Saturday, April 12, 2014

FABB testimony at county budget hearings

Last week the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors held their public hearings on the budget for the coming year (FY 2015). Below is testimony I gave on Thursday evening. I asked that the bike coordinator position be funded and that the bike program be expanded to include dedicated funds and additional staff.

April 15 is the deadline for commenting on the budget:
Fairfax County FY 2015 Budget Testimony
Bruce Wright
Chairman, Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling
April 10, 2014

Chairman Bulova and members of the Board. Thank you for this opportunity to speak tonight. I am chairman of Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling and am speaking on behalf of Fairfax cyclists. I'm here to urge you to fund the bike coordinator position. While the position is included in the FY 2015 budget, we were disappointed to see that it appeared on the list of possible budget reductions submitted by County Executive Long.

I had planned to speak tonight about the need to expand the bike program by increasing staff and having an operating budget, which would include funding for Bike Fairfax, which is envisioned to be a program for encouraging employees and residents to use bikes for short trips, similar to Bike Arlington.

The Bike Coordinator currently doesn't have the resources to have an effective bike program, with no operating funds and limited staff.

That being said, you allocated extensive resources to bicycle and pedestrian capital projects in January, and we're very thankful for those funds. The bike coordinator is essential to ensuring that the bike projects succeed.

The Fairfax County Bicycle Master Plan was completed in July 2012 and will come before you later this spring. The DRAFT Plan recommended that the county have an active bicycle program with dedicated funding and " a minimum staff of three full-time employees."

Think about how many resources are devoted to moving people by bus in the county. Fairfax Connector has a $90 million budget with 25 county staff and I estimate over 200 Connector staff. The schools spend $144 million on busing kids using approximately 1200 bus drivers. We think it makes sense to have more than one person devoted to encouraging residents to travel by bike and ensuring they can do so safely.

Bicycling as a mode of transportation continues to grow each year. Participation in Bike to Work Day has gone from around 300 cyclists at 2 events in 2002 to 1800 cyclists at 10 events last year with two events being added this year in McLean and Fair Lakes. More people are looking for ways to get around using active transportation and relying less on cars.

You're focusing growth around activity and transit centers, including Tysons, and bicycling is a critical component to the success of those places.

A major priority of yours is for the county to have an  "Efficient Transportation Network" that includes "comprehensive bicycle and pedestrian initiatives." Without a bike coordinator that goal is not possible. In fact, bicycling touches on at least 5 of your 8 priorities including Safe Streets, Sustainable Environment, Livable Communities, and Recreational Opportunities.

Arlington County, with 1/5 our population, has 6 full time people devoted to building bike facilities, encouraging people to bike, and educating cyclists and motorists.

I was pleased to hear that at their monthly meeting last night the Trails and Sidewalks Committee approved a memo to Chairman Bulova in support of the bike coordinator position.

It will be difficult to attract bright, ambitious professionals for the bike program if the coordinator position keeps appearing on the budget reductions list. Please fund the position and the bike program so you can continue the good work being done to promote bicycling in the county.

And I hope you all can attend the Bike to Work Day events in your districts on Friday May 16.

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