Wednesday, April 21, 2010

No operating funds for Fairfax bicycle program

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors agreed with the recommendations of the County Executive and cut all operating funding for the bicycle program. The Board made a number of revisions to the proposed budget in what is referred to as the markup process, restoring positions in human services, Fire and Rescue Department, Police Department, parks and libraries, as well as restoring all proposed Fairfax Connector route reductions. However, they couldn't find any funding for the bicycle program, at a time when more people are biking for transportation and the county faces a transportation crisis caused by a reliance on single occupant vehicles.

When we met with Chairman Bulova we asked that some funds be restored to the program. Most programs were cut a small percentage in response to the budget crisis. We didn't understand why the bicycle program should suffer a 100% cut in operating funds.

There will still be some project funding from the commercial and industrial tax that the bike coordinator can use for projects. These mostly involve restriping roads, many of which are currently bike-friendly, and installing bicycle parking. Without operating funds there will be almost no support for many activities: Bike to Work Day, an event that is growing every year, installation of wayfinding signs on the Fairfax County Parkway and the Meadowlark Gardens bike route, maintenance of the Fairfax County Parkway trail that is in terrible condition and has never been repaved, installation of MUTCD shared lane markings, and community outreach and encouragement efforts.

How can the bicycle program be effective without operating funds? Shouldn't we be spending more money to encourage more people to get out of their cars and onto the only clean transportation option, bicycling? Not only are operating funds ($213,000) cut this year, but the County Executive made a point of stating the cuts are permanent.

Thanks to the many people who wrote to the Board of Supervisors asking they restore funding to the program. There is still a bicycle program and we'll just have to work that much harder to make Fairfax a bicycle-friendly community.

The Board will have a final vote on the budget on April 27, but no changes are anticipated before that vote. Read the news release on the budget markup and see the full set of markup documents.

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I was told by Fairfax County that the Fairfax County Parkway trail is maintained by VDOT. So this unfortunate budget cut will likely have no impact on the fact that the trail continues to be neglected.

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