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Pete and FABB’s Absolutely Merry Holiday Shopping Expedition—By Bike!

Pete Beers is one of our part-time bike ambassadors. Pete lives in Virginia and spends a lot of time biking in D.C.’s suburbs and, as a BA, has worked tirelessly to make getting around WABA’s suburban jurisdictions by bike easier and more accessible. Recently, Pete led a holiday shopping trip by bike to Tyson’s Corner and the Mosaic District in conjunction with Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling. We’re reposting his account of the day–which was, by all accounts, exceedingly enjoyable–on our blog. You can read Pete’s blog, I Love My Commute, here.

The best response that I got when I proposed this ride was “Ho Ho NO. I’ll follow you to Certain Death, Pete, but not to Tyson’s Corner (a fate worse than . . . ).”

I think many people dread crowds and parking problems associated with holiday shopping at the mall the week before Christmas.  The mall can get a bit crazy this time of year.  My goal was to make it fun.  I did this by getting there by bicycle and by bringing  along as many friends as I could.  I’ve also wanted to share how amazingly easy it is to ride to Tyson’s Corner by bicycle.  That was the genesis of the Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling (FABB) / Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) Holiday Shopping Ride.  Both FABB and WABA are all about showing people that it is easy to live by bicycle.

Tyson’s Corner Center jumped in immediately as a sponsor.  Mosaic District enthusiastically supported this too.  Freshbikes Mosaic provided both shopping bags and bicycle security services (me with a bunch of U-locks and cables) to make this all possible.  I rode the cargo bike with buckets on the back to help people with transporting their purchases.  In the end, I was the only one filling the buckets with stuff that I’d bought.  It wasn’t that others didn’t shop.  They brought their own means for carrying their purchases home.


The route was simple.  Nine of us rode from Vienna, Virginia to Tyson’s Corner and completely bypassed the lines of cars waiting to get into the parking garage.  We picked up two more riders along the way.  Bicycle Parking is right next to the mall entrance in spot that had Mall Security and a police officer right next door for added bicycle security.  The outdoor German Market was really nice!  The local artisans and bakeries were the backbone of my shopping for the day.  We got a lot of shopping done before even setting foot in the mall.  We enjoyed two hours of shopping inside and a nice lunch before loading up our purchases and heading south.

The second stop on our shopping ride is the Mosaic District.  This eclectic group of shops and restaurants is quickly becoming one of my favorite hangouts.  In addition to being home to my favorite local bike shop (Freshbikes) there are many small local shops, MOM’s Organic Market and plenty of restaurants, Target and the movie theater make it a great place to be.  It is quite easy to get to by bicycle and has good bike parking in the garages and out on the street.  We spent an hour there shopping and getting coffee before heading back to Vienna.

What was my favorite reaction after the ride?  ”Thanks for organizing and leading the ride, we got a lot of shopping done. We’ll be riding to Tysons instead of driving again in the near future.”

This was the first of many, many rides of this kind.  Many thanks to Tyson’s Corner Center, Mosaic District and Freshbikes for making it possible.

Read: Urban Land Institute’s “Shifting Suburbs” and What It Means for Fairfax County

Fairfax's Mosaic District is a dense, walkable development, but is best accessed by highways.

Fairfax’s Mosaic District is a dense, walkable development, but is most easily accessed by highways.

The Urban Land Institute recently published a new report, Shifting Suburbs: Reinventing Infrastructure for Compact Development, that examines the challenges of transforming low-density suburban areas into more compact, transit-oriented, mixed-use developments.

The ULI report looks at rebuilding existing suburban infrastructure (primarily transportation infrastructure) in order to support more compact development. Over the next 30 years, the U.S. is expected to grow by 90 million people. The majority of that growth is expected to occur outside urban cores. Many young workers are choosing to live in more urban places with multiple transportation options, like walking, biking, and transit. In order to become competitive, some suburban communities want to be less car-dominated and more walkable and bikeable.

Different types of suburban development lend themselves to different redevelopment strategies. Included in the ULI report are models of suburban mall retrofits, suburban transit-oriented development, suburban arterials or commercial corridors, wholesale or large-scale suburban transformation, and suburban town centers. All are present in Fairfax County—respectively, Springfield MallMerrifield; Routes 1, 7, and 50; Tysons; and Reston Town Center and Merrifield.

Retrofitting suburban arterials such as Routes 1, 7, 50, and 123 is a major challenge. Such roads are often traffic-clogged and serviced only by infrequent and slow-moving bus service. Because of outdated zoning regulations, the only development that can occur is located low-density retail and commercial businesses immediately adjacent to the road. High-capacity highways like the Beltway, I-66, I-95, and the Dulles Toll Road also create barriers to dense development.

Redevelopment needs to occur while being sensitive to the concerns of residents in nearby residential neighborhoods, or it won’t happen. The Ballston corridor is an example of high-density development existing near low-density residential development. Fortunately, there are considerable transit connections to these neighborhoods.

But there are no easy solutions to reorganizing inner-ring suburbs for an expanding population. Changing a culture and landscape dependant on cars for mobility is a tremendous challenge. There is also a risk of creating islands of mixed-use communities in a sea of sprawl, which can only be accessed by wide, dangerous roads.

Eight examples of suburban redevelopment are documented in the ULI report, including White Flint/Rockville Pike in Montgomery County. Here are some takeaways from reading about it and other case studies:

  • There is a significant last mile problem in trying to connect low-density suburban sprawl with mixed-use development centers. Unless walkable and bikeable transit-oriented suburban developments are connected to surrounding low-density areas by transit and safe, convenient, non-motor options, people will continue to drive for most local trips.
  • The importance of bicycling as a way to overcome the last mile problem is not discussed in the report. Bicycles can be a viable solution for accessing new developments from areas within 2-3 miles. ULI’s report treats cycling as an afterthought, such as when it describes a development as bike-friendly there are 35 bike racks. In sum, bicycling is briefly mentioned as a way to connect to transit but not as a viable mode in and of itself.
  • One advantage to wide, suburban arterials is that there is room to add options other than moving cars, like dedicated bus and bike lanes, physically separated cycletracks, bus rapid transit lanes, and streetcars.

Fairfax has focused new development around Metrorail stations, which have become active nodes. The massive redevelopment of Tysons along the new Silver Line is unprecedented, and the long-term vision for Tysons includes changes that will make walking, biking, and transit much more attractive options for itsmany future residents.

Reading ULI’s case studies is encouraging—and depressing. Islands of smart growth are almost always surrounded by vast areas of suburban sprawl and bordered by wide multi-lane roads, forcing most people to drive for most trips. Even when transit (mostly bus) is available, it can be slow and infrequent, and there is a stigma amongst many suburbanites against using it; transit is for those who can’t afford a car.

One of the biggest challenges to suburban transformation is opposition from existing residents who fear or otherwise resist change. Residents may want to be able to walk or bike to nearby destinations, but oppose nearby mixed use developments, fearing more car traffic. But our population is and will continue to grow regardless of how we feel. We need to figure out smart ways to accommodate more people, even in established, low-density suburban areas and especially in established, low-density suburban areas near transit. Bicycling can be a crucial way for people to get around these retrofitted suburbs.

The first-ring suburbs in Fairfax present a great opportunity. In the D.C. area, such suburbs are largely located inside the Beltway. Their population density is higher the outer suburbs’, and there are more transit options available. There is also often an existing grid of streets that fosters biking and walking. Aging developments can be replaced with more compact, mixed-use projects. Examples in Fairfax include Seven Corners, Bailey’s Crossroads, and Annandale.

With a growing population and limited resources, we need to find smarter ways to grow in the future. Dense, transit-oriented development that provides places to live, work, and play are one solution, and it requires us to transform our existing, mostly residential suburban areas into more livable, walkable, and bikeable places. This transformation won’t be easy, but it has already begun—and bicycling should play a key role in it.

Bruce Wright is chairman of Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling and a WABA board member. This post will be cross-posted on the FABB blog.

Photo by Flicker user Payton Chung

A Complete Guide to DC’s 1st Annual Tour de Fat

NEXT SATURDAY, June 16th, The New Belgium Brewing Company, makers of Fat Tire Ale, and WABA are hosting the biggest, most fanciful, bicycle celebration of all time. And for the first time ever it’s coming to DC!

We’re going to celebrate bikes, make some new friends, and sip on a couple of cold, Rocky Mountain barley pops–all in the name of local bike advocacy!

The Tour de Fat benefits WABA, MORE (Mid-Atlantic Offroad Enthusiasts), Black Women Bike DC, and FABB (Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling).

Before the big day we want to make sure you know all the event details so that you and your friends come prepared, because a) you can’t miss this, and b) you must come prepared.

 

Vital Details

WHEN: Saturday, June 16th, 9am – 4pm
WHERE: The Yards Park
COST: FREE with $5 suggested donation
REGISTRATION: on-site

SCHEDULE:
9:00am – Parade Registration
9:00am – Free Bike Valet
10:00am – Bike Parade
11:00am –  Main Stage
12:00pm – Slide Show
12:00pm – Slow Ride
1:30pm –  Bike Trade
3:30pm – De Finale!

How to Get to the Tour de Fat

WITH OLD FRIENDS: By bicycle, of course! The Yards park is located at 10 Water St. SE, Washington, DC near the National’s Stadium. . For those traveling from far and away, it is advised that you find parking far from Yards Park. Parking in the area will be extremely limited due to the Yankees/National’s baseball game.
WITH  NEW FRIENDS:  A number of local shops and organizations are leading convoy rides down to the park. We will update this list as convoy information becomes available.
- Alexandria BPAC: One-way group ride departing at 8:30am at St. Elmo’s (2300 Mt Vernon Ave, 22301) RSVP to Bruce Dwyer, oiubike@gmail.com

What to wear

For those who’ve never participated, this is indeed a COSTUME AFFAIR. Costumes are enthusiastically encouraged!!  For some inspiration, check out this montage of photos from Tour de Fat’s of yore.

What to expect

The time of your life
PARADE:  We will show off our rides and our bike pride by taking a short and slow cruise along the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail

FREE BIKE VALET:No need to bring your heavy U-lock, the folks at MORE are providing safe and secure bike parking all day long.

MUSIC: Featuring Mucca Pazza, Ian Cooke, and Yo-Yo People

GAMES: We don’t want to giveaway all the surprises, but we heard for one of the games, New Belgium’s creative genius’ constructed life-size Jenga. Yes, life-size.

BIKE PIT: Imagine if instead of creating candy, Willy Wonka created bicycles.

PERFORMANCES: Le Tigre’s whimsical ways will woo us all day long.

How to prepare

Start mixing up your papier-mâché pulp, pull out that tutu from your college years, give your bike a quick tune-up, and invite your friends to the biggest bike festival DC has ever seen.

Safe Routes to School Moving Forward in Fairfax County Public Schools!

IWTSD 026The Safe Routes to School (SRTS) regional network is ending the year with several major successes in Fairfax County. After convening a special SRTS working group within Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) Transportation and Safety division in June, FCPS has agreed to several initiatives that will highlight SRTS activities and increase the numbers of students walking or biking to school everyday.

FCPS will add SRTS specific language to their “Golden Wellness Award” scorecard, which is used to determine how closely the individual schools are implementing the FCPS Health and Wellness Policy. This sought after award will now include specific recommended activities, like Walking Wednesdays, Bike Trains, Walking School Buses, participation in International Walk to School Day (IWTSD) as well as Bike to School Day. In addition, delivery of bicycle and pedestrian safety education at the individual school will be a required element in order to win the award. The schools system’s 95210 A Day (9 hours of sleep, 5 fruits and vegetables, less than 2 hours of screen time, at least 1 hour of exercise and 0 sugary drinks) will be updated to include walking or bicycling to school as a suggested activity to get to the 1 hour daily activity goal.

FCPS has also agreed to create and host a SRTS focused webpage with resources for school administrators, parents, community champions and children who would like to see more SRTS activities at their school. This site will include policy, curriculum standards and sample lesson plans, state and local contacts, grant application resources, sample newsletter articles and resources for planning walking and bicycling events. FCPS will also prepare scripts and create videos specifically geared to youth bicycling and safe pedestrian practices for the Fairfax County public access television channels as well as the internal FCPS channels.

An annual survey of schools will be continued (modeled after the first one in May 2011) in order to adequately account for how every student is transported to and from school. Counts will be made of bus riders, walkers, kiss and ride users as well as data collected comparing those numbers to the assigned mode. The survey in May proved invaluable, allowing us to create a list of the top ten schools where with a little encouragement, FCPS could see an increase in the numbers of students walking or bicycling to school, thereby alleviating the extreme traffic jams due to the kiss and ride queues. Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling (FABB) is contemplating creating a “Green Transit” award for the top schools in Fairfax Co who increase their assigned mode numbers, whether it is by bus transportation or walking or bicycling. A survey of the 27 schools who participated in IWTSD will also be completed to determine their strategies, success and participation rate.

FCPS officials also committed to working in tandem with Fairfax County transportation planners to submit an application for a SRTS non-infrastructure grant in the spring and also agreed to begin the process of determining which school locations would most benefit from an infrastructure grant, when the application is revised and those grant opportunities announced.

The FCPS SRTS Working Group will continue to meet quarterly throughout 2012 to update partners on progress, monitor initiatives and strategize for system wide events, including Bike to School Day (in conjunction with Bike to Work Day) in May and International Walk to School Day in October.

Author’s Note:  This article inadvertently left out those on our Fairfax County SRTS Task Force who have worked tremendously hard to achieve this progress in the County.  Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling (FABB), Trails for Youth as well as Wolf Trap Elementary parent, Jeff Anderson and the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ Transportation Advisory Committee member Jenifer Joy Madden were central to this effort.

FABB chairman arrives first in Bike/Car/Bus Challenge in Reston

It turns out that the fastest way to get to the Reston Town Center from the neighborhood near South Lakes Highs School, about 3 miles away, is to ride a bicycle. Bruce Wright of Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling (FABB) made the trip in just over 13 minutes. Another bicyclist who took the same route but rode at an easier pace, Kerie Hitt, also of FABB, arrived next 3 and a half minutes later.

Delegate Ken Plum’s trip in his hybrid car took him 19 minutes.  Taking the long route with a ride through Hunter’s Woods Village Center on her way to the Town Center was Reston Association President and School Board candidate Kathleen Driscoll McKee. She had a leisurely trip of 50 minutes. “This was a good simulation that demonstrates real alternatives to the automobile for short trips in Reston and the rest of our community” noted Delegate Plum. He also said that short car trips are the least efficient, even for his hybrid car, which only averaged 30 mpg on the 3 mile trip.

The group was met at the Pavilion by Supervisor Cathy Hudgins who is a long-time supporter of transportation alternatives for Hunter Mill District residents. She has supported Bike to Work Day in Reston from the beginning in 2002. The last several years she has appeared at the event on her folding bike. Bike to Work Day is Friday, May 20. The Reston event will be held at the Town Center Pavilion. Susan Stillman, who is a member of the Vienna Bicycle Advisory Committee and a FABB member, rode from Vienna to greet the group at the Pavilion and to congratulate Bruce. According to Bruce, “Riding a bike for transportation is a viable option for many people. What we showed today is that bicycling and driving travel times are very comparable for short trips, and bicycling costs much less and is better for the environment. I didn’t use any foreign oil on the trip.”

While RA President Driscoll McKee had the longest trip, she noted that the RIBS 2 bus was nearly full during the trip. The fare was $1.50. As a bus rider she could read, check her email, or otherwise make productive use of her time. To schedule her trip we used WMATA’s Trip Planner, entering an origin, destination, and either arrival or departure time and selecting from the options. When Metrorail arrives in Reston local bus routes will be modified to provide more frequent service for accessing the Wiehle and Reston Parkway stations, making them a much more attractive alternative to driving and paying to park.

See coverage of the event on the Reston Patch, including a video segment.

Bruce Wright is a member of the WABA Board of Directors and Chairman of Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling (FABB), a sponsored project of WABA advocating for improved cycling in Fairfax County, VA.

–This entry cross-posted with the FABB Blog at fabb-bikes.blogspot.com

FABB’s Reston Bike/Car/Bus Challenge

–This entry cross-posted with the FABB Blog at fabb-bikes.blogspot.com–

Most of us who travel by bike know that for short trips riding a bike is often faster than driving, especially when you consider the time it takes to park and walk to your destination. We also know that our travel time is fairly consistent. Motorists usually have to allow extra time to account for possible congestion, wrecks, parking problems, etc.

To prove that bicycling is a good option for short trips we’ve challenged some local officials to compare travel time for bike/car/bus for a 3 mile trip to the Reston Town Center. Starting near South Lakes HS I will be bicycling on roads and trails. Delegate Ken Plum will drive his hybrid car, and Kathleen Driscoll McKee will take the bus. We’ll compare travel times and we’ll compare the cost of the trips, including the direct cost of the trip (breakfast for me, gas for Del. Plum, and bus fare for Ms. McKee), the cost of annual maintenance (bike/car), and other indirect costs such as “free” parking and air pollution. See our news release, below, for more info:

Bike/Car/Bus Challenge to be held on Monday, May 2, 2011

Reston, VA, April 26, 2011Bike to Work Day is Friday, May 20 at the Reston Town Center Pavilion. To promote traveling by bicycle, on Monday, May 2, several residents of Reston are holding a bike/car/bus commute challenge. The purpose of the challenge is to compare the cost and travel time of the three modes during a typical short commute within Reston. For short trips, bicycle travel time compares favorably to car and bus travel times, and the cost of the trip is much less. National surveys indicate that nearly 50 percent of all trips are 3 miles or less.

The event will begin at 8:15 a.m. on May 2 and will last approximately an hour. The participants will leave from Cobblestone Lane in south Reston and travel to the Reston Town Center Pavilion, slightly more than 3 miles away. Each participant will be timed. The motorist must park in long term parking, as if he is going to be working at the Town Center for the day, and walk to the Pavilion. The bicyclist must also park and lock his bike and walk to the Pavilion. The bus rider’s time includes walking to and from the bus stop. People can choose their own route and must obey traffic rules.

Bruce Wright, Chairman of Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling, will ride his bicycle, Del. Ken Plum will drive his hybrid car, and Reston Association President Kathleen Driscoll McKee will ride the bus. “I’m confident I can get to the Town Center before Ken and Kathleen. On a bicycle I’m not affected as much by congestion on the road,” said Bruce. “Plus, I’ll have fun, save money, and get a workout at the same time.” Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins has been invited to meet everyone at the Town Center.

The cost of maintaining a bike is around $200/year. By comparison AAA estimates that the cost of maintaining a car is about $8,000/year, more than most people spend on clothing, health care and entertainment combined. Driving also has many indirect costs as well. Nationwide, motorist user fees pay for about half the cost of building and maintaining roads. All of us pay for the rest of the cost. Most of us also pay for “free” parking by paying higher prices for goods and services. The cost of one structured car parking space is around $15,000. The cost of a bicycle rack is approximately $300 installed. Transit costs are more difficult to quantify, varying by type and usage.

Bruce Wright is a member of the WABA Board of Directors and Chairman of Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling (FABB), a sponsored project of WABA advocating for improved cycling in Fairfax County, VA.

Got Lights? – ¿Tienen Luces?

When you bike at night /Cuando andas en bicicleta en la oscuridad…

Got Lights?/¿Tienen Luces?
FREE Lights for cyclists/Luces para bicicleta GRATIS

You must bring a bicycle to get a free set of lights./Tiene que traer bicicleta para obtener un par de luces gratis.

Mon/Lunes – November 22
5:00 pm – 7:00 pm
St. Anthony’s
Catholic Church
3305 Glen Carlyn Road
Falls Church, VA 22041
View Larger Map

Sponsored by/patrocinado por: Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling (FABB), Transurban, and Fluor.

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