I-66 Trail Could Be a Reality But Your Help is Needed 

Written by Sonya Breehey. Sonya is an active member of Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling.

custis trail

The Custis Trail is one of Northern Virginia’s most popular trails. Let’s extend it to past the Beltway and beyond. Photo Credit: MV Jantzen

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) recently unveiled concept plans for an extension of the Custis Trail along I-66 outside the Beltway in Fairfax and Prince William Counties. Hundreds of Fairfax County trail users contacted VDOT asking for the trail extension as part of the I-66 project. While it is exciting to see the trail one step closer to reality, VDOT still has not included the trail as part of the I-66 project.  VDOT is asking for additional feedback on how the parallel trail will benefit you, your commute, and your neighborhood.

i66 trail at dunn loring

Proposed Custis Trail extension along I-66 in Dunn Loring. Source: VDOT (PDF)

The Custis Trail is one of the most successful bike trails in Northern Virginia, providing a popular recreation destination and critical bike-commuting route for thousands of commuters each year. In 2014, over 500,000 people rode a bike or walked along the Custis Trail. A similar trail outside the Beltway would be a major benefit to bicyclists in Northern Virginia.

A recent study showed that 25% of Fairfax County residents live within a mile of the proposed I-66 trail or within 1/2 mile of either the Fairfax Co Parkway or W&OD Trails, both of which would be connected by an extended Custis Trail.

I66 Trail Benefit Area

25% of Fairfax County residents would live within a mile of the proposed I-66 Trail or within 1/2 mile of the Fairfax Co. Parkway or W&OD Trails.

While there are right-of-way concerns and some backyards may be impacted, similar challenges were faced when building the Custis Trail. VDOT should seek to reduce the impacts by fitting as much of the trail within the existing project right-of-way and minimize impacts to neighbors.

Now is the time to take the long view.  Providing safe accessible connections for people to bike and walk to transit, and along and across I-66, will offer residents and commuters transportation options that enable us to shift more trips to biking and walking.

If you want the I-66 trail to be a reality, here is how you can help.

Speak Up at an Upcoming I-66 Public Hearings

Attend one of the I-66 Public Hearings and tell VDOT you support bicycle improvements, especially extending the Custis Trail, as part of the I-66 improvement project. Hearings are scheduled from 5:30 to 9:00 pm.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015
VDOT Northern Virginia District Office
4975 Alliance Drive, Fairfax, VA 22030

Thursday, May 28, 2015
Oakton High School – Cafeteria
2900 Sutton Road, Vienna, VA 22181

Tuesday, June 2, 2015
Battlefield High School – Cafeteria
15000 Graduation Drive, Haymarket, VA 20169

Wednesday, June 3, 2015
Bull Run Elementary School – Cafeteria
15301 Lee Highway, Centreville, VA 20121

Send a Message to VDOT

Written comments may be submitted through June 18th by mail to Ms. Susan Shaw, Megaprojects Director, at the VDOT District Office address above, or by email to Transform66@VDOT.Virginia.gov.  Reference “Transform 66 Outside the Beltway” in the subject line.  Copy your public representatives on your email to make sure everyone gets your message for better bicycling! Don’t wait until June 18th, send your comments now.

Involve Your Neighborhood Association

Contact your neighborhood association to let them know how improving bicycling as part of the I-66 project will help your neighborhood, and urge them to get involved.

Visit FABB’s I-66 page for more information about efforts to include bicycling in the I-66 project.

Support Biking in Tysons on Monday

support-tysons-2015-bike-lanesFairfax County recently announced that several major roads in Tysons could soon have bike infrastructure as part of the county’s summer repaving schedule. We need you to speak up for biking at a public meeting on Monday, March 16 at Westbriar Elementary School from 7-9 p.m. Here is the proposed new bike infrastructure:

  • Greensboro Dr. – Road diet from Spring Hill Rd. to Solutions Dr.
  • Tyco Rd. – Road diet from Route 7 to Spring Hill Rd.
  • Westbranch Dr, – Road diet from Westpark Dr. to Jones Branch Dr.
  • Jones Branch Dr. – Climbing lane from International Dr. to Westpark Dr.
  • Spring Hill Rd. – Combination of bike lanes/sharrows from Route 7 to International Dr.
  • Westwood Center Dr. – Sharrows from Route 7 to the end of the road

A full map of proposed bike projects is online here.

Meeting Details
Monday, March 16 at 7-9 p.m.
Westbriar Elementary School
1741 Pine Valley Dr., Vienna, VA 22182
Google Map directions

Since these projects are part of the repaving schedule, no additional funds are available to supplement the projects. They may not be perfect, but it’s important that we support this effort by the county. If you work or bike in Tysons, please consider attending this meeting to support these important projects. Check the Fairfax Bike Pages or the FABB blog for more info.

Tell Fairfax County to Adopt the Bike Master Plan

Fairfax County currently does not have a bike master plan. And that’s not good.

The proposed Bike Master Plan contains recommendations for developing a comprehensive bicycle network. It also includes guidelines for bike-friendly programs and policies. The plan vision is “Meeting the safety, access, and mobility needs of bicyclists today, while encouraging more people to bicycle in the future…making Fairfax County bicycle friendly and bicycle safe.” Without a master plan, Fairfax County Department of Transportation has fallen behind in implementing bicycling improvements.

The Fairfax County Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the county’s Bicycle Master Plan (Phase II) on Wednesday, October 1 at 8:15 p.m. There needs to be a strong showing by residents who support the plan. Please consider attending the public hearing to show your support for the plan.

Details about the October 1st hearing can be found online here. You can sign up to testify at the Planning Commission using this form. The Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing on October 28. Look for another WABA email alert prior to that hearing.

We are also asking cyclists to sign the FABB Bicycle Master Plan petition urging the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors to approve the plan.

This petition is from the Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling, a sponsored project of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association

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

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.