Tuesday, November 6, 2012

November-December FABB Newsletter


A bi-monthly publication of Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling


Outstanding * A Milestone * Superb Speakers * Engaged Audience * Passion

These are some of the words people who attended our first Fairfax Bicycle Summit used during and after the October 27 event. FABB collaborated with Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) and George Mason University to put together a stellar list of speakers and local bike shops, who inspired us to redouble our efforts to make bicycling an everyday activity for the good of our communities. We heard of at least two people who visited local bike shops after the summit, looking for bikes to use for local trips.

Keynote speaker Andy Clarke, President of the League of American Bicyclists, stated the obvious: Fairfax faces many challenges for bicyclists. But he also noted that things are changing for the better. Fixing some of the challenges does not necessarily involve any grandiose ideas, specialized infrastructure, or millions of dollars. For example, simple actions such as closing gaps in our sidewalks and trails and keeping walking and bicycling paths clear of snow and debris would improve conditions for bicyclists. Although encouraging bicycling is not “rocket science” and many people want to drive less, commitment from the top is required because change does not happen by chance. Speaker Tom Biesiadny, Director of FCDOT, detailed ways that his department is working to further bicycle transportation, such as completing the county bicycle master plan, partnering with VDOT to add wide shoulders or bike lanes during road repaving projects, and conducting a trails and sidewalk condition assessment.

As the day progressed, speaker after speaker detailed ways we can bring better and safer conditions to cyclists. The more people who ride, the safer everyone is. Ideas were wide ranging:  bike stations for residential tenants in redeveloped Tysons Corner, road diets that incorporate bike lanes, kids telling their peers how much they enjoy biking to school, bike sharing, enticing recreational bikers to try riding for short trips around town, convincing people that riding 2 miles to the store doesn’t mean you need to be an endurance athlete. Closing speaker Stewart Schwartz of Coalition for Smarter Growth pointed out that bicycling makes sense in terms of energy, economics, health, and competitive growth, and biking for transportation truly contributes to our national security.

FABB presented awards to Fairfax County Bicycle Coordinator Charlie Strunk and VDOT Traffic Engineer Randy Dittberner for their work on behalf of bicyclists; both are avid transportation cyclists.

We already are tossing around ideas for our next bicycle summit, although topping this year’s program will be tough. If you missed the inaugural event, be sure to attend the next one!

Draft Bicycle Master Plan

Toole Design Group delivered the final draft of the Fairfax Countywide Bicycle Master Plan County Bike Coordinator Charlie Strunk. Staff briefed the Planning Commission on the bike plan on October 17. Meetings are currently being scheduled with staff from the Department of Planning and Zoning and the Department of Transportation's Long Range Planning Section in order to review format and comprehensive plan language compatibility.  The draft-final plan will be presented to the Planning Commission after the first of the year to seek approval of the Plan. It will then go to the County Board of Supervisors for their approval. Once a copy of the Plan is available we will post information on the FABB website.

Safe Routes to School in Fairfax

Over the past 3 years, FABB has been working with both Fairfax County government and the Fairfax County Public Schools, encouraging them to embrace a system-wide effort to get more children to walk and bike to school.  Leveraging the National Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program, Jeff Anderson has been leading the charge for FABB and recently brought national exposure to Fairfax. In May, WAMU's Metro Connection interviewed Jeff and two of his three children for the feature From A To B: Families Try To Bring Back Walking, Biking To School, which ran on NPR. In June, Nike sent a photographer to capture the Wolftrap ES Bike Train as part of a larger report, Designed to Move: A Physical Activity Action Agenda.  The SRTS section of the report (page 78) contains a photo of Wolfie's bike train. Bicycling magazine published a report on biking to school and included a picture of the Anderson peloton as representative of kids who can and do bike to school (section 7). In August, Wolfie's Bike Train was featured in the article Uphill Ride: Kids and Their Parents Show the Way to Cycle Safely to School in Landscape Architecture magazine.   

Finally, in September, Nickelodeon sent two film crews to Wolftrap ES to film the bike train and to profile Carina Anderson (6th grader at Wolftrap ES) as part of their 30 min special on I Play Because... The kids at Wolftrap ES are setting a great example for others.

FABB will continue to push for continued movement within Fairfax County to get more kids to bike and walk to school as these children are the bike commuters of tomorrow.

Bicycle Bills in 2013 Virginia Legislative Session

Delegate Alfonso Lopez (49th District) plans to reintroduce the "Exercise due care" and "Following too closely" bills again in the 2013 session. Both bills would help educate motorists about the rights of bicyclists and the need for motorists to drive carefully around them. These bills were opposed last year by Northern Virginia Delegate Barbara Comstock (34th District), who cast deciding votes in defeating them. Once the and other bike-related bills are introduced we will ask cyclists to contact their local legislators to urge them to support the bills.

First Bike Sharing System Implemented at GMU

GMU recently implemented a
bike sharing system at four "stations" around campus.
Patriot Bikeshare uses bikes from viaCycle. The system is very simple. The bikes are parked at designated bike racks using an attached cable locking system. There are a couple of options for using the system:
  • One-time $3 fee to check out a bike for a 12 hour time period.
  • Subscription fee of $6/month available to Mason students, faculty, or staff.
Guests can also use the system. The first two hours of use are free.

New Bike/Ped Staff Person at Fairfax County

Fairfax County DOT recently hired a new bicycle (and pedestrian) staff person to work in the county bike program. Her name is Vanessa Aguayo. According to the county bike coordinator, "She has an engineering background, comes to us from the private sector, and has lots of experience in designing bike and pedestrian projects as well as traffic calming." Welcome to Vanessa; we look forward to working with her.

VDOT Releases Updated Bicycling in Virginia map

VDOT recently released an updated version of the state bike map, Bicycling in Virginia. The map shows major bike routes in the Commonwealth, including United States Bicycle Routes (USBR) 1 & 76, Skyline Drive, Blue Ridge Parkway, the Virginia Capital Trail, and a few other major trails. There is a Northern Virginia inset showing details of USBR 1, the Fairfax Co Parkway Trail, the Cross County Trail and others.

495 Express Lane Bridges Now Have Bike/Ped Facilities

The 495 Express Lanes are scheduled to open on November 17 . Since 2007 a major goal of FABB has been to ensure that bike facilities are included on the bridges across the Beltway. Most Beltway bridges between I-95 and the American Legion Bridge were reconstructed as part of the HOT lanes project (now called the 495 Express Lanes). See the many blog postings on our HOT lanes advocacy. We attended public meetings, wrote a Post Outlook section article, and met with county and VDOT staff to ask that the facilities that are indicated on the county Trails Plan be included in the project.

With support from Fairfax County DOT and VDOT, those facilities are a reality. While they are far from perfect, in most cases they provide the first accommodations for pedestrians and cyclists on the Beltway bridges. The next step is to ensure that those new facilities are connected to the surrounding bicycle route network.

FABB Fact: 31% of trips in central Fairfax are less than 3 miles.

Events - For full details see the FABB Events Page.

Wednesday, November 21 - No FABB meeting in November
Thursday, December 13 - WABA Holiday Party
Wednesday, December 19, 7:30pm - FABB monthly meeting

FABB BLOG - For other news and articles of interest, visit the FABB blog.

Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling is a grassroots initiative, affiliated with the
Washington Area Bicyclist Association, aiming to make bicycling an integral part of Fairfax County's transportation network. Visit us on the web, Facebook, and Twitter. Donations to FABB are tax-deductible and help us further our bicycling goals in Fairfax.

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I read with interest that Tom Biesiadny, Director of FCDOT, said that the department is "...partnering with VDOT to add wide shoulders or bike lanes during road repaving projects." Last summer's work on the southside (east bound) portion of Route 123 between Kurtz Rd. and Potomac School Road would have been a great place to put that into action, especially since that segment is included in the Tyson's Corner bike plan. Alas, though, nothing happened, and the paved shoulder is still only about two feet wide. Especially disappointing since the earlier repaving work on the westbound portion of 123 DID widen the shoulder to at least 6 feet or more in that area.
A FABB member is well aware of this oversight and is working with Supervisor Foust's office to try to get the shoulder paved. Writing to the Supervisor to ask for the paving would help.

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