Tuesday, March 31, 2009

WABA Annual Membership Meeting tonight

All WABA members are invited to attend the Annual Membership Meeting tonight at the Arlington County Public Library in the Auditorium. The library is located just north of the Ballston Metro station and not far from the Custis Trail, at 1015 North Quincy Street Arlington, VA 22201. There is a suggested $5 donation. The evening will feature guest speakers, volunteer and advocacy awards, and the election of the 2009 WABA Board of Directors. Heavy hors d'oeuvres will be served.


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Thursday, March 26, 2009

BikeLoudoun featured in the Post

In today's Fairfax section of the Post is an article about the work being done by BikeLoudoun, Loudoun Bike Crowd Seeks Voice. Pat Turner is the force behind this group that is working to help make Loudoun County a better place to bike:

Now, as the county works on revising its transportation plan, Turner says it is time to change that. Her advocacy group, BikeLoudoun, is lobbying Loudoun officials to name a bike and pedestrian coordinator who would advocate for cyclists and walkers and oversee the building of a network of bikeways throughout the county.

See the BikeLoudoun Yahoo group.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Bicycle Times

Dirt Rag Magazine, the well-respected off-road bike magazine, recently launched Bicycle Times, a magazine that "will focus on the pavement side of the bicycle experience—from commuting, to touring, to riding with family, to pedaling around for the heck of it."

The first issue includes an article on bike commuting essentials, reviews of commuter bikes, an advocacy column featuring Bike Portland blogger Jonathan Maus, and other good stuff. Looks like a good practical magazine for transportation cyclists. I was pleased to find a copy at the local Barnes & Noble bookstore.

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Spokes; new New York Times column

Cycling is increasingly popular in New York City. Strong advocacy groups like Transportation Alternatives, Times Up!, and Auto-Free New York help raise awareness and fight for better facilities. It also helps to have a supportive Department of Transportation with specific goals: "NYC DOT is currently installing bicycle lanes as part of its 3-year 200-lane-mile commitment which started in 2006; over 80 lane-miles have been installed to date. Completion of the City's 1,800-mile bicycle master plan is scheduled by 2030."

Recognizing the importance of bicycling in the city, the New York Times just started a new blog, Spokes. The first post is about getting your bike ready after for the road if it hasn't been ridden in a while. It includes a short video with some basic maintenance info.

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Monday, March 23, 2009

Cul de sac regulations implemented

One of the major obstacles to cycling in Northern Virginia is the lack of neighborhood street connections. Many of our streets end in cul-de-sacs, forcing traffic, including bicyclists, onto congested collector and arterial roads. The few bicycle-friendly places such as the Town of Vienna, Arlington, and Alexandria, have a grid of streets that provide many options for cyclists to find low volume, low speed roads that connect.

The State of Virginia wants that to change. According to the Post article In Va., Vision of Suburbia at a Crossroads: Targeting Cul-de-Sacs, Rules Now Require Through Streets in New Subdivisions:

The state has decided that all new subdivisions must have through streets linking them with neighboring subdivisions, schools and shopping areas. State officials say the new regulations will improve safety and accessibility and save money: No more single entrances and exits onto clogged secondary roads. Quicker responses by emergency vehicles. Lower road maintenance costs for governments.

Since most of Fairfax is already developed, the new regulations will have little effect here for a long time. However, the new regulations are a reflection of the desire of many people who want the option of riding their bike or walking to destinations that are physically very close but currently have no connections. We hope this bodes well for possibly connecting some of the existing cul-de-sacs.


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Errands by bike

It seems that most people in the Metro DC area have full schedules and getting out on the bike can be a challenge. The best way is to incorporate bicycling into your lifestyle, especially by commuting to work. There are many options for commuting; bike-only, bike-transit, or bike-car. All Metro and Fairfax Connector buses have racks to carry two bikes, so the bike-bus option can be very appealing, especially to overcome barriers to bicycling like the Beltway or other non-bike-friendly areas. Bike to Work Day on Friday May 15 is a great way to celebrate bike commuting.

Oftentimes errands are left for the weekends, which for many people means several short trips by car. However, if you can figure out how to carry a few items on the bike, many of those errands can be done by bike. As an example, my wife and I usually ride to the market on Saturday mornings, then stop somewhere for lunch on the return trip. We can easily carry the market items in our panniers. The trip often includes stops at the bank or the hardware store. We get exercise, we have fun, and we're not burning any fossil fuels. If you don't do it already, next weekend why not try running a few errands by bike?

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Hunter Mill District ped/bike summit

The Annual Hunter Mill District Pedestrian and Bicycling Summit will take place on Tuesday, March 24th, 7-9 p.m. at the North County Governmental Center, 12000 Bowman Towne Drive, Reston. This is the draft agenda:

Part 1 - Where we are
  • 7:00-7:10 Welcome—Supervisor Cathy Hudgins
  • 7:10-7:20 County Pedestrian Program HMD Update—Chris Wells (includes Beulah Road Trail/RMAG Priorities) with 5 minutes for Q & A
  • 7:25-7:35 County Bicycling Program HMD Update—Charlie Strunk. W & OD Safety Improvements, 5 minutes for Q & A
  • 7:40-7:50 "Think of the Impact You Could Make"—Lt. Brian Hall (Reston District Police Station) (Ped/Crosswalk Safety), 5 minutes for Q & A
  • 7:55-8:05 New Pedestrian Priorities—Doug Pew, 5 minutes for Q & A
Part 2 - Where we are going
  • 8:10 - 8:15 Funding Challenges And Possibilities—Chris Wells
  • 8:15 - 8:25 - Connecting Tysons—Jenifer Joy Madden
  • 8:30 - 8:45 - Audience priorities
  • 8:45 - 9:00 PM - Goals for next year

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Is Fairfax ready for a Ciclovia?

Today we participated in an event sponsored by the Alliance for Biking and Walking (formerly Thunderhead Alliance) entitled Bring the Ciclovia to Your Streets: Lessons From Experts. "Ciclovia, a Spanish term meaning 'bike path', is a temporary closure of streets to cars, and opening of streets to people biking, walking, skating, etc." A panel of experts answered questions from advocates around the country about holding Ciclovias.

Ciclovias are great events that open the streets to everyone, usually for a period of time on a Sunday morning. Local groups often sponsor activities in the streets. Some examples are dance and yoga groups doing demonstrations and holding classes, bike rentals and bike repair stands, aerobics classes; the possibilities are endless.

Organizers of events in Chicago (Sunday Parkways), Cleveland (Walk+Roll), and San Francisco (Sunday Streets) provided many tips on holding such events. It's important to meet early in the planning process with affected businesses and organizations to explain the concept, including examples of events in other areas. To many people it's a new idea, unlike most other events that require the streets to be closed. The first event is always the most difficult. Once people how well the events are received by the public, subsequent events become much easier.

Is Fairfax ready for a Ciclovia? Where would you like to see the streets opened up to the public for a few hours on the weekend?


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Constructing a Green Transportation Policy

From the League of American Bicyclists: "Andy Clarke, President of the League of American Bicyclists, testified at the Select Committee Energy Independence and Global Warming hearing titled "Constructing a Green Transportation Policy: Transit Modes and Infrastructure" today. The hearing was held in response to Congress and the Obama administration's pressing agenda items -- global warming, clean energy and job-creating infrastructure projects. Clarke discussed the considerable role cycling and walking can play in combating climate change and promoting energy independence."

Andy's testimony contains some good facts about the potential of bicycling in the U.S.:
"In our metropolitan areas, more than 40% of all trips are two miles or less – a very manageable bike ride – and more than one-quarter are just one mile or less.

Furthermore, the data shows that within that 28.3% of the trips that are one mile or less in urbanized areas, 65.7% are made by auto. This means that 18.6% of all trips in metropolitan areas are auto trips that are one mile or less. These short trips are the most polluting and the most feasible to switch to bicycling or walking. The city of Chicago recently adopted a 2015 goal of having 5% of all trips five miles or less made by bicycle."

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Friday, March 13, 2009

H.R. 863 The Multi-Modal Commuter Transport Bill

As we perused Congressman Blumenauer's website recently, we happened across his Bicycle Goals for the 111th Congress which includes a description of H.R. 863 The Multi-Modal Commuter Transport Bill:

"On February 4th, 2009, Congressman Blumenauer introduced the 'Multi Modal Commuter Transport Bill,' a bill which amends the existing Bike Commuter Tax Credit to allow employees to receive transportation fringe benefits for the same month both in the form of transit passes and reimbursements of qualified bicycle commuting expenses. This bill also makes technical corrections to the tax credit to make it more user friendly for employers and employees."

This is a much needed modification of the current Bike Commuter Tax Provision which doesn't allow commuters to combine the transit and bike benefits. Many cyclists use both modes and both should qualify as transportation fringe benefits. The proposed bill should also clarify implementation of the bike commuter benefit, which as Bike Portland has stated, is currently the source of much confusion.

Both the San Francisco Bike Coalition and The League of American bicyclists have info about the provision on their websites.

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WABA gala next weekend

The annual WABA Gala and Benefit Auction will be held on Saturday, March 21 from 5:30-11:00pm at the German Embassy. This is a great opportunity to socialize with fellow cyclists, bid on lots of bike gear and other goodies, and support WABA. Congressman Earl Blumenauer will be honored this year:

"At this year's event, WABA will have the wonderful opportunity to honor and recognize Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) for his outstanding contributions and advocacy efforts towards bicycling as a national priority".

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Congressional lobby visits

FABB joined the Virginia Bicycle Federation and Bike Summit participants on Capital Hill yesterday to lobby for better bike facilities. Allen Muchnick, VBF President, scheduled visits with legislative staff for members of Congress representing Northern Virginia: Rep. Frank Wolf, Rep. Gerry Connolly, and Rep. Jim Moran. We asked that the representatives support the Complete Streets Act of 2009, and the Clean, Low Emission, Affordable, New Transportation Efficiency Act (CLEAN TEA), both of which will help provide safe, convenient facilities for bicycle transportation. We will track these bills as they work their way through Congress and will encourage cyclists to contact their Congressional representatives to ask for their support at the appropriate time.

We also discussed implementation of the Bicycle Commuter Tax Provisions, extension of the Mt. Vernon Trail from Rosslyn to the American Leagion Bridge, and a list of N. Va. projects compiled by Allen. Thanks to Allen for arranging the meetings.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

VDOT Blueprint for the Future meeting

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) will host a public meeting for the Northern Virginia District to collect public input on a comprehensive plan to address long-term funding reductions. During the meeting, "VDOT will provide a brief presentation regarding the proposed changes that will impact drivers in each area, including proposed reductions to: Rest areas, Safety Service Patrols, Mowing/roadside maintenance, Ferry services, Residency offices".

According to the VDOT website, the maintenance focus will be on "service performance tailored to the following goals: Maintaining Emergency Response, Safety of the traveling public, Priorities established from the centerline to the edge of the right of way, and Service tailored to urban and rural settings".

Cyclists need to speak out in support of maintenance of bicycle facilities. The "centerline to the edge of right of way" ignores the importance of bicycle facilities such as bike lanes, wide curb lanes, paved shoulders, and sidepaths that are usually located nearest the edge of the right of way. Sweeping of bike lanes and wide curb lanes, and maintenance of sidepaths should not be ignored.

The Northern Virginia District meeting will be held on April 1, beginning at 6 p.m. at the Fairfax City Hall, Room 111, 10455 Armstrong St., Fairfax 22030 (map).


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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

NY Times article "The Wild Bunch"

One of the most frequent complaints we hear about cyclists is their general disregard for traffic laws. As cyclists on the road, we have the same rights and responsibilities as motorists. Unfortunately many cyclists feel the rules only apply to motorists.

There's a good article in the Sunday NY Times on cyclist behavior in the city, The Wild Bunch. The basic premise of the article is that now that the city is listening to cyclists' needs and providing good bike facilities, cyclists need to start acting responsibly, like stopping at red lights and obeying other rules of the road. The author offers some modest proposals: 1. Stop at major intersections, 2. Ride with traffic on one-way streets, 3. Stay off sidewalks, and 4. Signal.


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Commuter Check Voucher for Bicycling

Does your company offer the new Bicycle Commuter benefit of $20/month toward the costs of bicycle commuting? Accor Services recently announced the availability of Commuter Check Vouchers for the Bicycle Commuter Act that went into effect on January 1, 2009. Employers can implement the program in one of two ways, 1) as a $20 per month subsidy (where the employer pays the cost) or 2) as $20.00 per month pre-tax salary deduction (where employees take the money out of their salary pre-tax).

Vouchers are then issued for the subsidy amount. According to the Commuter Check website, "Vouchers are redeemable at dedicated bicycle shops and bicycle parking and storage locations across the country."

The only "dedicated bicycle shops" (Excel file) listed for Virginia are REI stores in Bailey's Crossroads and Fairfax. Bicycle shops can apply to participate in the program, so contact your local shop to encourage them to sign up.

[Update: It looks like The Bike Lane and bikes@vienna will both be accepting vouchers in the future.]

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Saturday, March 7, 2009

LAB announces 2009 Bicycle Friendly Business winners

The League of American Bicyclists (LAB) announced the latest winners of the Bicycle Friendly Business award, one of which is from Virginia, Big Wheel Bicycles in Charlottesville (Bronze). Other DC area winners were Toole Design Group in Hyattsville (Silver), and World Bank Group (bronze). Here's more from the March 4 LAB press release:

The League of American Bicyclists is proud to announce 34 new Bicycle Friendly Business award winners which includes our first platinum designations to New Belgium Brewing Company in Fort Collins, Colo. and Bike Gallery of Portland Ore. This is the second time BFB winners have been announced since the program's inception in 2008 when the League announced the first 13 designees. "We're delighted to highlight these great companies and the ways in which they are getting more people on bikes," stated League President Andy Clarke. "In today's challenging economic climate, businesses with healthy, happy and productive employees are going to be the most competitive and the most sustainable - the Bicycle Friendly Business program recognizes some of the best examples of this in practice."

Hat tip to Biking Bis.

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Friday, March 6, 2009

Lawyers Road bike lane meeting

About 30 people attended the meeting on March 4 to discuss the proposed restriping of Lawyers Road. VDOT is proposing to reduce the travel lanes from from 4 to 3 lanes with 5-foot bike lanes and a center turn lane between Fox Mill Rd and Myrtle Lane, about 2 miles in length (project flier). Randy Dittberner of VDOT gave a good overview of the concept of a road diet and how it could improve traffic safety on Lawyers Rd.

According to Randy, 30% of the crashes that occurred on the road in the past 5 years were preventable. Without a turn lane, cars are often struck from behind when turning left. In many areas there is a drop off adjacent to the pavement. A police car was once struck from behind when parked on the outside lane.

Lawyers Rd is an ideal candidate for a road diet. It has a relatively low number of vehicles per day (8,000) and the level of service at the two major intersections is A and according to the traffic model, would remain A after the road diet. Most people at the meeting were enthusiastic about the project as it would reduce travel speeds and crashes, and provide a dedicated bike facility.

The main concerns expressed by those in opposition were about travel delays for those living in the area who need to turn onto the road from side streets. While there will be increased delay, it should be minimal. As one person noted, there will be much less danger of being rear-ended with the proposed center turn lane. The benefits seem to far outweigh the negative impacts. Several cyclists said they commute on Lawyers and were looking forward to finally having a bike facility on the road.

One local resident asked that a second meeting be held so that more residents could attend. If a second meeting is scheduled, we will send out a notice. In the meantime, if you would like to comment on the project, send a message to Supervisor Hudgins' office.
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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Lawyers Road bike lane meeting tonight

VDOT is proposing to restripe Layers Road from 4 to 3 lanes with 5-foot bike lanes (or paved shoulders) between Fox Mill Rd and Myrtle Lane in Reston. They are holding a public meeting tonight, March 4 from 7-9:00 p.m. at Langston Hughes Middle School, 11401 Ridge Heights Road, Reston (map). Cyclists are encouraged to attend the meeting and speak our in support of the proposed bike lanes. See the bike lanes flier. If you cannot attend and wish to send comments, send them to the Hunter Mill District office with the Subject: "Lawyers Road bike lanes".

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