see from the photo, the sign completly blocks the trail. We were riding in the road, but I stopped to take the picture to show to the responsible party.

It turns out not to be so easy to find that person. I called the number that flashed on the sign, the Fairfax Connector office. They claimed to have no idea who put it there. I then contacted VDOT. They didn't know much about it either but agreed to try to move it off the trail. It's been two weeks and the signs are still blocking the trail and sidewalk.

This is one of many reasons we advocate for cycling on roads where possible. I have a large collection of pictures of signs, trucks, police cars, etc. blocking trails and sidewalks. Would VDOT completely block a road, in both directions, with a sign? Obviously not. There seems to be an ingrained attitude that people using trails and sidewalks aren't really part of the transportation system. What we need is a network of on-road bike facilities.

[Update 20 January 2008] The signs were finally moved. They not sit in the median, freeing up the trail and sidewalk.
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