Tuesday, October 6, 2009
 

Fairfax County Board supports bicycle master plan

At yesterday's Board of Supervisor's meeting Lee District Supervisor Jeff McKay presented the following Board Matter:
Support for a Bicycle Master Plan for Fairfax County

Madam Chairman—Use of the bicycle as a mode of transportation in Fairfax County has grown in recent years. Reasons include the spike in gas prices, environmental and health concerns, and the desire for transportation choices. The opportunity for bicycling to have a significant impact in these areas can be seen in the simple fact that nearly 40% of all vehicle trips are less than 2 miles and could be taken by bicycle.

The County has taken important first steps in fostering bicycle transportation by installing bike racks on all Connector buses, creating the Fairfax County Bicycle Map which shows cyclists the best routes through our communities, and funding the position of bicycle coordinator. The next phase, as proven by other large jurisdictions around the country, is the creation of a bicycle master plan that would serve as a blueprint for integrating bicycling into our transportation infrastructure.

This blueprint for bicycle accommodations must include goals and objectives, analysis of the existing network, a prioritized list of needed improvements which includes bicycle parking and other end-of-trip facilities, and an implementation strategy. A Fairfax County Bicycle Master Plan would build on the information in the Trails Plan and the County Bike Map and create a coordinated, simple strategy for the County.

Therefore I move that the Board endorse the concept only at this stage of a bicycle master plan. I fully understand the county's current fiscal situation and therefore ask that the Department of Transportation staff investigate the cost of such a plan and provide a longer term recommendation to the Board for the possible funding and development of a plan.
This is a major first step toward development of a bicycle master plan for the county, the number one goal of FABB. As mentioned in the Board Matter, the plan would include a comprehensive assessment of current bicycling conditions in the county and development of a prioritized list of on-road and off-road bicycle projects, with specific goals for the future, something that is missing in the current Trails Plan. Recommendations for development of other bicycle infrastructure would also be included.

Thanks to Supervisor McKay and the Board for their support for a bicycle master plan. The next step will be to find funding for the plan and FABB is looking at several options.

[Update 6Oct09: Post article references Board action, Fairfax Co. Tackles Bond Sale, Bicycle Plan, Other Business.] According to the article, Supervisor Herrity has reservations about providing bike facilities:
Supervisor Pat Herrity (R-Springfield) asked for a county estimate on the number of average daily bicyclers, saying that the additional 40 feet of horizontal right-of-way needed on some paved roads for bicycle lanes was a "pretty expensive investment."

"In an era of precious few resources, we need to spend them in the way that gives us the most benefit," Herrity said.
I don't know where he came up with the 40 foot right-of-way figure. Adding 3 feet to a 12 foot lane for a wide curb lane or 5 feet for bike lanes would only add a total of 6 or 10 feet of right-of-way to a road. In Reston, on Lawyers Road, no right-of-way was needed for the bike lanes created by reducing the road from 4 to 2 lanes with bike lanes.

Even with 5-foot bike lanes and a 10 foot multi-use trail added to a road project, we're talking about 24-26 additional feet maximum. We plan to contact Supervisory Herrity's office to clarify his position. After all, he is known to ride his bike to work and he did support bike facilities on Rolling Road when we met with him in June 2008.

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Comments:
How would a bicycle master plan differ from the 2006 comprehensive bicycle initiative that's referenced on th back of the FFX county bike map?
 
The bicycle initiative is a general concept that includes the bike map and some pilot projects. It does not include a bicycle master plan. Having a plan will guide development of bike projects into the future. Currently they are done on a piecemeal basis. VDOT has published a good guide to bicycle master planning, the Bicycle Facility Resource Guide.
 
Congratulations to FABB for this landmark achievement!

While developing a bicycle plan for a nearly 400 square mile county is no simple task, it need not require significant financial resources. By enlisting Fairfax bicyclists, existing County and VDOT transportation planning staff should be able to draft an ambitious bicycle plan with little or no support from outside consultants.

The comment by Supervisor Herrity is indeed odd, especially since on-road bicycling retrofits would virtually *never* expand the roadway. Most multilane roads in Fairfax County already have travel lanes that are wider than needed or desirable (i.e., the same 12-ft width used on freeways designed for 70+ MPH travel). By simply restriping multilane arterials out from the centerline or median with 11-foot travel lanes (instead of 12-foot travel lanes) during routine resurfacing, VDOT could routinely create wide curb lanes at zero extra cost. Sadly, Fairfax County should have gotten VDOT to do this decades ago, but better late than never.
 
This is great news. Looking at Fairfax County's current transportation plan map, I don't even see bike projects listed as a category. http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/maps/images/maps/handouts/pdf07/TPM_020108v34.pdf. If this plan is what's needed to move bicycle projects into this pipeline, then let's get cracking. I am a little concerned if we wait until we have money for this, events will have overtaken us. It's a brilliant move to get our foot in the door with this with Supervisor McKay's motion.
 
I recommend you guys check out the board discussion of the bicycle plan at the meeting, which you can view online.

http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/cable/channel16/asx/bos_10_05_09.asx

Fast forward to 3:01:30 (third hour, first minute, and about 30 seconds) and you can hear the full discussion.

Data on bicycle demand and usage, bicycle parking ratio requirements, safe routes to schools, and how Herrity got a flat on his ride to work (Centreville to Gov Center) are also in there.

If I understood Herrity correctly, his 40 feet includes the roadside ped/bike trail, the median between that and the road, and an on-road lane, in both directions.
 
James, the video is interesting. I've transcribed what was said and am writing a note to Supervisor McKay to try to counter some of the negative comments. Including the 16-foot median as part of the bicycle right of way is interesting to say the least. In the future we don't want to hear others repeating that "40 feet of bicycle right of way" is needed to accommodate bicyclists. We'll be happy with 6 feet, much of which could come from existing pavement as Allen pointed out.
 

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