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

Your Comments Are Needed to Help Make Route 1 Through Fort Belvoir Safer for Bikes

CLICK HERE to state your support for biking accommodations on the widened Route 1 through Fort Belvoir

Earlier this week, Allen Muchnick—a longtime bicycling advocate, WABA member, former WABA board member, and current VBF board member—gave us an update on his ongoing efforts to ensure that safe bicycling accommodations are included in the widening of Route 1 through Fort Belvoir.

Fort Belvoir is just south of Mount Vernon on Route 1. That portion of Route 1 is designated as U.S. Bicycle Route 1, a Florida-to-Maine bicycle route used by long-distance riders. Given Fort Belvoir’s proximity to the Mount Vernon Trail and Route 1’s importance as a connector for northern Virginia cyclists, including accommodations for bikes on the widened road is a critical matter for regional bicyclists.

Local cyclists must speak up: Under current plans, VDOT will not create sufficient safe space for bicyclists in a project that improves a portion of roadway that their own mapping recognizes as part of one of the nation’s most important biking routes.

Please take a moment to send a comment to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments Transportation Planning Board and the head of VDOT stating that Route 1 must be designed to allow for bicyclists to travel safely.

A more extensive explanation from Allen is below:

During the past two years, the Federal Highway Administration, Eastern Federal Lands Highway Division (EFLHD), has conducted environmental planning studies for widening 3.4 miles of U.S. Route 1 through Fort Belvoir in southern Fairfax County, under a $180 million federal allocation from the Defense Access Roads program of the US DoD. Recently, EFLHD has issued a Finding of No Significant Impacts (FONSI) for its Environmental Assessment and Section 4(F) Evaluation on November 20, 2012, and on December 11 asked the Washington area MPO, the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB), to amend its Transportation Improvement Program at its January 23, 2013 meeting to include this project for construction.

I’ve been monitoring the phased widening of US-1 segments in Fairfax and Prince William Counties ever since a VDOT Route 1 Corridor Widening Study concluded in 1997 with a recommendation (in response to comments from cyclists) to accommodate bicycling on the roadway of this “urban boulevard” with 15-foot wide curb lanes for all 27 miles between the Capital Beltway/City of Alexandria and the Stafford County line, as well as provide a 10-wide shared foot path and a 5-foot wide sidewalk on opposite sides of the roadway.

While I’d have preferred a recommendation for on-road bike lanes, VDOT was evidently reluctant to designate bike lanes on relatively high-speed roadways, and a 15-foot wide curb lane provides enough space to be eventually striped as an 11-foot travel lane beside a 4-foot bike lane. Moreover, at the time, VDOT had no plans to re-align US Bike Route 1 with US-1 anywhere along this 27-mile corridor.

Since then, US Bike Route 1 has been blockaded through Fort Belvoir since the base was closed to the public in September 2001, while VDOT has provided no alternative routing pending EFLHD’s construction of a new parallel connecting road (Mulligan Rd) between US-1 and Telegraph Rd (Rte 611) which is scheduled to open in late 2013. Meanwhile, VDOT’s website now depicts US-1 through Fort Belvoir as the alignment of US Bike Route 1 and that alignment would considerably shorten USBR 1 in this area compared to following Old Mill Rd/Mulligan Rd to Telegraph Rd and then following Telegraph Rd to its southern terminus at US-1 in Lorton. (Despite being intended as a segment of USBR 1, Mulligan Rd is currently being built by EFLHD with 14-foot curb lanes rather than with 15-foot curb lanes or bike lanes.)

As late as 2003, VDOT’s recommendation for 15-foot wide outside lanes to accommodate bicycling on US-1 was retained in VDOT’s Route 1 Location Study and in the three draft Environmental Assessments which the FHWA endorsed in 2003. However, in October 2011, when EFLHD held its first public information meeting for the Fort Belvoir segment of Rte 1, I learned that EFLHD had reduced the width of the curb lanes from 15-feet to 14-feet. I immediately wrote to the EFLHD project manager as well as to VDOT bicycle program staff in NoVA and Richmond, the Fairfax County bicycle coordinator, and others. I also attended EFLHD’s second public information meeting on June 5, 2012 where I submitted both written comments and oral comments with the court reporter, and I again asked VDOT and Fairfax County staff to intervene and support the retention of 15-foot wide curb lanes in this project.

The comment summaries for both EFLHD public meetings include my requests to retain 15-foot curb lanes for bicycling (and to stripe them as 4-foot bike lanes plus 11-foot travel lane), but the approved Environmental Assessment still specifies 14-foot curb lanes. The roadway design specifies a 148-foot wide right of way with three travel lanes in each direction and a 32-wide landscaped median which is reserved as a potential dedicated future transitway. Furthermore, at least two intersections will be designed with triple left-turn-only lanes, and other intersections will have double right-turn-only lanes and/or double left-turn-only lanes. In view of the desirability and the outside pressures to not further widen the roadway, I have recommended that the proposed 39-foot width of mainline roadway (excluding concrete gutters) in each direction simply be reconfigured as a 12.5-foot inside lane, an 11.5-foot middle lane, an 11-foot outside lane, and a 4-foot bike lane. With dedicated right-turn lanes at each intersection, I believe that roadway bicyclists would be far better accommodated, especially at intersection approaches, by a roadway designed with designated bike lanes than by a roadway with wide curb lanes. Regardless, a 14-foot lane is too narrow for a bicyclist to safely share laterally with 50-MPH traffic.

To initiate a final push for bike lanes or at least 15-foot curb lanes in this project, I made the attached public comment at the Dec. 19 TPB meeting. Several TPB members were supportive of my comments [but no changes have yet been made].

Please click here to send your comments in support of better bicycling accommodations to VDOT and the TPB.