Monday, March 31, 2014

Arlington to unveil Bikeometer tomorrow - Update

Tomorrow Arlington County will unveil the first visible bike counter on the East Coast, the Bikeometer, on the Custis Trail in Rosslyn. The event will occur tomorrow, April 1 at 10am at the Custis Trail at Lee Hwy and Lynn St. The device is a great way to show everyone how many people use bikes at this location. According to Arlington, over 500,000 ped/bike trips are taken on that section of the trail each year.

I believe these counters first appeared in Copenhagen where one of their counters includes access to a bike pump. A similar counter was installed in San Francisco in 2013. The first visual bike counter in the U.S. was installed on the Hawthorne Bridge in Portland in 2012.

It would be great to have one of these counters on the W&OD Trail in Fairfax, maybe at Route 123 in Vienna, visible to the many people stuck in rush hour traffic.

Update: See the 4/1/2014 Post article on the unveiling, Arlington County’s new ‘bikeometer’ tallies cyclists on busy Custis Trail.

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Sunday, March 30, 2014

New bike racks at school headquarters building

Hitch rack at FCPS Gatehouse Road offices
Fairfax County Public Schools staff recently installed new visitor bike parking at the entrance to their headquarters offices located on Gatehouse Road in Merrifield. We requested the racks last year and property management staff were receptive to the request. They also agreed to meet with us and the county bike coordinator to discuss installation and specifications of the rack.

We've learned from previous rack installations that many, many factors are involved in getting the right rack installed correctly in the right location. The type of rack used at this location is referred to as the hitch rack (see photo) that allows two contact points on a bike that is parked parallel to the ring. A U-lock can easily be used. Most communities prefer either the inverted U rack or the hitch rack.

Entrance to FCPS headquarters
The preferred location for visitor parking is near the entrance to the building, within sight of security if present, or visible by people entering and exiting the building. The more eyes on a bike the safer it is.

The rack needs to be properly anchored if it's a single rack. If the base is not solid, sometimes concrete needs to be poured to provide a good foundation.

A good guide to bike parking at commercial locations is 12 Bike Parking Essentials for Retailers. If you ask for bike parking at places you visit regularly you might want to print the flier and use it as a reference.

Thanks to FCPS for working with us to provide good visitor parking. It's greatly appreciated.

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Second workshop on improving bike access to Herndon Metro stations on Monday - Update

The second workshop on providing bicycle and pedestrian access to the planned Herndon Silver Line Metro stations will be held on Monday, March 31 from 7-9pm at McNair Elementary School, 2499 Thomas Jefferson Drive, Herndon. If you were not able to attend the first meeting on March 26, this is an opportunity to let Fairfax County officials know how bike access to the Herndon and Innovation Center stations can be improved.

See the Herndon Metrorail Station Access Management Study site for details.

Update: See the 4/1/2014 Connection article about the meetings, Workshops Held For Herndon Metrorail.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

New Fairfax County Parkway trail signage installed

VDOT recently installed wayfinding signage on the Fairfax County Parkway trail between Route 50 and Route 29. FABB has been advocating for these signs since we formed in 2005. Thanks to VDOT and Fairfax County for working together to install the signs.

New Fairfax Co Parkway trail signs

The trail diverges from the Parkway in this area and continues along West Ox Road to reconnect with the Parkway just south of Route 29. Until now trail users were left to fend for themselves. Several cyclists have said they have gotten lost when the Parkway trail suddenly diverted from the Parkway at Monument Drive and West Ox Rd. These signs will be a big help to all trail users.

The county recently allocated $80,000 to place signs on the full length of the Fairfax County Parkway and Franconia-Springfield Parkway (item 117 on Approved Projects List).

In other news about the Parkway trail, work will begin this month, starting at the Route 7 end, on repairing and repaving sections of the trail. FABB worked closely with VDOT to identify needed repairs and to develop a strategy for informing cyclists about the progress of the work.

From the VDOT news release about the new signs:
Fairfax County Parkway Bike Trail Signs – VDOT placed a series of new signs to help Fairfax County Parkway trail bicyclists navigate through Fair Lakes. The FC Parkway bike trail separates from the main roadway in Fair Lakes in order to avoid I-66 ramps. Cyclists are directed onto trails on West Ox Road and Monument Drive or Fair Lakes Drive. VDOT coordinated with FABB (Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling) and Fairfax County DOT.

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Meeting tonight on access to Herndon Metrorail station

Tonight is the first of two public workshops on creating better bike and pedestrian access to the planned Herndon Metrorail stations. Tonight's meeting, Wednesday, March 26, 2014, is from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at Herndon Middle School, 901 Locust St, Herndon, VA 20170 (map). Cyclists in the Herndon area are encouraged to attend and support safe, connected bike facilities that include secure, covered bike parking.

The Herndon Metrorail Stations Access Management Study (HMSAMS) "is a collaborative effort, led by the Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT), to develop a plan for pedestrian and bicycle facility improvements designed to improve access to and around the future Herndon and Innovation Center Metrorail Stations, located in Herndon, VA."

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Route 1 meeting tonight - speak out for better bike facilities

The Route 1 Multimodal Alternatives Analysis meeting is tonight, Wednesday, March 26, from 6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. at South County Center, 8350 Richmond Highway, Room 221, Alexandria, Virginia 22309.

Cyclists should consider attending the meeting and speaking out for safe, connected bike facilities. In an earlier survey conducted by the Route 1 team, "On street bike paths separated from car traffic by parked cars or a curb," which are similar to buffered bike lanes or cycle tracks, were the preferred option. "Bike lanes on Route 1" were the second most preferred option. "Off street paths" or "More destinations in my neighborhood" were third.

We much prefer the most popular option from the survey, well-designed separated bike facilities. While parallel sidepaths can be used by bicyclists for short trips, there are many potential conflicts at driveway intersections and with pedestrians.

See the presentation from the first meeting, results of the survey, and other info on the Route 1 Analysis meeting 1 page. Click on the graph below to see a higher resolution version.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Support bike facilities on Sherwood Hall lane

Share the Road sign on Sherwood Hall Lane.
Photo taken on FABB South County tour in 2007
Sherwood Hall Lane is scheduled to be repaved from US Route 1 to Fort Hunt Road. VDOT and Fairfax Co DOT have proposed adding bike lanes, a center turn lane, and removing some of the little-used on-street parking, in order to calm traffic. Several local residents are opposing the plan for bike lanes and removal of parking. Please visit the WABA Sherwood Hall Lane alert page to send a message to Supervisor Hyland, and if you are a constituent, to Senator Puller and Delegate Surovell.

Making Sherwood Hall Lane a more complete street will benefit all users of the road. By reducing the travel lane width, adding a center turn lane, and adding bike lanes, the road will be safer for everyone, including local residents. Residents are opposed to the plan, primarily because of the loss of the parking. A great deal of space is devoted to free parking that very few people use. The same arguments for opposing the bike lanes and retaining on-street parking that were used to oppose the King St. bike plan are being used to oppose the Sherwood Hall Lane plan. Many, many people use this road who do not live in the immediate area and they should to weigh in on this decision.

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Sherwood Hall Lane repaving - Proposed cross sections

Below are proposed cross sections for 6 segments of the Sherwood Hall Lane repaving project that was the subject of a meeting on Wed., March 12. The major concern expressed at the community meeting was removal of parking. As you can see below, some of the proposed profiles, do not include parking. Even though very few motorists park on the road, residents want the option of parking for guests and overflow from their driveways. Please contact the Mt. Vernon District office, Senator Toddy Puller, and Delegate Scott Surovell and voice your support for bike lanes and traffic calming on Sherwood Hall Lane.

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Monday, March 24, 2014

Rethinking LOS and transportation impacts of development

For those of us who have worked in the fields of transportation and land use development, the term Level of Service (LOS) is well known and sometimes reviled. It is a measure that is used to calculate delay of motorized traffic at intersections. When new development is proposed, developers often are required to calculate the impact of that development on traffic in the surrounding area, with LOS as the measurement. If the development is projected to generate too much traffic, then either the development must be scaled back or resultant traffic impact must be mitigated, usually through increased road capacity.

Problems with using LOS are that the mitigation measures such as wider streets, wider turning radii, dedicated turn lanes, and other measures often make conditions worse for bicyclists and pedestrians. Scaling back development can force new development into less desirable, less dense areas. California is acknowledging these negative impacts and they are rethinking their use of LOS.

At the end of last year, the California Governor's Office of Planning and Research outlined the issues involved in the pdf document Preliminary Evaluation of Alternative Methods of Transportation Analysis, in response to passage of a new law. According to the report, LOS "has recently been criticized for working against modern state goals, such as emissions reduction, development of multimodal transportation networks, infill development, and even optimization of the roadway network for motor vehicles."

The document outlines several problems associated with LOS:
  • LOS is difficult and expensive to calculate. 
  • LOS is biased against “last in” development - infill projects disproportionally trigger LOS thresholds compared to projects in less developed areas.
  • LOS scale of analysis is too small - As a result, while outlying development may contribute a greater amount of total vehicle travel and cause widespread but small increases in congestion across the roadway network, it may not trigger LOS thresholds. Further, piecemeal efforts to optimize LOS at individual intersections and roadway segments may not optimize the roadway network as a whole. Focusing on increasing vehicle flow intersection-by-intersection or segment-by-segment frequently results in congested downstream bottlenecks, in some cases even worsening overall network congestion.
  • LOS mitigation is itself problematic. Mitigation for LOS impacts typically involves reducing project size or adding motor vehicle capacity. Without affecting project demand, reducing the size of a project simply transfers development, and its associated traffic, elsewhere. When infill projects are reduced in size, development may be pushed to less transportation-efficient locations, which results in greater total travel. Meanwhile, adding motor vehicle capacity may induce additional vehicle travel, which negatively impacts the environment and human health.3 It also negatively impacts other modes of transportation, lengthening pedestrian crossing distances, adding delay and risk to pedestrian travel, displacing bicycle and dedicated transit facilities, and adding delay and risk to those modes of travel.
  • LOS mischaracterizes transit, bicycle, and pedestrian improvements as detrimental to transportation. Tradeoffs frequently must be made between automobile convenience and the provision of safe and efficient facilities for users of transit and active modes. Since LOS measures the delay of motor vehicles, any improvement for other modes that might inconvenience motorists is characterized as an impediment to transportation.
  • As a measurement of delay, LOS measures motorist convenience, but not a physical impact to the environment. Other portions of an environmental analysis will account for vehicular emissions, noise and safety impacts.
To address these concerns, California is in the process of developing alternative transportation criteria and metrics that “promote the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, the development of multimodal transportation networks, and a diversity of land uses.”

Some measures that have been evaluated include:
Vehicle Miles Traveled: Although VMT counts only motor vehicle trips, not trips taken by other modes, it registers the benefits of transit and active transportation trips insofar as they reduce motor vehicle travel. In this way, VMT captures the environmental benefits of transit and active mode trips. Mitigation to reduce VMT can include designing projects with a mix of uses, building transportation demand management (TDM) features into the project, locating the project in neighborhoods that have transit or active mode transportation opportunities, or contributing to the creation of such opportunities.

Automobile Trips Generated: Mitigation to reduce VMT can include designing projects with a mix of uses, building transportation demand management (TDM) features into the project, locating the project in neighborhoods that have transit or active mode transportation opportunities, or contributing to the creation of such opportunities. Since VMT is sensitive to regional location, it can also be mitigated by choosing a more central location for the project. Used as a transportation metric under CEQA, VMT could encourage reduction of motor vehicle travel, increase transit and active mode transportation, and increase infill development.

Multi-Modal Level of Service (MMLOS) is a metric of user comfort for travelers on various modes. Along with the traditional motor vehicle LOS metric, MMLOS includes additional ratings for transit, walking, and biking modes. However, using MMLOS poses some of the same problems of using LOS.
A final draft of proposed alternates to LOS is planned for July 1, 2014.

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Review: The Bicycling Big Book of Cycling for Beginners by Tori Bortman

We recently received an advance copy of "The Bicycling Bike Book of Cycling for Beginners" by Tori Bortman, scheduled for publication on June 3. The book is a guide to getting started with "road" cycling. If you are just starting out riding a bicycle and you want to learn more about all kinds of cycling, this is not the best book for you.

If you are interested in road cycling, the book contains some good information, including what to consider when purchasing a road bike, bike fit, clothing, riding skills, nutrition, and riding with a group.

Sections of The Bicycling Big Book of Cycling for Beginners include [comments added]:

Finding The Right [Road] Ride For You
The [Road] Bike is the Sum of Its Parts
[Road] Bike Buying Guide: Finding Your Soul Mate
The [Rod Bike] Fit
Gear Up For Success
Road Riding Skills: Being One With The Bike
Well, How Do You Do? Road Etiquette
Nutrition: The Care And Feeding Of Your Cyclist
Training: Tuning Your Body And Your Mind
Tuning Your Ride

Finding the Right Ride covers the type of riding you want to do. Three types are mentioned: The Recreational Rider, The Fitness Cyclist, and The Racing Cyclist. Touring, commuting, and everyday riding are included under recreational riding. The author notes that any bike will do and you don't really need special clothing and gear to have fun or to commute, but the remainder of the book is mostly geared toward more competitive cyclists.

The sections on purchasing a bike cover frame materials, fit, the importance of test riding, women-specific bikes, and upgrades and add-ons. It's noted that if you want to use your bike for transportation, most road bikes will not accommodate racks and fenders. While the use of panniers, saddle bags, and handlebar bags is mentioned, there's not much practical information included about transportation cycling or touring.

The book includes information on basic bike maintenance and tools. Topics covered include cleaning the bike, rims, and chain, lubing your chain, and two chapters on preventing and repairing flat tires. Continuing with the road bike theme, only 700c tube sizes are discussed.

There's no mention of hybrid, comfort, folding, cargo, trikes, or other types of non-road bikes. There is only passing mention of touring or recumbent bikes. Many, many cyclists ride non-road bikes. In fact, road bikes comprise only 20% of all bikes sold in the U.S.  Hybrid and comfort bikes comprise 37% of all sales.

The book illustrates the impact that competitive cycling has had in the cycling world. Magazines like Bicycling tend to cater to cyclists who want to ride expensive, lightweight road bikes meant for racing, to people wearing tight-fitting bicycle-specific clothing. That attitude is slowly changing. In recent years Bicycling has included more articles about urban cycling, using cargo bikes, and general transportation cycling.

A book that takes the complete opposite approach is Just Ride by Grant Peterson, of Rivendell Bicycles. "My main goal with this book is to point out what I see as bike racing's bad influence on bicycles, equipment, and attitudes, and undo it… I think of the process of questioning racing's ways, and coming up with more livable alternatives, as unracing." The title of his book says it all; just ride without the need for a special bike, clothing, shoes, or other special equipment.

Overall the book contains some good advice for beginning road cyclists. If you've always wanted to know more about road cycling, purchasing a road bike, training for an event or race, and nutrition, then this book may be for you. However, I'm concerned that people who are interested in starting to ride, real beginning cyclists, may not find the information they need.

For someone who would like a more general guide for the beginning cyclist, another option is Smart Cycling: Promoting Safety, Fun, Fitness, and the Environment by Andy Clarke of the League of American Bicyclists.

Note: An earlier version of this review contained quotes from The Big Book. Since the book has not yet been published, the text of the quotes could change so those quotes were deleted from the review.

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Saturday, March 22, 2014

New approach to transportation project planning from McAuliffe administration

The new Virginia deputy secretary of transportation, Nick Donohue, recently told to the Commonwealth Transportation Board that the McAuliffe administration will use a different approach to transportation planning. In the past planners have overestimated how many miles people will travel by car and underestimated the demand for alternative modes of transportation.

This is good news for bicyclists and supporters of smart growth. It's hopeful that the new approach will rely less on planning major road projects and have a better understanding the importance of encouraging growth around transit. Below is an extract from an article that appears on Bacon's Rebellion, Virginia’s Behind-the-Scenes Transportation Planning Revolution:
Yesterday, Donohue calmly dismantled core assumptions that have long underpinned transportation planning in Virginia. Under the aegis of VTrans, previous governors have forecast long-term travel demand and estimated the transportation funding needs based on that forecast. Traditionally, the VTrans product has emphasized vast funding shortfalls, in the tens of billions of dollars, over the following 20 years. One thing the McAuliffe administration wants to do, said Donohue, is to ask, “What did we say before, and did it happen?”

As it turns out, federal forecasts were pretty bad, he said, showing the following chart showing how they consistently overshot the mark:

Virginia’s forecasts suffered from similar biases in the past, he said. Now VTrans will begin considering non-traditional indicators of travel demand. For example, Donohue said, the number of 20- to 34-year-olds not getting their licenses has edged up from about 10% in 2000 to 15% today. A National Association of Realtors (NAR) survey found that a majority of respondents indicated a preference to live in walkable communities with mixed-use development. More families are moving into multifamily housing. And a NAR analysis found that the sales prices of houses located near transit out-performed other housing by 41% over the last five years.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Fairfax Co. Bike coordinator position on the chopping block (again)

Charlie Strunk, Fairfax Co Bike Coordinator
Recipient of the
2009 Transportation Achievement Award 
Yesterday the Fairfax County Executive included the Bicycle Coordinator position in a list of possible budget reductions. From his message to the Board: "In response to the Board of Supervisors request for a list of possible budget reductions, staff has prepared the attached list." (see below)

Funding for the bike program was eliminated in FY 2011. The details are below. FABB has advocated that those funds be reinstated. We've asked for partial funding, enough to say there is an active bike program, and yet other than the staff position, nothing has been allocated for the past four years.

One of the main priorities of the Board of Supervisors is an Efficient Transportation Network: "We will continue to plan for and invest in transportation improvements to include comprehensive bicycle and pedestrian initiatives." And yet the county with the third highest income in the U.S. may not be able to find the funds for a bike coordinator or an active bike program.

The Bicycle Master Plan, which recommends a funded bike program ($500,000) and 3 full-time staff positions, is about to come before the Board. The county executive is recommending that the position of the person who developed the plan, and who is critical to implementation, be eliminated. The county recently received over $200 million for bicycle and pedestrian projects. Eliminating the bike coordinator position does not make sense.

We're trying to determine the next steps in the budget process. We'll be contacting members of the Board of Supervisors to find out their positions on this recommendation, and we'll be asking you for your support. Stay tuned.

From the list (emphasis added):
Eliminate Bike Coordinator Position Potential adjustment/savings in FY 2015: Funding - $148,874, Positions - 1.

The County’s bicycle program was funded at $375,000 in FY 2009. It was reduced to $204,544 in FY 2010. In FY 2011, the remaining program funds were eliminated; however, the Department’s Bike Coordinator (Transportation Planner III) has remained. The position has coordinated the Bicycle Master Plan; coordinated the installation of capital projects, including new bike racks and lockers at Metrorail and Virginia Railway Express Stations, new bike facilities, such as the Bobann Bikeway, new bike rooms at the Wiehle-Reston East Metrorail Station and the Stringfellow Road Transit Center, the development of on-road bike lanes, new bike route signage in McLean, as well as the Providence, Mason and Sully Districts, and new bike facilities around the new Tysons and Reston area Metrorail Stations; and coordinated the annual Bike to Work Day events in Fairfax County. The position has also assisted with the annual Fairfax County Bike Summit. While the position is discretionary, if eliminated, the Department would not have a dedicated person to work on bicycle projects. This would force the closure of the bike room at the Wiehle-Reston East Metrorail Station and the bike room at the Stringfellow Road Transit Center will not open. It would also delay implementation of future bike capital projects (facilities). The County would not participate in Bike-to-Work Day or the Fairfax County Bike Summit.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Bikeology - Middle and high school curriculum just published

Bikeology is a bicycle safety curriculum and parent guide that was just published by the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD) located in Reston. The guide was funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

"Bikeology is a ready-to-use bicycle-safety curriculum for physical education teachers and recreation specialists working with students in grades 6-12."

From Bike Portland:
The 355-page curriculum includes seven units: Getting Ready to Ride, Bicycle Handling Basics, Emergency Bicycle Handling Skills, Advanced Bicycle Handling Skills, Rules of the Road for Riding, Bicycle Maintenance and Riding for Fitness.

 In addition to key goals and skills for each unit, it includes both written activities like themed word searches and instructions for setting up physical activities like practice rides.

There's also a 34-page guide aimed at parents, with slightly more detailed information and advice.

It's certainly not a much of a marketing document.

"Bicycles are associated with more injuries and deaths than any other consumer product other than the automobile," the guide points out in a characteristic section urging every bicycle rider to use a helmet for every trip.

If I received the curriculum or parent's guide without having already decided that it was a good thing to get my students or children on bicycles, I'd be terrified: none of the documents has a single photo of people enjoying themselves, and it's left to instructor and students to come up with ways to convey the pleasures and advantages of biking in addition to the tasks, responsibilities and concerns.

That said, it's great to see the federal government making a serious effort to aid bike education at an age when we build our first transportation habits and too many girls, in particular, tend to abandon the activity. With Portland's own Safe Routes to School program expanding into middle schools this year, hopefully it'll be a useful tool.
The publication was written by Vicki Miller of Virginia Commonwealth University and Heather Funkhouser who at one time worked at the Virginia Department of Health. The curriculum was tested in several schools in Virginia.

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March FABB meeting on Wed. at Wolftrap ES

The March FABB meeting will be held tomorrow, Wed. March 19 at Wolftrap Elementary School at 7:30 p.m. This is a new, temporary location since we were not able to reserve our usual meeting location. We'll be discussing the latest bike news in Fairfax County and planning our major priorities for the coming year. If you want to help FABB accomplish any of the following goals, please consider attending and signing up to help.

Below is our meeting agenda:

Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling 
Wednesday, March 19, 2014, 7:30 p.m. 
Wolftrap Elementary School 1903 Beulah Road, Vienna, VA 22182 

  1. Introductions 
  2. Review of February meeting minutes 
  3. County report - Charlie Strunk 
  4. Update on FABB Goals for 2014 
    1. Bicycle Master Plan/Bike Fairfax - Bruce 
    2. Bicycling and the Silver Line - Liz 
    3. Summit/Cyclovia - Alan 
    4. Tracking Funded Projects - Bruce 
    5. Grow FABB Membership - Tom/Matt 
    6. Safe Routes to School - Jeff 
    7. Social Rides - Amber
  5. Other business
Upcoming events (for details see the FABB Events calendar)
  • March 26 (Wed) & 31 (Mon) - Herndon Metro Access meetings 
  • April 11, Friday - W&OD Trail Safety Workshop
  • April 16, Wednesday - FABB monthly meeting 
  • May 6, Tuesday - Bicycle Master Plan workshop at Planning Commission 
  • May 8, Thursday - Bicycle Master Plan public hearing at Planning Commission 
  • May 16, Friday - Bike to Work Day 
  • May 21, Wednesday - FABB monthly meeting 
  • May 31, Saturday - Tour de Fat 
  • June 17, Tuesday - Bicycle Master Plan public hearing at Board of Supervisors 
  • June 29, Sunday - Tour de Tysons


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Monday, March 17, 2014

Healthy Community Design Summit on May 6

Live Health Fairfax is holding the Healthy Community Design Summit on Tuesday morning, May 6 at the Kena Conference Center, 9001 Arlington Boulevard, Fairfax. Registration begins at 8 am; the program will be from 8:30 to 12 pm. Register at eventbrite.

Biking is an important component of creating a healthy community. See our blog post on the Fairfax Community Health Improvement Plan approved by the Board of Supervisors last year.
Live Healthy Fairfax is pleased to announce the Healthy Community Design Summit. This event will highlight how economic health, environmental health and public health are essential building blocks for a thriving community. The keynote speaker is Mark Fenton, a national public health, planning and transportation consultant and an expert on walkable communities.

Learn how communities throughout the U.S. are encouraging active living through design of the built environment. Hear from a panel of local business, development and planning experts about their strategies for and successes with integrating healthy design throughout the Fairfax Community. Brainstorm with your colleagues on ways to make your neighborhoods more friendly for pedestrians and bicycles and accessible to all people. Help craft a message for leadership that demonstrates the benefits of health in all policies – especially throughout the built environment.
See the summit flier.

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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Alexandria city council unanimously approves King St bike lanes

After many months of meetings and public discussion, the Alexandria City Council unanimously approved the plan to add bike lanes to King St from the King St Metro Station west about 2/3 mile to Janneys Lane. See the VBF report for details and links to press articles.

Fairfax County faces a similar decision on Sherwood Hall Lane where the county is proposing to install bike lanes and local residents want to maintain on-street parking instead. You can contact Supervisor Hyland's office to voice your support for bike lanes on Sherwood Hall Lane.

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Saturday, March 15, 2014

Bike valet parking at NoVa Mini Maker Faire

If you plan to attend the NoVa Mini Maker Faire on Sunday you should consider going by bike. Phoenix Bikes will provide bike valet parking at the event which takes place at South Lakes High School in Reston. There will be no on-site public parking during the event.

Update: Here's a photo of the bike valet parking. That's Henry Dunbar of Phoenix Bikes facing the camera. There were over 30 bikes parked when we stopped by. The racks were provided by the Reston Triathlon group. The construction is simple; a center pole with two holes at each end through which two narrower poles are inserted. Bikes are hung by their saddles.

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Friday, March 14, 2014

Letter to NVTA and VDOT regarding improving biking in Northern Virginia

Local bike organizations recently signed on to a letter to Northern Virginia Transportation Authority and Virginia Department of Transportation asking them to "establish continuous and high-quality bicycle routes in each of Northern Virginia’s major transportation corridors."

With new transportation funding available to reduce congestion and improve mobility in Northern Virginia, now is the time to create first-class bike facilities along our major transportation corridors. The group is asking "VDOT and/or NVTA to conduct an in-depth study of what needs to be done to establish continuous bicycling routes consisting of high-quality facilities in each of the following ten major transportation corridors:

1) Dulles/VA-7
2) Loudoun Co Pkwy/Belmont Ridge Rd/Bi-County Pkwy/Gum Springs Rd/VA-234
3) VA-28
4) Prince William Pkwy
5) Fairfax County Pkwy
6) I-66/US-29/US-50
7) I-495 (Capital Beltway)
8) I-95/I-395/US-1
9) VA-123
10) Braddock Rd/ VA-620."

According to the letter, "VDOT and the localities have already identified much of the needed bicycling facilities in VDOT’s Northern Virginia Bikeway and Trail Network Study, released in 2003, and local plans. The VDOT study made excellent recommendations, but, unfortunately, very few have been implemented."

The group also asked that "VDOT and/or NVTA establish a bicycle advisory committee for Northern Virginia that is focused on implementing this initiative."

We hope to meet with NVTA and VDOT leaders to discuss these requests and determine next steps.

See a copy of the letter.

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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Comment on Falls Church mobility plan

On Saturday, March 15, 2014, from 12:00 pm to 1:30 pm the City of Falls Church is holding a public meeting to solicit comments on their "Mobility for all Modes: Transportation Element of the City's Comprehensive Plan."

The draft plan speaks to the need for multiple modes of transportation and specifically discusses "increasing the potential to walk and bicycle to local destinations." The meeting will be held at the City of Falls Church Community Center, 223 Little Falls St Falls Church, VA 22046.

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Take the W&OD Trail Safety Survey

Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority, who manage the W&OD Trail, are holding a trail safety workshop in April. To prepare for the workshop they have developed a Trail Safety Strategy Survey. The survey contains 42 questions including why and how often you use the trail, where you ride, and types of conflicts you've seen.

There are also questions regarding what physical and cultural strategies should be used to improve safety. Physical strategies include signage, separation of pedestrians and cyclists, asphalt treatments, intersection treatments, and improving the surrounding bike infrastructure so that the W&OD trail is not the only option for cyclists.

Cultural strategies include safety signage and pamphlets, working with groups and clubs to spread the safety message, targeted enforcement, education about existing laws, safety events, working with leaders of charity rides to encourage appropriate trail behavior from their participants, and others. We encourage all trail users to complete the survey.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Sherwood Hall Lane repaving meeting tomorrow

The meeting to discuss proposed bike lanes on Sherwood Hall Lane is tomorrow, Wed., March 12. Cyclists are encouraged to attend the meeting and to learn more about the project and to support the inclusion of bike facilities in the plan. There is opposition to the plan so your support is important. The meeting is from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Mount Vernon Governmental Center, 2511 Parkers Lane, Alexandria, VA 22306.


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4th Virginia Get-Together Recap

Fionnuala Quinn of FABB and Alta Planning & Design organized the 4th Virginia Get-Together for participants at the National Bike Summit. The get-together has become a mini-VA bike summit, with lots of good info exchanged in short presentations from advocates and officials from around the Commonwealth. Below is her recap of the event:
Thanks to everyone who came to the 4th Virginia Get-Together on a snowy day when practically everything else in DC had shut down. Despite conditions, we gathered a great group of about 35 bike advocates, officials, summit scholarship winners, bike coordinators, and others from MORE, Arlington, Fairfax, Prince William, Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Portsmouth, Blacksburg, Richmond, Charlottesville, Harrisonburg and elsewhere. We missed several people who had originally planned to join us because of the local weather.

After some lively socializing, we took a break for short presentations from:

  • Becky Johnston of Harrisonburg, talking about local success with eliminating a bus route via a walking school bus.
  • Beth Weisbrod, Executive Director of the Virginia Capital Trail Foundation on the progress installing the Virginia Capital Trail and the on-going need for support as the project continues moving forward.
  • Gillian Burgess of Arlington KidicalMass talked about the casual, slow-paced family rides that have been a huge local success and she called for ride-marshall volunteers to join in the fun.
  • Jeff Anderson, Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling, on the Second Fairfax Bike Summit, SRTS progress and the hiring of a new SRTS coordinator.
  • Jenifer Joy Madden, Fairfax and Durable Human, spoke about the Partnership for a Healthier Fairfax and the inclusion of health considerations in local design (check out Jenifer's book)
  • Jonathan Nye of Ecocycling described plans for the Hampton Roads Bicycle Summit to be held on Saturday May 31st.Make a note.
  • Kitty Zeringue, the Virginia Tech Bicycle Coordinator (and New River Valley Bicycle Association president) spoke about the bike parking study that has been taking place on-campus.
  • Kyle Lawrence of Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition, provided a round up on the Harrisonburg bike master plan, the second Rockingham-Harrisonburg Bike Summit, the successful trail funding and the work taking place at JMU.
  • Mark Blacknell, Washington Area Bicyclist Association Board President/Arlington resident talked about the making ofBikeswell, the documentary (a must watch)
  • Max Hepp-Buchanan of Bike Walk RVA (Richmond) talked about the visit of elected officials and local government staff to Arlington and DC to tour bike facilities (another must-watch video)
  • Rick Holt, out-going Prince William County Trails and Streams Coalition chair, gave an up-date on local progress including a major SRTS infrastructure grant.
  • Susan Wilson, Manager of Transportation for the City of Portsmouth, spoke about the progress installing dedicated bike lanes throughout the City using various funding mechanisms and the other upcoming plans 
  • Tom Bowden, of Virginia Bicycling Federation (VBF), provided an update on the ongoing legislative session.
  • Travis DavidsonTidewater Bicycle Association, provided an update on the ongoing effort to incorporate a bicycle friendly multi-use path along the light rail planned in Virginia Beach and plans to hold a local bike summit in February, 2015
  • Wendy Phelps, Active Transportation Planner working on bicycle and pedestrian issues at City of Charlottesville, updated us on ongoing planning and improvements.

Thank you to VBF who jointly sponsored the food with Alta.  Thanks also to Matt O'Toole of VBF for the photos. Thank you to all our willing presenters, whether advanced-warned or buttonholed on the spot: these presentations have been a great way of learning about on-going efforts and progress in Virginia.

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Thursday, March 6, 2014

Following Too Closely bill fails in Senate

While we're excited about the passage of the Three Foot Passing bill, SB 97, we were very disappointed that the Following Too Closely bill, HB 82, failed to report out of the Senate Committee on Transportation.

The bill, sponsored by Del. Barbara Comstock of McLean, was approved by the House by a vote of 68-28. Since similar bills have passed the Senate in prior years, we were hopeful it would be approved this year. Unfortunately it failed to report by a vote of 11-4.

Objections were raised about enforceability. In our view, it would be easy to enforce if a cyclist were struck from behind by a motorist. It would be one less argument a motorist could use for hitting a cyclist since it would be illegal to do so. Currently tail-gateing of bicyclists is not illegal in Virginia; it's illegal in all other states.

See the Post article about the bill: More bike legislation scuttled by Virginia lawmakers.

From VBF:
After a decent amount of discussion, and several responses to questions by the State Police Rep to the effect that it was sometimes difficult to do so, but that it was as enforceable as a number of other laws, Sen. Newman of Lynchburg weighed in to the effect that it was primarily an Education problem and that he was suggesting that the bill be referred to some Accountability Commission that I am not familiar with, (and may have the name incorrect for).
Once VBF reports on the next steps for the bill, we'll pass it on.

Thanks to Delegate Comstock for sponsoring the bill and working with the bike community to refine the language and work the bill through the House.

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Three foot passing bill approved in VA Senate and House

Senate Bill 97, "Bicycles, etc.; minimum clearance for passing" otherwise known as the Three Foot Passing bill, was approved by the Virginia House by a vote of 72-27. The bill earlier cleared the Senate 31-7. It now goes to Governor McAuliffe for his signature.

Thanks to everyone who worked to help get this bill approved after several thwarted attempts in the past. Thanks especially to the hard work done by folks at Virginia Bicycling Federation; without their efforts the bill would not have been passed. We'll link to more info about the bill once VBF folks return from the National Bike Summit and have time to post the details.

Passage of the bill will be a great opportunity to educate motorists about their responsibilities when passing bicyclists.

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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Notes from 2014 National Bike Summit

US Transportation Secretary
Anthony Foxx
The National Bike Summit was held yesterday and several FABB members attended. Here are my notes from the sessions I attended:

Opening Plenary

Congressman Blumenauer reminded the group of his oft-repeated quote: "How many Americans are stuck in traffic on their way to ride an exercise bike at the health club?" We would all be healthier if we had safe, connected bike routes. He noted that Houston recently allocated $200 million to build 150 miles of trails within the city.

His major point is that the 18.4 cents/gallon gas tax has not been raised since 1993. He wants to increase the gas tax by 15 cents/gallon over three years. Our infrastructure is falling apart and the highway trust fund will run out of money this fall. Federal funds for bike projects, formerly Transportation Enhancements, have been cut. The increase could lead to more funds for rebuilding our infrastructure, providing better transit options, and increasing funds for bike projects.

Representative Albio Sires of New Jersey spoke about his bipartisan bill, HR 3978. "The New Opportunities for Bicycle and Pedestrian Infrastructure Financing Act of 2014 (NOBPIFA) will allow communities to take advantage of low-cost financing for projects that make streets and sidewalks safer for all users through a new federal credit assistance program that would direct millions specifically for low-income communities."

Douglas Meyer surveyed local elected officials on their attitudes toward bicycling issues. The survey was conducted between Jan-Feb 2014. There was almost universal support for improving bike conditions and providing multimodal transportation options. The following reasons were cited: health, quality of life, to attract new, younger employees, and to compete with other bike-friendly cities. They resent anti-car arguments but support multimodal transportation choices. What's needed to succeed is a political leader, examples of projects that work, making connections, and allocated funding. We need better data to show the cost effectiveness and safety aspects of good bike projects. They are all aware of the bike sharing concept and many think it is a great way to increase bike use.

Bill Reduto, Mayor of Pittsburgh - During a meeting with President Obama he asked for the scaffolding on the Washington Monument so that cyclists can ride  the Great Allegheny Passage from the Monument in DC to the monument scaffolding in Pittsburgh. His goal is for Pittsburgh to be in the top 10 Bicycle Friendly Communities in the U.S. Even in Pittsburgh where streets are narrow and road space is tight, room is being dedicated to bikes. All new projects need to provide a complete streets vision.

Overcoming the Scofflaw Perception

Laura Solis of Bike New York discussed a campaign in New York City called Don't be a Jerk, a series of humorous videos on riding with traffic, staying off the sidewalk, and yielding to pedestrians. She noted that Bike Smart: The Official Guide to Cycling in New York, is available in eight languages and is given to most new bike owners when they purchase a new bike.

The following three speakers discussed bike education and traffic ticket diversion programs in which motorists and cyclists can avoid bicycle infraction-related traffic penalties by attending a bicycle safety class. Rich Conroy, also of Bike New York, said that Bike NY holds an hour and a half class each month for approximately 10 cyclists who have committed infractions, usually riding on the sidewalk, which is a misdemeanor, or wrong-way riding. He informs those cyclists of their rights and how they can contest a ticket that may have been issued in error. When the program began many cyclists incorrectly received tickets for not riding in the bike lane. Rich has attended Police Roll Call meetings to discuss cyclist's rights and to hand out a one-page flier. Bike New York also conducted 35 bike safety classes for over 700 new Citi Bike members.

Tyler Dewey of Bike Athens in Georgia discussed their diversion program. Their one-hour class is given once a month in English and Spanish. It costs $30 and if completed cyclists can avoid a $125 fine.  Fines for bicycle tickets are waived upon completion of the course.

Brian Botwin of Commute Options in Bend, Oregon conducts a monthly bicycle safety class as part of the city's bicycle diversion program for cyclists ticketed for running red lights and wrong-way riding.

Retailers Best Practices for Advocacy

Brian Drayton of Richmond (CA) Spokes, a community bike shop involved in youth training. Many riders who use the shop depend on their bikes for transportation. While most bike shops do not want to work on big-box store bikes, they are often the only bikes low income riders can afford. By helping these riders shops can gain important allies.

Jeff Koenig of Big Poppi Bicycle Company in Manhattan, KS discussed the importance of locally owned bike shops to their communities. He noted the loss of brick and mortar bike shops over the years, in part due to the commoditization of bike products. Bike shops and the advocacy community depend on each other and need to work together. Advocates need to understand that shops have very small profit margins and their cooperation means more than, and may not include, providing discounts or monetary contributions.

Chris Kegel of Wheel & Sprocket in Milwaukee said retailers and advocates need to get involved in the political process. A good way to influence the process is to form a Political Action Committee (PAC) to help elect pro-bike candidates (see Cascade Bike PAC as an example).

Lunch speakers

US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx began his talk by showing a photo of himself riding a Charlotte bcycle bike. He noted that the 6th round of TIGER funding would soon be open to applications for bike projects. He said biking is about more than recreation, that we need all forms of transportation. Even though national crash fatalities are at record lows, bicyclist and pedestrian deaths have only had a small decrease. He mentioned the success of road diet projects in Charlotte.

Gabe Klein of the Urban Land Institute, formerly headed Chicago and DC departments of transportation. He stressed the importance of throughput vs. speed; we don't need to go fast to have efficient traffic flow. He has been able to create extensive bike infrastructure in DC and Chicago through hard work and persistence, funding from multiple sources, and support from the top. He prefers two-year plans with measurable results. Chicago's Vision Zero plan has a goal of zero ped, bike and overall traffic fatalities in 10 years through the use of 300 speed cameras, 20 mph residential streets, and other measures. Vision Zero is described in Chicago Forward and includes a goal that 5% of all trips of 5 miles or less be made by bike. Bike advocacy organizations are key partners in helping make change in those cities. Gabe thinks that when autonomous vehicles are in place they will be in near-constant motion and there will be much less need for parking spaces. These spaces can then be used for ped/bike facilities.

Matt Klein of Urban Land Institute. Discussed three factors and how they affect cyclists: Economics: Parking is dilutive to overall project returns, with structured parking spaces costing $45-85K/space. The real estate community supports reduced parking minimums and understands the importance of ped/bike access. Sustainability is an important issue with developers, who want to build LEED-certified buildings that include bike parking and access, especially since new employees (Millenials) are demanding these facilities. Mainstreaming: Established business organizations are not as supportive of bike access and facilities. Cyclists should reach out to them.

John Cayer of Kimberley-Clark, the main sponsor of the National Bike Challenge. The goal this year is 50,000 riders pedaling 30 million miles between May and October.

Making a Compelling Video

Max Hepp-Buchanan speaking,
Gary Fisher in the foreground
Michael Marinnacio, U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s Digital Director, showed an animated video explaining a complex piece of legislation. Compelling videos need to be simple, relatable, and include a call to action. Use simple language, let people know how the issue affects them, why they should care, and what they can do to help.

Yolanda Davis-Overstreet of Ride in Living Color showed a clip from the film about African Americans and other people of color on bikes that she has been developing for several years. Her goal is to promote healthy lifestyles in the African American community where one of very two kids born today will develop diabetes (vs. 1/3 of all kids).

Max Hepp-Buchanan of Bike Walk RVA in Richmond, Virginia showed his film of a visit of elected officials and local government staff to Arlington and DC to tour bike facilities. Most of the film was produced using in-kind donations from the filmmaker. FABB showed the video during the 2013 Fairfax Bike Summit.

General advice from the video group included: short (3-4 minute) videos are often the best; iPhone Voice Memo works well for audio recording (Gary Fisher noted that a small iPhone compatible microphone from B&H improves sound quality); always have contracts in writing; don't let cartoonists get too creative; use short sentences; spoken text is different than written text. Most used Final Cut Pro (the earlier version) for doing their editing, although iMovie is OK to start.

Many of the participants were on Capital Hill today meeting with their Congressional reps to ask them to support bike-related issues and to join the Congressional Bike Caucus.

Thanks to our FABB supporters whose contributions allowed me to attend the Summit.

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Monday, March 3, 2014

How Reston trails are plowed

Reston Association snow plow
We recently interviewed Brian Murphy, Reston Association Maintenance Director, to ask him what is involved in clearing the 55 miles of paved trails in Reston. Reston does a great job of clearing the trails shortly after any significant snowfall.

The photo on the right of the RA plow was taken this afternoon. The trails had been plowed once already and this was the second pass, after the snow had stopped.

Here are Brian's answers:
Do you have a rough estimate of the average cost/year of clearing snow form Reston's trails over the past several years? 

I don’t have cost for clearing the pathway since we do not budget plowing separately. We use our existing staff and since snow prevents us from doing other tasks it is a wash. The plowing involves four operators and two mechanics. The mechanics also plow the parking lots. We have three hand crews of four staff members each. The major cost is the equipment we have to purchase.

What kind of plow(s) do you use and how much did they cost? 

They are made by Bombardier, a Canadian company. A new plow will cost about $85,000. We have always bought used plows for about $12,000 each. Three are from 1979 and one that is from 1986.

How does the process work? Do you try to estimate the optimal time to plow by monitoring the weather forecast? How much snow do you need to have on the trail before you consider plowing? How do the plowing crews know where to plow?

We usually start plowing at 2 inches unless they are calling for the snow to end soon. We go at 2” so we can mark the path when we get significant snowfall. If we don’t we could lose the location of the trail. We need to get more than an inch to allow us to plow. Our plow operators have years of experience so they know the pathways and you can see the edge of the pathways by a dip in the snow outlining the path. Sometimes you do leave the pathway and have to do a correction.

Do you ever use salt or sand?

We do use a deicer and mostly sand on parts of the system that is sidewalk or steps that we clear by hand or snow blower.

Does one plow cover the entire trail system or do you use several? 

The pathway system is divided up into four parts and each run can take 5-6 hours depending on the snow.

Do you think there is much damage to the trail related to the plowing?
We do not get much asphalt damage to the trail unless we catch the edge of a patch which is rare.

Do you get much positive or negative feedback about the plowing?
All the feedback we get on pathway plowing is positive unless we veer off the path and have to go back and reseed areas.

NVRPA has historically said they leave snow on their trails to accommodate cross country skiers. Is that a concern for you? 

The paths are such an important transportation route in Reston that we feel it is more important to keep them clear rather than only provide for recreation like skiers.

Anything else I should know that you haven't already discussed? 

We actually prefer to plow at night to get to the path before too much traffic appears.

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Saturday, March 1, 2014

March-April 2014 FABB Newsletter

A bi-monthly publication of Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling

Bicycle Master Plan Public Hearings Scheduled

ffxcobmpThe Fairfax Co Bicycle Program Manager recently announced dates for public hearings on the Countywide Bicycle Master Plan. The Planning Commission hearing is scheduled for Thursday, May 8 in the evening, and the Board of Supervisors hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, June 17. Both hearings will be held at the Fairfax County Government Center. This is a great opportunity for you to show your support for better bicycling in the county, either by attending a public hearing or writing a letter of support to your county Supervisor.

FABB plans to hold rides to the public hearings. Having a number of cyclists present at the hearings shows we care about our community and that we want the Board to approve the plan. The plan is not yet available on the county website but FABB has posted the July 2012 Draft Bicycle Master Plan text and maps (see FABB homepage for map links).

Wiehle Station Bike Room Applications Being Taken

0038~©DavidMadisonPhotography.comFairfax County DOT recently sent out applications to over 130 cyclists who requested information about renting a space in the new Wiehle-Reston East Metro station bike room. The room has capacity for over 200 bikes. Rates for use of the bike room are $40 for six months or $60 for a year plus a one-time $15 fee for a key fob. See the Wiehle Bike Room page for details and to request an information packet or see the FABB blog for other details, including the bike room FAQ.

Fairfax County Parkway Trail Repair to Begin in March

VDOT recently held an information meeting on the Fairfax County Parkway Trail repair project scheduled to begin this month. The first phase of the project will extend from Route 7 to Route 29, although the section around the I-66 overpass will not be included. Only the most damaged sections of the trail will be repaved. Where large cracks have developed but the remainder of the trail is in good condition, the cracks will be sealed. Where the asphalt has deteriorated, those sections will be repaved.

The section of trail being repaired will be closed between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Cyclists using the trail for commuting during regular business hours should be able to complete their trips before and after those times. Otherwise we've asked that where possible, trail users be allowed to carefully bypass work in progress. Informational signage and maps will be posted on site. See the FABB blog for more info about the meeting. The work is a major undertaking and will greatly benefit cyclists who use this important north-south trail connection. Thanks to VDOT for funding the work and listening to our concerns. Their efforts are very much appreciated.

Fairfax County Board Approves Funding for New Bike Projects

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors recently approved over $200 million in funding for pedestrian and bicycle projects as part of a major 6-year transportation funding package. The majority of the projects are pedestrian sidewalks. Bicycle project funding was not identified separately. We've estimated that approximately $40 million is available for bike projects, approximately $7 million/year. This is a significant increase in funding from previous years although it is only a small portion (3%) of the nearly $1.3 billion in total transportation funding. Bike projects will be included in many of the road projects that were part of the package. Funds for improving bike access to the Silver Line stations are also available. Unfortunately none of these funds can be used for maintenance.

Meeting to Discuss Bike Lanes on Sherwood Hall Lane

On Wednesday, March 12 Fairfax DOT and VDOT are holding a meeting to discuss proposed bike lanes on Sherwood Hall Lane. This road is an important connection between Mt Vernon Parkway/Fort Hunt Rd and the Route 1 Corridor. Some nearby residents have voiced strong opposition to the plan. Cyclists are encouraged to attend the meeting and support the proposal. The meeting is from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Mount Vernon Governmental Center, 2511 Parkers Lane, Alexandria, VA 22306. See the meeting announcement for more details.

Fairfax County to hold Sidewalk Snow Removal Forum

At the Fairfax Co Board of Supervisors meeting on February 25 Hunter Mill District Supervisor Hudgins raised the issue of snow removal on sidewalks. She asked the Board to direct staff to hold a "forum for discussion of sidewalk snow removal." The Board has addressed this issue repeatedly in the past as we outlined in a recent blog post on snow-covered sidewalks and trails. We will suggest that snow removal on trails and bike lanes be included in the discussion. See the FABB blog for more info on Supervisor Hudgins' request. When a date for the forum is announced we'll spread the word via FABB social media.

Upcoming Events

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