Tuesday, December 10, 2013

"My wonderful, safe, climate-controlled, comfortable cocoon."

Earlier this month I wrote a letter to the Post in response to an article about the lack of auto parking at the new Tysons Silver Line stations. I noted there is bike parking at each station, and that many people could bike there. The Post article mentioned John Lucas who lives near Tysons but prefers to drive, stating that "There are not alternate forms of transportation that are reliable."

I mentioned in my letter that Mr. Lucas could bike to the nearest station and get some exercise in a pollution free manner. Apparently Mr. Lucas does ride a bike but he also seems to love to drive as evidenced by the final sentence of his letter to the editor that appeared in today's Post: "I’ll give up my steering wheel when you pry it from my cold, dead hands." So much for using an alternate form of transportation.
In a Dec. 2 letter, Bruce Wright, the chairman of the Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling, suggested that I should walk or bike a mile to the new Tysons Silver Line Metrorail stations, instead of driving, and thereby get some exercise, ease congestion and reduce pollution. Mr. Wright’s suggestion was a perfect example of why the parking dilemma facing soon-to-be Silver Line commuters should have been resolved long ago. Fairfax County’s failure to accommodate those commuting to Tysons Corner by automobile will be a colossal failure, especially when winter’s worst arrives.

Mr. Wright’s appeal to commuter ruggedness is wishful thinking. Though I manage, as an 80-year-old, to bike 25 to 30 miles per week, I would be ill-advised to risk traveling down busy Leesburg Pike to Tysons in anything less than my wonderful, safe, climate-controlled, comfortable cocoon — just like other automobile commuters are inclined to do.

While much of the rest of the globe races to embrace individual carbon-powered transport, we race to handicap our economy through forced carbon energy denial. The atmosphere we seek to protect is the same one being polluted by the rest of the world, which will gladly consume any energy we eschew. Our ability to drive anywhere is a blessing that most fail to appreciate, especially those coercive utopians who seek to remold our society into something it will never be.

While driving, it should always be comforting for me to recall, and edit slightly, the late Charlton Heston’s proclamation: I’ll give up my steering wheel when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.

John Lucas, Vienna
Route 7 headed into Tysons. Note dead-end
paved trail on the right. Image: Google Maps
Mr. Lucas does have a point. Cycling into Tysons from the west along Route 7 is dangerous. A trail on the south side of Route 7 ends before the bridge over the Toll Road and there are no on-road bike facilities on a road that has high speed traffic and several entrance/exit ramps to the Toll Road. There are plans for 10-foot asphalt trails on each side of Route 7 from Reston to just west of the Toll Road bridge. At the same time a new Toll Road bridge with bike and ped access is in the works. Both projects should receive funding from the new transportation money.

The only safe option for most cyclists is to take a very circuitous route to the south that uses neighborhood streets, past Wolf Trap, to the Ashgrove Trail behind the Sheraton and new Walmart near the Spring Hill Metrorail station. That route ads about a mile to the trip, not a great distance for any cyclist but it's definitely not a convenient, direct route.

There is a bus that travels on Route 7 and I was surprised to see that it only runs every hour. No wonder most people drive.

Not only does the county have a very difficult marketing task ahead of them to convince dedicated motorists to try using alternative transportation modes, they need to create a safer biking and walking environment and provide better transit options. While progress is being made, there is a very long way to go before Tysons and the surrounding area is bike-friendly.

I didn't discuss Mr. Lucas' comments about climate change. According to his line of reasoning, the world should race to burn as much carbon as possible before others do the same. Is it any wonder that so little progress is being made to slow the warming of the planet? I wonder what Mr. Lucas' grandchildren will think about his philosophy 20 years from now?

Nor did I mention that over 33,000 people died in car crashes last year, an increase of over 1,000 from the previous year. Not my idea of wonderful and safe.

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