Saturday, April 11, 2015

FABB testimony at county budget hearings

During the week of 6 April 2015 the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors held public hearings on the budget for the coming year (FY 2016). Below is the testimony given by FABB member Steve Ward, which focused on asking the county to properly fund and staff the Bicycle Program office and an as yet established office to run the Bike Fairfax program.

 Photo: Board of Supervisors, Courtesy of Fairfax County Government

Fairfax County FY 2016 Budget Testimony
April 7, 2015

Good evening, Chairman Bulova and members of the Board. 

I’m here on behalf of Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling (FABB), and I thank you for this opportunity to speak tonight about the proposed budget and its impact on the implementation of the bicycling element of planned transportation improvements.

The proposed budget’s funding of bike projects is a great improvement over past years. But we believe that some additions or adjustments must be made to properly resource the current and proposed offices that will direct the bicycle program.  

We appreciate and commend the Board for its past efforts to make Fairfax more bicycle-friendly. Last year’s adoption of the Bicycle Master Plan, the inclusion of money for expanded bike infrastructure as part of the 6-year transportation funding package, and the county’s work with VDOT’s summer repaving program to add bike facilities in Tysons are major advances.

  • However, if Fairfax County is to stay on track with the Master Plan then the county will need to allocate sufficient funding to the bike program offices to make sure that the momentum behind this plan is sustained.

We know that the demand for more bike facilities exists and is waiting to be served. The opening last year of the Metro Silver Line stations in Reston and Tysons has been a great test case for the proposition that if we build bike facilities, they will be used.

  • According to local news reports last fall, at the McLean station, which isn’t in a very bike-friendly part of Tysons, most of the 72 available bike spaces were filled by 9 a.m. each weekday.  
  • FABB members have observed and can testify that usage of the Wiehle-Reston East bike room has been even stronger.

  • We believe these examples suggest that new bike projects around other transit hubs throughout the county would see similar use, but more direction and commitment is needed to make this happen.   

Having a physical bicycle network is only one aspect of becoming a true bicycle-friendly community and, as the Master Plan points out, other areas also need emphasis.

  • As Fairfax transitions to a more urban structure, residents need to be encouraged to use bikes and walks for short trips.

  • Motorists and cyclists need bicycle safety education, and enforcement of applicable laws needs to improve.

  • And kids need to learn safe riding skills at an early age.

Sadly, however, we see that funds for the Bicycle Program have not been reinstated and note that the county does not have enough staff to properly direct and implement the Master Plan’s recommendations.

  • This is true for the plan’s Engineering elements (the proposed infrastructure projects), which the County to its credit is emphasizing.  

  • But, as important, it also is true for the plan’s four other E’s--education, encouragement, enforcement, and evaluation.

We strongly believe that there is an immediate need to correct the virtual absence of funding for these 4 E’s in the proposed budget.

  • In particular, we think it is a major failure that Bike Fairfax is not funded.  There is a clear need for a more effective approach to education and encouragement programs.

  • Such programs require different skill sets than those needed for planning and engineering the physical bicycle network, and Bike Fairfax is intended to address this.

  • Because these programs will directly affect the safety of county cyclists, we strongly believe that it is past time to start allocating resources to this effort.

Again, we are very appreciative of the Board’s actions in recent years to make Fairfax more bicycle-friendly. We understand the county’s financial situation and the multiple conflicting demands on the budget.

But, we believe that these investments bring benefits to all of our citizens and that, along with our existing bicycling infrastructure, are helping to keep the county competitive with its neighbors in attracting new residents, businesses, and visitors.  We’ve included in your packages a review of 12 studies  from around the world that demonstrate how safe and accessible biking options are good for business and for local economies. 

  • However, it will take a commitment on the part of the County to make these programs and activities a priority and to provide them proper direction if we are to continue expanding these benefits.

  • And, to do this, the proposed budget, at a minimum, needs to be adjusted to fully resource the Bicycle Program and to create the Bike Fairfax office with its own dedicated staff.

  • We submit that for a modest amount of resources given to the Bicycle Program and Bike Fairfax, the County will see a great return in terms of safer, healthier, and more livable and economically vibrant communities.

  • And, as it has in the past, FABB stands ready to cooperate with the County in working with private businesses, the health care industry, and other interested organizations and volunteer groups to help make these efforts a success.

Thank you.

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  Bike to Work Day 2015 at Wiehle Station

  Transportation choices

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