Friday, February 27, 2009

FABB survey

We've developed a brief survey to find out more about, and to get feedback from Fairfax Cyclists. The survey should take less than five minutes and will give us valuable information about priorities for the future. Please take a few minutes to fill out the survey.
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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Economic Recovery bicycle projects in Fairfax

America Bikes has published a list of Ready to Go Bike and Pedestrian Projects. How does Fairfax County fare? You decide. There are two projects on the list, the first of which doesn't appear to be ready to go, since that column isn't checked in the listing:
  • Fairfax Co—Centreville Bikeway: $500,000
  • Fairfax Co—Lake Fairfax County Park trail Overhaul: $2,500,000
Off-road cyclists should be happy with $2.5 million going to the trail in Lake Fairfax Park. The Centreville Bikeway is a section of an abandoned road, Bobann Drive in Centreville that can be used by cyclists coming from south of I-66 to get to the Stingfellow Road Park and Ride Lot.

It sure would have been nice to have some on-road projects included in the list. It's somewhat of a chicken and egg problem; without funding, the necessary design and right of way acquisition (if needed) and other preliminary work won't get done for bike lane projects, and yet that work needs to be done before a project is considered shovel-ready. However, we think there are many opportunities for adding bike facilities to roads simply by adding paved shoulders to roads used by cyclists such as Idylwood Road between Husrt St and Idyll Lane.

The Fairfax County Parkway Trail has never been repaved and is in terrible condition in many locations. Seems like repaving that trail could be done tomorrow with adequate funds. If you have ideas for bicycle projects that could benefit from stimuls funding, the Commonwealth of Virginia wants to know about them.
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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

VDOT public hearing on Route 50 widening this Thursday

VDOT plans to widen Route 50 from just west of Route 28 to Route 742 (Poland Road) in Loudoun County. The project plans include 10-foot multi-use trails on each side but no on-road facilities. FABB has reviewed the plans and will testify at the hearing. The hearing will be held on Thursday, February 26 from 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. at the VDOT Northern Virginia District Office, 14685 Avion Parkway, Chantilly, Va. 20151. The office is located adjacent to the planned project.

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Friday, February 20, 2009

Tysons bike plan presented to Planning Commission

The Tysons Bike Plan was presented to the Fairfax County Planning Commission Tysons Corner Committee last night.

To show an example of good bicycle integration, we noted that Copenhagen, with a well-planned bicycle infrastructure, had a bicycle mode share of 36% in 2006.

We discussed the need for bicycle connections to surrounding neighborhoods to overcome barriers such as the Dulles Toll Road and I-495 to allow access from the north and east.

We discussed the map of planned bike lanes (above) that closely matches bike lanes shown in the Transportation component of the Straw Man Draft of Comprehensive Plan Text (pdf document, pages 49-57). The bike plan includes two proposed transit/bike/ped crossings of the Beltway, proposed by the Tysons Task Force, that will allow cyclists in McLean and Pimmit Hills to finally be able to safely bicycle into Tysons.

The biggest challenge: what facility is appropriate for Routes 7 and 123. Route 7 is being widened from 6 to 8 lanes with no bike accommodations. The sidewalks will be filled with people accessing Metro. As the Route 7 and 123 corridors will be the heart of the newly planned Tysons, bike access is needed. The current design for Route 7 is very bike- and pedestrian-unfriendly. A shared bus/bike lane would be one solution.

Along with a network of bike routes, support infrastructure such as bike parking, changing facilities, and showers is needed. The EPA Bike Room is an excellent example for employers in Tysons, where employees have keyed access to a room with lockers, bike racks, changing and shower facilities. The Arlington County Bicycle Storage Facility Requirements (pdf) are an appropriate model for Tysons Corner.

We also discussed the possibility of having a bike station, a small storefront that provides services such as bike parking, changing room and showers, bike rental, bike accessories for sale, and bike repair. See photos of the Cherry Creek Bike Rack, a bike station in Denver.

Finally we discussed how bike sharing could reduce motor vehicle traffic with bike trips, especially short trips from Metro to work or lunchtime trips. The Vélib' system in Paris is the best example, with 20,000 bicycles and 1,450 stations.

A copy of the presentation is online.

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Progress on Gallows Road bike lanes

At last night's FABB meeting representatives from VDOT and Fairfax Co DOT discussed plans for bike lanes on Gallows Road. The road is currently used by many bicyclists traveling between the Merrifield/Dunn Loring Metro Station area, the W&OD Trail, and Tysons Corner.

The project will be done in two phases. Phase I is planned for September 2009 and will be done in conjunction with re-striping of the section of road between Stenhouse Place (just north of the Dunn Loring Metro Station) and Idylwood Road (just north of the W&OD Trail). The second phase, between Idylwood Road and Old Courthouse Road in Tysons, will require several changes to the road and will take much longer, from April 2009 to April 2011.

The sections of these two phases are shown above (green is Phase I, orange is Phase II) and on this map of the proposed bike lanes. In some sections where there is not enough road width, the bike lanes will become wide curb lanes with Share the Road signs. We hope that by the time Phase II is built that shared lane markings, or sharrows, will be approved for use.

This project has been in the works for a long time. Money was available for several years and the county and VDOT have finally been able to work out solutions to the many problems involved. We're excited about the progress and look forward to riding on the first section this Fall.

As with most bike projects, it's not perfect. We would prefer that the entire section be either bike lanes or wide curb lanes, not both. Also, just south of the project across the I-66 bridge is the Dunn Loring Metro Station. The bridge is too narrow for a bike facility and there are no plans to widen the bridge in the near future. There is a paved multiuse trail on the west side.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Braddock Road pedestrian detour

The existing Braddock Road/I-495 bridge is a typical example of the lack of pedestrian and bicycle access across the Beltway. Well, it's going to get much worse before it gets better. According to the VDOT news release Braddock Road Westbound Bridge Demolition: "Starting on or about Feb. 24, the westbound bridge will be demolished and traffic will be shifted to the eastbound bridge, which will have two lanes of traffic in each direction. To make room for the additional lane, the sidewalk will be demolished and pedestrians will be directed to use the Wakefield Park bridge over I-495."

The detour map shows the route pedestrians (and cyclists who don't choose to ride over the bridge) would follow heading north to the Wakefield ped/bike bridge, then along local streets to eventually reach Ravensworth Road. This is about a 2 1/4 mile detour, walking at a decent pace it's about 30-40 minutes.

There is no mention of the inconvenience to pedestrians and bicyclists. However, in the news release it notes: "Motorists should expect eastbound delays of about six to eight minutes in the a.m. peak hours, and westbound delays of about 10-20 minutes in the p.m. peak hours."

This does not bode well for ped/bike access during the construction of the HOT lanes.

Dr. Gridlock mentions the detour in the online column Get There.
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Friday, February 13, 2009

Bike lanes proposed on Lawyers Road in Reston

VDOT is proposing to restripe a section of Lawyers Rd in Reston from 4 to 3 lanes with 5-foot bike lanes between Fox Mill Rd and Myrtle Lane, about 2 miles in length.

There are several destinations for local cyclists located just to the west such as the Reston South Park and Ride Lot, Fox Mill Shopping Center, and a new 10-foot asphalt trail along Reston Parkway/Lawyers Rd to the south. The few short sections of unconnected, crumbling paved trail along the road are not useable for bicycling. The proposed bike lanes would allow residents living in the area to finally have a bike facility on the road.

To the east is a narrow, two-lane section of Lawyers Road that is not part of this project but is used currently by many cyclists from the Reston Bicycle Club on their Tuesday night rides.

According to the bike lanes flier handed out at the Hunter Mill Transportation Advisory Committee meeting, several vehicles have been rear-ended on Lawyers while stopped in the left lane waiting to turn left; through traffic may not expect to encounter stopped traffic in a through lane. Also, 15 preventable crashes have occurred on this section of Lawyers in the year time period 2005-2007.

VDOT and the Hunter Mill District office plan to hold a public meeting on the proposed bike lanes on Wednesday, March 4, 7-9 PM at Langston Hughes Middle School (map). Cyclists are encouraged to attend the meeting and support the proposed bike lanes.
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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I-95/395 HOT lanes public hearings

We attended one of the I-95/395 HOT lanes public hearings held last night in Springfield. As we noted in our earlier post, we were most concerned about the ped/bike bridge used by many commuters to cross I-95 near the Springfield Metro station and Springfield Mall.

The bridge is being torn down to make way for exit/entrance ramps for the new HOT lanes. In order to replace the ped/bike bridge in the original location, it would need to be twice as high as the existing bridge to clear the proposed ramps. Instead, the new 10-foot wide ped/bike bridge will extend along I-95 to the Franconia-Springfield Parkway ramp, extend parallel to the ramp, then cross at grade across approximately 6 lanes of potentially high-speed traffic. It will then descend to the west side of I-95 where it will make a big loop, which we are told is required to meet ADA requirements. To see a detailed image, click on the image above.

The new bridge will be dangerous for users and could take twice as long to cross. Users will be required to activate a pedestrian signal, wait for the signal to change, then pray that motorists actually stop, especially those using the southbound ramp. This is a major degradation in service for trail users.

Please send comments to the project team by February 21 to ask for an equivalent replacement to the existing bridge:
  1. The new bridge will be much more dangerous for all users.

  2. The replacement bridge should provide equivalent access as the original bridge.

  3. The new bridge should provide a grade-separated crossing of I-95 and not require crossing of multiple exit/entrance lanes.

You can review the plans and make comments at the final public hearing tonight from 5-9pm at:

Minnie Howard School
3801 W Braddock Road, Alexandria, VA 22302

Public hearing flier.
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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Bike thefts plague Vélib

According to the BBC news article Thefts puncture Paris bike scheme, over half of the bikes used by the bike sharing system Vélib in Paris have been stolen. Most have been replaced, but the costs have escalated. "The company which runs the scheme, JCDecaux, says it can no longer afford to operate the city-wide network."

When I visited Paris recently I used Vélib extensively. I did notice that some of the bikes have been abused, so much so that one had to be careful ensuring that the bikes were in good order before checking them out. The system is relatively new and it will take a while to work out some of the problems. The bikes are very popular in Paris and we're quite sure that a solution will be found.

Update: Reports of Vélib's Demise Greatly Exaggerated from Streetsblog gives some perspective on the bike theft problem. JCDecaux, the advertising firm that runs Vélib, may be inflating the problem as they negotiate to renew their contract with the city of Paris. JCDecaux is still making a great deal of money from the advertising. Hat tip to Kottke.

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Support funding for bike projects in stimulus package

Bicyclists are encouraged to contact their Senators and Congressional representatives to encourage them to support explicit funding for bike projects in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan that was just passed by the Senate. See the Rails to Trails web page for more information.

While the House version contained explicit funding for Transportation Enhancement projects, the Senate version did not, possibly due to Republican opposition. As Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer stated in his response to efforts to strip funding for bicycling from the Plan, No, Seriously: Republicans Don't Get It. He lists the many ways that funding of bike facilities helps the economy and the enviornment:

"Nationally, if we doubled the current 1% of all trips by bike to 2%, we would collectively save more 693 million gallons of gasoline - that's more than $5 billion dollars - each year. From 2007 - 2008, bicyclists reduced the amount Americans drive by 100 million miles."

Update: See the League of American Bicyclists alert regarding the Enhancement funding.
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Draft Tysons Comprehensive Plan text released

Bicycle facilities play a prominent role in the plans for a transformed Tysons Corner. Based on the Tysons Task Force recommendations, Fairfax County staff recently released draft Comprehensive Plan text (pdf) that will guide future development in Tysons.

Bike lanes are planned on many of the roads in Tysons. The proposed grid of streets is divided into four classes of streets: Boulevards (Routes 7 & 123 and International Dr/Gallows Rd), Avenues (interior major streets), Main Streets (streets near the high density Metro station locations), and Local Streets.

Five-foot wide Bike lanes are planned on the Avenues and Main Streets. These are the main connecting streets in Tysons on which bicyclists will travel to work and other major destinations. Dedicated facilities on these roads will encourage more people to use bikes to get around Tysons.

While we strongly support the concept of bike lanes on Avenues and Main Streets, we think that bike facilities are also needed on the Boulevards. The task force report states that "People will be able to walk or bike safely along Route 7 and 123 to nearby businesses." People traveling to Tysons by bike will want to reach destinations along these roads and some kind of bike facilities should be provided. International Dr/Gallows Road is the main north south route through the heart of Tysons. Bike lanes are already planned for Gallows Road from the Dunn Loring Metro stations to Route 7. Without bike lanes on these roads, there will be a major gap in the bicycle network.

The local streets will not have dedicated bike facilities. They will be designed as complete streets with low speeds to allow cyclists to travel with other traffic, much like many of the local streets in any major city.

Two new bridges over the Beltway/I-495 are also planned. These will finally allow the many people who live nearby east of Tysons to bike and walk to Tysons, especially on the proposed bridge from the Pimmit Hills area to Tysons Corner Center.

FABB is working with the county to develop a bicycle plan for Tysons. The current draft bike plan closely follows the bike lanes indicated on the Avenues and Main Streets of the proposed grid. The major exception is the lack of bike lanes on Routes 7 & 123 and International Dr/Gallows Rd. As the plan moves forward we will be calling on bicyclists to speak out for these facilities at public hearings before the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors.

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Monday, February 9, 2009

Promoting Bicycling on Federal Lands

The Federal Highway Administration recently published the Guide To Promoting Bicycling On Federal Lands. There's lots of good information in the guide, including all the benefits of promoting bicycling on Federal lands. There's a section containing many examples of existing bicycle facilities and programs, including a discussion of the use of bicycles by park staff on the National Mall. Appendix F contains a good list of bicycle facility funding sources.
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Bear Rock Cafe is a bicycle-friendly business

Recently we traveled by bike to both Northern Virginia locations of Bear Rock Cafe, in Shirlington and Falls Church. Each time the manager has approached us to comment on our having arrived by bike and pointing out that bicyclists are always welcome at Bear Rock Cafe.

Both locations have U-racks outside the cafe, and there are large windows so you can keep your eye on your bike while eating. Both locations are also near the W&OD Trail. The Shirlington location has outdoor seating in the warmer months. On the cafe menu are hot and cold sandwiches, individual pizza, salads, coffee, etc. It's highly recommended as a bicycle-friendly business. If you know of other bike-friendly businesses, let us know. In the future we may participate in Virginia Bicycle Federation's Bicycle Friendly Recognition Award program.
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Saturday, February 7, 2009

South Carolina Senator DeMint wants to ban funding for bicycle projects

According to Bike Portland, South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint has offered an amendment to the economic stimulus package to ban all fund for bicycle projects. This is the full text of the amendment: "Prohibition on use of funds for trails and off-road vehicle routes. None of the funds made available under this Act shall be used for bicycle, walking, or wildnerness trails, or off-road vehicle routes."

Congressman Blumenauer responded: "Republican amendments and assertions that the creation of hike and bike trails in the recovery plan will not create jobs or stimulate the economy shows us just short-sighted and out of touch they are."

You can write to your Virginia senators to urge them to vote against the amendment.
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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

VDOT proposal to lower speed limit on Route 1

In early 2008 VDOT proposed to lower the speed limit on Route 1/Richmond Hwy from 45 mph to 35 mph. As was mentioned in our FABB blog post in March of last year and an update in April, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors halted the effort due to lack of notification.

Over the past year VDOT had met with various groups in the Richmond corridor. However, Supervisors Hyland and McKay continue to oppose the lowering of the speed limit. They contend that there will be a significant negative impact on commuters in the area. There is no mention of the relationship between high speed and pedestrian and bicycle fatalities. In fact, stating that pedestrians are to be blamed for their own deaths, mentioning "illegal pedestrian crossings" as a reason for the high fatality rate.

VDOT recently responded to the latest letter from the supervisors. They continue to argue for lowering the speed limit: "While we cannot guarantee that lowering the speed limit will solve all the operational and safety issues, it is the professional opinion of our engineering staff and consultants, based on available research, a lower speed limit will result in a more orderly flow of traffic."

We strongly support the proposal to lower speeds on this dangerous road. Speed is the biggest factor in determining the severity of a pedestrian or bicycle crash. In two British studies, the odds of pedestrian death rose from 45% at 30 mph to 85% at 40 mph. At rush hour, speeds are relatively low due to congestion, so lowering the speed limit would have limited impact on traffic flow and combined with other measures, could help. During non-rush hour periods, when travel time is not as important, faster speeds lead to fatalities.

If you agree, please let Supervisor Hyland and Supervisor McKay know about your support for lower speeds on Route 1.
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Woodlawn Road replacement underway

Construction of Mulligan Road, the long-awaited replacement for Woodlawn Road through Fort Belvoir, is now underway. The road is expected to open in 2011.

"To be done in two phases, construction on Phase I is scheduled for completion the summer of 2010. Opening the road to the public will not occur until Phase II is completed in 2011, according to Jack Van Dop, senior technical specialist, Eastern Federal Lands Highway Division, FHWA."

"'Phase I includes rough grading, drainage and bridge construction for a 1.7 mile, four-lane road with accommodation for on-road bicycle use and a trail, from Pole to Telegraph roads, just south of Hayfield Secondary School,' Van Dop said."

Project website.
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Route 50 widening project west of Route 28

VDOT will hold an open forum public hearing on widening of Lee-Jackson Memorial Highway/John Mosby Highway (Route 50) in Fairfax and Loudoun Counties on Thursday, February 26, 2009 (Inclement weather date Thursday, March 5, 2009) between 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. There will be a brief presentation at 7:00 p.m., followed by a Q&A period. VDOT Northern Virginia District Office 14685 Avion Parkway, Chantilly, Va. 20151.

This project is located just west of the Route 28/Route 50 intersection and does not include any bike accommodations along Route 50 under the Route 28 bridge, which is currently a major barrier to safe bicycle travel along Route 50. Parallel 10-foot multi-use trails are proposed along the 3.6 mile extent of the project.
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Monday, February 2, 2009

Herndon bike committee to hold first meeting

The first meeting of the Herndon Pedestrian & Bicycle Advisory Committee will be on Wednesday, February 11, 2009 at 7:00 PM at the Herndon Municipal Center, Hoover Conference Room (located next to Herndon Council Chambers), 765 Lynn Street, Herndon. For more information contact Mark Duceman, AICP Transportation Program Manager,
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Fairfax County Board Chairman candidate positions

Fairfax County residents will select their new Chairman of the Board of Supervisors tomorrow, Tues., Feb. 3, to replace Congressman Gerry Connolly. When he was chairman of the Board of Supervisors, Congressman Connolly was a strong supporter of bicyclists. He initiated the Comprehensive Bicycle Initiative that provided funding for a full-time bike coordinator, the new bike map, and funds for bike lane pilot projects. We hope his replacement will be as supportive of bicycling as a viable mode of transportation.

We sent a questionnaire to the two major candidates for the Chairman seat, Supervisor Bulova and Supervisor Herrity. You can read Supervisor Bulova's responses from the 2007 Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Candidate Survey. We have not heard from Supervisor Herrity.

As you can see from the survey, Supervisor Bulova supports "bicycling as an alternate mode of transportation and will seek explicit funding for bicycle facilities (bike lanes, paved shoulders, wider outside lanes, bike parking, better enforcement of traffic laws protecting bicyclists, etc.)" She supports "sponsoring a motion that puts Fairfax County on a track to be recognized as a Bicycle-Friendly Community" and she supports "the creation of general plan for bicycle accommodations."

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