Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Board of Supervisors receive DRAFT Bicycle Master Plan

At today's Transportation Committee meeting the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors received a briefing on the Bicycle Master Plan along with printed copies of the latest draft. Charlie Strunk, the county Bike Coordinator, gave a brief overview of the plan. The four quadrant maps that contain recommended bike facilities were not presented as they are not yet final. We hope to have an electronic copy of the plan available in the near future on the county bike plan site.

We're disappointed that the public hearings for the plan, that were most recently scheduled for May and June of this year, will be delayed until September at the earliest. See the last schedule from the Board briefing in September 2013. Here is the latest schedule:

  • Distribute Draft-Final Master Plan (May)
  • Document and Maps to the Planning Commission (June)
  • Work sessions with Planning Commission Transportation Committee (June)
  • Hold two public information outreach meetings (June)
  • Planning Commission Public Hearing for Plan Adoption (September)
  • Forward to Board of Supervisors for Public Hearing and Adoption (September)
During the meeting there was considerable discussion about bicycling, funding, and other bike-related topics. After the meeting we summarized our thoughts on those comments (there is no public comment period during the committee meeting) and sent the following to the Board:
Dear Members of the Board,

At the Transportation Committee meeting held on Tuesday, May 6, several comments were made regarding bike funding, biking in general, and the Bicycle Master Plan. Many of the comments made indicate why we need a Bicycle Master Plan. As the FABB representative on Bicycle Master Plan Advisory Committee, who attended all public and stakeholder meetings, I would like to offer the following responses:

HB 2313 Funding: I am very concerned with the comment that most bike and ped projects do not qualify for HB 2313 local or regional revenues and that many of those projects need to be funded from the transportation bond. Many jurisdictions are including bicycle and pedestrian facilities in their project lists. Providing bike/ped access is critical to making mixed-use, transit-oriented developments successful. Arlington has shown that providing good transit, ped, and bike facilities does relieve congestion.

Supervisor Foust noted that most people who attended the Countywide Dialogue meetings wanted better bike and ped access, and they expected them to be funded with the HB 2313 funds.

Mode Share of Bike/Ped: It's estimated that 10% of all trips are made by walking and biking. Fairfax does not have a bike and pedestrian counting program so it's very difficult to estimate how many trips are made by bike. We have two first class bicycle facilities in the county, neither of which is managed or funded directly by Fairfax County; the W&OD Trail and the Mt. Vernon Trail. Several years ago it was estimated that each trail attracts over 2 million trips/year, and use has grown recently (at least that is our perception). Residents from around the county drive to these facilities because bike conditions are so poor elsewhere. Trail congestion is getting to be a major problem. If safe bike conditions were available throughout the county, many more people would ride.

Fixing Past Mistakes: Supervisor McKay noted that most of the $200 million in bike/ped projects is for fixing what was built in the past. Of that $200 million, I've estimated that only $11 million is for bike-only projects. Most are pedestrian projects. Some are bike/ped.

Supervisor McKay's comparison of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge vs. Springfield mixing bowl was very apt. This weekend my wife and I rode from Reston to National Harbor using the WW Bridge trail. There was a very diverse crowd of trail users on the bridge on Sunday and a significant number on Monday. I wouldn't think of riding anywhere near the mixing bowl.

We need to fix our past mistakes and begin building a real bicycle network in the county, starting in our Activity Centers.

Maintenance Funds: Supervisor Gross highlighted a major problem that has been raised by other Board members; the very poor condition of our trails and sidewalks in general and especially during and after snow events. There is almost no maintenance money for maintaining what we have. Fortunately VDOT and the county have allocated funds to finally start to fix the Fairfax County Parkway trail. Much more needs to be done and we need to find the maintenance funds soon.

16 Foot Sidewalks in Tysons: I am attaching some photos of a section of Route 7 sidewalk in Tysons near the Spring Hill Metro station, south side. You will see in one photo that about half of the sidewalk, which I estimate to be around 12 feet wide, is taken up by large metal grates that will (or do now) hold trees, leaving approximately 4 or 5 feet on one side and about 2 feet on the other side, barely enough for a sidewalk much less two-way bike access. I assume a similar design will be used on the north side. The second photo shows a sign taking up a majority of the sidewalk.

When the new Metro stations open with many pedestrians walking to the stations, the Route 7 sidewalk on the south side is not an appropriate bike facility which is why FABB thinks that bike access on Route 7, a major future destination for bicyclists, is inadequate.

Bicyclists riding on the road: Federal guidelines for bike facilities (AASHTO bike guide) state that in order for a bicyclist and motorist to share a lane safely it should be 14 feet wide. Most lanes in Fairfax County are 12 feet or less, meaning that most lanes cannot be safely shared by bicyclists and motorists side-by-side. Sharrows (shared lane markings) indicate that cyclists should ride in the lane and motorists must wait until it is safe to pass. Without a completed bike (or pedestrian) network it is almost impossible to ride a bicycle for transportation in the county without riding in the road. It has been shown that riding in the road is often safer than riding on the sidewalk because of the many potential conflicts on sidewalks between bicyclists, pedestrians, and motorists exiting and entering the road in disregard of oncoming cyclists.

Bicyclist's behavior: Unfortunately too many bicyclists are seen "blowing through stop signs and traffic signals." Wouldn't it be nice if bicyclists were taught how to ride safely? They are not. The bicycle curriculum in our schools is not taught. Drivers education is available to almost everyone but very few people learn to ride a bike safely.

Unfortunately most motorists also often disregard the law, and they can cause much more damage. On my ride to the Government Center to attend the committee meeting I saw motorists breaking the law at almost every intersection by running red lights when making right turns, and rolling through STOP signs. Three motorists nearly hit me as I rode past them on the West Ox trail as they rolled into the intersection from cross streets, assuming that they could roll through the STOP sign. When I drive the speed limit in my car I am constantly passed by speeding motorists. We all need to obey the law. FABB is working with police on this topic.

Bicycle Master Plan: The Plan will address many of the concerns raised by the Board through the policy and facility recommendations. I look forward to passage of the Plan and eventual implementation. Please contact me if you or your staff would like to discuss these issues further.

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RE: Local revenues from HB 2313, here is the relevant text on what it can be spent on:

"Of the revenues distributed pursuant to this subsection as determined solely by the applicable locality, such revenues shall be used for additional urban or secondary road construction; for other capital improvements that reduce congestion; for other transportation capital improvements which have been approved by the most recent long range transportation plan adopted by the Authority; or for public transportation purposes."

The only clear-cut option there is "other transportation capital improvements which have been approved by the most recent long range transportation plan adopted by the Authority" otherwise you're stuck arguing that the bike project is part of road construction or is going to reduce congestion.

The most recent long range plan from the Authority is Transaction 2040 (http://www.thenovaauthority.org/transaction2040/trans2040publications.html)

Arlington was smart and put stuff like "Expand and enhance Arlington’s network of on- and off-street bicycle/pedestrian facilities to facilitate expanded use of bicycles in the corridor" into the plan so they're covered.

I don't see that sort of thing for Fairfax, but there are certainly a ton of trail projects in there. Based on the legislative text it appears extremely clear cut that they could be funded with the local dollars.
I agree that Arlington has done a much better job than Fairfax of including bike/ped projects in the TransAction 2040 list of projects, which is the key to justifying HB 2313 funding. Even though there are Fairfax trail projects listed, there are not really that many. Several are located in Arlington or Prince William Counties.
I counted six cars in a row blow through a red light in Herndon yesterday as I waited to cross at a x-walk. We shouldn't fund any more roads until all drivers obey the law.

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