Friday, November 18, 2011

Cyclists turn out for Mt. Vernon area bike plan meeting

Bob Patten (left) taking notes on local bike conditions.
About 30-35 cyclists attended the Fairfax Co. 
Bicycle Master Plan meeting for the greater Mt. Vernon area last night. Representatives from VDOT, Fairfax Co., and the Board of Supervisors attended as did members of FABB.

After cyclists studied and commented on detailed maps of the area, Bob Patten of Toole Design gave an overview of the master planning process. He also described several types of bicycle facilities such as cycletracks, buffered bike lanes, shared lane markings (sharrows), and others.

Bob stated that the plan will result in a map showing specific facilities proposed for roads in the county. There will also be policy recommendations to ensure that county policies treat bicycling as an integral part of the transportation system. These not only include bike route facilities but also bike parking requirements, opportunities for bicycle safety education at all levels, improved enforcement, and encouragement of bicycling by using such measures as transportation demand management incentives.

Participants then gathered around the maps to mark  where they would like to ride and to identify barriers to their travel. The Huntington and Franconia-Springfield Metro stations are major destinations.

Several natural and manmade barriers make cycling in this area a challenge. Route 1 is the biggest challenge. Few cyclists choose to ride with 45 mph traffic and there are almost no side paths along the road. Many of the surrounding neighborhood streets don't connect, especially on the south side.

Just north of Route 1, Huntley Meadows Park and Fort Belvoir form another barrier. For a 2 mile stretch just north of Mt. Vernon Estate, Little Hunting Creek is a major barrier between several residential neighborhoods, forcing cyclists to use either the Mt. Vernon Trail or Route 1.

There are several major attractions in the area including Mt. Vernon Estate, Mason Neck State Park and Natural Wildlife Refuge, Pohick Bay Regional Park, Huntley Meadows Park, and Fort Hunt National Park. U.S. Bike Route 1, the East Coast Greenway, and the Adventure Cycling Atlantic Coast route all pass through this area. The area could be a major cycling destination if there were good bicycle routes connecting major attractions. It's going to take the work of everyone to make this happen.

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