Friday, February 26, 2010

WABA Alert: Save funding for Fairfax bicycle program

As we noted earlier, the Fairfax County executive is recommending permanently cutting all funding for the county bicycle program. I don't think it is too much of an exaggeration to say that bicycling is under attack in the county. Braddock District Supervisor Cook recently said "the bicycle is not a transportation device," and Springfield District Supervisor Herrity recommended elimination of the Bicycle Coordinator position. Now the county wants to cut all funding from the bike program.

Today WABA is sending out an alert to all area cyclists to encourage them to write to the Fairfax County Board to ask that funding be restored to the bicycle program. If you visit the WABA action center, you can send a message to the entire Board opposing the proposed cuts. Rather than cutting the program, we should be encouraging more people to go by bike.

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Loudoun Co to study better bike access at Dulles Town Center

According to the article There is Really No Safe Way to Get There: Study Would Look at Improving Access to Dulles Town Center for Bikers, Walkers, Loudoun County will study "pedestrian and bicyclist needs along the Atlantic Boulevard corridor in Sterling." The study was approved by the Board of Supervisors based on a motion by Supervisor Andrea McGimsey (D-Potomac) that we mentioned earlier.
In her proposal, McGimsey is calling on county planners, business owners, landowners and citizens to take part in making the town center a "multi=modal" destination. That is, increase its accessibility options to other than just roads. More sidewalks, crosswalks and walking and biking trails are initial suggestions made in McGimsey's proposal as is the addition of bike lanes to some of the roads found in the corridor.

The county's broken network of trails and sidewalks has long been a sore spot for Loudoun's walkers and peddlers [sic]. In 2003, a county bicycle and pedestrian mobility master plan concluded that only 14 percent of Loudoun's nearly 850 miles of roadways had sidewalks. Of the 70 miles of pathways in Loudoun that are dedicated for non-motorized use, only 12 miles were said to be wide enough for cyclists and pedestrians.
BikeLoudoun's Pat Turner is quoted in the article.

By the way, we pedal our bikes, we don't peddle them.

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Active Community Transportation Act

Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon, OR) will introduce the Active Community Transportation Act of 2010 (the ACT Act) on Monday. According to this Rails to Trails fact sheet, the bill will:
provide communities with concentrated investments to complete walking and bicycling networks to shift short driving trips to active transportation. By providing communities with the resources needed to build safe and connected non-motorized routes between the places where people live, work, learn, play and shop, the bill will provide cost-effective transportation choices for millions of Americans.

The U.S. Department of Transportation will administer a competitive fund, which will invest in communities that best make the case for resources to shift large numbers of trips from driving to walking and bicycling.
What do you think the chances are that Fairfax County will have obtaining funds if they permanently eliminate operating funding for the bicycle program?

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

DC expands bike transportation while Fairfax cuts

While Fairfax Supervisor Cook says that a bicycle is not a transportation device and the county cuts bike program funding, DC has a more enlightened approach. According to the Post article Transportation chief says bikes, buses are way to go in D.C., Gabe Klein, the Director of the DC Department of Transportation,
is expanding the city's red, dollar-a-ride Circulator bus system beyond tourist destinations and into more neighborhoods. He's promoting car sharing and, with Tregoning's office, said he hopes to build on a bike-sharing pilot program with 1,000 new bicycles and 100 stations.

"There's a lot of things that go into making a city an attractive place to live," Klein said. "You have schools, public safety and high-quality transportation. People are realizing that what we had in our old cities is actually more sustainable than what we have now."
In the case of DC, high-quality transportation includes bikes.

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Bicycle access to planned Herndon-Monroe Metro station

Cyclists in the Reston-Herndon area are encouraged to attend a discussion of future changes around the planned Herndon-Monroe Metro station. The meeting is one of a series to discuss possible changes to the county Comprehensive Plan for the area around the three Reston/Herndon stations. It will be held at Langston Hughes Middle School in Reston from 9 a.m. to noon. See the Reston Master Plan Special Study website for more information.

Many cyclists currently commute to the Herndon-Monroe bus station. Sunrise Valley Drive has narrow lanes, no shoulder and poor line of sight. The road needs dedicated bicycle facilities (wide curb lanes or bike lanes). There should also be good bicycle connectivity to Fairfax County Parkway and the W&OD Trail, as well as a bicycle crossing of the Dulles Toll Road to connect Herndon with the are to the south. Additional covered bicycle parking will be needed as well, including bike lockers.

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Another cyclist injured in Fairfax

This is not a good time to be a vulnerable road user. A cyclist was critically injured at Dranesville Road and Wiehle Ave in Herndon yesterday evening. Two Fairfax firefighters were then struck by an EMS supervisor in an SUV while they were helping the cyclist:
HERNDON, Va. (WUSA) -- Two Fairfax County firefighters were struck by an SUV driven by an EMS supervisor Tuesday evening as they attempted to help a cyclist who had been hit by a car. The injuries are not life threatening.

Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Department spokesman Dan Schmidt says a captain responding to the crash as EMS 401 was behind the wheel of the SUV. Engine 404 and Medic 404 from Herndon were already on the scene. The EMS 401 vehicle was described as moving slowly through the area when the collision occurred.

The incident took place near the intersection of Wiehle Avenue and Dranesville Road just before 8:00 PM.

The cyclist and one of the firefighters were flown by helicopter to Inova Fairfax Hospital. The other firefighter was taken by ground to Reston Hospital Center. Both firefighters have been treated and released. No word on the cyclist.
(From a WTOP news article with a very annoying popup ad).

So why is the county proposing to completely eliminate the bicycle program? Oh that's right, bicycles aren't used for transportation. As we said earlier, it's time for cyclists and pedestrians to demand better treatment, including restoration of funding for the bicycle program.

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Pedestrian killed at site of earlier cyclist death

Another person was killed while trying to cross I-495 in Tysons. The crash appears to have occurred at the same location where a cyclists was killed in 2008, traveling along Route 7 crossing the Beltway. Since the construction of the HOT lanes project, this crossing has become even more dangerous. There are no pedestrian or bicycle facilities here despite many people who use it daily to get to work in Tysons.

Before the construction there was a narrow concrete ledge on the north side that pedestrians used. That is gone and pedestrians are forced to walk adjacent to traffic on a very narrow shoulder. You can just make out a pedestrian on the far right of the photo walking along a well-traveled path. We've been told that if there is clear evidence of pedestrian and bicycle use, provisions must be made for them during construction.

We've requested better accommodations at this location and nothing has been provided. Supervisor Cook doesn't think bicycles are used for transportation, and now the county wants to cut all funding for the bicycle program. Something is wrong with the county's priorities and it's time for cyclists and pedestrians to demand better treatment and funding.

Update: 2/24/2010, Washington Post article Hit and run in Tysons.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Co Exec recommends Fairfax bicycle program cuts

The Fairfax County executive is recommending that all operating funds for the bicycle program will be cut:
Elimination of Operational Funding for the Bicycle Program $213,641—A previous FY 2010 reduction eliminated almost half of the annual program, allowing sufficient funds to meet the requirements of only the Tysons Corner area, therefore the FY 2011 reduction of $213,641 completely eliminates County operating support. As a result, there will be no funding for capital improvements and signage or bike maps and outreach materials. One position will remain to serve as the point of contact for bicycle-related issues, work on acquiring grant funding for bicycle programming, provide input on how to incorporate bicycles when planning capital roadway projects, and oversee approximately $5 million in commercial and industrial tax funds for bicycle-related improvements.
It's not clear whether the remaining position will be that of bicycle coordinator or as a staff person in one of the other programs. We're trying to find more info to pass on.

First Supervisor Cook states that bicycles are not a form of transportation, and now the bicycle program is being cut. It seems that the county executive agrees with Supervisor Cook, otherwise, why would he single out the bicycle program for elimination. The real question is what does the Board of Supervisors think.

Cyclists can sign up to speak at budget hearings to be held on April 6-8, although the April 6 date is full. FABB will speak on April 7. Individual supervisors will also hold community budget meetings and we'll put info about them on the FABB website. You can also submit comments online or contact your county supervisor. We'll provide more info shortly.

Update: Visit the WABA action center to write a letter to the Board of Supervisors.

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Politicians are different on the West Coast

Streetfilms recently released a short film of Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn who rides his bike about 6.5 miles to work most days. Yes, it does rain in Seattle and he knows how to use proper rain gear, and he probably showers at work. "In Seattle I ran as a populist, and in Seattle that means you ride a bicycle." They have nice bike wayfinding signs there too.

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Letter to Supervisor Cook

Several outlets have picked up on Supervisor Cook's comments about a bicycle not being a transportation device:We've received copies of many letters to Supervisor Cook from concerned cyclists. We sent the following letter to him, Chairman Bulova, and the supervisor of my district, Supervisor Hudgins:
Dear Supervisor Cook,

As Chairman of Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling and a bicycle commuter since moving to Reston in 1979, I'd like to share some statistics regarding non-motorized transportation. While bicycling for transportation is not for everyone, many, many people choose to go by bike in Fairfax, even though our roads are primarily designed for cars. Here are some figures to consider when discussing this mode of transportation:I agree that a small number of people bike to work. Many more could if the county provided places for them to ride, educated them in how to ride, and generally encouraged this mode of transportation.

I don't want to exaggerate your comments. I assume you know that some people use bicycles for transportation, and you were likely noting that it's not always an easy thing to do and not appropriate for many people. Bicycling is a small mode share. However, I think most people would like this to change. We think that in communities where bicyclists are welcome, they indicate the existence of quieter, safer streets that are for everyone, not just motorists.


Bruce Wright
Chairman, Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling
Update 2/22/2010 8:30pm: We're quite sure the $19M figure quoted in the Washington Examiner article about the Board of Supervisors meeting is incorrect: "In an effort to unclog roadways, the county approved more than $19 million last fall for pedestrian and bike projects through fiscal 2012." We're checking on the figure.


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Impact of uncleared sidewalks and trails on pedestrians

Many people, including the kids walking to school in the street pictured here, walk and bike to get where they need to go. About 1/3 of everyone in Fairfax doesn't drive; they are driven, they walk, bike, take the bus, etc. Our current transportation policy regarding snow clearance largely ignores these people.

Here is one of many, many stories about what pedestrians and bicyclists have to deal with when we don't treat walking and biking as legitimate forms of transportation:
I am a resident of Fairfax; on Nutley near the cross street of Kingsley Rd I was walking on the road as the sidewalk was covered beneath the snow from the plowed road. As I was walking on the edge of the road a truck came honking behind me. To get out of its way I tried to jump up the snow pile on the roadside but slide back enough that the passing truck hit my foot.

Although I was not injured I still find the incident disturbing, even more so because the truck did not stop. The only comment I would have is that we all need to remember to move with caution and act (drive/bike/walk) defensively. We have to share the road and since we can't control the actions of others we need to anticipate and pre-emptively act to prevent accidents.
This pedestrian lived to tell his tale. The pedestrian mentioned in the recent Post article Pedestrian killed on Branch Avenue while avoiding snowy sidewalks didn't.

Shouldn't some of our sidewalks and trails be cleared of snow? It may be unrealistic to clear all trails and sidewalks, but why don't we have snow priority routes for walkers and bikers? We could start by clearing sidewalks within a mile of schools, and along heavily-used sections of major bike commuter routes.


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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Snow plowing the W&OD Trail

The W&OD Trail is now somewhat clear between Church Street and Maple Ave. (Rt 123) in Vienna, thanks to the mystery snow plow man and his merry band of helpers. He just happened to have access to a Bobcat track loader and managed to clear about a 4 foot path along the trail.

This shouldn't be necessary; other communities (such as Reston) have figured out how to keep their trails, bike lanes, and wide curb lanes cleared of snow. Even with light snow, the W&OD Trail is sometimes not usable by most cyclists for several days, cyclists who depend on bicycles for getting to work and elsewhere. With a narrow, 4-foot cleared space for bicyclists and pedestrians, other winter users could use the other 8 feet of trail, or they could use the parallel gravel side path. There's plenty of trail to go around, if only it were cleared. (See Update below)

Thanks to the mystery snow man. We think his experiment was a success and we look forward to the day when local governments will give the same respect to other modes of transportation as they do cars and buses. See The Wash Cycle's recent informative post on this topic.

Update 2/22/2010: According to a comment on WashCycle by Paul McCray, Operations Manager for NVRPA, "The W&OD Trail staff will begin clearing snow during the week of February 22 to speed up the melting process. This is in line with our policies of the past which included leaving snow for cross country skiers and then clearing intersections and plowing deeper accumulations.

When we plow, we won't put the blades right on the pavement but will leave an inch or so which will melt off fairly quickly. If we were to scrape right down to the asphalt, we'd do just as much damage as road plows do on the streets and then the W&OD would have rough, patched sections throughout the year. We don't have the funds to pave the trail more often than every 15 years so it's important to preserve the surface any way we can." Thanks to the BikeArlington Twitter feed for pointing to that info.

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"Bicycle is not a transportation device"

That's according to Supervisor Cook (R-Braddock District), who at a recent Board of Supervisors Transportation Committee meeting said "I don't believe a bicycle is a transportation device. I think it's a recreation device. The big problem is people don't want to ride their bike in the rain or get sweaty before work."

Supervisor Cook needs to get out more. Every day people in Fairfax County use bicycles to get to work, shops, and to run errands. They use bikes to get to Metro, to libraries, and yes, some even ride to jobs at the Government Center. Some people don't want to ride in the rain but many do because they have few other options. You could ask some of the workers pictured above who are receiving free bike lights. They ride in the rain, snow, and darkness to get to jobs around the county.

According to a recent survey, nearly 40 percent of all trips made are 2 miles or less. With a good bicycle infrastructure, many of these trips could easily be taken by bike. Apparently Supervisor Cook doesn't think bicycling is a viable option for these trips.

Earlier Supervisor Herrity (R-Springfield District) stated that the county should eliminate the bicycle coordinator position. While we think these are minority opinions among the Board, which implemented the Comprehensive Bicycle Initiative in 2006, cyclists may need to gear up to fight for the bicycle coordinator position in the county budget which will be announced on Tuesday. I plan to attend that meeting (earlier in the meeting I'll be among a group of citizens receiving recognition for serving on the Tysons Task Force for nearly 5 years) and will report afterwards.

You can write to Supervisor Cook to let him know that you use bikes for transportation.

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

North American Handmade Bicycle Show this weekend

If you like beautiful handbuilt bikes you should head down to Richmond this weekend to see the North American Handmade Bicycle Show. It's being held at the Greater Richmond Convention Center, 403 N. Third Street, Richmond, VA 23219, February 26-28. If you go, be sure to buy tickets online to save 25%. This is the first time the show has come to the east coast.


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Three foot passing bill fails in House (again)

There was one last chance for the Virginia House to pass a three foot passing bill. Even though the House version of the bill, HB1068, was defeated, the Senate version, SB566, passed in the Senate by a vote of 40-0. When SB566 moved to the House, it was tabled yesterday by House Transportation Subcommittee 2, effectively killing it. Delegate Rust of Herndon voted to table it.

See the VBF account of the vote, which included statements unrelated to the bill, about scofflaw cyclists:
Del. Oder from Newport News (who had supported 1048) recounted an incident on his way to church with his wife last Sunday where he observed two cyclists passing too close to his stopped car and then running a red light, and asked if this behavior was legal, to which I replied "absolutely not". He had some other comments about what apparently is a large, peloton-like, ride that he sees regularly on Sunday mornings in his area, and questioning me as to whether this riding behavior is proper. He concluded by stating that perhaps we should put in some bills with specific penalties for bicyclist misbehavior.

Del. Rust, from Herndon & the W & OD Trail area, then took his turn and recounted the publicized incident last spring where, on their MS Ride, a number of riders were ticketed for running a Stop sign, but the charges were dismissed in court.

Finally, Chairman Carrico, the retired State policeman, stated as he has consistently , that none of these passing distances are enforceable; and that this is an "Educational Problem". He then called Linwood Buckner (the Legislative Affairs representative from DMV) forward and strongly requested that Linwood "work with the bicycling folks to improve the way the bicycling rules are presented in the DMV materials and driver's exam". Linwood agreed to do so, and we will meet after the conclusion of this legislative session, so we may yet get some benefit from all of this. All that having been said, the bill was promptly Tabled.
The only good that will come out of this process is the possibility of updating "DMV materials and driver's exam."

See VBF's post Three Feet to Pass—Why Such Resistance? for a thorough discussion some objections raised to passage of the bill and responses to those objections. Thanks to VBF for doing a great job of tracking this and other legislation and for getting the word out to advocates around the state.

In the meantime, we'll have to settle for the 3 Fee Please jersey (photo above).

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Portland Bicycle Master Plan approved

Not only was the new Portland Bicycle Master Plan unanimously approved recently by the City Council, Mayor Sam Adams, a cyclist, has committed $20 million over 10 years to kick start implementation. That money will come from their Green Streets program, used in part for implementing bicycle boulevards.

The plan has been in the works since 2007. Bike Portland has been covering the process since the beginning:
For anyone interested in going back down the road, browse the 66 articles of Bike Plan coverage in my archives dating back to February '07. From the rides Roger Geller led to gather public input, to the policies in the plan, to the infamous funding cut by Mayor Potter and much more.
We'll know on Feb. 26 whether Fairfax County receives funding for their Bicycle Master Plan. That's when the CDC will award funds to successful applications for the Communities Putting Prevention to Work grants.

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Contact Delegate Rust Now

Senate Bill 566, the three foot passing bill, was passed unanimously in the Senate and now goes to House Transportation Sub-Committee 2 tomorrow morning. While it may be too late to make a difference, please call or write to Delegate Rust (804-698-1088,, the only N. Va. delegate on that committee. Del. Rust voted for the similar House Bill 1068 in committee but then voted against it in the full House. His support is critical to getting the bill out of committee.

Also before the committee is SB 228, "Stop for Pedestrians in Crosswalks," which gets closer to passage each year.

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Monday, February 15, 2010

Three foot passing bill fails in House

HB 1048, the bill that would require motorists to allow three feet when passing a bicyclist, failed by a vote of 43 to 54 in the House today. See the VBF Legislative update for details. If you contacted your Delegate and they voted for the bill, please write to thank them for their vote.

According to VBF:
Senate Bill 566 containing just Three Foot Passing is still alive, and will be crossing over to the House Transportation Committee and then, hopefully, to the Full House, in the near future.

As soon as the roll call voting is posted I will forward it along and will urge everyone to contact their delegates expressing disappointment if they voted Nay and thanking them if they voted For the bill. Hopefully, we may be able to turn at least 6 or 7 votes around and get SB 566 passed.
Update 2/16/2010: See who voted against HB 1048. Northern Virginia Delegates voting against: Albo, Hugo, Lingamfelter, Marshall, May, Miller, and Rust, all Republicans. Shouldn't bicycle safety be a non-partisan issue?

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Bicycle access along Atlantic Blvd

Atlantic Blvd (map) is a major connector between communities north and south of Routes 7 in Loudoun County. It extends parallel to Route 28, north from the W&OD Trail, past Orbital Sciences, location of the Sterling Bike to Work Day event, to the Dulles Town Center and many residential communities north of Route 7.

At the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday Potomac District Supervisor Andrea McGimsey will ask that there be a "review of the Atlantic Boulevard corridor and how multi-modal pedestrian [and bicycle] connections can be integrated into the rest of the community both north and south of Route 7 and to points east such as Claude Moore Park and nearby residential areas."

Cyclists are urged to support this proposal by attending the meeting and/or writing the Loudoun County board at

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Greater Washington Safe Routes to School Network

Gina Carlotta, a WABA employee, is the new organizer for the Greater Washington Safe Routes to School Network Project.
The Safe Routes to School National Partnership has selected the Metro DC region, including Northern Virginia, to participate in the 2010 and 2011 phase of the National Regional project. Only two other regions in the country were selected for this effort. The Greater Washington region will be joined by Atlanta and Los Angeles to participate in this project, which is being funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Kaiser Permanente, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Regional Policy Project will focus on the inclusion of Safe Routes to School and related policy issues, such as Complete Streets and the programming of other transportation funds, in the regional transportation plan and related policy efforts led by the regional governments.
This is a great opportunity for getting Fairfax more involved in Safe Routes to School activities. Lee District Supervisor Jeff McKay wants to get more kids walking and biking to school and he hopes to have several more schools involved in Safe Routes to School next year. There should be schools from all supervisor districts involved in this great program.

If you're interested in being involved in Safe Routes to School activities in Fairfax, the first telephone conference call for the Greater Washington Network is scheduled for Tuesday, February 16 at 1:30 p.m. Contact Gina for more information.

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Three foot passing bill clears House Transportation Committee

According to VBF the three foot passing bill passed the House Transportation Committee by vote of 11-10. Earlier it passed the Transportation Subcommittee by a vote of 4-2. Now is the time to contact your delegate to urge them to support HB 1048: Motor vehicles; increases passing distance when approaching bicycles, etc. If you don't know how to contact your delegate, visit the Who's My Legislator site.

Key issues from the VBF 1048 Talking Points:
Non-Motorized Drivers Are More Vulnerable and May Naturally Wobble to Stay Balanced: On the other hand, the bicyclist (and similar road user) lacks occupant protection, resulting in small miscalculations or errors having catastrophic consequences for the bicyclist. Moreover, two-wheeled or single-track vehicles such as bicycles must necessarily wobble some to stay balanced, whereas four-wheeled vehicles don't wobble The catastrophic results of a collision dictate that a greater passing distance be required when a motor vehicle passes a bicyclist.

Wind Blast: The wind blast from a large truck passing with two feet at high speed is far more problematic for a cyclist than for a motor vehicle. Furthermore, wind blasts from large passing vehicles can cause bicycles and mopeds to wobble even more than usual.

Differences in Typical Speed Differentials: Bicycles and mopeds generally pass other vehicles at relatively low speeds, whereas motor vehicles may pass non-motorized vehicles at speed differentials exceeding 45 MPH.
[Update 2/12/2010: See article at, Bill requires more room for bicyclists


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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Let's Move

We applaud First Lady Michelle Obama's campaign to reduce childhood obesity announced yesterday, Let's Move. The name says it all, it's time for kids to get moving again. Walking and biking to school are the easiest ways for kids to get daily exercise and develop habits they can use throughout their lives. In order to do so safely, they need safe routes to school and they need to be taught bicycle safety skills at an early age.

Physical Activity is one of four areas of emphasis in the Let's Move campaign:
To increase physical activity, today's children need safe routes to walk and ride to school, parks, playgrounds and community centers where they can play and be active after school, and sports, dance or fitness programs that are exciting and challenging to keep them engaged.

Let's move to increase opportunities for kids to be physically active, both in and out of school and create new opportunities for families to be moving together.
The first activity listed under "Ensuring Kids Get the 60 Minutes of Active Play Each Day" is "Plan a Kids Walk to School event." Now is the time for Fairfax to make a concerted effort to support the Virginia Safe Routes to School program and to apply for some of the $13,000,000 available for getting more kids walking and biking to school.

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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Three foot passing bill to be heard Wednesday

According to VBF, House Transportation Sub-Committee 2 will discuss HB 1048, the three foot passing bill, tomorrow, Wed. Feb. 10 at 7 a.m. If you haven't done so already, please contact Delegate Thomas Rust (Herndon) 804-698-1086, to ask him to support HB 1048. Two feet is not enough room for motorists to pass bicyclists, especially at high speeds or when there is strong wind. See HB 1048 talking points for more info.

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Monday, February 8, 2010

W&OD Trail in Herndon

It's not often that you see virgin snow on the W&OD Trail. Soon after most snowfalls there are usually tracks in the snow along the trail. This is a photo of the trail in Herndon near the train station, looking west. It will be a while before the 24-30 inches of snow is gone not to mention the 5-10 inches expected tomorrow. Wouldn't it be nice if the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority, which controls the trail, used a plow like the one in the second photo. We came across this small plow today while walking the trail around Lake Thoreau in Reston. The Reston Association purchased the used plow from a Canadian company. It causes little if any damage to the trail surface and provides a way for the many people in Reston who want to get around on foot or bike for local trips. RA has plowed their 55 miles of trails (more than the length of the W&OD Trail) after every snowfall this winter. That work was slowed after the latest snowfall due to the many trees that had fallen on the trail. That's why this plow was stopped; the driver was busy cutting up a downed tree that blocked his path.
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Friday, February 5, 2010

Supervisor Herrity wants to fire eliminate bicycle coordinator position

At a Feb. 1 town hall meeting on Fairfax County's government and schools budgets Supervisor Herrity suggested that the bicycle and environment coordinator positions be eliminated:
Herrity said the county cut jobs, services and expenditures to deal with last year's shortfall. Now, he said, "I think we need to cut some senior-level positions, such as bicycle and environmental coordinators. The county should come out of its leased space, consolidate some departments and, perhaps, outsource county trash pickup to save money."

He said 54 percent of the county's budget goes to the schools. "The number-one reason businesses come to Fairfax County is our schools," said Herrity. Elementary-school language programs, band and strings, and sports are important, and we shouldn't be going there [for cuts]."
Despite voting in favor of the bicycle master plan motion proposed by Supervisor McKay in October, Herrity wants to cut the bicycle program just as the county is making some progress toward creating a more bicycle-friendly county. The bicycle plan won't get done without a bike coordinator and a staffed bike program. If anything, we need to increase the current bike program staff to handle all the requests on their time.

While we are confident that the majority of the Board supports having a bicycle program, we suggest all cyclists contact Supervisor Herrity to demand that the bicycle program receive full funding in the 2011 budget. Send email to or call his office at 703-451-8873. We suggest that you also contact your supervisor. See the letter from Alan Young to Supervisor Herrity:
I see the effects of failed planning daily. My grandchildren live 1.5 miles from their elementary school, but are not allowed to walk or bike to school because they have to cross Rolling Road; they are required to ride a school bus despite growing concerns about fitness, pollution and costs.
You can also sign up to speak at the upcoming budget hearings on Tuesday, April 6 starting at 6 p.m., Wed & Thurs, April 7 &am; 8 starting at 3 p.m.

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Thursday, February 4, 2010

Smart Transportation and Bicycling Symposium

Yesterday we hitched a ride with John Brunow of bikes@vienna to attend the 13th Annual Smart Transportation and Bicycling Symposium in Annapolis. The symposium is sponsored by One Less Car: "Every day we advocate for providing safe and effective transportation alternatives for all citizens through education, lobbying, and facilitation between our communities, governments, and state and local representatives."

Due to the heavy snow that fell during the previous night, the symposium got a late start and some speakers were not able to attend. Nevertheless, it was a good chance to network with other advocates and hear about the latest Maryland bike news. Here are some highlights from the day:

Several Maryland state legislators spoke in support of bike facilities: Senator Pugh (Baltimore Co), Delegates Cardin (Baltimore Co, Chair of the MD Legislative Bike Caucus), Carr (Montgomery Co), Bronrott (Montgomery Co). Secretary of Transportation Swaim-Staley spoke about funding for the Great Allegheny Passage trail.

Public Health and Transportation: Exploring the Inextricable Link - Dr. Keshia M. Pollack discussed the health impacts of our transportation choices including the linkage between obesity and driving, and the healthcare costs of obesity, auto crashes, and respiratory problems. A study conducted during the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta showed there was a 42% drop in asthma-related emergency visits when traffic was banned from the downtown area. She advocates for more "health people in healthy places".

Transportation FOR Maryland, Jennifer Bevan-Dangel of 1000 friends of Maryland discussed this statewide coalition of approximately 30 groups trying to reform transportation planning in the state. "This means planning our transportation systems–and our development patterns–to ensure that there are convenient and affordable travel options available to everyone, in every community, at every stage of life." A main focus is to expand traffic impact studies for large developments to include regional impacts on all modes of transportation.

Bicycling Advocates of Howard County (BAHC), Chairman Jack Guarneri talked about the great work being done by this coalition of bike groups in Howard County, which includes Columbia, MD. Their goals are similar to FABB's and inlcude:
  • Developing a Howard County Bicycling Master Plan
  • Supporting physical road improvements (better shoulders turn lanes,etc.) and additional share the road signs
  • Fostering driver and bicyclist education and communication initiatives
They helped establish the first Howard County bicycle advisory committee. They have 501(c)4 status, which allows them to be involved in political campaigns, but donations are not tax deductible.

Safe Routes to School in Maryland—Joe Pelaia, the Maryland Safe Routes to School (SRTS) coordinator noted that 270 schools and 112,000 students have been involved in SRTS programs in Maryland since 2007. WABA receives funds from the program for conducting bike ed classes. Patrick McMahon, the new Maryland Safe Routes to School National Partnership state network organizer, said a few words about his plans. He was hired by WABA in January. He also gets the award for longest job title.

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I-66 meeting canceled

Due to expected heavy snowfall, the meeting on Saturday to discus future transportation options in the I-66 corridor has been canceled. If it is rescheduled, we'll post more info. See our earlier post on the meeting.


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Three foot passing bill update

The Senate version of the three foot passing bill, SB 566, passed the full Senate by a vote of 40-0. The bill now crosses over to the House Transportation Committee for consideration the week of 2/15.

According to the 2/3/10 update from Virginia Bicycling Federation, the Virginia House Transportation Sub-Committee delayed discussion of the House version of the three foot passing bill, HB 1048, until Wednesday, Feb. 10. If you haven't contacted a sub-committee member, please do so now. Also from VBF, see their Talking Points on HB 1048/SB 566, the two three-feet to pass bills.

Since he is the only delegate on the House Transportation Sub-Committee from Northern Virginia, Fairfax cyclists should contact Delegate Thomas Rust, 86th District (Herndon, Sterling Park, Oak Hill), to ask for his support for HB 1048;, 804-698-1086.


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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Electric unicycle

We recently posted about a NYT article on the popularity of electric bikes. Bike Portland just featured an article on the Self-Balancing Unicycle: "The SBU is an electric-assisted unicycle with "advanced angle sensing electronics and software" that allows it to balance and "pedal" for you." It's like a single-wheeled Segway. It was featured recently on the TV show Mythbusters.

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Bike access needed on I-66 in Fairfax

A Town Hall Meeting is planned on Saturday, Feb. 6 to discuss future transportation options along I-66, I-66-Today and the Future: Common Sense Solutions to Address Gridlock:
Ideas to be discussed include establishing a bus-rapid-transit system in the corridor, increasing the use of shoulder lanes, opening the Monument and Stringfellow interchanges by non-HOV vehicles outside of normal HOV hours and improvements to the interchange at I-66 and the Beltway
One commonsense solution that is in place inside the Beltway is the Custis Trail, a shared-use path along I-66. It is used heavily, especially by bike commuters. It was integrated into the design of I-66 and includes grade-separated crossings of all the entrance/exit ramps. There are also several ped/bike bridges across the road to connect communities.

In 2002 the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and the Planning Commission voted to include a shared-use path along the length of I-66 on the Countywide Trails Plan, part of the county Comprehensive Plan. Any discussion of "common sense solutions to gridlock" should include non-motorized access.

Cyclists are encouraged to attend the meeting and ask about bike accommodations along I-66 and to demand that any future projects include bike access.
I-66-Today and the Future: Common Sense Solutions to Address Gridlock
  • When: Saturday, February 6, 2010, 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.
  • Where: Chantilly High School, Auditorium
  • 4201 Stringfellow Road
  • Chantilly, VA 20151

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Monday, February 1, 2010

Future of electric bikes

A Sunday NY Times article, An Electric Boost for Bicyclists, is an overview of the growth of electric bikes, not only in China as we've noted previously, but in Europe and the U.S. Trek has even started producing an electric-assist bike, the Ride+. What role will electric bikes play in the future of Fairfax?

For those of us who use bicycles for transportation on a daily basis, electric bikes don't seem necessary. They require many more resources than a conventional bicycle. Batteries contain various toxic materials and must be recycled properly after use. Electricity needed for recharging is usually derived from fossil fuels. With their higher speeds, there will be inevitable conflicts with bicyclists riding conventional bikes. Should electric bikes even be allowed in bike lanes or shared use paths?

Despite the many negatives, there is a role for electric bicycles, especially in a place like Tysons Corner. Tysons and the surrounding area is not flat, and that terrain will limit the number of people willing to get around by bike. Electric bikes could get many more people out of their cars, most of which contain a single person driving to work. Parking would require much less space as well.

It's easy to envision people living in the surrounding neighborhoods of Pimmit Hills, McLean, Vienna and beyond having the option of hopping on an electric bike for the short trip into Tysons. As much as some of us dislike the notion, it's time to start thinking about the role of electric bikes in the future as their popularity grows.

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