Friday, August 30, 2013

School starts on Tuesday - Be Safe

For most Fairfax County students, Tuesday, September 3 is the start of another school year. I live near three schools and have enjoyed the peace and quiet of summer, but that will come to an end on Tuesday. If you're driving, be extra careful next week as there will be kids out walking and biking to school. If you drive your children to school, consider walking or biking with them. The fewer parents driving kids to school the less congestion and air pollution we'll have.

Fairfax County Police are reminding everyone to pay attention to kids and traffic laws.

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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

W&OD Trail Bollards didn't last long

The flexible bollards placed in the center of the W&OD Trail at the intersection of the Trail and Maple Ave/Route 123 in Vienna are gone (the one in the photo is no longer lying there). All that remains is the black base that is now a hazard for trail users. The bollards were installed in late July/early August and lasted less than a month. We're not big fans of bollards on trails. These were installed because of recent incidents of motorists driving onto the trail.

We think better signage is needed. When we recently rode trails in Washington and Idaho we saw large NO MOTORIZED VEHICLES signs at many of the trail intersections. As you can see from the photo, there is no obvious signage stating that no vehicles are allowed. Apparently more than one motorist has turned onto the trail entrance in the photo thinking it is the Whole Foods Market entrance.

We hope a better solution is found and at a minimum, that the black bases are removed.

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Sunday, August 25, 2013

WTOP article on Bicycling in Fairfax

WTOP's Max Smith recently wrote about bicycling in Fairfax in Fairfax County pedaling for more cyclists:
Cyclists are hitting the road in growing numbers across the Washington area and a new push in Fairfax County could convince even more people to pedal their way around.

In addition to doubling the number of bike lanes in the county over the last few years and a new interactive map of bike routes, the county is starting a feasibility study looking at joining Capital Bikeshare. Despite many requests from other parts of the county, the study is only focused on the Reston area.

"We get calls all the time like ‘is Capital Bikeshare coming to Chantilly?' ‘Is Capital Bikeshare coming to Sully District' ‘Is Capital Bikeshare coming to the Fair Lakes Hyatt?'Capital Bikeshare is not going to work in those places, but there are other options," says Charlie Strunk, Fairfax County Department of Transportation Bicycle Program Coordinator.

"We chose Reston first because we feel as though we have the densities, the corporate base, and the Silver Line stations," Strunk says.

"We've been toying with Capital Bikeshare, Arlington's doing it, D.C. of course is doing it, Alexandria, Montgomery County - it takes a special area, special density to make it work," he adds. "Tysons is obviously a good choice, Dunn Loring-Merrifield with the Mosaic District is also another good choice."

Even the Reston bikes will not be rolling any time soon. "Realistically, I think it's going to be at least two years," Strunk says. Some Fairfax County leaders had hoped bikesharing would be available in time for the Silver Line's opening early next year.

The program could expand later, but expanding Bikeshare to Reston does create some significant challenges since the area is so far removed from the rest of the system.

Capital Bikeshare has employees who drive vans to rebalance bikes to stations across the system. If Bikeshare is launched in Reston, it seems likely it would act as an almost self-contained system until other stations are added in other parts of Fairfax County.

The county recently installed about 50 signs in the McLean area that are aimed at helping cyclists on their own bikes find their way around. Strunk says it is a pilot program that could be mirrored in other parts of the county.

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FABB at Reston Century

Reston Century riders
FABB greeted cyclists after they completed Reston Bike Club's Reston Century rides today. Not surprisingly, the 35 and 66 mile riders were a bit more willing to chat than the century riders.

It was a beautiful day and lots of cyclists stopped by to pick up a county bike map, sign up for the FABB e-newsletter, and learn about the latest county bike news and FABB projects. We gave out 50 maps and signed up 47 newsletter subscribers. Thanks to Kelley for taking the time to represent FABB. Here's a photo of two of the riders who stopped by the FABB table.


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Friday, August 23, 2013

FABB at REI Tysons grand opening

Bruce and Pete at REI
FABB had a table at the REI Tysons grand opening today. Community groups and commercial vendors were asked to provide information to folks attending the opening. Because of the rain we had a late start. Pete hauled our tent, previously donated by REI, along with other FABB materials AND the WABA sign trailer that read "Be a 'Roll Model' Bike Responsibly" on one side. There was a large crowd when the store opened but many fewer people visited the displays later in the day.

We'll be there again tomorrow morning although many FABB folks will also be riding the McLean Social Ride from 10-1pm. We expect a large crowd again at the store throughout the day given the good weather forecast. If you're there, stop by the FABB tent and say hi.

Pete with the WABA trailer

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Thursday, August 22, 2013

FABB attends transportation event at Pinnacle Towers in Tysons

Pete and Dennis at Pinnacle Towers event
FABB attended a transportation event at Pinnacle Towers in Tysons on Wednesday. We handed out over 50 bike maps, providing route information, and encouraged people to try making short trips by bike. We also signed up several people to our bi-monthly newsletter (if you'd like to sign up for the newsletter send us a note). Thanks to Kelley, Dennis, and Pete for working the event.

We are often asked to attend events and provide information about traveling by bike. We'll be at the REI Tysons Grand Opening on Friday afternoon and Saturday, and WABA will be there on Sunday afternoon. REI has been a great supporter of FABB and we're looking forward to the event. We'll also be at the Reston Century on Sunday. The century rides are some of the most well-organized in the area. Reston Bike Club is also a FABB supporter, allowing us to attend the National Bike Summit that last couple of years.

The number of events we cover seems to be increasing as more people become interested in biking. When we ask people if they bike, invariably they will say that they would bike more if conditions were safer. When we argue for better bike conditions we occasionally hear the counter argument that it's not worth the cost because not enough people bike. The county needs to be much more proactive in providing good safe, convenient bike facilities where appropriate, in locations such as Tysons, Reston, Springfield, Merrifield, Annandale, and all of the other more urban locations in the county. People will ride when it can be done safely.

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Bike lanes to be added to Courthouse Road in Vienna

According to VDOT, "As part of this year’s paving program, VDOT is proposing to add bike lanes to Courthouse Road between Sutton Rd. and Route 123. This is a high-volume cyclist corridor where bike lanes should make a big improvement in the cycling environment. We are also proposing sharrows between Sutton and the Vienna town limits, where the pavement is too narrow for bike lanes."

A community meeting is planned for Thursday, September 12 starting at 6:30pm at Oakton High School, 2900 Sutton Rd, Vienna, VA 22181. Cyclists are encouraged to attend the meeting to learn about details of the project and voice your support.

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FABB meeting tonight at 7:30pm

FABB's monthly meeting is tonight at 7:30pm at Patrick Henry Library in Vienna. Our special guests are Anne Pastorkovich and Dirck Harris of the Friends of the W&OD Trail. They'll discuss the work of the Friends and the Trail Patrol. We'll also discuss the Fairfax Bike Summit planned for November 2 at George Mason University, other upcoming events, and other work that we're doing at FABB. All are welcome to attend.


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Fairfax bike projects receive funding

Several bike projects received funding from the Transportation Alternatives program, the replacement for Transportation Enhancements funding from US Dept. of Transportation. The WashCycle has a good summary of all regional projects that received funding. Here's a list of Fairfax projects:
Transportation Alternatives is the consolidated program in the latest federal transportation law, MAP-21, that funds expanded travel choices like bicycling and walking, or that make other enhancements like mitigating the environmental impacts of transportation facilities. The Transportation Planning Board (TPB) is the entity tasked with allotting this money in the DC Region.
  • Fairfax County will receive funding to install bike stations and operating hardware to support the expansion of Capital Bikeshare to Reston, which the County hopes will give people more options for accessing Metrorail stations along the planned Silver Line.
  • Fairfax Mason to Metro Bicycle Route. Develop a backbone bicycle route through the City and into Fairfax County to connect George Mason University with the Vienna Metrorail Station. The project aims to increase and improve bicycle and pedestrian travel between major hubs of activity in the City of Fairfax, Fairfax County, and George Mason University.
  • Pickett Road Trail Underpass. Install a 12 foot wide concrete trail under the existing Pickett Road bridge over Accotink Creek, and construct asphalt trail segments to connect the underpass to the existing City of Fairfax trail system. Install two culverts to convey existing storm drainage outfalls under the proposed trail, and install wayfinding signage.
  • Cross County Trail - Lorton. The proposed section of the Cross County Trail in Lorton will traverse the Lorton Arts Foundation property and connect Occoquan Regional Park and the Laurel Hill Greenway
This is great news for Fairfax cyclists. The bike share system in Reston will be the first in Fairfax County. The funding will help implement the system but the county will need to find funding for operating costs and additional staff to help manage the system. With the coming of Metro to Reston next year, and a mostly connected trail system, bike sharing will be a great way to get around Reston. See previous articles on bikesharing in Reston. Thanks for Supervisor Hudgins, bike coordinator Charlie Strunk, and members of the Reston community for supporting this effort.

The Mason to Metro Bicycle Route and the Pickett Road Trail Underpass projects are linked. The underpass will provide a safer connection across Pickett Road for cyclists traveling between the Vienna Metro station and Mason. FABB members have been part of this planning effort for several years and their hard work is paying off.

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

FABB McLean Social Ride is this Saturday

There are plenty of slots left for the FABB McLean Social Ride this Saturday. The ride begins at 10 am. We will start our ride at the McLean Library. It will be a slow 10-12 mph ride with rolling terrain through the neighborhoods in McLean. Some locations and homes that will be passed on the ride, include McLean Central Park, 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, Justice Antonin Scalia, Salona house and fields, part of 1719 land grant, Langley Fork and other historical sites and the McLean business District.

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

Register free online.

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Monday, August 19, 2013

What should be our regional transportation priorities?

I just filled out MWCOG's regional transportation priorities survey. If you want better bike and pedestrian conditions in the future, please take the time to fill out the survey and let regional planners know what you think. We strongly support COG's goals of emphasizing transit-oriented development and increasing transportation options for metro area residents:
The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments is asking for comments from the public on our Regional Transportation Priorities Plan (RTPP). This plan identifies regional strategies for the Greater Washington area (including Reston) that offer the greatest potential contributions toward addressing regional transportation challenges.

Please follow the hyperlinks below to access the plan documents, fill out the survey, and submit comments:

1. To find the plan document and other RTPP information, visit:

2. To access the survey used to develop the RTPP, visit and click on “Begin the Survey!” (Please allow approximately 20-30 minutes to complete the survey; once you start you will not be able to save your progress and return later.)

3. To submit comments on any aspect of the RTPP, visit

The public comment period will be open though: August 23, 2013

The TPB is especially interested in hearing from the public on the following topics:
  • The strategies and priorities identified in the draft Plan, especially whether they address the region’s most pressing transportation challenges;
  • The RTPP planning process, including the online survey tool used to measure public opinion as well as the process by which challenges, strategies, and priorities were identified and developed;
  • How the identified strategies and priorities can or should inform decision-making in the region.


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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Serious about sharing the road

Several people shared this article about how Austin police enforce their 3 foot passing law, Serious about sharing the road. In Austin "motorists must allow at least 3 feet of clearance when passing vulnerable road users such as bicyclists, construction workers and pedestrians. Heavy trucks must allow at least 6 feet." This year VA cyclists will likely make another attempt to get the 3 foot passing law in Virginia. This is how the bill fared last year as part of the Following too closely bill.
It's not a good idea to pass this Austin
undercover policewoman too close.
Note the camera on her handlebars.
Photo: AustinAmerican-Statesman
Typically, two undercover officers head out on bikes. They ride single file up and down a short stretch of road, waiting for motorists to pass. Officers in patrol cars pull over those who get too close, issuing warnings or citations based on the severity of the violation.

Before they hit the streets, the undercover cyclists practice judging the 3-foot distance by setting up a pole and riding past it. They measure the distance from the end of the handlebar to the farthest part of vehicle — usually the mirror. GoPro video cameras mounted on the bike record everything.

“If I were riding along and could reach out and touch the mirror, those get a citation,” says Cunningham, who was a cyclist before she became a police officer. “If it’s one we feel is right on the cusp, we give a warning.”

In the nearly four years since the law went into effect, officers have written 104 citations and warnings for people violating it, according to Cmdr. Fred Fletcher with the Austin Police Department. A ticket costs $167, but and violators can take a defensive cycling class at Municipal Court in lieu of paying the fine.

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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

McLean Social Ride on Saturday August 24

Participants on the first McLean Social Ride
Dennis Frew of FABB will lead a FABB Social Ride on Saturday August 24. The ride will leave from McLean Library, 1244 Oak Ridge Ave, McLean, VA 22101. Read about Dennis' previous McLean ride that drew 20 participants.

From the Eventbrite registration page: "We will start our ride at the McLean Library. It will be a slow 10-12 mph ride with rolling terrain through the neighborhoods in McLean. Some locations and homes that will be passed on the ride, include McLean Central Park, 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, Justice Antonin Scalia, Salona house and fields, part of 1719 land grant, Langley Fork and other historical sites and the McLean business District."

The ride is open to all WABA members and guests, with a limit of 20 participants.

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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Bike lanes on Wakefield Chapel Road not part of repaving

Bike lanes were added to Wakefield Chapel Road in 2010. The road is an important connection for bicyclists that extends from Braddock Road to Little River Turnpike and the NOVA campus. The road was recently repaved but as you can see from the photos, the bike lanes were not included in the repaving.

We heard about the repaving from a cyclist who frequently uses this route. She was upset that the cracked and crumbling bike lanes were not part of the project.

This is not a good precedent. We don't have many bike lanes in Fairfax and it's sad that a major repaving project would be done without including the bike lanes. We'll contact the VDOT bike coordinator to try to find out why this occurred. 

It's bad enough that most multi-use trails are in terrible shape and are rarely repaved. Now even on-road bike facilities get short shrift when it comes to repaving.

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W&OD Trail/Tapawingo connection paved

From the  W&OD trail toward
Today we noticed that the connection to Tapawingo Rd from the W&OD Trail was recently paved. Prior to the paving there was a very rough natural surface trail that included some wooden steps.

This is an important connection from the W&OD Trail to the Vienna Metro station and points west. It is one of the Town of  Vienna bike routes. One can take Tapawingo to the end where there is trail that connects to Vaden Dr near the Vienna Metro station. We've heard that the Town of Vienna will be adding wayfinding signs in the future.

From Tapawingo toward the
W&OD Trail
The first photo on the right is looking toward Tapawingo from the W&OD Trail. The second photo is looking toward the trail from Tapawingo. We assume the trail was paved by the Town of Vienna. Thanks for completing this connection.

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Sunday, August 4, 2013

Are the suburbs dying, or just evolving

Illustration: Washington Post
Have the suburbs hit a dead end? is the title of an article in Today's Post about changing demographics and the desire on the part of Millennials to live in walkable communities, not suburban cul-de-sacs accessible only by car.

We've written about this in the past, including a review of Urban Land Institute’s report Shifting Suburbs. The Post interviews Leigh Gallagher, author of “The End of the Suburbs, Where the American Dream is Moving.” From the interview:
O’Connell: Could you start by telling us why you think the suburbs are in decline? Gallagher: The suburbs were a great idea that worked really well for a long time, but they overshot their mandate. We supersized everything in a way that led many people to live far away from where they needed to be and far away from their neighbors, and that has far-reaching implications, no pun intended. People have turned away from that kind of living. Add in the demographic forces that are reshaping our whole population, and the result is a significant shift. Census data shows that outward growth is slowing and inward growth is speeding up.

The early millennials are just getting into their mid-30s. How much do we know about whether millennials want to live in the suburbs? That’s the billion-dollar question. All the studies show they want to live where they can walk, whether that’s the city or an urban suburb.

When I talk to home builders in the Washington area, some already recognize they are probably not going to be building anywhere near as many single-family, detached homes as in the past. But there are others who tell me: Every generation since World War II, when they became the heads of household and had children, wanted to live in single-family, detached homes on their own property, and there’s no reason to think that cycle has been broken. Not yet. The millennials haven’t had kids yet. They’re delaying launching. But a lot of people think they’re not going to want cul-de-sac suburbia. They grew up in the back seats of cars, they know what it’s like to have to drive everywhere. They might not mind the suburbs, but they’re going to want the sort of suburb where you can walk to a cute diner.
It's clear that the suburbs are changing. In Fairfax the focus of future development is on transit-oriented, mixed-use development. Bicycling is a natural transportation mode in this type of development. We'll be discussing this topic at our second Fairfax Bike Summit on November 2 with the theme of remaking Tysons and similar more urban areas in the county into bike-friendly communities.

It's also clear that not all suburbs are the same, a common mistake that many people make when discussing the suburbs. The article mentions urban suburbs, "the sort of suburb where you can walk to a cute diner." There are a few parts of Fairfax where this is true; parts of Reston, Burke, McLean, Great Falls, Annandale, Springfield, and the towns of Herndon, Vienna, and Clifton. There are many more places where it's not possible to safely walk to the corner much less to a store or restaurant. Those places, and similar places in Loudoun and Prince William counties, will be much less attractive in the future.

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New bollards on W&OD trail at Maple Ave

Flexible bollard on W&OD Trail
at Maple Ave in Vienna
Flexible bollards have been placed in the middle of the W&OD Trail at Maple Ave. The bollards were placed there by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority which controls the park.

According to Park Manager Karl Mohle, they "have placed bollards here in the past; they are placed on the yellow line just before the sidewalk at the intersection. This is to counter the car problems we seem to be having lately with people driving onto the trail thinking they are entering the Whole Foods parking lot. At present there are no plans to install these bollards at any other location."

We're not big fans of bollards of any kind on trails. They can be a hazard to cyclists, especially at night. The bollard on the west side of Maple Ave doesn't appear to have much reflective material attached. The one on the east side may have two bands of reflective material. We'll check a little more closely next time we're there.

We'd prefer other measures such as signs or perhaps colored asphalt to distinguish the trail from the road. We haven't heard of any problems yet with the bollards. What do you think?

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