Monday, October 17, 2011

A few FABB members took a brief tour of the Reston-Herndon area on Saturday in preparation for two meetings this week, the WABA Fairfax meeting tonight and the Reston-Herndon bike plan area meeting on Thursday.

Bike l ockers and racks at Sunset Hills P&R lot
We started the tour at the Sunset Hills Park and Ride lot. Thanks to the efforts of the county bike coordinator, the bike parking at this new lot is the best example of good bike parking in Fairfax. There are 20 inverted U racks, spaced properly and conveniently located near the bus bays. Next to the racks are a row of 20 weatherproof bike lockers.

During the tour we reviewed current bike access to the three area Silver Line stations, Reston-Wiehle Ave, Reston-Town Center, and Herndon-Reston West. The Reston Metro Access Group report contains many recommended bike improvements for the two Reston stations, including bike lanes on Sunset Hills Rd, Sunrise Valley Dr, and Town Center Parkway leading to the station.

We looked at possible locations for future trails on both sides of the Dulles Toll Rd that would allow easy access to the new stations and to the many businesses that will be located in the area. Parking lots occupy much of the space today, and as the area redevelops, a small amount of that space could be reserved for these trails. On the south side of the Toll Rd there are private service roads that would make good bike connections if the county could obtain easements.

It will be imperative that good bike facilities be provided to link the most popular paved trail in Northern Virginia, the W&OD Trail, to the future stations. The connections should reduce conflicts with people walking to and from the stations. The W&OD Trail will also likely need to be widened in the near future. It is currently being used to capacity on most fair weather weekends and there are already many conflicts between cyclists traveling at different speeds, pedestrians, runners, and others. The road crossings on the Trail could be made safer by having raised crosswalks that force motorists to slow down.

Where the W&OD Trail crosses Wiehle Ave near the Sunset Hills Rd intersection, not far from the future Reston-Wiehle Ave station, is one of the most dangerous locations in Fairfax for bicyclists and pedestrians. A bridge over, or tunnel under Wiehle Ave would be a major improvement. Prohibiting right on red at the Wiehle/Sunset Hills intersection would also help cyclists and pedestrians trying to reach the station. A bike box, which would allow bicyclists to cue up in front of traffic, would also help; it’s a short ride to the station entrance from Sunset Hills Rd.

The last stop of the tour was the Herndon-Reston West station, current site of the Herndon-Monroe Park and Ride lot. This is another example of good bike parking, with several inverted U racks and bike lockers. Bikes on the roads approaching the station in the south, on Sunrise Valley Dr, and on the north, on Herndon Parkway, will provide good bicycle access to these stations. The Town of Herndon is even considering creating cycletracks on Herndon Parkway.

The ride was a good chance to enjoy a beautiful Fall day seeing firsthand what bike access is like today, and envisioning a bike-friendly future.

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I lived and worked for 20+ years in Reston, and I've often noticed those lockers you mention at other places, e.g. the Sunset Hills Park & Ride lot. I recently moved to Leesburg, and saw that the Sycolin Road Park & Ride lot has the same lockers. Since my job is in Tysons Corner these days, I asked the Loudoun County Transit office if any were available. With a smile in her voice, the nice woman there said "Only all of them".

I can't say I've ever seen one in use at any of the locations I've visited, and I've always been curious if they were a good idea gone to waste. At Loudoun and Fairfax county facilities, the annual rental is $60 with a $60 deposit, which is kind of a high entry cost. At Metro stations, it's even worse - $200 a year, but just a $10 deposit.

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