Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Bike Culture and Policies in Denmark

The Coalition for Smarter Growth, WABA and League of American Bicyclists are sponsoring a talk tonight by Mikael Colville-Andersen entitled Cycle Chic-Bike Culture and Policies in Denmark. A film-maker, speaker and writer, Mr. Colville-Andersen has actively branded Copenhagen as the leading bike city in the world. Check out his two blogs: and Visit the CSG website to RSVP.

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Fixed gear bikes in Post

Most of page one of today's Style section of the Washington Post is devoted to a photo and lengthy article on the use of fixed gear bikes in the District, Look Ma, No Brakes! It's not exactly a timely article, since fixed gear bikes have been popular for many years in this area and in other urban areas around the country.
A fixie map of Washington would center on a handful of neighborhoods. Your fixie is what gets you from your futon in Columbia Heights to your computer screen downtown, then on to peruse the produce and fiction in Logan and Dupont circles, finally delivering you to an outdoor table on U Street NW, a rope line on H Street NE or a bike polo match at Eastern Market. Fixies haven't made it in a big way to the suburbs, and may never, for strictly topographical reasons. They aren't good over long hilly distances.
There is a definite appeal to fixed gear bikes; they are simple, inexpensive, and require very little maintenance. However, they aren't very practical and gears and a freewheel were invented for a reason; to make the bicycle even more efficient than it was without gears, allowing us to climb the highest hills and to coast on long downhills. Regardless, the article is just another sign that bicycles have become an integral part of many of our lives.


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Columbia, Missouri's bicycling mayor

This week's Parade magazine featured an article about Columbia, Missouri's efforts to promote bicycling in the city, A FreeWheeling City (beware of pop-up ads)
Until recently, Columbia (pop. 100,733) was, like most American cities, designed almost exclusively for automobile transit, offering up a host of four-lane mini-highways over which motorists could zoom between parking lots. For [Columbia Mayor] Hindman, a retired lawyer, the situation was all wrong. "If we depend too much on cars, then we increase our reliance on foreign oil, childhood obesity goes up, and life just isn't as much fun," he says.
The article goes on to discuss how other cities are improving their bicycle infrastructure. When Parade magazine features an article on bicycling, it's a sure sign that times are changing.
Hindman's next goal is to connect every neighborhood to a bike path, in the hope that he can continue to wean citizens from auto-dependence. "If we could get people to use their bikes or walk on 20% of their short trips, I’d be delighted," he says.

Meanwhile, the mayor will keep pedaling. "Every ride is different," he says. "Every ride is a new adventure."

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Traffic notes, part 1

Based on hearing a good review from a fellow FABB member, I've just finished reading an excellent book, Traffic: Why we drive the way we do (and what it says about us) by Tom Vanderbilt. There's a lot of good information about bicycling in the book, along with many other useful and interesting facts about traffic around the world. I found myself underlining many passages and writing notes in the margin, so I thought I would occasionally pass on some of the better points on the FABB blog.

Henry Barnes, the legendary traffic commissioner of New York City in the 1960's, reflecting on his long career in his charmingly titeld memoir The Man with the Red and Green Eyes, observed that "traffic was as much an emotional problem as it was a physical and mechanical one." People, he concluded, were tougher to crack than cars. "As time goes on the technical problems become more automatic, while the people problems become more surrealistic." That "surrealistic" side of traffic will be the focus of this book. p. 13

The average American, as of 2005, spent thirty-eight hours annually stuck in traffic. In 1969, nearly half of American children walked or biked to school; now just 16 percent do. From 1977 to 1995, the number of trips people made on foot dropped by nearly half. This has given rise to a joke: In America, a pedestrian is someone who has just parked their car. p. 16

Fast-food restaurants now clock as much as 70 percent of their sales at drive-through windows. An estimated 22 percent of all restaurant meals are ordered through a car window in America. Starbucks, which initially resisted the drive-through for its fast-food connotations, now has drive-throughs at more than half of its new company-owned stores. p. 16

When bicyclists violate a traffic law, research has showed it is because, in the eyes of drivers, they are reckless anarchists; drivers, meanwhile, are more likely to view the violation of a traffic law by another driver as somehow being required by the circumstances. pp. 23, 24
Vanderbilt also maintains a good blog about traffic, How We Drive.

He also writes a column in Slate. His latest is entitled iTransport: Could iPhone apps change the way we travel? Among the topics covered are Car apps, Public Transit apps, Bicycle apps, and Walking apps. "I've particularly enjoyed B.iCycle's app, which tracks variables like average speed and altitude climbed, then sends an e-mail report at the trip's conclusion. REI's BikeYourDrive features a nice twist on the concept, showing the advantage in cost, carbon emissions, and calories of a particular bike trip versus the automotive alternative."

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Weekend event at REI

FABB plans to attend the Subaru Frontcountry Tour sponsored by the Fairfax Corner REI store this Saturday, September 26 from 10-4 pm. The event will be held at the plaza near the store. Frontcountry is an initiative of Leave No Trace which grew out of a concern for proper stewardship of our outdoor resources. The Frontcountry concept recognizes that most people recreate near home on local parks such as the W&OD Trail, and the Leave No Trace concept should apply there as well.

The primary goal of FABB is to help create a bicycle-friendly Fairfax so that people can use their bicycles for transportation and recreation. Why drive for miles in congested traffic to "get away", when you can enjoy the many local attractions on a bike while getting some exercise? We'll be handing out county bike maps and information brochures.

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Bike racks on Alexandria's DASH buses

Tonight the City of Alexandria City Council will vote on a proposal to provide funding for bike racks on the City's DASH buses (doesn't that DASH bus on the right look naked without a rack?). The racks could be funded if the City buys one less bus.

According to Jonathan Krall:
DASH is the only bus system in the region without these racks). If you are an Alexandria resident and want to help, please write to the Alexandria City Council today (9/22). The City Council will be voting on this tonight.

Here is a sample letter:

Dear City Council,

I am writing to support adding bike racks to DASH buses using CMAQ/RSTP funding. I understand that the Transportation Commission voted to recommend that these funds go entirely to the DASH bus service. I also understand that the first unfunded item on the Transportation Commission's priority list is Bike Racks For Buses ($280,000).

I am writing to ask that some of the CMAQ/RSTP funds go to support this item (perhaps buy one less bus this year?). DASH is the only bus system in the region without racks. Bike-on-Bus trips are increasing regionally because of improved multi-modal connections. This would increase ridership and increase biking in Alexandria, both of which are good ways to get more local commerce without more local traffic.


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Happy Car Free Day

We hope everyone has a good Car Free Day,which is today, September 22. We've heard a report that the Fairfax County bike program staff were seen riding their bikes in the Fair Oaks area. The Fairfax Co DOT office is now located on Legato Road near West Ox Road, about a mile from the main government complex on Government Center Parkway. Since they frequently travel between the two locations, it makes sense to use bikes whenever possible. The Legato office staff have access to a bike room with several bike racks and some small lockers. We hope to have some photos of the recently completed room in the near future.


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Monday, September 21, 2009

Bikestation at Union Station Now Taking Memberships

If you commute into DC and want to park your bike at Union Station, the new bikestation that is located adjacent to Union Station will open Friday, October 2. Membership registration is now open. From a DC Dept. of Transportation press release:
Membership registration is now open for the Bikestation at Union Station. Memberships and 24/7 access are handled by the Bikestation Coalition, a national network of similar bike parking facilities. Interested cyclists can go to to register. Members will receive a card in the mail that will allow 24/7 access to the parking area. Introductory membership rates are $96 per year or $30 a month, plus a $20 annual administration fee.

The Bikestation, located on the west side of Union Station, is scheduled to open in the beginning of October and will offer bike parking, rentals, repairs and retail accessories. Bike and Roll, a local bike rental company, will operate the center and will provide the rentals, repairs, retail, and daily parking. See: for more information.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

New version of Tysons plan language released

Fairfax County planning staff have released the second version of proposed plan language [large PDF file] for redevelopment of Tysons. Development densities in the new version are much lower than those proposed by the Tysons Land Use Task Force.

The main reason given for the lower density is the inability of the transportation network to support increased traffic. From the Post article Tysons Redevelopment Plans Don't Square With Tysons Vision:
Before developers can build high-rises, even near the Metrorail stations, planners say, the area's already clogged road network will need to expand to accommodate the extra development because many of the new residents and office workers will drive [emphasis added: Why is the county assuming new residents and office works will drive? If Tysons is planned as a true mixed-use community, many people will be able to walk and bike and take transit to get around]. That would require three new interchanges on the Dulles Toll Road; another lane on the Beltway between Interstate 66 and Route 7, in addition to the high-occupancy toll lanes now under construction; and wider lanes on other local roads.
However, similar development occurred in the Ballston Corridor without increased traffic congestion; many more people now take transit or bike and walk.

A major change from the first version is the removal of bike lanes from the removal of bike lanes from the Boulevard cross section text. Version 1: "5 foot on-road dedicated bike lane per direction, where applicable." A complete bicycle transportation network is not possible without a provision for bicyclists to reach destinations along Routes 7, 123, and International Drive.

We are also concerned about statements contained in the Bicycle Network section on p. 62: "The expanded street network and the associated street types will improve connectivity and provide a safer environment for bikes by providing sidewalks and dedicated bike lanes." The last place for bicyclists in an urban area like Tysons is on the sidewalk. There is also no mention in this section of shower and changing facilities for employees.

These recommendations will be refined by a contractor-led bicycle plan for the greater Tysons area. The county is developing guidelines for a plan that will build on the bicycle plan that we presented to the Planning Commission Tysons Committee in February.

We will continue to monitor the plan language as it develops over the next several months.


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Senator Webb votes to kill bike/ped funding

Senator Coburn (R-OK) has been trying to kill funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects that are part of the Transportation Enhancements (TE) program for many years. Back in 2007 he tried to strike TE funding from the 2008 Transportation appropriations bill:
"we should not be spending money on bicycle paths for our own leisure, comfort, and exercise when we have bridges that are falling down."
I guess Senator Coburn has never heard of bike commuting or bicycles used for transportation. That effort in 2007 was defeated by a vote of 80-18. The 18 votes in favor were all Republicans.

Sen. Coburn's latest attempt to cut TE funding failed again in the Senate by a much closer vote of 59-39. What is more disturbing is that Virginia's Senator Webb voted with Senator Coburn to kill funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects. We suggest that cyclists tell Senator Webb that funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects needs to be increased, that people are demanding better, healthier transportation choices, cleaner air, and safer streets.

The Alliance for Biking and Walking provided some suggested topics for including in your message:
I am concerned by your vote to support Senate Amendment 2371 on the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill. The amendment would have allowed states to Opt out of the Transportation Enhancement program, which is the main source of funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects.

Bicycling and Walking are clean and efficient modes of transportation. Currently, bicycling and walking account for 10% of the national mode share and yet receive less than 2% of the surface transportation funding. These cost efficient programs save 1.4 billion gallons of gas a year and 12 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions a year. At a time when we are looking to address climate change and reduce Green House Gas Emission's (GHG) we should not be cutting funding for biking and walking.

Bicycle and Pedestrian Infrastructure saves lives. Nationally, 13% of all roadway fatalities involve bicyclists or pedestrians. 41% of pedestrian fatalities occur where crosswalks are not available. Additionally, a recent survey conducted by AARP, shows that 47% of the nation's elderly currently do not feel safe crossing the streets in their neighborhoods.

Building Bicycling and Pedestrian facilities are good for the economy. Building biking and walking infrastructure creates jobs - bike infrastructure is more labor intensive and less material intensive than building roads. Sidewalks and bike lanes make streets and downtowns into destinations for shopping and entertainment. Investing in walking and biking facilities helps local business and is an investment in the local economy.

Please reconsider your support for Transportation Enhancements. This program is vital to providing transportation options for all Americans.
One day bicycle and pedestrian projects will be an integral part of ALL transportation projects and there won't be a need for a separate fund. Until that time, TE funding is vital for building an interconnected pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Bus Bridge

There are some significant barriers for bicyclists trying to get around Fairfax County. Most of the Beltway crossings have no dedicated bike access. Experienced cyclists can ride in the road using Effective Cycling techniques, which in most cases means taking the lane where it is too narrow for motorists to pass. This takes training and practice and to put it mildly, can be a challenge during rush hour.

There's another way to overcome these barriers, what one FABB members calls a bus bridge for cyclists. An example is Leesburg Pike (Rt 7) crossing the Beltway in the Tysons area. There are no direct alternative bike routes to get from one side of the Beltway to the other without a long detour. However, the 28 buses travel along Route 7, and now that all Fairfax Connector and Metrobuses have bike racks, they can be used as a bus bridge. For the above trip, it will cost $1.25 to take the bus bridge across the Beltway.

To find out how to use the bus bridge, go to the WMATA website and use the Trip Planner to enter origin and destination points and time of travel. When you know the bus number, you can also use Next Bus to find out when the next bus will arrive.

Wouldn't it be nice if bicyclists could get a discount for using the bus bridge for these short trips?


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MWCOG Bicycle and Pedestrian Subcommittee meeting

We attended the September 15 meeting of the MWCOG bike ped subcommittee. Toole Design gave an overview of current work on the Metro Station Area Bicycle and Pedestrian Improvements Study. They are in the process of organizing stations by various characteristics into typologies. The Vienna Station is in the "Mixed-Use in a 'Pod' Layout". Toole will then further refine the typologies by conducting stakeholder meetings and field work. Recommendations for each typology will then be developed.

A Bikestation rep discussed their module parking system, an enclosed bike parking station with keyed access that installs in a day on a concrete pad with electrical access. Security concerns are reduced with the large windows. The module appears to be very competitive with individual bike lockers, allowing more bikes to parked on a smaller footprint. Bikestation helped develop the Union Station Bike-Transit Facility that is scheduled to open on Friday, Oct. 2 according to DDOT.

Maryland is conducting a study of school district policies on walking and biking to determine why some schools prohibit biking and walking to school. Toole Design will conduct the study. See the Maryland Bike Ped Advisory Committee June minutes for a few more details.

The Bicycle and Pedestrian Project Database is being updated. The database has not been updated in many years. Local jurisdictions can now edit the database. Here is the list of projects in Fairfax County. We could find no on-road projects such as bike lanes, wide curb lanes or paved shoulders. Arlington County's list has a single line that could accomplish a great deal in Fairfax County, "Add bike lanes Countywide." We will suggest that Fairfax County modify this a bit "Add wide curb lanes, bike lanes, and paved shoulders Countywide."

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

W&OD Trail detours and night closure - Update

As Ian mentioned in a comment to our earlier post, construction will being this week on the W&OD Trail under the Dulles Toll Road. We just learned the following from NVRPA:
Work will begin this week to shift the trail over the ditch line (will be piped, filled and paved) to provide room for them to work on setting the new piers. Night-time closures are expected to begin March 15, 2010 and last a week, this is for setting the steel beams.
We're glad to hear that the detour trail will be paved and we'll be checking periodically to see how well the detour is managed. As the March closings approache, we'll post a possible detour around the construction that would follow Sunrise Valley Drive to Wiehle Ave.


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Meeting with City of Fairfax Police

Members of FABB recently met with Fairfax City Police Chief Rick Rappoport and Sargent Pam Nevlud to discuss bicycling issues in the city. The City is developing a new web page, Cycling in the City, and we requested an opportunity to provide input. Rather than focusing on the dangers of cycling, we wanted more of an emphasis on education.

While many people think that bicycling is a very dangerous activity, when compared to other activities, it is relatively safe. It's safer than boating, swimming, and driving, and more dangerous than baseball and soccer. Most people receive almost no bicycle education, which would help reduce the number of crashes that do occur.

We hope to work with the City of Fairfax to possibly sponsor a bike rodeo for kids. Teaching kids how to drive their bikes at an early age will help everyone in the long run. Why wait until they are rebellious 15 and 16 year olds before teaching them basic traffic law and how to operate a vehicle in traffic. As John Allen notes in his article Bicyclist Education in Perspective:
By failing to teach our children at an early age, we give them the ten years between the ages of five and fifteen to develop bad habits which a few weeks of driver training at age 15 can not overturn, and which many carry with them for the rest of their lives. These bad attitudes apply between motorists, and they apply to the way motorists treat bicyclists and pedestrians. It is hard to regard bicyclists and pedestrians as equally important and legitimate participants in traffic if you have yourself never been taught any self-respecting or legitimate way to be a bicyclist or pedestrian.
As you can see from the photo above, the city still has a bike patrol and a fleet of police bicycles. That's Douglas Stewart of FABB and Sargent Nevlud in the photo.

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Bike/Walk Resources in Virginia

BikeWalk Virginia just released Part I of Biking and Walking Resources in Virginia.
BikeWalk Virginia with cooperative assistance from the Virginia Department of Health, Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), and Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) conducted research to provide the first ever comprehensive picture of the current state of biking and walking planning, resources, accommodations, and safety in the State of Virginia. Funding for the study was provided through a safety grant from DMV.

The study consists of two parts. Part I collected data from all counties, cities, and towns between 2006 and 2009. Part II consists of a statistical analysis to assess the relationship between the current level of biking and walking resources and injuries to bicyclists and pedestrians involving motor vehicle collisions. The following report covers the findings from Part I. Findings from Part II will be reported separately.
Since Fairfax County did not respond to the survey "data that was collected between 2006 and 2008 was used" although the maps show a score of 0. As we noted in an earlier post, we disagreed with data provided in the 2007 study.

Our main concern is that the county Trails Plan is not a bicycle plan; it's a map of planned routes and isn't a comprehensive assessment of current conditions, does not contain goals or objectives, has no plan for other bike facilities such as bike parking, shower and changing facilities, and other end of trip facilities, as outlined in VDOT's Bicycle Facility Resource Guide.

We contacted BikeWalk staff to let them know that we think the analysis in Part II of the study, assessing "the relationship between the current level of biking and walking resources and injuries to bicyclists and pedestrians involving motor vehicle collisions" will be affected by the lack of accurate data.

We will continue to advocate for a real bicycle master plan in Fairfax County. We recently met with Supervisor Jeff McKay to discuss possibilities for development of a bicycle plan as summarized in Why Fairfax Needs a Bicycle Master Plan.


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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Meeting with Vienna Police

This morning FABB members met with Vienna Police Chief Carlisle, Officer Bill Murray and others to discuss bicycle safety in the Town. The meeting was a follow-up to concerns expressed by FABB members about the recent proposal to modify the Town Bikeway Plan to require bicyclists who ride on the sidewalk to stop at all intersections and road crossings.

We agreed that it's very dangerous to ride on the sidewalk, noting that it is much safer to ride with traffic, on the road. One way to get cyclists off of sidewalks is to publicize the Vienna Bikeway Map so that cyclists know about on-road alternatives to riding on Maple Ave and Nutley St. Signed bike routes would also be helpful. While previous attempts to create a signed bike route from the W&OD Trail to the Vienna Metro station were fought by some residents, we think that attitude may be changing and many more people would support a non-polluting, healthy commuting option.

Any education or enforcement efforts should be directed at both motorists and cyclists, including the new Vienna Eye-to-Eye campaign. We support better enforcement of "right turn on red" violations and other blatant violations, including those by cyclists, as long as cyclists and pedestrians are not targeted exclusively, and we were assured that would not be the case.

The recently proposed Vienna Bicycle Advisory Committee will be established in the near future and they will provide a good sounding board for creative engineering, education, and enforcement ideas.

Thanks to Chief Carlisle and his staff for holding the meeting and hearing our perspective. We look forward to working together in the future.

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Friday, September 4, 2009

Bike to Market

FABB has discussed the idea of encouraging more people to ride their bikes to local farmer's markets. We ride to the Reston Farmer's Market on Saturday morning, avoiding the hassle of finding a parking spot at the busy market at Lake Anne Plaza. Most people drive from the surrounding area and could easily go by bike.

John Brunow, owner of bikes@vienna, has been providing bike parking at the Vienna Farmer's Market all summer. As he says, "The Vienna Farmer's Market is a great way to start your holiday weekend. All summer I've been taking bike racks to encourage people to ride their bikes to market. Tomorrow I'm taking a booth to sell baskets and grocery getter bags. Come early."
Event: Vienna Farmer's Market Cycle Parking Plus A Sale
"We selling the means for you to haul your produce home"
What: Retail
Host: bikes@vienna
Start Time: Tomorrow, September 5 at 8:00am
End Time: Tomorrow, September 5 at 10:00am
Where: Centennial Park
That's John above carrying a bike box on one of his cargo bikes, the Batavus.

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Thursday, September 3, 2009

W&OD Trail detours and night closure

The Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project announced yesterday that there will be detours and occasional night closures of the W&OD Trail for the next nine months at the Dulles Toll Road underpass between Sunrise Valley Drive and Sunset Hills Road. We're trying to find out more details about the detours or closures. Closure of the trail, even at night, will have a major impact on bicycle commuters in this part of the county:
Bridge Supporting Dulles Metrorail Extension To Be Built Above Section of W&OD Trail near Reston, Detours, Signs Will Alert Trail Users through Mid-2010

Users of the Washington and Old Dominion (W&OD) Trail near Reston will experience shifts and detours in a short section of the trail for the next nine months. The periodic shifts will be caused by construction of a bridge over the trail by the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project. Construction crews will build a bridge above the trail in the middle of the Dulles International Airport Access Highway between Wiehle Avenue and Hunter Mill Road. The bridge will carry the future Metrorail line over the W&OD Trail. The Airport Access Highway is the toll-free lanes that carry traffic to and from the Washington Dulles International Airport in the median of the east and west bound Dulles Toll Road lanes.

The work will start this month and is scheduled to end in mid-2010. The affected area is along the trail's mile marker 16 (see map). In addition, the trail will close temporarily some nights in late Spring 2010, when steel girders will be installed. Brief periodic closures also will be necessary throughout construction when equipment is moved into place. All users of the trail should watch for warning signs alerting shifts in the trail path, as well as equipment and materials in the adjacent slopes of the median.

If you have any construction-related emergencies, please call the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project Hotline at 877-585-6789. For other information, please visit our project website or call 703-572-0506.
[UPDATE September 11, 2009: From what we have learned from NVRPA staff, it appears that the construction may not begin until later in the year. However, when visiting the site two days ago we talked to employees of Dominion Power who were planning for work to being soon on moving utility poles in the Trail right of way in advance of work on the Dulles Rail project. They also plan to detour cyclists onto the gravel sidepath. NVRPA has requested that the gravel sidepath be paved during the detours, as it will be used for an extended period of time.]

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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Providing bicycle infrastructure for combating childhood obesity

Local governments should do a better job of providing good bicycle and pedestrian facilities so that children can get more exercise, according to Local Government Actions to Prevent Childhood Obesity, a new study that was released today. The number one goal for increasing physical activity is to "Encourage walking and bicycling for transportation and recreation through improvements in the built environment" and the first action step is to "Adopt a pedestrian and bicycle master plan to develop a long-term vision for walking and bicycling in the community and to guide implementation." pp. 57 & 58.

See the Yahoo! news article Tax junk food, drinks to fight child obesity, and the USA Today article Report maps out solutions to child obesity.

While some progress is being made in Fairfax County, the schools have not done enough to ensure that kids can safely walk and bike to school. Perhaps we should have an "adopt a school" program so that bike advocates can work with a single school to encourage them to provide bike racks to kids and to provide better bicycle education. More on this topic in a later post.


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