Friday, August 31, 2012

Why not bike to the Ox Hill Battlefield Park event on Saturday

Fairfax County is commemorating the 150th anniversary of the only major Civil War battle in the County, the Battle of Ox Hill, on Saturday between the hours of 10am and 5pm.

Ox Hill Battlefield Park is located at 4134 West Ox Road, Fairfax, not far from the county government center and Fair Oaks Mall. Bike access isn't great but there is a paved trail in front of the park on West Ox Rd that extends south to the Fairfax County Parkway Trail and north to the relatively new paved trail along West Ox Rd. Activities include:
  • 10:00 AM - Presentation of 16 state flags and speeches by local officials
  • 1:00 PM Federal City Brass Band concert, musket and cannon firings
  • 4:00 PM Battle of Ox Hill speeches, wreath laying at the Monuments
There is bike parking at the park, thanks in part to a FABB member who, a while back, worked with Park Authority officials to ensure that those people who do travel to the park by bike have a place to park.

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WMATA releases 2012 bike parking survey data

WMATA just released 2012 data on bike parking at Metro stations across the region. Vienna was third in two categories, Total Bikes Parked and Greatest Rack Capacity. Franconia-Springfield has the fourth most Total Bikes Parked but there's a definite shortage of racks at the Franconia-Springfield VRE entrance, with 35 bikes parked, 19 of which are not parked in racks.

WMATA has been doing a good job recently of adding bike parking capacity.
These counts show that we are moving in the right direction, but more work remains. We generally have enough bike parking capacity at nearly all stations, but not all stations see equal usage. One missing piece could be bike-friendly infrastructure around the stations to allow bike-to-rail customers to comfortably and safely access stations. So, we’ll work with our jurisdictions to improve paths, crossings, and other infrastructure outside Metro’s immediate property. But you tell us – what do you see as obstacles to biking to your Metrorail station?
Here is a summary of the overall findings:
  • Bike parking usage in 2012 is up 3% from last year
  • Bike parking capacity is up significantly, thanks to newly-installed bike racks near Metrorail station, including racks with capacity for over 300 installed by Metro staff.
  • Now, 85 of 86 stations (all but Arlington Cemetery) have bike racks available.
  • We now count over 4,000 bike parking spaces near Metrorail stations.
  • Many stations where we recently added new racks saw some uptick in usage (e.g., Braddock Road 19% increase in usage, Takoma 24%, West Hyattsville 13%) over last year, but some did not.Generally, there may be enough year-to-year variability with these "snapshot" data that it can be difficult to identify detailed trends.
  • Parking near downtown stations may have declined somewhat versus last year.This might be one impact of Capital Bikeshare.
  • We found six stations where total bikes parked exceeded 100% of rack capacity.Metro staff will take action at these stations where we can, but in other situations where we do not own the land or the racks, we will work actively with our station-area partners.
  • Twenty-five stations had at least 3 bikes secured/locked to things other than racks.Securing a bike to a railing can obstruct those who need the railing — or can block an accessible path — and is strongly discouraged or even illegal in some jurisdictions. Securing a bike to a tree can damage or kill it. At station areas where cyclists are securing bikes to objects other than racks because of inadequate bike parking capacity, Metro staff will take action to increase capacity where it can.

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Just Ride: A Radically Practical Guide to Riding Your Bike

We've recently finished reading Just Ride: A Radically Practical Guide to Riding Your Bike by Grant Petersen. Grant is the founder of Rivendell Bicycle Works, makers of fine lugged steel bicycles. Grant is a bit of an iconoclast. Just Ride is a reflection of his belief that people don't need special bikes or gear just to ride their bikes. From the Introduction: "My main goal of this book is to point out what I see as bike racing's bad influence on bicycles, equipment, and attitudes, and undo it."

People should be able to just get on their bike, a practical, functional bike, and ride. In the book Grant tries to debunk many accepted beliefs about riding a bicycle. We agree with most of them. The book is comprised of 212 pages with 89 one- or two-page chapters, most containing interesting tidbits about riding, gear, safety, food, accessories, maintenance, bike fit and frame geometry, and "velosophy," his contrarian views and opinions about biking.

Here are a few example chapter headings from the book:

Don't count miles - "It is discouraging, adds pressure, and takes away fun."
You have way too many gears - "For all-around riding over a variety of surfaces and terrain, you need eight gears."
No ride too shore (one of my favorites) - "One of the problems with becoming a serious bike rider is that you stop going for short rides because somewhere along the line it sinks in - falsely - that a ride you don't have to suit up for doesn't count. That's your inner racer talking and you need to shut it up." I've often heard from cyclists that they don't bike commute because the ride is too short. What they mean is it's too short to suit up; so don't suit up. In that case maybe you need two bikes, your fast recreational bike and your "just hop on" utility bike.
Paddling beats pedaling - "Training wheels are bad because they teach your child to turn a bike by turning the handlebars. Get your child a tiny bike designed to paddle, not pedal."
Don't overthink your underwear - "When the bike is a good and friendly part of your everyday life, you shouldn't have to change your underwear before riding." He includes a caveat about rides longer than 4 hours.
Racers don't ride bike paths. More room for you. - "Racers avoid bike paths because they have too many joggers, slow riders, dog walkers, and baby strollers." I wish this one were true; anyone riding on the W&OD Trail on a weekend knows there are many racer-wannabes out there using pedestrians as slalom poles and refusing to slow down when passing. Maybe they should turn off their power meters when they enter the trail.
Be saintlike on the bike path - "You are the predator so ride slowly and defer to everyone." Yes.
Hi-vis beats high risk - "When I was a racer, I thought that the hi-vis look, with reflectors up the wazoo, was for timid riders unsure of their bike skills - usually tourists and commuters."
Riding is lousy all-around exercise - "If you want to be healthy and achieve all-around fitness, you have to do other things."
Drink when you're thirsty, not before - "How many times have you been told to 'eat before you're hungry, drink before you're thirsty'? Eating before you're hungry will make you fat - no surprise there. Drinking before you're thirsty will make you pee a lot. It's unnatural, too."

That gives you a flavor of what's in the book. You won't agree with everything but it's definitely thought-provoking and mostly practical advice. I especially like the four chapters about bags, fenders, baskets, and kickstands; definitely "unracer" gear.

For those of us who like bike touring but can't always find the time for multi-day rides, Grant recommends the S240. "The most fun I have on my bike is during overnight bike-camping trips in the local hills. I call them Sub 24-hour Overnights and mine average sixteen hours, typically from 5:30 in the evening to 9:30 the next morning."

I highly recommend the book. I've seen copies in some local bike shops including bikes@vienna (full disclosure, I know they carry the book because I work there).

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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Bike crash on Mt. Vernon Highway

Bike Helmet May Have Saved Child's Life is a report at about a crash on Mt. Vernon Highway:
The life of an 8-year-old boy on a bicycle may have been saved by his bike helmet, according to Fairfax County Police.

On Tuesday at about 6 p.m., police responded to a report of a crash on Mount Vernon Highway near Surrey Drive. A child riding his bike had veered into the path of an SUV. The driver was not able to avoid the boy, who was hit and injured. He was flown to Inova Fairfax Hospital to be treated for non-life threatening injuries.

The medics who responded to the accident as well as the officers on the scene credited the child's bike helmet as a key factor in helping to save his life. In Fairfax County, bicycle helmets are required by law.

The boy is recovering from a number of injuries; the photo of his mangled helmet was provided by those who responded to the scene of the accident.
In Fairfax County helmets are only required on children under the age of 15.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

An Advocate’s Guide to Elections

The Alliance for Biking and Walking just published An Advocate’s Guide to Elections: Making Campaigns Work for Bicycling & Walking. There are very few local elections this year, but the guide will be an excellent resource in upcoming elections.

For the 2007 Board of Supervisors election we conducted a survey of the Board of Supervisor candidates that provided good information to voters. As a non-profit we have to be careful not to support or favor specific candidates but we can provide voters with information. The guide will be very useful for figuring out what can be done under current 501(c)3 guidelines.
Organizations with 501(c)(3) nonprofit status are prohibited from engaging in political activity in support of or in opposition to any particular political candidate. However, 501(c)(3)s can engage in nonpartisan voter education activity and a limited amount of lobbying.

These guidelines relate to the organization itself, and do not prohibit officers, individual members, or employees from participating, as long as they are acting as private citizens and not as spokespersons for the organization or while using the organization’s resources. If you choose to identify yourself with the organization, you must make it plain that you are speaking solely for yourself and not for the organization. If members do not identify themselves with the organization, but a media outlet does, the members have done nothing wrong.

Here are some guidelines for how bike clubs and advocacy organizations with 501(c)(3) status can (and cannot) get involved in election activities.

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Herndon approves bike plan

The Herndon Town Council approved the bicycle facility recommendations of their Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee. Those recommendations were based on the county bicycle master plan:
The Herndon Town Council approved bicycle facilities for inclusion in the Fairfax County Bicycle Plan by a five to two vote at their Aug. 14 meeting. Fairfax County commenced planning for bicycle facilities in the comprehensive plan about a year ago. They included incorporated towns Herndon, Vienna and Clifton so there would not be gaps in the network of trails.

"I think we have an opportunity here to be forward thinking and move forward with multi-modal [transportation] options, we’ve got Metro coming, we want our downtown more walkable," Mayor Lisa Merkel said. "Now is the time to plan for the very long term, for 20 years with Metro here and more and more of people moving here, maybe with one car or even no car, that we’re ready for that."
See our report on the earlier public hearing. Voting in opposition were Councilmember Charlie Waddell and Vice Mayor Connie Hutchinson. The term "sharrows" was removed from the recommendation which is probably OK:
"[The facilities] might be a sharrow, it might be a sign that says bicyclists can use a full lane, or, since this will be active at some point in the future, might be additional devices or signs to raise awareness or show changes," Gilleran said. "We’re leaving it open, because it’s long range items. A sharrow does not provide any changes to laws on the books, does not add additional rights, it is just a sign to increase awareness of cycles."
Sharrows are more than "a sign to increase awareness of cycles." They also indicate where cyclists should ride to avoid the door zone and other hazards. Other treatments are possible, including bike lanes or lane or road diets.

This is a first, major step toward Herndon becoming a bicycle-friendly community.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Loudoun Police ticket Reston Century cyclists

We heard from a Reston Century cyclist yesterday who was ticketed by Loudoun Sheriff's deputies at the intersection of Harmony Church Rd and Route 7 in Hamilton. The police were basically conducting a sting operation. See the Washcyle report for details:
Reportedly, several cyclists were ticketed during last weekend's Reston Century by the Loudoun County sheriff’s office for failure to stop at a stop sign.

The officers positioned themselves such that they would maximize their opportunity to ticket cyclists and were ticketing as many as possible for minor infractions. One rider reports that as they wrote his ticket they made comments indicating that they were irritated that the ride organizers did not hire them to manage event safety. They reported having requested that the ride organizers route the entire event on the bike trail (which ride organizers deemed far too narrow and dangerous given the number of participants). Their ticket-writing campaign appeared to have been a vendetta against the ride organizers for utilizing the roads.

So, if all of this is accurate, then it appears that the Loudoun County’s sheriff’s office decided that keeping bikes off the road was more important than public safety; they were willing to bully cyclists as payback for the event organizers, and they would target cyclists for a technicality rather than watching for cyclists and drivers who are actually operating their vehicles unsafely.

Why does this sound so familiar.
Loudoun's finest
The police were heard repeatedly referred to the ride as a race, which could explain why they expected people to be running the stop sign. Obviously cyclists should obey traffic signals, but they shouldn't be held to a higher standard than motorists, most of whom roll through stop signs. I wonder if police ticketed those motorists.

Loudoun County benefits greatly from cyclists who visit the county. Ask the owners of Magnolias at the Mill in Purcellville, the owners of Carolina Brothers Pit Barbecue (formerly Partlow's Store) in Ashburn, or the many shop owners in Leesburg if they benefit from cyclists. And yet some in the county seem to being doing what they can to discourage cyclists from visiting and spending money there. You might remember Suzanne Volpe, who incorrectly stated that thousands of dollars were being spent to promote cycling in the county, bad-mouthing cyclists during her campaign. Is it time for a boycott?

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Monday, August 27, 2012

Fairfax Bike Summit on October 27

FABB, GMU, and Fairfax County have been meeting over the past month to plan the Fairfax Bike Summit to be held on October 27. It will be an opportunity for Fairfax cyclists to network and learn how to make Fairfax a better place to bike. We're still working on the details of the agenda but we wanted to get the word out as soon as possible so people can save the date; it should be a great event:

You're Invited!

Fairfax Bike Summit: Pedaling our way to a healthier and happier community

Please join us for the inaugural Fairfax Bike Summit on Saturday, October 27 at George Mason University (GMU) from 9AM - 2PM. Register here for FREE (attendance is limited to 200 people – so act fast!)

About the Fairfax Bike Summit: This summit will bring together bicyclists, bicycle organizations, bike shops, and transportation professionals to discuss:
  • Turning Fairfax into an even better place to live by making bicycling a major part of the transportation system
  • Details about the recently-completed bicycle master plan draft that serves as our roadmap for making our streets safer for bicyclists (adding bike lanes, cycle tracks, signed bicycle routes, and connecting trails and streets that lead to major destinations)
  • How other communities are being transformed from auto-centric places to more people-oriented places
  • Bicycling as an alternative transportation option that provides opportunities to grow Fairfax County into a more competitive, liveable, connected, and vibrant community
You'll get to hear from nationally-known speakers including Andy Clarke of the League of American Bicyclists, Chris Eatough of BikeArlington, and Stewart Schwartz of the Coalition for Smarter Growth. See the latest in transportation bikes and gear on display from local bike shops.

The summit will be held at The HUB at GMU in the Front-Middle Ballroom, 4400 University Dr., Fairfax, VA 22030. Display space is available for bicycle businesses and organizations. For further information, please visit or contact us at

Sponsored by Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling, George Mason University, and Fairfax County.


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Saturday, August 25, 2012

FABB Social Ride in McLean

We had a great group of 20 riders join us for the latest FABB Social Ride, a casual tour of the McLean area led by FABB member Dennis Frew. The weather forecast looked bleak but we decided to go ahead with the ride anyway, which turned out to be a good decision as there was only a hint of rain throughout the ride.

After introductions and a brief safety talk we headed out on the just over 13 mile tour. Dennis has lived in McLean for many years and knows all the cut-through trails and interesting back roads, starting with the paved trail leading from the library north to Churchill Road, a route I've never taken. We then headed north on Dead Run Rd all the way to the service road parallel to Georgetown Pike leading to Balls Hill Rd.

We crossed Georgetown Pike and wound our way through some interesting neighborhoods. At Clemyjontri Park we had a pit stop before riding to the road leading to CIA headquarters, Claude Moore Colonial Farm, and the Turner-Fairbanks Highway Research Center. We passed historic Hickory Hill, home of Senator John Kennedy and then Robert Kennedy. On the same street is one of former Vice President Cheney's homes.

Later we stopped at Greenberry's in McLean for snacks before our final stop, the former site of Evans Farm Inn, now an upscale residential development.

Thanks to Dennis for organizing the ride. I know I learned a lot about McLean and about getting around McLean on some pleasant, bike-friendly roads. The next FABB Social Ride will be a tour of Reston, probably in September.

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Friday, August 24, 2012

VDOT announces SRTS mini grants

The Virginia Safe Routes to School Program just announced Quickstart Mini-grants:
The Virginia Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Program is now accepting applications for our new $1,000 QuickStart Mini-grants. These mini-grants are appropriate for communities that plan to start a SRTS program this fall, or for communities with an on-going SRTS program that need a little help with a SRTS event. Title 1 schools are encouraged to apply and will be given priority.

The first round of applications is due by September 6, 2012, and will be announced in mid-September, in time to support an International Walk to School Day event and related activities. Communities are encouraged to schedule their Walk to School Day events during the month of October. International Walk to School Day is Wednesday, October 3.

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

FABB McLean Social Ride

There are still a few slots left for the FABB McLean Social Ride. This is a slow-paced, no-drop ride open to WABA members. Children 14-18 may participate if they are accompanied by an adult WABA member.

The rides leaves from the McLean Library at 9am on Saturday. Some locations that will be passed on the ride, include McLean Central Park,  Hickory Hill - Kennedy estate, CIA HQ, Clemyjontri Park - children's park, Claude Moore 1771 era Farm, Evans Farm area, historic Salona house and fields, part of 1719 land grant, and the McLean business District.

The ride is free. Helmets are required. Register online.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Fairfax Co Parkway trail closed at Toll Road

Today we were riding south on the Fairfax County Parkway trail. Just before the Dulles Toll Road westbound ramp on the Parkway this sign announced that "CROSSWALK CLOSED." VDOT was paving the exit ramp and the trail was impassable. We were able to ride across the grass to get to the ramp and then made our way across to continue on the trail.

There was a VDOT truck parked next to the repaving operation. The person inside the truck said that everything would be OK in another day or so. I let him know that everything wasn't OK today and that VDOT should not close a trail without providing a detour, as we outlined in an earlier post on the closing of the Parkway trail south of Route 50.

Then the VDOT person said that there was supposed to be a flag person guiding bicyclists around the construction. We later heard from another cyclists who has been by the site earlier in the day, that the trail was closed then. That cyclist has contacted the VDOT bike/ped coordinator and the Hunter Mill District Office. We plan to do the same. If you use this trail, please contact VDOT and the HM office.

The Parkway trail is a major commuter route for cyclists. It's inexcusable that VDOT feels they can completely close the trail, with no prior warning, no warning signs far enough in advance to be useful to cyclists and pedestrians, and no detour. VDOT can talk about accommodating cyclists all they want, but until they provide adequate access through construction sites, that talk means little. Cycling is a viable transportation option that needs to be treated like other options, and until VDOT embraces that philosophy, we'll continue to have to fight this type of injustice.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

VBF Annual Meeting Sept. 16

Virginia Bicycling Federation (VBF) will hold their annual meeting on Sunday September 16 in Richmond. If you're interested in helping to make Virginia a better place to bike, why not attend the meeting and get involved with VBF, the only statewide bicycle advocacy organization in Virginia.
Our Annual Meeting will be held from 1:00 to 4:00 PM Sunday, September 16 in the public meeting room at REI in Richmond.

2020 Old Brick Road
Glen Allen, VA 23060
(804) 360-1381

All are welcome. Help elect our 2013 board and officers, and plan our legislative strategy for the upcoming General Assembly.

If you are interested in serving as a board member next year, or know of indidviduals who would like to be considered, please contact Bud Vye, Nominating Committee Chair (

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Apple Macintosh was briefly called the Bicycle

I just started reading the excellent biography Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. Here's a paragraph from page 115 describing how Jobs took over the Macintosh project in 1981:
In order to make the project his own, Jobs decided it should no longer be code-named after Raskin's favorite apple. In various interviews, Jobs had been referring to computers as a bicycle for the mind; the ability of humans to create a bicycle allowed them to move more efficiently than even a condor, and likewise the ability to create computers would multiply the efficiency of their minds. So one day Jobs decreed that henceforth the Macintosh should be known instead as the Bicycle. This did not go over well. "Burrell and I thought this was the silliest thing we ever heard, and we simply refused to use the new name," recalled Hertzfeld. Within a month the idea was dropped.
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Farrar wins opening stage of US Pro Challenge

The US Pro Challenge is a 683 mile, seven day stage race that takes place August 20-26th in the Colorado Rockies. The first stage, from Durango to Telluride, was won by US pro Tyler Farrar of the Garmin-Sharp team. The race is being shown on live every afternoon at 4pm on NBC Sports channel, formerly Versus. On Comcast it's channel 70.

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Portland's publicly visible bike counter

From BikePortland.


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The Invisible Bike Helmet


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No Accident

Transportation Alternatives of New York City recently posted a good article, No Accident, on the use of the term "accident" to describe a car crash. The word accident implies an unavoidable incident when in fact most car crashes have a cause that could be avoided, either speeding, distracted driving, aggressive driving, etc.

The dictionary definition of accident is "a: an unforeseen and unplanned event or circumstance b: lack of intention or necessity : chance." While it may be appropriate to use the term in some cases, crash is a much better term. Fairfax police use that term when discussing bicycle crashes. However the press continues to use the term accident. In today's Post I searched for the term and the first article found, a summary of local traffic conditions by Dr Gridlock, contains 14 references to "accident" and none to "crash."

There is a subtle difference between the terms "accident" or "crash" and using the more neutral term "crash" is more appropriate in most cases.

From BikePortland.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

How My Bike Changed My Life

How My Bike Changed My Life is the title of an article in the Washington Times by Laura Sesana about her discovery of the benefits of bicycling:
Over a year and a half after buying my bike, I ride every day and take my car out less than once or twice a week. I spend half of what I used to in gas and haven’t got a parking ticket in nine months. I no longer have to worry about finding a parking spot.

My riding has also had positive effects on other parts of my life. For one thing, riding has made me more active and given me a large amount of confidence. I started riding to the gym last winter and have been going regularly for over 8 months- a record for me.

I am not as thin as I would like to be, but I eat what I want (in moderation, of course) and am in the best shape of my life. I find myself spending much more time outdoors, even in the wintertime. I have a completely different lifestyle that is good for me, good for my wallet, and good for my community.

And it all began with my trusty bike…


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FABB Social Ride - Tour de McLean

Join FABB for a tour of the McLean area. This is a great opportunity to discover bike-friendly routes in this historic community. The ride is planned for August 25th with a rain date of September 1st at 9am. Registration is required and you must be a WABA member.

A slow 10-12 mph ride with rolling terrain through the neighborhoods in McLean.

Start at McLean library off Ingleside Ave at 1244 Oak Ridge Avenue

Some locations and homes that will be passed on the ride, include McLean Central Park, Senator Patrick Leahy (Vermont), Dick Cheney, Hickory Hill - Kennedy estate, Judge Bork, Rob Ryan – local weather man, CIA HQ, Clemyjontri Park - children’s park, Claude Moore 1771 era Farm, Evens Farm area, Justice Antonin Scalia, Salona house and fields, part of 1719 land grant and the McLean business District.

A stop could be made in the McLean business district for snacks at 7-11, Starbucks or Greenberry’s.
  • What to Bring:
  • Your bicycle,
  • Helmet (required no exceptions),
  • Lock to secure your bike when parked,
  • WABA membership number*
  • Water and a snack, sunscreen,
  • Cash for (optional) lunch or snack
* The ride is for adult WABA Members. Children 14-18 may participate if they are accompanied by an adult WABA member

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Fairfax County Parkway Trail still closed at Fair Lakes Blvd

The Fairfax County Parkway Trail has been closed for several months while construction of the Fair Lakes Blvd/Fairfax County Parkway intersection is underway. No detour was provided. This is a major multiuse trail that is completely closed, despite VDOT's policy to provide detours for pedestrians and bicyclists affected by construction, especially on heavily used trails:
Section 6G.05 Work Affecting Pedestrian and Bicycle Facilities (Page 6G-5)

Where pedestrian [and bicycle] routes are closed, alternate pedestrian [and bicycle] routes shall be provided.

When existing pedestrian [and bicycle] facilities are disrupted, closed, or relocated in a TTC zone, the temporary facilities shall be detectable and shall include accessibility features consistent with the features present in the existing pedestrian [or bicycle] facility.
We've asked VDOT contacts about possible detours and have not received a response. According to a July 2012 update on the project website, "The multipurpose trail that runs adjacent to northbound Fairfax County Parkway around to the ramp for Rt. 50 eastbound will be closed for about one more month in this area for soundwall construction. A new trail will be built in front of the wall."

The red line is the section of trail that is closed. The blue line is a possible detour that could have been signed for cyclists. I haven't ridden the detour but it appears to connect the two sections of the Parkway Trail.

As a note, the above section from the Virginia Work Area Protection Manual is a good example of why it's important to distinguish between pedestrian and bicycle facilities. What would be a long detour for pedestrians is often a relatively short ride for most bicyclists. There are enough differences between bicycle and pedestrian facilities that it's often not wise to use the term "pedestrian" to reference both as was done above. I added the term [and bicycle] above as I believe it is implied.

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Monday, August 13, 2012

New bike routing application is a new bike trip planning application for the DC metro area. The interesting aspect of the mapping application is integration of Capital Bikeshare.
To use bike planner, pick your start and end points, and we'll tell you how to make the trip, either on your own bike or on bikeshare. If you choose bikeshare, the route information includes where to pick up a bike and where to drop it off, and alternative docks nearby. Bikeplanner checks to see if bikes and docks are available before recommending a route. If you want to use your own bike, bikeplanner will help with that too!

Use the triangle shaped preference tool to customize your route and find the perfect balance of "quickest", "flattest" and "safest".
After hearing about the application in two articles in the Post and through several bike blogs I tried it briefly. On the first attempt to find a route from my home in Reston to Tysons, a trip I've taken many times using mostly bike-friendly routes, I received this message "Trip is not possible. You might be trying to plan a trip outside the map data boundary." If I move the staring location a few hundred feet away from my house, a route can be found. Unfortunately the route follows a segment of Fox Mill Rd that is one of the least bike-friendly in this area.

The app doesn't seem to know that the W&OD Trail extends to Reston. From where the green line following the trail ends, near Hunter Mill Road, it's about 15 miles to the center of DC. I assume the first versions of the app are not very useful beyond that distance.

On the route in the image on the right you can see another problem with the app. The straight line cutting across several neighborhood streets between two sections of Fairfax Co Parkway is a non-existent trail, likely just a digitizing error. The maps are based on OpenStreetMap data which is usually very high quality but not perfect (I just looked at the OpenStreetMap data for that area and didn't see the artifact).

Give the app a try and see if it works for your area. If not, send feedback to the developers, or if necessary, modify the OpenStreetMap data. In the meantime I'll continue to use Google Maps bike directions.

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Saturday, August 11, 2012

Bikeyface - Graphic bike blog

Bikeyface is a bike cartoon blog by artist Bekka Wright.
"I’m an ordinary bike commuter in Boston who works at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. I’m also a fine artist, writer, and entrepreneur.

I bike or walk everywhere- to work, to run errands, get to my studio to paint, or to go out to cultural/social events. Biking is not only a practical way to get around the city, it is an enjoyable and refreshing way to experience a community.

I started a bike blog in June 2011 when I moved to Boston, sold my car, and was learning my way around Boston. It wasn’t meant to be a cartoon blog at first but more of a personal blog about my 2-wheeled adventures. But I’ve always drawn pictures and it naturally evolved into a web comic. In the fall of 2011 I rebranded the blog as “Bikeyface.”

I want Bikeyface to be as fun and enjoyable as biking. Sometimes it’s easy to get frustrated about how much needs to change on our city streets. But ultimately there is a reason people bike in spite of it all. That spirit is what I want to capture."
Each posting contains a drawing depicting some bike-related situation, often accompanied by a brief commentary. The latest entry is Jaybikers:
The other day I was waiting at a red light while a flood cyclists passed by me in every direction. It was a particularly long red, and car traffic was lower than normal. And I’m glad there has been such and increase in biking. However I witnessed several close calls because no one was operating by the same set of rules:

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Friday, August 10, 2012

Connecting low stress streets for cyclists

In most communities the majority of streets are very bike-friendly. When people say that their community is a dangerous place to bike, they are usually referring to the few "high stress" streets that most motorists use. These are the more direct streets with higher speed limits.

A recent report looks at the importance of connecting low stress streets, the many neighborhood streets where cyclists can comfortably share the road with motorists. Connecting these streets allows cyclists to avoid the high stress streets that are often the only connection to major destinations.
"Nobody wants to ride their bike in the left lane of a six-lane road with 40-mile-an-hour traffic. It's crazy," says Peter Furth. He's a civil and environmental engineering professor at Northeastern University and co-author of a new report out from the Mineta Transportation Institute that looks at how varying levels of "traffic stress" on different city streets can limit where people are willing to ride.

Furth and his colleagues mapped out the different levels of stress on the streets of San Jose, California, and they find that while many streets are calm enough for most riders, they're sliced up by streets with high levels of stress. High-stress streets are measured as those with high speed limits, limited or non-existent bike lanes and signage, and large distances to cross at intersections.

A map of San Jose, California, showing only those streets that have been deemed to have little to no traffic stress.
The map below shows how high stress streets create islands of low-stress bikeability that are disconnected from each other.
Fairfax City neighborhood streets connected by major arterials
Fairfax streets are a prime example of this type of street network. It's very difficult to travel for any distance without having to use a major road at some point in most trips. You can see the many islands of disconnected neighborhood streets in the road network in the Fairfax City area shown in the map segment on the right. The solution is to either connect these streets directly or provide high quality bicycle facilities on the major roads.

In the county bicycle master plan, the high stress streets are categorized as Policy Roads. These are mostly arterial streets that will likely develop in the near future and need to be made more bicycle-friendly, but the fix is based on county policy regarding adjacent land use and the type of expected bicycle travel, and frankly, having the political will to create a good bicycle infrastructure. A final draft of the plan should be available soon.

From the WashCycle.

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Household move using bikes

Md. couple ditches moving van, uses bikes instead is the title of a Post article about a College Park couple, Anthony and Jess Reiss, who are carfree and were faced with the challenge of moving their household goods without a motor vehicle. With the help of friends they were able to make the move in about 2 hours.
At first, the idea of moving via bikes was a joke. That’s because moving their residence on bikes presented challenges, the most notable being that they would be moving their residence on bikes. 

But the joke turned into an idea, and the idea turned into a plan. Bicyclists from the community offered to help. A church group offered to help. A bike messenger from the District offered to help — a big coup because he had a trailer that could haul 300 pounds.

All told, about 25 people and bikes showed up.
Check out the video/slide show that documents their move:


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Pedestrian death spike in DC - Post blames pedestrians

Today's Post editorial entitled Death by distraction discusses the rise in pedestrian deaths in DC, which account for 54.2% of all traffic-related deaths. The Post's solution is to advocate for laws against distracted walking despite the dramatic increase in motorists who blatantly run red lights and who often refuse to yield to pedestrians.

Why not enforce the laws we have? Motorist actions such as aggressive driving, turning right on red without stopping, running red lights and stop signs, and speeding rarely result in citations. In countries where there has been a significant reduction in pedestrian and bicycle deaths, traffic enforcement is much more strict than in the U.S. There are also many other measures that can be taken to make our streets more safe. From Transportation Alternatives, a New York based alternative transportation group:
In the last few decades, Germany and Holland have made extraordinary progress to improve the safety of people walking and bicycling. From 1975 to 2001, cycling trips in Germany doubled, but bicycling deaths declined by 64% and pedestrian fatalities by 82%. In Holland, pedestrian fatalities declined by 73% and cycling fatalities by 57%.

Germany and Holland have improved conditions for bicyclists and pedestrians by employing concerted, long-term public policies to reengineer streets, change urban design, strengthen traffic enforcement and traffic laws and institute more vigorous driver education. Almost all of what these countries have done could be replicated in some form in New York City, and would help to reduce significantly the number of New Yorkers struck, injured and killed by drivers.

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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

An honest discussion about "the fattest people in the world"

That's the title of an article at about having a conversation about our obesity problem in the U.S. As we've built a transportation system that forces people to rely on cars and reduces opportunities for walking and biking, we as a nation have gotten fatter. There are likely many causes of the problem but reduction in walking and biking, especially among children, certainly plays a major role.
Yes, let’s have an honest discussion about being the “fattest people in the world.” Every day, “decision makers” make transportation infrastructure and planning decisions that favor cars over people, decisions that make walking and biking—walking or biking to real public transit options, to work, to school, to the store—come to seem more and more…radical. It is indeed time we took responsibility for these and for the full range of consequences they entail. Let’s take some personal responsibility and make sure we as a society make the decisions that instead favor people over cars, favor transportation infrastructure built around the human scale.
From the WashCycle.

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Monday, August 6, 2012

Town of Herndon to discuss bike plan recommendations August 14

Herndon Town Council will hold a public hearing on August 14 starting at 7pm to discuss a resolution of support for the Countywide Bicycle Master Plan developed by the Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee. All Herndon-area cyclists are encouraged to attend the hearing and speak out in favor of the plan recommendations.

As reported here, the Town Council recently held their first public hearing on adoption of recommendations for bike lanes, sharrows, and other bike facilities that are included in the county bicycle master plan. Adoption of the recommendations will be a great step forward for helping to make Herndon a more bicycle-friendly place.

Unfortunately there was some misinformation discussed at the earlier hearing about where cyclists are allowed to ride on the road, and about the purpose of sharrows. FABB has scheduled a meeting with Town officials to discuss the use of sharrows, rights of cyclists to ride in the road, and how the sharrows will be implemented in the Town. Among other sources we'll be referencing VDOT's guidelines on use of sharrows that we wrote about extensively in an earlier post.

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WMATA to remove abandoned bikes

From a WAMTA news release:
News Release

For immediate release: August 2, 2012

Excuse me, is that your bike?
Metro publishes list of potentially abandoned bikes to encourage removal

"Excuse me, is that your bike?"

Metro is taking steps to free up bicycle rack capacity and discourage theft.

Over the past several months, Metro staff conducted a "census" of bicycles parked at Metrorail stations for planning purposes. As part of that process, Metro staff identified and photographed more than two dozen potentially abandoned bikes throughout the system. In many cases, these bikes had flat tires, missing parts or rusted frames.

To make space available for bicycle customers and to discourage theft, Metro Transit Police will soon begin a process to tag and remove these bicycles. From the time the bike is tagged, owners will have ten days to remove it.

Today, Metro is releasing a photo directory of the potentially abandoned bikes. Owners are encouraged to remove them from bike racks as soon as possible. Abandoned bikes that remain unclaimed may be sent to auction.

News release issued at 10:40 am, August 2, 2012.
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NY Times article on cycling ethics

New York Times columnist Randy Cohen writes about ethics. He recently wrote an opinon piece entitled If Kant Were a New York Cyclist in which he ponders why people get so upset about what they consider bad behavior on the part of cyclists:
I roll through a red light if and only if no pedestrian is in the crosswalk and no car is in the intersection — that is, if it will not endanger myself or anybody else. To put it another way, I treat red lights and stop signs as if they were yield signs. A fundamental concern of ethics is the effect of our actions on others. My actions harm no one. This moral reasoning may not sway the police officer writing me a ticket, but it would pass the test of Kant’s categorical imperative: I think all cyclists could — and should — ride like me.

I am not anarchic; I heed most traffic laws. I do not ride on the sidewalk (O.K., except for the final 25 feet between the curb cut and my front door, and then with caution). I do not salmon, i.e. ride against traffic. In fact, even my “rolling stops” are legal in some places.

Paul Steely White, the executive director of Transportation Alternatives, an advocacy group of which I am a member, points out that many jurisdictions, Idaho for example, allow cyclists to slow down and roll through stop signs after yielding to pedestrians. Mr. White e-mailed me: “I often say that it is much more important to tune into the pedestrians rather than tune into the lights, largely because peds jaywalk so much!”

If my rule-breaking is ethical and safe (and Idaho-legal), why does it annoy anyone? Perhaps it is because we humans are not good at weighing the dangers we face. If we were, we’d realize that bicycles are a tiny threat; it is cars and trucks that menace us. In the last quarter of 2011, bicyclists in New York City killed no pedestrians and injured 26. During the same period, drivers killed 43 pedestrians and injured 3,607.
Update: See the lengthly discussion about this article on the WashCycle.

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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Tour de Reston Schools

After the Tour des Lacs
First there was Tour des Lacs, a kid-friendly bike tour of two lakes in south Reston. Now the Reston Pedestrian and Bicycling Advisory Committee is sponsoring Tour de Reston Schools this weekend. The Saturday ride will start at Hunters Woods Elementary School in south Reston. The Sunday ride starts at Buzz Aldrin Elementary school in north Reston. Both rides begin at 9am.

According to the Reston PBAC:
Parents, children and interested Reston residents are welcome to join members of Reston Association's Pedestrian and Bicycling Advisory Committee (PBAC) as they bicycle between Reston's public schools on the south and north sides of Route 267 during two separate rides, surveying existing bicycle parking facilities in order to assist with improvements.

Tentatively, the Saturday ride will start at Hunters Woods Elementary school on the south side. Sunday's ride is scheduled to begin at Buzz Aldrin Elementary school in north Reston. Contact Brian Murphy at or call Aric Line at 703-505-1805 for more information.
Why not join the ride and help make Reston a better place to bike?

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