Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Fairfax Bicycle Master Plan - Summary - Update: Draft maps added

Over the past couple of years FABB has been working with Fairfax County to develop the Tysons and Countywide Bicycle Master Plans. Several FABB members served on the advisory committee and we attended all of the community and focus group meetings. The draft bike plan was delivered to the advisory committee and county in July. We understand that some changes have been made to both the plan text and maps, although the advisory committee has not met since the summer.

The plan will be going before the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors over the coming months. FABB will be meeting with Commission members and Supervisors to encourage them to pass the plan and provide funds for implementation. The following is a summary of the plan extracted from the July 13, 2012 draft. We'll be using this information, and any changes made since the July draft, to prepare briefing materials and to get the word out to the larger community about the plan.

Unfortunately the plan is not yet available to the public. Much of the material from the planning meetings was hosted on the consultant's website but is no longer available. Some of that material is available on Fairfaxpedia. Here is the bike plan summary:

Fairfax County Bicycle Master Plan
DRAFT July 13, 2012

Investments in Bicycle Transportation Benefit Everyone

  • Enhancing safety for all County residents
  • Improving air quality and reducing energy consumption:
  • Reducing traffic congestion:
  • Providing transportation options:
  • Reducing transportation costs:
  • Providing opportunities for routine exercise:
  • Expanding recreational opportunities for residents, employees and visitors:
  • Improving quality of life:
  • Improving economic competitiveness:

The vision for the Countywide Bicycle Master Plan is:

Meeting the needs of bicyclists today, while encouraging more people to bicycle in the future.

In order to attain this vision, the following goals are established:

  • Develop a connected physical network of existing and proposed on-street and off-street (shared use paths and trails) bicycling accommodations that will serve all bicyclists from 8 to 80+ years of age when cycling for recreation or transportation purposes.
  • Provide guidance for the development of new facilities and accommodations and the upgrading of existing facilities such that shared-use paths, selected sidewalks, neighborhood streets, collector, arterial and primary roads will provide safe and comfortable bicycling route options that serve all communities and destinations.
  • Increase bicycle use for transportation, especially for non-commute trips, which are about 75 percent of all trips. Establish and track annual progress towards bicycle travel demand and bicycle network supply goals identified in the Countywide Bicycle Master Plan.
  • Increase actual bicycling safety and the perception of safety for bicycling on roads and trails in Fairfax County. Establish and track annual progress towards safety goals identified in the Countywide Bicycle Master Plan.

These goals are supported by the following objectives:

  • Encourage healthy lifestyles and physical activity through regular bicycle use for transportation and recreation.
  • Enhance recreational opportunities.
  • Increase conservation of energy resources.
  • Support congestion mitigation and emission reductions.
  • Improve mobility and access for all transportation system users.
  • Convert short (less than three miles) single-occupancy vehicle trips to bicycle trips.
  • More fully integrate bicycle improvements into the planning and project development process.
  • Improve overall bicycle safety, access and connectivity throughout the County and to adjacent counties.
  • Foster the development of bike culture in Fairfax County.
  • Make bicycle travel a viable transportation choice and thus expand the numbers and variety of people bicycling for transportation.

The following principles provide a foundation upon which a Bicycle Network can be developed:

  1. The facility recommendations shown on the Bicycle Network maps generally represent the bicycle facility that should be installed if action to improve bicycling conditions is to be taken in the near term (within 10 years of Plan adoption). Many of these recommendations may remain applicable beyond that timeframe.
  2. Fairfax County will build upon and take full advantage of VDOT’s recently adopted Bicycle Policy Plan.
  3. To provide overall guidance regarding Network development, Fairfax County will follow the most current editions of the AASHTO Guide to the Planning and Design of Bicycle Facilities, and the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. Other important references include the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) Urban Bikeway Design Guide, VDOT’s 2011 MUTCD Supplement, and VDOT's Road Design Manual, Volume 1 Appendix A, Section A-5.
  4. Given County law that permits bicycling on all sidewalks and paths, it is understood that whether or not a sidewalk or path is considered part of the Bicycle Network, it likely will be used by children/youth bicyclists to get to and from school, and/or by other bicyclists as a link to the Network. As such, the owning agency or entity should be attentive to basic maintenance and its general condition.
  5. Every roadway development project and land development proffer should be evaluated for its contribution toward, or lack of contribution to, achieving the goal of creating a connected network that is safe and functional for bicyclists from ages 8 to 80+.
  6. New bicycle facility designs and treatments should be routinely considered and and used where appropriate; where roadway conditions and travel patterns warrant, formal experimentation should be undertaken when implementing new designs.
  7. While flexibility is needed in bikeway design, flexibility shall not be used by developers or transportation agencies for the purposes of providing “lowest cost” facilities at the expense of bicyclist safety and comfort and/or network continuity and connectivity.
  8. A FCDOT bikeway design exception policy should be established; the intent of which is to help the County provide safe and appropriate quality bicycle facilities at reasonable costs, while preserving opportunities to upgrade facilities in the future at the lowest additional cost.

On-Road Bicycle Facilities

These recommendations are based on a planning level assessment of what facility is generally feasible, and what facility is optimal based upon road and traffic conditions and likely levels of bicycle usage. Other factors such as maintaining continuity of a single facility type through connecting road segments, whether or not the road segment is part of a longer route, and the types of destinations served also factored into the recommendation.

If facility selections need to be modified, the following principles should guide any changes made to the initial recommendations:

  1. In general, bicycle accommodation with some type of striping or markings (i.e. bike lanes, striped/paved shoulders, or shared lane markings in wide outside lanes) are preferred over unmarked wide outside lanes.
  2. At a minimum, buffered bike lanes or wide (6-10’) shoulders should be provided on Bicycle Network roads with heavy volumes and/or speed limits at or above 40 mph.
  3. On-street parking will not be over-supplied at the expense of an opportunity to provide appropriate/planned bicycle facilities. Facilities that require modification to on-street parking in residential areas should be vetted with the affected property owners. In almost all cases the bikeway recommendation requires only a reduction in capacity, not elimination of all on-street parking. Alternating the side with parking block-by-block can both calm traffic and ensure that inconvenience is not born solely by residents of one side of the street.
  4. VDOT and FCDOT should experiment with at least two bicycle facility design options for four lane divided roadways with 26-27’ cartways11:
    • 10-11’ inside lane and 13-14’ outside lane with a shared lane marking
    • A 10’ inside lane, 10’ outside lane and a 5-6’ bike lane with 3-4’ of asphalt and a 2’ gutter pan
  5. When sections of primary arterial roads are resurfaced or reconstructed in Fairfax County Revitalization Districts, and other areas seeking a traditional main street or urban downtown setting, they should be retrofitted as follows:
    • Where short-term on-street parking is provided – Standard bike lanes or shared lane markings.
    • Speed limit of 25 mph – Standard bike lanes or share
    • Speed limit of 30 or 35 mph – Standard Bike lanes.
    • Speed limit > 35 mph – Cycle tracks or buffered bike lanes.
    • Continuous service roads with Standard bike lanes or shared lane markings.
New, resurfaced, and reconstructed streets (collector and local) in revitalizing or urbanizing areas should have a speed limit of 20-30 mph and accommodate bicycles using shared roadways (without markings), shared lane markings, or standard bicycle lanes as is appropriate given their overall function in the Bicycle Network and roadway system.
  1. The County will continue to develop a system of signed bicycle routes; Phase 1 and 2 routes in the Tysons Corner area (see Tysons Bicycle Plan) and routes in McLean being of the highest priority. Future routes should be developed as conditions on roads and trails along the route are determined to be consistent enough to support a signed route.

Maintenance of Transportation Trails and On-Road Facilities

  1. The GIS database of all trails in the county should be updated annually to include the trail owner and the agency responsible for maintenance for all trail segments. This database should include information about privately-owned trails that are open for public access, and the trail surface type, surface width and other information relevant to effective maintenance and management of a trail system.
  2. Using GIS and interactive internet mapping capabilities, the County should establish a method of effective coordination between key agencies that own, manage and maintain components of the Transportation Trail Network. This will include the VDOT, FCDOT, NVRPA, Fairfax County Park Authority, the National Park Service, the Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Services, the Fairfax County Public Schools, private property owners, Home Owner Associations, and potentially others.
  3. Fairfax County, VDOT and other key agencies/entities that own and manage Transportation Trails should establish dedicated funding for annual maintenance of Transportation Trails in the Bicycle Network; VDOT and FCDOT should establish dedicated funding for maintenance of on-road bicycle facilities.
  4. By 2015, periodic bicycle lane and shoulder sweeping should be a routine VDOT maintenance activity.
  5. Clean up activities after car crashes must leave the road safe for cyclists.

Policy Roads

The safe accommodation of bicycle travel on these roads will depend on other choices that are made, such as what type and configuration of development happens, and what type of future roadway configurations are selected. At the time of developing the Bicycle Master Plan, these choices cannot be predicted. As a result, a table is included on the Recommended Bicycle Network Maps to provide guidance on how best to accommodate safe bicycle travel contingent upon the other choices that are made about roadway and land use development


  1. Bike facilities as part of resurfacing, using 2% funds to create 3 foot minimum shoulders, preferably 4 feet or greater.
  2. Use of 10 foot wide lanes on roads with speed limit of 35mph or less.
  3. Possibly reduce speed limits on some roads to allow use of Shared Lane Markings
  4. All bridges will accommodate bicyclists
  5. Value engineering should not be used to degrade or remove bicycle facilities in the plan.

Fairfax County Bike Program

It is anticipated that if the following actions are carried out, over a period of 5 years absent any other major initiatives, the Plan goals for improving bicycling conditions and increasing levels of bicycle use can be accomplished:
  1. Provide a minimum staff of three full-time employees.
  2. Provide a minimum $500,000 annual budget for planning and programmatic and small scale capital projects such as: installation of bicycle parking racks and lockers, signs for signed bicycle routes, curb ramps, and small bicycle access and trail access projects.
  3. Establish a permanent Countywide Bicycle Advisory Committee that reports to the Board of Supervisors through the Transportation Advisory Commission (TAC). Reform the Trails and Sidewalks Committee as a Pedestrian Advisory Committee under the TAC. If needed, create a Recreational Trails Committee under the Fairfax Park Authority to address issues and needs related to equestrian trails, mountain biking, hiking and other issues pertaining to Non-Transportation Trails.
  4. Charge the Bicycle Program with bicycle transportation tasks related to the following: on-road and off-road bicycle facility engineering and design, bicycle parking, bicycle-related coordination with VDOT, bikeway capital project management, interagency and intergovernmental coordination, development review, bicycle counts, data management and program evaluation, and staff liaison with Bike Fairfax. Bike Parking Guidelines recently developed by the Fairfax County Bike Program are considered to be the standard by which to decide and judge the quantity and quality of bike parking to be provided.
  5. Delegate primary leadership for encouragement and education programs to a new Bike Fairfax program (discussed below).

Bike Fairfax

The Bike Fairfax program will be structured to address the goals of the Bicycle Master Plan and will undertake the following list of program tasks:
  1. Provide bicycle commuting support and information to employers and employees.
  2. Promote bicycling for non-commute trips.
  3. Coordinate and host countywide bicycle encouragement events, such as those during Bike to Work Month, regional Bike to Work Day, etc.
  4. Organize local bike promotion events with shopping centers, large employers, health care institutions and agencies, special events, festivals, the Fairfax County Park Authority.
  5. Promote the bicycle parking installation program.
  6. Coordinate with the Towns and Cities within Fairfax County, as well as other institutions such as the Department of Defense, National Park Service, and other Fairfax County government agencies to promote biking as a safe and reliable transportation choice in the County.
  7. Organize and offer classes that teach hands-on bicycling skills and rules of the road to a wide variety of constituencies within the county.
  8. Be a clearinghouse for skills and safety education training opportunities offered by other programs in the county.
  9. Provide a website and serve as a source of bicycle-related news and events.

Law enforcement is an important cornerstone of an effective local bicycle program. To improve bicycle-related enforcement and outcomes, the following recommendations are included in this Plan:
  1. Work with law enforcement, State and County elected officials and advocacy groups to enact changes in law or policy at the State and County levels that would clarify code language relating to right-of-way on public facilities.
  2. To ensure a common understanding of laws related to bicycling and right of way on public facilities, and the consistent and fair enforcement of these laws, prepare clarifying communications for the law enforcement community, VDOT and FCDOT traffic engineers, cyclists, motorists, and judges.
  3. Improve training of law enforcement officers to ensure equal and fair treatment of bicyclists with regard to traffic law enforcement, crash reporting and fault finding.
  4. Coordinate road and trail design and enforcement practices to ensure consistency in the application of bicycle and trail safety treatments and infrastructure design.
  5. Always include education with enforcement to achieve the greatest impact with the intended audience.

Safety Education

  1. Implement Fairfax County’s bike safety education curriculum in all Elementary Schools, the State’s curriculum, BikeSmart in Middle schools and bicycle safety education in P.E. in the High Schools. To assist with school based education, restore the budget for School Resource Officers (SROs) and School Education Officers (SEOs).
  2. Work with the DMV to update the Virginia Driver Education curriculum to include bicycling. Driver’s education programs in public schools are required to use VA DMV curriculum which does not effectively address sharing the road with cyclists.
  3. Focus public education campaigns on the issues surrounding motorists and bicyclists sharing of the road and participate fully in the regional Street Smarts Campaign, which coordinates education and enforcement efforts relative to bicycle, pedestrian and motorist safety.
  4. In conjunction with the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority (NVRPA) and Fairfax Park Authority conduct a trail user and motorist education campaign related to safety at trail/roadway crossings, and other trail safety issues.
  5. Track and report the annual number bicyclist injuries in Fairfax County, the annual number of bicyclist fatalities in Fairfax County, the annual number of programs or classes hosted in Fairfax County to address bicycle safety education, and the number of schools in Fairfax County teaching bicycle safety education.

School Transportation

  1. Provide high quality bicycle parking at all school facilities.
  2. Make spot improvements on school properties to improve bike access to and through school grounds; prioritize other bicycle infrastructure improvements near middle and high schools as those schools develop interest in promoting biking to the school.
  3. Continue expansion and institutionalization of the bicycling component of safe routes to school activities for all schools in the system, K-12; address bike safety education, encouragement, enforcement, engineering and program evaluation.


To accomplish the vision and goals outlined in the Bicycle Transportation Master Plan:

  1. The County must establish dedicated funding for Bicycle Network development and program implementation.
  2. Funding and programming for development of bicycle facilities should be simplified and made transparent in order for performance measures for spending and program utilization to be established and monitored through public oversight.
  3. Funding for encouragement and safety education should be derived from employer contributions to TDM programs, partner organizations, and CMAQ funds.
  4. Fairfax County will consider funding stand alone projects to address bicycle safety and facility discontinuity resulting from intermittent redevelopment of roadside property.

Performance Measures

  • By 2020, triple the number of bicycle trips over current levels,
  • By 2020 increase by five-fold the number of center line miles of on-street bicycle facilities, and minimize gaps in the bicycle network, and
  • By 2020, reduce bicycle crash and fatality rates by increasing the numbers of people bicycling and maintaining or reducing the total number of crashes and fatalities involving bicyclists.

To track the rate of Plan implementation, keep the public informed on Plan progress, and report the benefits of the overall Plan to Fairfax County, an annual Bicycle Master Plan performance tracking program is needed. The Bicycle Master Plan recommends the following count program to both establish a baseline assessment of bicycle activity in Fairfax County, and to track on an annual basis the implementation and performance of the Plan.

  1. FCDOT shall establish an annual bicycle count program using a methodology focused on select locations throughout the County where significant bicycle trip activity is already present.
  2. FCDOT should expand the bicycle count program annually to additional locations as the physical network is expanded and use automatic counters in high-volume locations.
  3. Utilize WMATA’s bicycles-at-rail station census and bicycle and pedestrian access needs assessment database to count bicycle activity and ensure adequate bicycle parking capacity and quality of service at Metrorail stations in Fairfax County, including the new Silver Line stations as they open.
  4. FCDOT and VDOT should coordinate tracking of total miles of the on- and off-road Bicycle Network and provide an annual report to the Board of Supervisors and general public. The report should include the following:
    • Growth of miles of each facility type
    • Growth in bicycle parking capacity
    • Growth in use of new or experimental facility types
    • Change in levels of bicycling as measured by the bicycle count program
    • Change in levels of reported bicycle crashes and resulting deaths and injuries
  5. Coordinate with the Transportation Planning Board to enhance future regional travel surveys to better account for bicycle travel.

Moving Forward

In order to meet the vision identified in this Plan, the County will need to invest resources in bicycling as it does with all other transportation modes. An annual budget allocation will enable the County to build more bicycle facilities, create longer linear connections of on and off-road facilities, and better maintain those that already exist. Resources are also required to support encouragement and safety education programs that will capitalize on building momentum while increasing the safety of both bicyclists and drivers who will be interacting with greater frequency in the coming years. 

Without a consistent investment in bicycling, there should be no expectation of more than the slow progress that the County has seen over the last two decades. However, with greater investment and a commitment to getting the details right, the County will see faster and more visible progress. This will increase safety, enhance quality of life, and support economic competitiveness, which will benefit everyone in Fairfax County today and in future generations.

Update: Recommended Bicycle Facilities Maps

The following are overlapping maps of four quadrants in Fairfax County showing recommended on- and off-road bicycle facilities. These maps are DRAFT as of July 15, 2012:

Northwest - Northeast - Southwest - Southeast

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One issue that biking activists may need to address with the Fairfax County School Board is the official prohibition of bicycling as a school sponsored activity. I assume it is because of liability concerns, but I find it very unfortunate that teachers and parents cannot sponsor official after-school bike clubs for students. In younger grades, these could be organizations that teach bicycle safety and sponsor fun bicycling events. In middle and high school, schools could have mountain biking teams and cycling teams. In a county with such superb mountain biking trails, for instance, it is a shame that we cannot have mountain biking clubs or teams in our schools. Supporting biking as an activity among our schoolkids is one of the best ways to develop a new generation of riders who will care about investing in better bicycling infrastructure.

An FCPS Risk Management document (RM-50), last revised in July 2012, lists the following prohibited activities:

"The following list is to provide guidance to school personnel who plan activities and events for students. A prohibited activity listed below cannot be sponsored by Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS).
Airplane or Helicopter Rides
All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) Rides
Auto or Motor Racing
Bike Riding
Break Dancing
Bungee Jumping
Car Bashing
Circus Sponsorship
Cruises (for elementary and international only)
Dodge Ball
Dog Wash (except for Animal Science Program)
Fishing (with hooks)
Gelatin, Mud, and Pudding Wrestling
Glider flying
Hang Gliding
Horseback Riding
Hot Air Ballooning
Ice Hockey
Mechanical Bull Riding
Motorcycle Rides
Paint Ball
Parties on Watercraft
Running in School Hallways (e.g., spring athletic conditioning)
Scooter boarding
Scuba Diving
Skiing (both snow & water)
Sky Diving
Snow Boarding
Swimming Pool Parties (e.g., in the neighborhood)
Velcro Wall
Water Walking Balls"

Now, I think most of these prohibitions are very reasonable, but to lump bike riding in along with tattooing and parasailing is pretty absurd! Would love to get FABB involved in the mission of getting bike riding removed from this list!
Thanks for your comment. Our SRTS group is well aware of the ban and getting it overturned is one of our goals for this year. We can use all the help we can get so if could write to you school board member, that would help.

Tomorrow two of us are meeting with staff and parents at an elementary school in McLean. They plan to implement a bike to school program The issue of bikes being banned as a school activity will come up, so your comment is well-timed. We'll see if we can get some support for getting the policy changed.
Thank you, Bruce! I should have known you were already on the case. I will definitely write to our new school board rep. (We are in Braddock district.)

Thanks for all you do!!!
As an avid recreational cyclist I am concerned about the lack of "Share the Road" signs in the County, especially on back roads that are popular cycling and training routes such as the Clifton and Mason Neck areas, among others. Adding signage seems to be an inexpensive way to alert drivers that 1) bikes are on the road and 2) inform them that cyclists have a right to be on the road. Is there any plan by the County to add signs and if not, is this something that FABB is asking the County to implement?

The draft bicycle facilities maps include several roads where improved signage is recommended, including in the areas you mentioned. In Clifton signage is recommended on the uphill segments of popular routes as well as pullout areas where cyclists can choose to pull off briefly to let cars pass.

It's been a year since the draft plan was presented to the county. FABB is advocating for approval of the plan; progress has been unacceptably slow.
Thanks for the response. Is there something that concerned cyclists can do to help advocate to get some of the recommendations implemented?
I would ask your county supervisor why it is taking so long to get the plan approved. We need more resources, financial and human, devoted to making Fairfax more bike-friendly. Arlington has a much smaller population with 2-3 times as many people working on bike issues. The Board needs to figure out how to make those resources available.

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