Friday, August 28, 2015

Amtrak to allow Walk-On Bicycle Service between DC and PIttsburgh

Amtrak will soon offer Walk-On Bicycle Service on the train between Washington and Pittsburgh. This will allow cyclists to walk their bikes onto the train in DC, ride to Pittsburgh, then return to DC via the Great Allegheny Passage and the C&O Canal towpath.

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article Amtrak ready to allow roll-on bike service between Pittsburgh, D.C. (thanks to bikes@vienna for posting this info on Facebook):
With two premier bike trails parallel to the route, enthusiasts and bicycle organizations have long pressed the railroad to add the service. Currently, bikes must be dismantled and packed in boxes and can only be loaded on and off trains at staffed stations, of which there are none between here and Washington, D.C.

 “The expansion of bike service will take place as early as next week,” Amtrak spokeswoman Kimberly Woods confirmed on Thursday.

Reservations will be required and the railroad will charge a $25 fee for the service, even though passengers will be responsible for rolling their bikes onto the trains, securing them, and rolling them off. Only standard-sized bikes will be permitted. The service will be available at all stations on the route, which extends from Chicago to Washington.
Kudos again to Virginia Bicycling Federation who have advocated for this service for many years. They took part in an earlier test that was key in proving that walk-on service could work.

Nine other Amtrak trains currently offer Walk-On Bicycle Service:

Number of Spots Bicycle Reservation Required Checked Service Available Bicycle Fee
Amtrak Cascades 10 per train Yes Select Stations $5
Capitol Corridor 6 per train No No --
San Joaquin 6 per train No Select Stations --
Pacific Surfliner 6 per train Yes Select Stations --
Downstate Illinois Services 4 per train Yes No $10
Blue Water (trains 364 and 365 only) 4 per train Yes No $10
Missouri River Runner 4 per train Yes No $10
(accepted at BRK, POR and BON stations only)
8 per train Yes No $5
Piedmont 6 per train Yes No --

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Clips Beer & Film Tour in Reston on Sept. 10

The Clips Beer & Film event at the Reston Town Center is rapidly approaching. New Belgium Brewing Co is providing beer, films, and fun and FABB is providing volunteers who will be checking IDs, pouring beer, running the slow ride game and the photo hunt.

All proceeds go FABB to help us make Fairfax a better place to bike. Since its inception in 2010, Clips Beer & Film Tour has raised nearly $370,000 for nonprofits nationwide.

The Bike Lane will be handling the free bike valet service. Guests are encouraged to bike, walk, or take transit to the event. The Wiehle-Reston East Metrorail station is approximately a mile away.

About the films:
At the conclusion of an annual contest that garners over 100 submissions, New Belgium selects approximately 15 for inclusion on the tour each season. This year’s films touch on diverse topics – outdoor adventure, environmental activism, comedy, art, craft beer, and more. All films last under five minutes. Our selected filmmakers come from all walks of life, from basement hobbyists to professional feature-length directors. These films will be shown on a giant 30 foot inflatable movie screen.
This is a great opportunity to taste some of the more exotic New Belgium brews:
At each tour stop, guests are invited to try New Belgium’s unique Lips of Faith series alongside popular classics. The beer list features everything from wheat beers to IPAs. Many of these beers can be hard to come by, especially the popular barrel-aged sour offerings (La Folie and Eric’s Ale) and the available-only-at-Clips Film Noir, a caramel, chocolate, vanilla, milk, imperial milk stout. Only one keg of this big malty/roasty brew will be available. Film Noir is basically a milk dud in beer EPIC milk dud in beer form.

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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Fairfax high and middle school students can ride Connector buses for free

Fairfax County is experimenting with allowing high school and middle school students to ride Fairfax Connector buses for free to get to and from school, to after school jobs, and other activities. The Fairfax Connector Student Pass Program (or the Student Free Fare Program, not sure which is the formal name) was initiated by the Board of Supervisors who wanted Fairfax DOT to explore ways to partner with the school system.

Students must apply for a pass that is valid on Fairfax Connector buses between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. M-F. In school outreach is being done at five target high schools. See a presentation on the Student Free Fare Program given to the Board of Supervisors.

Below is an informational video on the program. Glad to see one of the students with a bike that he placed on the bike rack. Racks are installed on all Connector buses.

I could find almost no online information on the program. The above presentation and the video are probably the best source for now.

Kudos to the county for initiating this program; maybe more students will learn that they don't need to drive or be chauffeured by their parents to get around the county.

I attended high school in England and soon learned how to navigate the public transportation system. Few of my fellow students used cars to get to school or on weekends. We made use of an excellent transit system and were very independent. This is a good step forward by the county.

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Tysons bike lanes starting to appear

Bike lanes on several roads in Tysons have been stripped as part of the summer repaving process. In most cases bike symbols are not yet installed but the lanes have been striped. Thanks to everyone who attended meetings earlier this year on the proposed repaving projects.

Several roads have gone from 4 travel lanes to two travel lanes, bike lanes, and a center turn lane. In some cases a single bike lane was installed on the uphill direction of the road (known as a climbing lane).

Tysons Partnership recently wrote about the repaving projects: New Bike Lanes Popping Up Around North Tysons:
This summer VDOT had plans to repave many of the roadways in Tysons. They took that opportunity to implement some changes to striping and lane delineation in the most residential portions of Tysons, including the North Tysons neighborhood where large empty roadways make for dangerous intersections and bike paths.

The summer is nearly complete and we are getting a better picture of the safe paths in Tysons. While I don’t think VDOT went nearly far enough, sentiment in the area remains suburban and auto-focused (and people wonder why the Silver Line ridership is low from the nearby communities), and therefore this interim step is about as good as one can expect for the short term.

This is a good day for anyone who uses non-vehicular means to get to work or run errands, but the struggle against bad design isn’t over. Bike lanes are an easy come easy go infrastructure, it takes vocal support and physical support to show planners and politicians their value. The added benefit is that by showing support for these interim steps we improve the chances to get true infrastructure including protected bike lanes (arguably more important in the suburban regions than established urban bike areas) and further road diets in the non-congested corridors of Tysons.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Have a Wheely Fun Time on Sunday in Vienna

The Town of Vienna is holding a series of Afternoons on Church Street on Sundays from 1-5 p.m. This Sunday's event is sponsored by bikes@vienna and is called "Wheely Fun Time." A short stretch of Church St between Dominion and Mill, where the W&OD Trail intersects Church St, will be closed for the event.

There will be a kids bike parade and decorating contest and other kids events, live music in the Town Green, and various food options. Inova has some bicycle helmets they'll be handing out to those who need them.

From Vienna Patch, Afternoons on Church Street Returns with Bicycle Theme
The final Sunday of the month is approaching, and with it comes another edition of the town of Vienna’s Afternoons on Church Street program.

This month’s theme is “Wheely Fun Time,” and is sponsored by Bikes@Vienna. Kids can take part in Historic Vienna, Inc.’s bike parade and a bike decorating contest (no registration required), and can enjoy moon bounces and cornhole boards courtesy of the town’s Parks and Recreation department.

Families of all ages are also encouraged to come check out the classic and muscle cars that will be lining Church Street on display.

The band Harlan Simple will perform a concert on the Town Green as part of the festivities, and students from the Bach to Rock program at Herndon America’s Music School will play a concert beginning at 5 p.m.

This month’s refreshments will be provided by Lombardi’s Pizza, ONO Hawaiian Ice, Caboose Brewery and Vienna Vinters. The Girl Scouts will be offering face painting and balloon animals, and Inova will be providing free bike helmets to those in attendance. Other local businesses will also be on hand for the event.

Afternoons on Church Street take place from 1-5 p.m. on the final Sunday of each month from May through October. This week’s event will cause the town to close Church Street from Dominion Road to Mill Street during event hours.

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North County Government Center still without bike parking

Plenty of room for bike parking in front of the
North County Government Center
The new North County Government Center was opened in January of this year. When we inquired about bike parking we were told it would be installed any day now. When we saw the graphic depicting the rack we noticed it was a "wave" rack which is not recommended by the current draft bike parking guidelines. We suggested that U racks, which are recommended by most jurisdictions around the country, be used instead. We were told U racks would be installed but seven months later there's still no bike parking.

Earlier we reported on new bike racks improperly installed at the Providence Community Center. U racks were used but they were installed on the edge of the concrete, meaning that one wheel would be in the grass. After we complained, additional concrete was added to the edge and one of the racks, which was too close to the adjacent railing, was removed.

We've been advocating for bike parking guidelines since 2007. The guidelines still aren't final and the county still hasn't figured out how to purchase and install racks properly. They are making progress, but it's been much too slow.

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Monday, August 24, 2015

Squij Kat at Reston Market

On Saturday we visited the  Reston Market at Lake Anne Plaza that runs concurrent with the Reston Farmers Market. The owners of Squij Kat were there selling their bike-inspired products. Some of the products are made from bike parts, like the winelinks and bracelets.
Squij Kat was founded by two female cycling enthusiasts in Arlington, Va. Our passion for biking goes beyond sport and leisure. We support smart commuting, traffic safety and an overall greener community.
They contacted us earlier and offered to help promote FABB, so we gave them some FABB rack and business cards and invited them to attend our September 16 meeting. If you're in Reston on Saturday why not check out their booth. The'll be at the market through the end of October. We wish them well.


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Vesper Trail Meeting September 9

Fairfax County is hosting a meeting on Wednesday, September 9 at 7pm at Wolf Trap Elementary School to discuss updates to work on the trail leading from Vesper Street to the Spring Hill Metrorail station on Route 7.

This trail is an important connection between residential neighborhoods in the northeast part of Vienna and Tysons and the Metro station. Cyclists are encouraged to attend to find out more about this project. Comments can be submitted to by September 7.

The trail is the green line on the map on the right, labelled 24 in the lower left. See the Tysons Area Metrorail Station Access Improvement Projects page for more info on this and other Tysons bike/ped projects.

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Friday, August 21, 2015

Reston Century on W&OD Trail on Sunday

The Reston Century will be held on Sunday. According to the weather forecast it should be a beautiful day. The Century, Metric, and Half-Metric routes will use the W&OD Trail between Reston and Leesburg. Cyclists should use extra caution on that stretch as the trail or avoid it altogether; it will be very crowded.

This weekend would be a great time to use the Fairfax County Interactive Bike Map to find a new bike route and explore the county. There are many on-road routes that are safe and provide a variety riding conditions. I often wonder why some of the faster cyclists insist on training on the W&OD Trail, especially on a busy weekend. If they want to ride fast, what better place than on the road.

I think many faster cyclists are afraid to ride on the road because they don't know how to do so safely, riding too far to the right and inviting cars to pass too close. According to Virginia law, if a lane is too narrow to share with a motorist, which describes most of our 11- and 12-foot lanes in Fairfax, than cyclists are not required to ride to the right. They should take the lane and force motorists to pass them properly, often requiring them to change lanes. This is much safer than hugging the curb. As of July, motorists can legally cross the double-yellow line to safely pass cyclists, allowing 3 feet when passing.

Today I saw a policeman riding a bike on Sunrise Valley Dr. in Reston in the gutter pan, riding much too far to the right. He then moved across two lanes to the left turn lane without signaling. Most bicycle police receive bicycle safety training so that officer should know better. Riding on the road safely is a skill that can be taught, and yet there is basically no bicycle education in Fairfax. Maybe that should change.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

New US Census Report on Growth of Bike Commuting

 According to a Census Bureau report on America’s commuting patterns that was released last week, biking to work is slowly but steadily on the rise as more young, urban adults are giving up on driving to work. This was particularly true in cities with strong public transportation networks, where automobile commuting declined by 6 percentage points among workers ages 25 to 29.  

Although biking to work is most common among America’s lowest-earning workers, the report shows that from 2006 to 2013, bicycle commuting more than doubled among workers making $75,000 or more—the highest earnings category in the report—rising from 1.1 percent to 2.4 percent.  For workers in the lowest earnings category ($0 to $24,999), bicycle commuting edged up from 3.1 percent in 2006 to 3.5 percent in 2013. And for middle earners (those making $25,000 to $74,999), the amount of biking workers increased from 1.9 percent in 2006 to 2.9 percent in 2013.

Griswold suggested that the jump in bicycle commuting among higher earners could be at least partly explained by the rise of bike-share programs in cities nationwide.

In an earlier article based on the same census report, Griswold reported that the age cohort between 25 to 29 in cities with good public transit saw the steepest decline in automobile commuting. 

Griswold's conclusion from these findings from the Census Bureau: Give people solid transportation options and chances are they’ll take them.

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Monday, August 17, 2015

Bike Coordinator position re-advertised (again)

Fairfax County is still seeking a bicycle coordinator. The job was advertised last week for the third time. The county has been without a bike coordinator since January when Charlie Strunk, the former coordinator, retired. Charlie's retirement date was well known and the position should have been filled long ago.

We are somewhat concerned that the position title and description have changed since the job was last announced. The job now includes pedestrian duties while remaining at the same pay level, Transportation Planner III. See the previous position description for Bicycle Program Coordinator. The new description is below. Applications must be submitted by August 28.
Job #: 15-01451
Job Title: Transportation Planner III
Opening Date/Time: Sat. 08/08/15 12:00 AM Eastern Time
Closing Date/Time:  Fri. 08/28/15 5:00 PM Eastern Time
Salary: $31.23 - $52.05 Hourly
$2,498.52 - $4,164.18 Biweekly
$64,961.52 - $108,268.78 Annually
Pay Grade: S27
Job Type: FT Salary W BN
Department: Transportation
Posting Type: Open to General Public

Coordinates the development, design and review of transportation projects, plans and feasibility studies with a focus on bicycle and pedestrian related projects. Reviews transportation facility design plans and resolves project issues for roadway, intersection, and multi-modal projects, such as transit, parking, bicycle or pedestrian facilities. Develops scopes for new projects, reviews traffic data, and provides transportation analyses. Prepares technical reports, correspondence and other written documents. Coordinates project development with residents, agencies and elected officials.

Position may be underfilled as a Transportation Planner II. The underfill requirements are stated below in the Employment Standards section.

Employment Standards:
Any combination of education, experience, and training equivalent to graduation from an accredited four-year college or university with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, urban, regional or transportation planning, or a closely related field; plus four years of experience related to transportation planning.

Valid state motor vehicle operator's license.

The appointee to this position will be required to complete a criminal background check to the satisfaction of the employer.

Experience in two or more of the following areas: performing transportation planning for roadway and multimodal projects, traffic engineering, and/or transportation design. Strong analytical, verbal and writing skills. Ability to establish and maintain effective working relationships with government officials and the general public.

Work is generally sedentary. However, employee may be required to do some walking, standing, bending and carrying of items under 25 pounds in weight. Employee must be able to ride a bicycle.

This vacancy may be underfilled at the level of Transportation Planner II (Grade S24, $56,415 - $94,026). The employment standards for the Transportation Planner II are: Any combination of education, experience, and training equivalent to graduation from an accredited four-year college or university with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, urban, regional or transportation planning, or a closely related field; plus two years of experience related to transportation planning. Upon completion of an underfill agreement (which will require that the employee meet the employment standards stated above in addition to obtaining competencies defined by the hiring agency) the employee will be elevated to the level of Transportation Planner III.

Panel interview.

Fairfax County is an Equal Opportunity Employer that does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, creed, religion, national origin, age, disability, genetic information, veteran’s status or disabled veteran's status.

Reasonable accommodations are available to persons with disabilities during application and/or interview processes per the Americans with Disabilities Act. Contact 703-324-4900 for assistance. TTY 703-222-7314. Minorities and people with disabilities are encouraged to apply. EEO/AA/TTY.


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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Pleasant Valley Road diet scheduled for next week

As part of the summer repaving process VDOT is creating new bike lanes on Pleasant Valley Road in western Fairfax Co from just north of Route 29 to Virginia Run Elementary School. From the VDOT news release:
New striping for SB bike lane from Smithfield Pl/Martins Hundred Dr to Wetherburn Ct

CENTREVILLE—On Monday, August 17, weather permitting, the Virginia Department of Transportation will begin converting the right lane of southbound Pleasant Valley Road to a five-foot-wide bicycle lane and seven-foot-wide buffer from the Smithfield Place/Martins Hundred Drive intersection to Wetherburn Court. The work is scheduled for completion Friday, August 21.
The new bike lane striping is being added in order to reduce speeding, improve safety and to give southbound cyclists another way to travel along Pleasant Valley Road. A shared-use path runs parallel to the northbound side of the road.
In 2005, concerns over speeding vehicles prompted northbound Pleasant Valley Road to undergo a similar “road diet” from Route 29 to just north of Martins Hundred Drive. The average speed of northbound vehicles declined as a result.
This “road diet” practice has been used successfully on several roads in northern Virginia, where in certain locations elements such as left-turn lanes and bicycle lanes can replace travel lanes to help reduce speeding, improve mobility for cyclists, and increase safety for all users.
See more on the Soapstone Drive, Lawyers Road (photos on Flickr) and Oak Street projects.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Provide feedback to VDOT on biking conditions in Northern Virginia

VDOT is updating the Northern Virginia Regional Bikeway and Trail Network Study completed in 2004. NoVa cyclists are encouraged to participate in a survey to provide feedback to the study team on the current state of cycling in the NoVa area and future needs. FABB rep Sonya Breehey is a member of the team that is working with VDOT to update the study.

The survey is extensive and allows for map input on current conditions and your favorite biking destinations. You can also rate riding comfort level on specific roads. Be prepared to spend a few minutes on the survey. From the study team:
The Northern Virginia Regional Bikeway and Trail Network Study.  The Virginia Department of Transportation is updating its regional network of bicycle routes and trails to measure the progress made since 2004 in building the network. Your participation in this survey is important and will help us to plan our transportation system.
The VDOT NoVA District Bike Coordinator discussed the update process in the NOVA District Bicycle and Pedestrian Highlights, April 2015
 Network Update Scope
  • Purpose of update – To see how we are doing, to see if any major changes need to be made to the regional network like proposed roads that were eliminated (e.g., Tri-County Parkway) 
  • Collecting Data of existing facilities – Consolidate GIS files from all jurisdictions 
  • Performance measure – How many additional miles of the original 2004 network have been built by our partnership with jurisdictions 11 
  • Wikimap – Crowd source the taskforce to identify needed corrections and major omissions from the consolidated GIS files. 
  • Latent Demand (rate existing routes 1 to 5) - see if the taskforce’s suggestions for the network rise to the level of being regional significant. 
  • Future Performance Measure - Provide a baseline BLOS of all roads in the network using SPS data. Use to show improvements in Network – how many miles of BLOS A, vs B, vs, C…. 
  • Virtual Public Meeting - MetroQuest


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Monday, August 3, 2015

Clean Air Deeds Sweepstakes

Clean Air Partners is sponsoring Clean Air Deeds Sweepstakes, a contest to award DC Area residents who do their part to reduce air pollution, including riding a bike. We've heard there are still tickets available:
What do you do to protect your air quality?
  • Ride your bike to work? Take the bus?
  • Use a gas or electric grill instead of charcoal?
Tell us and you could WIN 2 TICKETS to Chicago and Earth, Wind & Fire at Jiffy Lube Live on Friday, August 14th.

How it works:
  1. Tell us what you do to protect the air by August 6th.
  2. On August 7th, we'll randomly select 75 participants to receive 2 concert tickets.


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Sunday, August 2, 2015

Van Dorn Street ped bridge to be replaced

The rusted steel pedestrian bridge parallel to Van Dorn Street that passes under I-495 is being replaced. The work is planned to take two weeks, from August 24 to September 7. During that time the bridge will be closed and no detour will be provided. A shuttle bus will run from Oakwood St on the south side of I-495 to Vine St on the north side. Van Dorn Metro is located just to the north of Vine St.

Many pedestrians and bicyclists use this bridge. There are not many options for providing a detour. A shuttle bus is a poor option for cyclists and I doubt that many will use the service.  The county news release does not mention if the shuttle will have a bike rack.

Obviously cyclists can ride on Van Dorn St, a very busy commuter route, but only the most adventurous cyclists will use this option. Temporary sharrows on Van Dorn St during construction would help. Another option is the Clermont Connector located just to the east that is a ped/bike extension of Clermont Dr to Clermont Ave under the Beltway.

From the news release Aging Van Dorn Street Pedestrian Bridge to be Replaced:

Maintenance and Stormwater Management Division (MSMD), a division of Fairfax County's Department of Public Works and Environmental Services, will replace a rusted steel pedestrian bridge located adjacent to Van Dorn Street, where it passes under I-495 in Alexandria. The construction will begin on Monday, August 24 and is anticipated to be completed within two (2) weeks.

During construction, the section of trail that connects each end of the bridge will be closed. Pedestrians and cyclists will be provided shuttle service from Oakwood Road to Vine Street. The shuttle will run between the two locations every 15 minutes, 24 hours a day, for two (2) weeks. Please see the Pedestrian Transportation Plan.

During installation, one of the northbound lanes on Van Dorn St. will be closed from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 a.m. the following morning. Construction will not cause any delays as the closed lane will be opened during the rush hours from 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Traffic concerns were addressed when MSMD received the permit of Transportation Management Plan from the Virginia Department of Transportation.

When the steel bridge is removed, crews will clean and paint the steel beams and piers on which the existing bridge sits. This treatment will prevent corrosion and increase the life span of the piers. The new bridge, made of fiberglass, will consist of 4 bridge spans of approximately 50 and 55-feet each for a total length of 210 feet. Fiberglass was chosen because it will not be corroded by salt used during snow events. Once the bridge is constructed, new LED lights will be installed on the bridge and located such that no glare will saturate the Van Dorn roadway.

The total cost of this project, which is funded by MSMD's infrastructure repair program, is approximately $350,000.

For questions, please contact project engineer Shaukat Faheem by phone at 703-877-2801 or by e-mail

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Munich plans bicycle highway system

Munich has significant traffic congestion and one solution city planners are contemplating is a highway system for cyclists:

Now, Munich wants to extend the thrill of the open highway to cyclists with a network of bike lanes running through the city and into the suburbs, in a bid to encourage car-free commuting.

The ambitious plan calls for a network of 14 two-way bike paths, each 13 feet wide and fully segregated from automobile traffic, that would spread out over an area of about 400 square miles. No crossroads, no traffic lights. It’s an autobahn for cyclists, or, as the Germans obviously call it, a Radschnellverbindungen.

Rush hour traffic into and out of Munich is a problem, says Birgit Kastrop, an urban planner working on the proposal. Public transportation is near capacity, so encouraging cycling is a logical way to ease the burden. “This might be a little solution for reducing this problem.”

Munich is densely populated, and whatever space you dedicate to cyclists is necessarily being taken away from other users. Right now, as in so many places, cars take up the most room. “Perhaps this has to change a little. Perhaps they have to give a little space to other means of transport.”

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