Fairfax County Bike Master Plan Passes Unanimously!

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Last night, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously in support of the Fairfax Bike Master Plan (read the official county press release). The plan recommends 1,130 miles in new on-street and off-road trails to create a connected network across the county. This is first bike master plan for the County.

17 speakers testified at the public hearing in support of the proposed plan. Only one person spoke in opposition. “By giving me [transportation] choices, you literally have changed my life” said Jenifer Joy Madden, a County resident speaking about connecting to new bus and Metro service in Tysons on bicycle.

Building a bike-friendly community starts with a plan and strong commitment from elected officials. Fairfax County Board of Supervisors made a important endorsement of bicycling for recreation and transportation. Chairman Sharon Bulova said, “bicycling is not only for recreation, but for transportation” citing the full bike racks at the new County bike parking facility at the Wiehle Ave Metro Station.

Thank you to all 700 local residents who signed our petition in support of the Bike Master Plan. Congratulations to the Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling (FABB), including a special shout-out to Bruce Wright, for tireless efforts on this campaign. FABB is a sponsored project of WABA. We worked together on this advocacy effort.

WABA’s advocacy is supported by your membership dollars. Join or donate to WABA today.

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

VDOT Installs Bike Lanes on Sherwood Hall Lane

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is almost finished installing the bike lanes on on Sherwood Hall Lane. We asked our WABA members and supporters in southern Fairfax County to speak up in support of the project during the public process back in March. With overwhelming support for the bike lanes, VDOT moved this project forward.

VDOT proposed traffic calming improvements and bike lanes on Sherwood Hall Lane in southern Fairfax County. This road is an important bicycle connection between Mount Vernon Parkway/Fort Hunt Road and the Route 1 corridor. Bike lanes now extend about 1.75 miles. Del. Scott Survell (VA-44th) has recorded a video tour of the new bike lanes with his helmet camera, you can watch them on his blog.

There has been little push back to the new bike lanes. There was however a negative Letter to the Editor about the Sherwood Hall Lane bike lanes in the Mount Vernon Voice on August 20th. Read it online here. Letter to the Editor in support of the bike lanes can be sent to their editors through their website.

Thank you to Fairfax County Supervisor Gerald Hyland, Virginia Senator Toddy Puller, and Virginia Delegate Scott Surovell for their support of this project.

WABA’s advocacy is supported by your membership dollars. Join or donate to WABA today to enable us to continue to achieve success in our advocacy work.

A First Step Toward Better Bike Lanes in MD and VA

Two way protected bike lane illustration from the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide.

This week, WABA sent letters to local departments of transportation requesting consideration and adoption of the National Association of City Transportation Officials’ (NACTO) Urban Bikeway Design Guide. The NACTO guide presents state-of-the-practice solutions that create safe, enjoyable complete streets for current and new bicyclists.

The NACTO guide provides county traffic engineers with additional designs for innovative bicycling facilities that use several techniques to encourage new bicyclists, primarily by separating bike lanes from car traffic. The guide also has recommendations for designing on-road facilities such as buffered bike lanes, protected bike lanes (cycle tracks), bike boxes, contraflow bike lane and other facilities.  Adoption of the NACTO guide by local DOTs clears one of the many obstacles to building protected bike lanes.

Why protected bike lanes?

Protected bike lanes keep current bicyclists safer while encouraging new people to use bicycles for transportation. WABA is working to increase the miles of protected bike lanes throughout the region. Learn about our advocacy priority and our local campaign to build a protected bike lanes in Bethesda. More local campaigns are coming soon.

We sent letters to the Directors of Transportation for Fairfax County, Prince Georges’ County, Montgomery County and the City of Alexandria*.

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) and Arlington County have already endorsed the guide and are currently implementing protected bike lanes. We will publish the written responses we receive from the departments to the blog.

Read the full letter requesting adoption of NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide.

* Update: The City of Alexandria has also endorsed the NACTO guide. 

November: Hot for Bike Advocacy

Green Lanes Planner/Engineer Tour

Behold, the many opportunities to speak up for better bicycling this month!

Winter is coming, but regional bike advocacy opportunities are heating up!

November is packed with public meetings across the D.C. area that will impact bicycling. We’ve listed as many as we know about below. If you can attend, speak up for bicycling. Planners need to hear from you about the impact proposed projects could have on the bicycling community.

You can also bookmark our public Google advocacy calendar, which is full of public meetings, WABA advocacy trainings and other upcoming events. If you have items for the calendar, email them to us at advocacy@waba.org

Rehabilitation of Broad Branch Road NW
Tues., Nov. 5 , 6:30 p.m.
Methodist Home of D.C., 4901 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, D.C.
DDOT is studying four alternatives for the rehabilitation of Broad Branch Road NW as part of an Environmental Assessment. The section of Broad Branch slated for rehabilitation is 1.5-mile length of roadway between Linnean Avenue and Beach Drive. Only one alternative would include any bicycle facility: Alternative 4 purposes a climbing bike lane on the uphill side and a shared-laned on the downhill side. The EA is being released for 30 days for public comments; please submit your comments to DDOT by Nov. 22, 2013. The complete EA is available for public review on the project website at broadbranchrdea.com.

Proposed Rehabilitation of the Arlington Memorial Bridge Alternatives Meeting
Wed., Nov. 13, 6 p.m.-9 p.m.
The Little Theater, Washington Lee High School, 1301 North Stafford St., Arlington, Va.
The George Washington Memorial Parkway is holding a public meeting to present alternatives for the proposed rehabilitation of the Arlington Memorial Bridge. All alternatives would resurface the road and repair the sidepath surface, which would be great improvement for commuters. However, no presented alternative improves the bridge’s greatest deficiency: access from the trails on both sides of the river. Any improvement of the bridge should address this major safety issue. There should be direct access to the bridge from the Mount Vernon Trail and trails on the National Mall. Comments may be submitted electronically on the project website at parkplanning.nps.gov/memorialbridgeea.

Community Meeting on the Rock Creek Trail Facility Plan
Wed., Nov. 13, 7 p.m.
Meadowbrook Park Activity Building, 7901 Meadowbrook Lane, Chevy Chase, Md.
Montgomery Parks invites the community to review renovation plans for the Rock Creek Trail, including proposed renovations to the Rock Creek Hiker-Biker Trail, opportunities to enhance the natural environment along the trail, ways to reduce the frequency of trail maintenance, and ideas to improve safety, pavement conditions, drainage, and accessibility. For more information visit parkprojects.org.

Fairfax Countywide Dialogue on Transportation
Tues., Nov. 12, 7 p.m., Fairfax County Government Center
Wed., Nov. 13, 7 p.m., Forest Edge Elementary School
Fairfax County is seeking input on how to spend its new transportation funding from Virginia’s recently passed funding bill. How should $1.2 billion be spent over the next 6 years? And how much should be spent on bicycling? Show up to these two public meetings—the last regarding this transportation funding—and demand funding for bicycling be increased. Information about the meeting locations and time, and the entire planning process is online at fairfaxcounty.gov/fcdot/cdot/engage/meetings.htm

Get Ready for the Second Annual Fairfax Bike Summit on Sat., Nov. 2

Register now for the second annual Fairfax Bike Summit, at George Mason University from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Sat., Nov. 2.

The theme is making mixed-use, transit-oriented developments bike friendly. Can Tysons become a bicycle-friendly community? We think it can, and we’ll explore the many challenges and opportunities for making Tysons and similar communities in Fairfax more bikeable. Additionally, vendors will have lots of interesting bikes and gear on display. Bike advocates and community leaders will have an opportunity to network and learn how to make Fairfax a better place.

The registration fee is $25 and includes lunch and other refreshments. Register online. A limited number of slots are available for the pre-summit workshop, Infrastructure Advocacy 101, that will be held from 9-9:45 a.m.

Jeff Olson of Alta Planning + Design, author of The Third Mode: Towards a Green Society, will be the keynote speaker. Other speakers include Andy Clarke, President of the League of American Bicyclists and author of Smart Cycling: Promoting Safety, Fun, Fitness, and the Environment, Bill Nesper who directs the Bicycle Friendly America program at the League of American Bicyclists, Robert Thomson (Dr. Gridlock), and representatives from WABA, WMATA, Fairfax County DOT, VDOT, and several other organizations/companies.

Fairfax County is undertaking a major transformation of Tysons in an effort to create a livable, walkable, automobile-independent community. Four new Silver Line Metro stations due to open in Tysons in 2014 are part of the foundation of that transformation.

The Summit conversation:

  • Importance of bicycling to the future of Tysons
  • Bicycle and transit integration
  • Access and encouragement for all
  • Bikes and business
  • Safety, law enforcement, and evaluation
  • Where to next for Fairfax biking?

The success of the Tysons transformation could influence transit-oriented developments across Fairfax County for the next 40 years. From Merrifield to Springfield, Huntington to Reston, bicycle-oriented transportation options must be integral parts of future developments.

The summit is staged by Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling, in partnership with George Mason University, Fairfax County, and the city of Fairfax. If you are interested in volunteering or exhibiting at the summit, contact us at bikesummit@fabb-bikes.org. Hope to see you there!

 

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