Thursday, July 30, 2009
 

Dr. Gridlock: reduce congestion by adding more bike lanes

In today's Dr. Gridlock column in the Post, Traffic Remedies: The Good, the Bad and the Unworkable, he offers some suggests for reducing congestion in this area:
-- Consider imposing a toll to drive into a downtown congestion zone. The toll would make some drivers consider other travel options. The money raised would be used for congestion relief.

-- Create bike lanes and make bike rentals more available. It would get more cars off the streets.

-- Pursue the plan approved this month by the regional Transportation Planning Board to upgrade bus service. I'm not saying Gier should have taken a bus, but if more people had that option, streets would be less crowded.

Please share your suggestions. Here are a few ideas contributed by readers on our Get There blog:

-- Expand the SmartBike program in the District, especially as a means of reaching Nationals Park.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009
 

Crashes reduced with Idaho Stop

The WashCycle has a good summary of information on the Idaho Stop law that shows that bicycle injuries declined by 14.5%. The law allows cyclists to roll through a stop sign without coming to a complete, foot-down stop:
the year after the Idaho Stop became law, bicycle injuries in the state actually declined by 14.5 percent.

Boise, home to Idaho's biggest bike population, "has actually become safer for bicyclists than other cities which don't have the law," Meggs said.

And despite what you may have thought, the law wasn't promoted by cyclists in Idaho, it was judges.

Carl Bianchi, a retired administrative director of Idaho's state courts who is widely considered the father of the Idaho Stop, said it was traffic judges -- not cyclists -- who pushed for the idea in 1982.

Police were ticketing bike riders for failing to come to a complete, foot-down stop. Judges, however, saw "technical violations" clogging up their courts.

"We recognized that the realities of bicycling were a lot different than driving a car," Bianchi said.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009
 

How to fight obesity: ride a bike

It shouldn't come as a surprise that one consequence of creating a car-dependent society is the lack of opportunities for most people to get exercise on a daily basis. When most of our transportation dollars are spent building roads for cars, there is very little available for more active modes of transportation like walking and biking. One result: we spend $147 billion a year treating the obese.

That is the finding of a recently released Centers for Disease Control report entitled Annual Medical Spending Attributable To Obesity. A startling finding is that "obesity rates increased by 37 percent between 1998 and 2006 (from 18.3 percent to 25.1 percent of the population)".
The take-home message is that without a strong and sustained reduction in obesity prevalence, obesity will continue to impose major costs on the health system for the foreseeable future. And although health reform may be necessary to address health inequities and rein in rising health spending, real savings are more likely to be achieved through reforms that reduce the prevalence of obesity and related risk factors, including poor diet and inactivity. These reforms will require policy and environmental changes that extend far beyond what can be achieved through changes in health care financing and delivery.
What environmental changes are needed? The CDC provides some guidance in a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report published this week entitled Recommended Community Strategies and Measurements to Prevent Obesity in the United States. The report lists specific recommendations for preventing obesity. Number 17 is Communities Should Enhance Infrastructure Supporting Bicycling
Overview

Enhancing infrastructure supporting bicycling includes creating bike lanes, shared-use paths, and routes on existing and new roads; and providing bike racks in the vicinity of commercial and other public spaces. Improving bicycling infrastructure can be effective in increasing frequency of cycling for utilitarian purposes (e.g., commuting to work and school, bicycling for errands). Research demonstrates a strong association between bicycling infrastructure and frequency of bicycling.

Evidence

Longitudinal intervention studies have demonstrated that improving bicycling infrastructure is associated with increased frequency of bicycling (104,105). Cross-sectional studies indicated a significant association between bicycling infrastructure and frequency of biking (p<0.001) (103,106,107).

Suggested measurement

Total miles of designated shared-use paths and bike lanes relative to the total street miles (excluding limited access highways) that are maintained by a local jurisdiction.

This measurement captures the availability of shared-use paths and bike lanes, as defined by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, relative to the total number of street network miles in a community. The numerator of this measurement includes both shared-use paths and bike lanes. The denominator of this measurement is limited to paved streets that are maintained by city/local government, and excludes limited access highways. Although no estimated standard exists for this measurement, data collected from local governments reporting on this measurement can lead to establishment of a standard.

103. Troped PJ, Saunders RP, Pate RR, et al. Associations between self-reported and objective physical environmental factors and use of a community rail-trail. Prev Med 2001;32:191--200.

104. Macbeth AG. Bicycle lanes in Toronto. ITE Journal 1999;69:38--46.

105. Staunton CE, Hubsmith D, Kallins W. Promoting safe walking and biking to school: the Marin County success story. Am J Public Health 2003;93:1431--4.

106. Dill J, Carr T. Bicycle commuting and facilities in major U.S. cities: if you build them, commuters will use them. Transportation Research Record 2003;1829:116--23.

107. Nelson A, Allen D If you build them, commuters will use them: association between bicycle facilities and bicycle commuting. Transportation Research Record 1997;1578:79--83.
How does Fairfax rate based on the suggested measurement of (bike lanes and shared use paths)/(total lane miles)? You be the judge: We have about 20 miles of bike lanes and 6,000 miles of roads for a bike lane infrastructure index of 0.00333. We rate much better on the shared use path index, but many of those trails are in poor condition or do not connect to other trails.

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Monday, July 27, 2009
 

Metro bike/ped access survey

As part of the Metrorail Station Area Bicycle and Pedestrian Improvements Study, Metro is conducting a survey of bicycle and pedestrian users to solicit opinions on how people access stations and suggestions for improving bike/ped access.

This is a good opportunity to let Metro know about the need for more and better bicycle parking at stations, including covered racks. They also need to work with local communities to improve bicycle access beyond the station property limits, something Metro has been reluctant to do in the past. Bike routes between stations and major destinations need to be created. These routes should include wayfinding signs.

Bike stations could be located at many stations to allow customers to use bikes for the last part of their journey. Bike access on Metro trains during rush hour would allow many more people to use their bikes for commuting. This would require better bike facilities on trains.

Link to bike/ped access survey.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009
 

Dr. Gridlock discusses Eisenhower Connector closure

As we noted back in June, VDOT planned to close the Eisenhower bike connection at Clermont Drive in early July. The WashCycle pointed out that Dr. Gridlock recently discussed some of the frustrations being encountered by cyclists who use the connector.

There are very few alternatives for cyclists in this area. Using Van Dorn St involves a long detour for cyclists riding north-south near Route 1 who use the connector to avoid Telegraph or Route 1. There are very few good Beltway crossings for bicyclists in this area and it's unacceptable that VDOT isn't doing more to provide temporary alternatives for those who use the Eisenhower connection. To complain, write to Bryan Johnson of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge project.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009
 

Bike access to Metro Stations

Tomorrow, Wednesday, July 22, Metro will hold a public workshop on Metro's Bicycle and Pedestrian Facility Planning Study. This is a chance for bicyclists to provide input on how Metro can improve bike access to their stations. One of the main purposes of the study is to "Address growing bike access to stations and identify future needs for bike facilities". In the past Metro showed little concern for how bicyclists arrived since Metro does not own or control property leading to the stations. However, it's in everyone's best interest to provide better bike access and to improve bike parking at the stations. The meeting will be held from 5:30 - 8:30 p.m. with a presentation at 6:30 p.m. Metro Headquarters — Lobby Meeting Room, 600 5th Street, NW — Washington, DC 20001

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Sunday, July 19, 2009
 

NVTA bashes bikes

The Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance (not to be confused with the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority) is a transportation advocacy group that supports building more road capacity throughout the DC region. Development of their top priority projects would result in increased suburban sprawl and air pollution. It's no surprise that the group is supported by major developers and their representatives. Their idea of "transportation" does not include bicycles and rarely includes transit. These are their top priority projects:
  • I-66 to six lanes inside the Beltway.
  • Route 28 to eight lanes with limited access between Route 7 and I-66.
  • Right-of-way protection and construction of key segments of the Western Bypass.
  • An Eastern Bypass.
  • The Loudoun County and Tri-County Parkways
They have a history of bashing funding for bicycles. Their representative, Robert Chase, is a regular proponent of road projects at public hearings around the region. His latest tirade (Millions for Bathrooms and Bicycles and Escalators (Oh My!)) is directed at the Transportation Planning Board's decision to increase funding for bike sharing (p. 6) in the region. According to NVTA's Chase, "Proposals to Use Scarce Transportation Dollars for Trivial Purposes Fuel Voter Skepticism at a Time When Voter Support for New Revenue for Well-Documented Needs Is More Important Than Ever."

Bike sharing is one of the most promising transportation ideas being used throughout Europe and is taking hold in North America. It is very popular in Paris and is helping residents replace many short motorized trips with bike trips, reducing congestion and air pollution. In the U.S. half of all trips are a 20 minute or less bike ride and nearly all are currently taken by car.

We think NVTA should stop bashing bikes and consider advocating for the most efficient and least polluting transportation mode ever invented, bicycling.

Read more about TPB's bike sharing decision on The Bike-sharing Blog and at Greater Greater Washington.

[Update July 27] Link to Transportation Planning Board Project Components for TIGER grant application that contains info on the bike sharing application, including a map of proposed coverage.

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Saturday, July 18, 2009
 

Supervisor Foust funds bike improvements

According to the article Foust Announces Improvements in the Great Falls Connection newspaper:
Dranesville Supervisor John Foust announced that the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has approved the funding of over twenty intersection, pedestrian, and bicycle projects in the Dranesville District. These improvements are in addition to several recently completed projects and seven projects previously funded and scheduled for completion this summer or fall.

In selecting these projects, Supervisor Foust listened to the concerns of numerous constituents, Dranesville homeowner associations and civic organizations, the McLean Pedestrian and Bicycle Task Force, as well as the Dranesville representative to the Fairfax County Trails and Sidewalks Committee.
Several projects include on-road bike facilities such as bike lanes or paved shoulders:
  • Old Dominion Drive / Spring Hill Road and Old Dominion Drive / Towlston Road: Extend shoulder and relocate or cover dangerous ditch
  • Fleetwood Road: Add bike route signage from Elm Street to Chain Bridge Road
  • Kurtz Road and Calder Road: Add bike lane between Dolley Madison Blvd. and Calder Road, and then on Calder Road between Kurtz Road and Brawner Street.
  • River Bend Road and Beech Mill Road: Add "Share the Road" signs on River Bend Road from Old Dominion Drive to Beech Mill Road and on Beech Mill Road from River Bend Road to the County Line via Brockman Lane – a distance of 7.8 miles.
  • Old Dominion Drive East of Old Gate Court (construction just completed): Extend east bound shoulder and eliminate dangerous ditch.
See the Recommendations to Improve Bicycle Access and Safety developed by the Dranesville bike advisory committee.

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Thursday, July 16, 2009
 

Comments due July 17 on Tysons Plan text

Comments on the draft "Straw Man" of Comprehensive Plan text for Tysons (PDF document) are due tomorrow, Friday, July 17. We submitted the following comments on the Transportation section of the Plan text:
DRAFT "Straw Man" Plan Text
Comments by Bruce Wright
July 16, 2009

1) P. 45, Local Bus Service - One of the major criticisms of the draft strawman is the lack of detail regarding transit solutions for overcoming future congestion. While there is an extensive bus network currently serving Tysons, it is not seen as a viable option for many people, I sense in large part because it does not use a dedicated roadway. Bus/bike lanes on Routes 7 and 123 could greatly improve travel times for buses. I anxiously await the "detailed bus service plan for Tysons".

2) P. 46, The plan text states: 'THE STREET NETWORK, Overview, The following principles are adopted from the document "Context Sensitive Solutions in Designing Major Urban Thoroughfares for Walkable Communities," published by ITE in 2008. They describe an approach to the planning and design of urban street networks:

The text that follows has no mention of bicycling, and yet the quoted document contains several references to the need for bike facilities. In fact, the first two principles for CSS in Urban Walkable Communities are:

a. Urban circulation networks should accommodate pedestrians, bicycles, transit, freight and motor vehicles, with the allocation of right-of-way on individual streets determined through the CSS process.
b. The larger network, including key thoroughfares, should provide safe, continuous and well designed multimodal facilities that capitalize on development patterns and densities that make walking, transit and bicycle travel efficient and enjoyable.

The fourth bullet in the text on p. 46 should read: "Street networks should provide a high level of connectivity so that drivers, pedestrians[, bicyclists,] and transit users can choose the most direct routes and access urban properties."

3) Starting on p. 50, Bike lanes are indicated on the Avenue and Main Street sections. These closely match what was included in the Tysons Bicycle Transportation Plan presented to the Planning Commission on February 19, 2009. However, the Boulevard sections (Routes 7 & 123 and International Dr/Gallows Rd) do not contain bike lanes. The text does state: "5 foot on-road dedicated bike lane per direction, where applicable." The Boulevard sections, especially International and Gallows, should have some kind of dedicated bike facility. I suggest striking "where applicable". The boulevards are the major commercial streets and bicyclists will want to access destinations along these streets, including the Metro stations. The text notes that people will be able to walk and bike along Routes 7 & 123 (p. 10, Achieving the Vison) and yet there is no provision for them to bike. My greatest disappointment as a task force member is the lack of a creative solution for Routes 7 and 123 that would create truly walkable and bikeable boulevards.

4) P. 58, Pedestrian and Bicycle Network - As noted above, a Tysons Bicycle Transportation Plan was presented to the Planning Commission on February 19, 2009. This plan should be refined by a transportation consultant and adopted as part of the Comprehensive Plan. The plan includes a network of bicycle routes that closely aligns with the proposed grid of streets and street types. Also included are examples of end-of-trip facilities (bike parking, changing facilities, showers), and proposals for a bike station and bike sharing within Tysons. Detailed end-of-trip facility requirements should be included in the Plan text, based on those used by Arlington County. The Arlington standards may not be applicable to other parts of the county but they do apply in Tysons.

Bicycle connections to surrounding neighborhoods are needed and should be identified now for those areas within a 3 mile radius from the Tysons Center 123 station. A three mile bike trip takes approximately 20 minutes. That travel time is be comparable to SOV and transit travel for trips with in 3 miles. Consideration of this mode should be included in transportation models of short trips into Tysons.

5) P. 59, Parking - It is disappointing that specific parking guidelines were not included in the strawman. As stated in the report, "Fairfax County's TDM Study, when completed, will suggest specific parking rates for TOD areas such as Tysons. These rates can be used for updating Tysons parking requirements in the Zoning Ordinance." It is difficult to review this section without any detail.

6) P. 60, TDM - This section is very weak. After all the work done by the transportation subcommittee on TDM measures, it's unfortunate that almost none of it is in the document. According to the staff note: "Targets for TDM programs need to be added based on the results of the transportation study." However, some basic TDM measures should be identified now, with specific goals based on the results of the transportation study. There is no mention of biking or walking in the measures listed at the top of p. 60. They should be added as examples. Examples could read: "Provide incentives for employees who commute by bike." and "Provide facilities for employees who bike and walk such as changing rooms and showers." or "Promote bike to work day events." Or "Provide one bike sharing station with 20 bicycles for use with the larger bike station network." Later in the document there is mention of TDM mode splits, but if non-motorized modes are not part of TDM, then they aren't part of TDM mode splits.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009
 

Bike Valet Parking at Reston Festival a Success

Around 125 people parked their bikes at the free bike valet parking provided by FABB at the Reston Festival last weekend. We were open from 10am to 7pm and we parked 87 bicycles on Saturday. At one point there were about 60 bikes in the racks which were provided by bikes@vienna. FABB volunteers were there the entire time, assisted by a Festival volunteer, Pat Turner of Bike Loudoun, and a Bike Lane employee.

Cyclists were very enthusiastic about the service. They could leave their bikes and wander the festival. The parking was located inside a vacant retail space next to The Bike Lane. Thanks to Boston Properties for making the space available. Thanks also to WABA for providing the valet parking supplies. And thanks to the Reston Festival for supporting FABB and WABA and promoting biking to the festival.

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Wolf Trap by bike

The other night we rode to Wolf Trap to see Wilco. We live in Reston and it's a short, approximately 5 mile ride from our house to the Filene Center. We take the W&OD Trail, Clarks Crossing Road, Beulah Road, and Trap Road to the Wolf Trap entrance. It takes about 30 minutes.

Clarks Crossing Road is very bike-friendly. Beulah Road is narrow with no shoulder, but it's downhill when headed toward Wolf Trap and it's a short section. Trap Road is wide until the stop sign at Gelding Lane where it becomes narrow with no shoulder. There is a wide, paved asphalt trail along Trap Road that we took until it ended at the Dulles Toll Road bridge where we got on the road for the rest of the trip. A ped/bike bridge over the Toll Road is planned and partially funded. Here's a map of the route from Reston to Wolf Trap.

While there is a bike rack at the entrance to the Filene Center, it's the cheesiest rack I've ever seen. It's made out of lightweight metal and it's almost impossible to use a U-lock to lock the bike. We were surprised to see two other bikes in the rack. Afterwards the couple who owned the bikes said it was their first time riding there but it wouldn't be their last. The trip home was a breeze. Exiting traffic was going slow and mostly turning onto the Toll Road. We were half way home in the time it usually takes to leave the parking lot. And it was a fun ride home in the dark. Good reflective gear and bright lights are recommended.

Both Ian and The Wash Cycle have written about riding to Wolf Trap. I plan to write to the park to suggest that inverted U racks be installed.

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Transportation Secretary LaHood wants better bike facilities

Yesterday Transportation Secretary LaHood testified at the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing entitled Transportation's Role in Climate Change and Reducing Greenhouse Gases. One of his key points is the need for providing better alternative transportation modes, including bicycling. In his blog he only mentioned bike paths but in his full testimony he mentions bike lanes:
  • We must take action to make all forms of transportation more fuel efficient while stepping up efforts to introduce low-carbon fuels and alternative power sources for all types of vehicles.
  • However, even if we were to achieve a 55 mile-per-gallon fuel efficiency standard in the coming years, carbon emission levels from transportation would still only decline modestly. We must implement policies and programs that reduce vehicle miles driven.
  • This means providing communities with additional transportation choices, such as light rail, fuel-efficient buses, and paths for pedestrians and bicycles that intersect with transit centers. These options will also reduce household transportation costs, strengthen local economies, lower traffic congestion, and reduce reliance on foreign oil.
  • Our strategy also calls for investing transportation dollars in coordination with housing and economic development. By doing so, we can promote strong communities with mixed-income housing located close to transit in walkable neighborhoods.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009
 

Health and Commuting Study

Today's Washington Post reports on a study of health and commuting, Walking, biking to work linked with better fitness: "Walking or biking to work, even part way, is linked with fitness, but very few Americans do it, according to a study of more than 2,000 middle-aged city dwellers." Anyone who bikes to work knows about the fitness aspects of commuting; it's one of many reasons why we commute by bike. It's also fun, doesn't cost much, generates no air pollution, reduces congestion, is reliable (we know how long it takes to get somewhere; we rarely know what's in store for us when driving), and others. It's good to see research being done to verify the health benefits of bike commuting:
In what may be the first large U.S. study of health and commuting, the researchers found only about 17 percent of workers walked or bicycled any portion of their commute.

Those active commuters did better on treadmill tests of fitness, even when researchers accounted for their leisure-time physical activity levels, suggesting commuter choices do make a difference.

Crumbling sidewalks, lack of bike paths and sheer distances all keep American commuters in their cars, experts said.

"I would love to bike to work, but it is completely unsafe for me to do so," said Penny Gordon-Larsen of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who led the study in Monday's Archives of Internal Medicine. "There's one real small, narrow area where there's no bike lane."

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Friday, July 10, 2009
 

Bike Valet Parking at Reston Festival this weekend

Why not stop by the Reston Town Center (just off the W&OD Trail at mile 18), park your bike at the free FABB bike valet parking, and check out the Reston Festival this weekend. With help from The Bike Lane, bikes@vienna, and Reston Festival volunteers, FABB will be providing the free bike valet parking from 10-7 both days. It will be located inside a vacant storefront adjacent to The Bike Lane, 11943 Democracy Drive, Reston Town Center, Reston, VA.

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Wednesday, July 8, 2009
 

AAA to offer bicycle roadside assistance

As far as I know, Better World Club is the only roadside assistance organization that includes bicycles. That could change according to the BikePortland post entitled AAA will extend roadside assistance to bicycles.
The Oregon/Idaho chapter of the American Automobile Association (a.k.a. “Triple A”) is set to announce that their legendary roadside assistance plan will now cover people riding bicycles. "You've been riding to save gas or stay in shape. For that, you deserve credit. Now AAA Plus provides you with added benefits to recognize your efforts and your lifestyle."
The service is to be announced tomorrow.

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Tuesday, July 7, 2009
 

Post covers Lawyers Road bike lanes

While we were out of town riding GRABAAWR (the Great Annual Bicycle Adventure Along the Wisconsin River) Dr. Gridlock wrote about the creation of bike lanes on Lawyers Road, Northern Virginia Getting 'Road Diet'. As we've discussed before, the plan is to turn the four lanes just east of Reston Parkway into two travel lanes, a center turn lane, and bike lanes:
When drivers first see such redesigns, "win-win" is not the first thing on their minds. It's more like, "Where did my road go?" And they often say that the narrower road looks more dangerous to them. That's what happened on Arcola Avenue and on the uppermost portion of Connecticut Avenue just after Montgomery County slimmed down the roads to improve safety.

Drivers get used to it. The technique of road narrowing has been used thousands of times across the country in various ways to protect drivers from each other or to protect pedestrians from drivers.

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Monday, July 6, 2009
 

New bike racks in Vienna

Thanks to John Brunow and the Rotary Club of Vienna, there are several attractive new bike racks scattered around town. They are in the shape of a bicycle, with the words Rotary International embedded into the front wheel. John worked with the Rotary and the Town of Vienna to purchase the racks and their determine locations. I've also seen one adjacent to the Patrick Henry Library on Maple Street.

John is also responsible for the nice inverted U-racks on the Vienna Town Green which is adjacent to the W&OD Trail, and as you can see from the photo on the left, got a lot of use during ViVa! Vienna! (which is also sponsored by the Rotary Club of Vienna).

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Pro-bike editorial in Reston Connection

John Lovaas, Assistant to the Publisher at the Connection Newspapers, writes in recent column that: "It's time to stop ignoring the single most cost-efficient improvements that would make a major difference in reducing vehicular traffic and congestion, making bicycling an integral part of transportation infrastructure. Here's how."
Right now traveling by bicycle in Reston is hazardous and few try it, other than using the RA trails, which don't serve well for commuting to work or shopping. Adding bike lanes at main road edges or designating paths alongside for shared use are much cheaper than more car lanes and effective in reducing cars on our roads.

To start, signed bike routes should be designated where wide curb lanes already exist on the following: North Shore, Village Road, Center Harbor, Bennington Woods, Colts Neck (south of Glade), Soapstone (south of Glade), Lake Newport, Twin Branches, Glade and Steeplechase. Just some paint and a few signs. Major thoroughfares would require adding wide bike lanes and signage — but would carry a lot of cyclists: North/South-Reston Parkway, Wiehle, Town Center Parkway, Hunter Mill; East/West-Baron Cameron, New Dominion, Sunset Hills, Sunrise Valley, South Lakes and Lawyers. Other streets in Town Center are OK as is for bikes because speeds are slow.

For a very low cost, Reston could make bicycling a significant part of our transportation picture and make a big dent in the number of cars on the road.
While we don't agree that cycling in Reston is particularly hazardous, we completely agree that signed bike routes and bike lanes would encourage many more people to ride bikes in Reston. There are currently no on-road bike routes or bike lanes in Reston, although that will soon change with the planned bike lanes on Lawyers Road.

Fairfax County staff plan to revise the Reston Master Plan. It's a great time to plan for a comprehensive bicycle network in Reston. For more information visit the Reston Master Plan Special Study website. To recommend better bike facilities in Reston, submit your suggestion to the planning team.

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Saturday, July 4, 2009
 

Bike Valet Parking at Reston Festival

FABB along with The Bike Lane, bikes@vienna, and others will be providing free bike valet parking at the Reston Festival next weekend, July 11 & 12. The parking will be located adjacent to The Bike Lane, 11943 Democracy Drive, Reston Town Center, Reston, VA. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The Town Center is adjacent to the W&OD trail and we expect many cyclists to take advantage of this opportunity to safely and securely leave their bike at the valet and enjoy the festival. To volunteer please contact Bruce Wright, chairman@fabb-bikes.org.

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Wednesday, July 1, 2009
 

Fairfax secondary road funds decrease from $11M to $250K

Transportation funds in Fairfax County have just about disappeared. According to the Connection newspaper article Fairfax Out of Road Money, this year the county received $250,000 in secondary road funds compared to $11,000,000 received last year. $11M is about half what it received in years past. Nearly all roads in the county are considered secondary roads.
So the county's secondary road construction funding pool is expected to cover a wide range projects. New speed bumps, crosswalks, sidewalks, bike lanes, bus stops, no-parking signs, stop signs, interchanges and the widening of existing roads are just some of the types of transportation enhancements that are supposed to be funded out of this pot of money, now at $240,000.

The shortage of funds has resulted in several transportation projects being dropped or permanently put on hold.

Officials halted plans to widen parts of Rolling Road, Telegraph Road, Richmond Highway and Route 7 outside over the new few years. No money is available for interchange construction at Franconia-Springfield Parkway and Neuman Street, Franconia-Springfield Parkway and Interstate 95 or Franconia Road and South Van Dorn Street, according to Ichter.

"There are roads that have been included in the secondary program since 1986 and now there is no hope of getting them built in the short term," she said.

Lack of "secondary road" construction funding could also impact much of the plans to redevelop Tysons Corner and other parts of northern Fairfax County around the new Metrorail extension. According to Ichter, there will be no state money to expand the number of bus routes or increase service on existing bus lines, even if passengers at the new Metro stations demand it.

There will also be no state money available to assist with developing a grid of streets or installing more pedestrian and bicycle paths in Tysons Corner, where the county hopes to create a more urban landscape, said Ichter.
In a related article Fairfax Executive Suggests Dropping 'County', Tony Griffin, the Fairfax County Executive, "suggested yesterday that it might be time for his urbanizing community to become a full-fledged city."
Griffin told the Board of Supervisors that city status would allow Fairfax greater autonomy over taxes and transportation. But it would also turn the tables on the nearby capital city: With 1 million residents, a new Fairfax City would dwarf the District of Columbia, which has fewer than 600,000. (Set aside for a moment that the county already surrounds a smaller Fairfax City.)

"In reality, we do everything a city does aside from maintain the roads," Griffin said. "I think there are substantial arguments to be made for conversion."

Attaining city status, Griffin said, would require a referendum and approval by the state legislature.
The past and current Board chairmen disagree on the wisdom of this idea:
The county explored the possibility of taking over roads in 1990 but rejected it partly on concerns about cost to taxpayers. Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), former chairman of the Board of Supervisors, said it would be unwise to revisit the issue during a recession.

"I think it would be a grave fiscal mistake at this time," Connolly said. "It will cost potentially hundreds of millions of dollars each year. Here's the county executive telling the board that there's another $300 [million] to $350 million hole in the projected budget. This is not the time to be talking about taking on new responsibilities."

But Chairman Sharon Bulova (D) said it was worth another look. And she said perhaps it is time for Fairfax to lose the "county" label.

"Fifty, 60 years ago...we were one of the largest producers of dairy products," she said. "Now we are a mostly suburban community with some urbanizing areas. The city label more accurately describes what Fairfax is."

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