Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Herndon Town Council discusses Bicycle Master Plan

At a Public Hearing last week Herndon Town Council members were presented the recommended elements to be incorporated into the Fairfax County Bicycle Master Plan.  The Council was asked not to build a bicycle network but just to endorse a plan that will go forward to the County.  The Herndon Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee (PBAC) presented a well thought-out plan that outlined some recommended bicycle infrastructure that would connect the historic downtown with the future Metro station, the W&OD Trail and surrounding communities like Reston, Sterling and Oak Hill.   The PBAC plan includes on-road paint treatments like Sharrows (aka shared lane markings) and bike lanes.  They also recommend a cycletrack, or separated bikeway, along Herndon Parkway to link an important north-south corridor (Van Buren St) with the Metro station.  

So based on the above you’d expect some discussion on how people use bicycles in the town, or perhaps how sharrows might impact safety.  The discussion was in two parts:  1) discussion by the Town Council and 2) comments from the public.

The discussion from the Town Council largely centered around:

  • Postponing the vote until the next meeting
  • Possibility of grants to cover any costs
  • How much any of these improvements will cost
  • The right of a bicyclist to ride in the road
  • Cycling on the sidewalks instead of the roads
  • Negative reaction of drivers and homeowners if bike lanes or sharrows are used
  • Discussion of how bicycles must pull over if cars approach and will be ticketed for riding in the middle of the road
  • Potential delay to drivers by having bicyclists in the road
  • Effectiveness and legitimacy of these on-road bicycle treatments

Comments from the Public:

  • New bicycle facilities will be good for those who are older and can’t drive
  • There is no possibility of bike lanes and sharrows making the road less safe
  • Sharrows will decrease harassment of cyclists by drivers
  • Better bicycle facilities will help more residents enjoy events like Herndon Festival since the entire town is 10 minutes or less away from downtown
  • Accommodating bicycles in town will be less expensive than building parking garages
  • Being more bicycle friendly may attract more of the people who ride the W&OD to the downtown area, helping businesses
  • Bicycle facilities will increase the safety of Herndon Residents who cannot afford cars (of which there are many)

Do you see any common themes between what the Public thought was important compared to the Town Council?   I really didn’t either.  The Council voted to defer the vote until the August 14 meeting so the town engineers can review the plan.  

We cannot expect the Town Council to be experts in bicycle and pedestrian safety; however, the Council received conflicting and incorrect information at the Town Council meeting.  It was stated by town staff that bicycles must move over when a car comes up behind them on a narrow road and may not ride in the middle of the lane, which is allowed by Virginia State Law.  FABB hopes to meet with members of the PBAC, Herndon Police Department, and the County Bicycle Coordinator to clear up any confusion on bicycle infrastructure and bicycle laws. I hope the Town Council gets the information they need to realize the benefits of a more bicycle-friendly Herndon.  See the video replay of the Council meeting. Click on Video from the July 10 meeting.

By Tom Wyland

Update: The Town of Herndon published this FAQ on the bike plan:


What is the Fairfax County Bicycle Transportation Plan, and how does it impact the Town of Herndon?

The Fairfax County Bicycle Transportation Plan is a comprehensive planning effort, currently under way, to make the county’s roads bicycle-friendly. The plan will consist of a map identifying locations of future bicycle facilities as well as a policy document that outlines implementation of the plan. After getting community input at a series of public meetings, Fairfax County has developed a recommendation for a bicycle facility network that includes facilities in the Town of Herndon. The county plan is expected to be considered for adoption by the Board of Supervisors in winter 2012-13.

Does the Town of Herndon have an opportunity to weigh in on the plan and make its own recommendations?

Yes. A resolution currently before the Herndon Town Council outlines specific bicycle facilities, located within the town that, if adopted by the council, will be formally endorsed for inclusion in the county plan. The Town Council will hear public comment at its public hearing on August 14, 2012, and is expected to vote on the resolution at that meeting.

Who crafted the town’s recommendations, as outlined in the resolution the council will be considering on August 14?

Upon receipt of the county draft plan, town staff worked with the town’s Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee (PBAC), a committee formed by the Town Council to study and advise on issues related to bicycle and pedestrian access and safety throughout the town. PBAC worked to refine the county plan to specifically address issues within the Town of Herndon. The PBAC recommendation was then presented to, and subsequently recommended by the town’s Planning Commission for Town Council approval.

What types of recommended bicycle facilities are included in the town’s resolution?

The PBAC recommendations call for inclusion within the county plan of bike lanes on Dranesville Road between Herndon Parkway and Park Avenue, and on Elden Street between Monroe Street and Fairfax County Parkway. The recommendations also call for cycle tracks, trails and sharrows in specific locations within the town to facilitate safe bicycle traffic. A full outline of the resolution draft is available at www.herndon-va.gov, see “What’s New.”

I see references to “sharrows” in the PBAC recommendations. What is a sharrow?

A sharrow, or shared lane marking, which is identified with a distinctive bicycle marking: 1) identifies where bicyclists should ride in a lane where on-street parking is present to reduce the chance of being impacted by the open door of a parked vehicle; 2) identifies where bicyclists should ride in lanes that are too narrow for a motor vehicle and bicycle to travel side by side in the same lane; 3) alerts road users of where bicyclists are likely to ride within the roadway; 4) encourages safe passing of bicyclists by motorists; and 5) reduces the incidence of wrong-way bicycling.

If the Town Council does not adopt the resolution making specific recommendations to the county plan, what happens then?

Fairfax County may include facilities proposed in the Town of Herndon in its comprehensive planning effort, but the plan will not be considered as part of the town’s comprehensive plan. Comprehensive plans are long-range planning documents that set policy and do not usually indicate short-term construction projects. Inclusion in the county’s plan does not place any obligation on the town to finance or construct bicycle facilities, nor does it give permission to Fairfax County to build facilities in the town.

If the Town Council does adopt the resolution, what happens then?

Should the Town Council, after hearing public comment, adopt the resolution on August 14, the town’s recommendations will be formally submitted to Fairfax County for inclusion in their plan. This action will not, however, automatically revise the town’s 2030 Comprehensive Plan. The town may opt to include its bicycle recommendations in future updates of its comprehensive plan; this would not happen without advertised public hearings before both the Planning Commission and the Town Council, so that public input may be provided.

How much will it cost to implement the county’s plan?

The costs to implement the county’s plan are unknown at this time. Should the Town Council adopt the resolution endorsing specific recommendations to the plan, the cost of implementation of bicycle facilities in the town would then be considered when bicycle facilities are added to the town’s 2030 Comprehensive Plan and Capital Improvements Plan. It is important to note that inclusion of the PBAC recommendations in the county’s plan will likely provide additional leverage should the town then apply for grants to fund the construction of bicycle facilities.

How can I get more information?

Visit the town’s Web site at www.herndon-va.gov; see “What’s New” to link to a page with information on the Fairfax County Bicycle Transportation Plan and the town’s proposed recommendations.

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Wow the Town Council is clueless. Amazing how our "local" officials never try to actually live out what they're voting on. I mean, geeze guys, how hard is it to hop on a bike to the meeting? Then it would all start to click for them.

Sharrows are stupid. Just plop up the little plastic bollards and make them into cycletracks. Motorists pay attention to plastic bollards, but a random lane with markings half of them don't know is a waste.

Second, many of your constituents do cycle regularly and have encouraged local neighbors, friends and family to do so as well. Don't be so shallow to think you're offending people by taking one more car off the road.
For cyclists who live/work in or ride through Herndon, your comments sent to the town council (or in person at the August 14th meeting) can make a big difference. There is - as seen above - some opposition to this plan, and I one of the best ways to fight against that is having significant public input supporting it.
@Anon - sharrows are typically used when the road is too narrow for a bike lane. They're also used for changing conditions (on street parking, narrow road, etc) that alert cyclists to take the lane or ride away from the edge of the road.

Your argument is a good one for bike lanes vs. cycletracks though. The main difference is some bollards most of the time.

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