Friday, April 9, 2010

Another improperly installed bike rack

I needed to ride to the county courthouse yesterday. It was a beautiful day and a nice ride from Reston to Fairfax City. When I arrived I didn't notice the rack in front of the main entrance, so I parked near the front door. As I was leaving I noticed the rack on the right.

I'm not fond of the wave rack since there's only one contact point with the bike compared to the U rack, which is the standard in most places. Bikes are supposed to be parked perpendicular to the rack. As you can see, when used properly bikes end up in the flower bed. What many people do is park parallel to the rack, which turns a 5-bike rack into a 1- or 2-bike rack. In this case, the 10-bike rack becomes a 2-bike rack.

Why is it so common to see improperly installed bike racks? One reason is that Fairfax County has no bike parking guidelines. In November of 2007, nearly two and a half years ago, Supervisor Smyth
moved that the Board direct staff to investigate and report within three months how other jurisdictions are addressing these issues and develop specific standards for the County to use as part of the land development process, and to further examine how these standards could best be introduced whether through adoption of a Board Policy, an amendment to the Zoning Ordinance, or incorporation into the Public Facilities Manual.
The guidelines are still under development. We continue to ask about the status but have never seen draft guidelines although we've been assured they are due any day now.

Staff do work with new developments to request racks and provide guidance regarding placement, but almost every new rack that I've seen in the past couple of years is incorrectly placed and of the wrong type. The county bike program needs more resources for this type of work, and yet the county executive has proposed cutting all operating funds from the program.

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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Green inverted-U racks in Vienna

The Town of Vienna recently received a number of green inverted U racks that were provided by the Fairfax County bike program. The racks were purchased with CMAQ (Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality) funds and there are several other locations around the county where they will be installed.

There is a critical need for more and better bike parking in the county. Lack of bike parking is a major factor in preventing people from biking. During the past year I've had meetings at several county offices, and most don't have visitor bike parking. The locations include the county Health Department headquarters at 10777 Main Street, Fairfax, the Department of Transportation headquarters offices at 4050 Legato Road, and Fairfax County Public School headquarters offices at 8115 Gatehouse Road.

At places where there is bike parking, racks are often incorrectly installed, like those at the City of Fairfax library and Vienna Community Center. While we're thrilled to see new racks in Vienna, from looking at the photo it appears the rack was installed incorrectly [see Update below]. There should be 36" on the curb side to allow a second bike to be parked (according to Arlington Co specs).

The sooner Fairfax has bike parking guidelines, the better off we will all be.

Thanks to John Brunow of bikes@vienna for the photo and for working with Charlie Strunk, the county bike coordinator, to help get the racks for the Town.

[Update Jan 1, 2010] We had a chance today to see the new green racks in Vienna, and from this photo, you can see that the rack is installed correctly. The concrete to the left of the rack in this picture is not the curb but part of the sidewalk, which extends to the edge of the snow. Other new racks along Maple Ave were also installed correctly. We should have verified our earlier assumption by checking out the rack ourselves. Our apologies to the Town.]

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Monday, November 9, 2009

More bike racks in Vienna

The Town of Vienna will be installing a new batch of bike racks throughout the town. Earlier we mentioned the new racks at the Vienna Community Center that were dedicated to Richard Black, the former head of Vienna Parks and Recreation Department. Those racks were appropriately painted black. The next set of racks are inverted U racks painted "Charlottesville Green." These will be placed in the public right of way at 21 locations around town. See the full list of possible rack locations.

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Friday, November 6, 2009

New bike racks at Vienna Community Center

We were pleased to see 5 new inverted-U bike racks in front of the Vienna Community Center. We use that location for FABB meetings and the old grill rack there is not very good. Most people use the grill rack like a big U-rack, locking bikes on each end, which is about the only place for using a U-lock.

That's the good news. That bad news is that the racks were installed incorrectly. You can see from the photo above that the rack is placed too close to the wooden edging board. A properly parked bike will spill over into the landscaping bed. Why is it so difficult to install a bike rack? According to the Arlington County bike parking standards, there should be at least 24 inches of clearance.An earlier post includes photos of racks incorrectly installed at the City of Fairfax library and Southgate Community Center. The photo on the left shows the bike parking at the former office of the county bike coordinator. The new office has no visitor bike parking, although there is a new bike room for use by tenants.

One reason bike racks are installed incorrectly could be because the county has not implemented bicycle parking guidelines. The guidelines have been under development for two years; we expect to see the first draft any day now...

We're told that the Vienna Community Center racks can be moved without too much trouble. We hope so.

[Update Nov. 7, 12:50 p.m.] After speaking to Cathy Salgado, Vienna Parks Director, we've learned that the racks can easily be moved after a rack dedication ceremony later today. From the Town of Vienna News:
Memorial Will Honor Richard Black: The Town of Vienna will dedicate a bike rack and tree at the Vienna Community Center in honor of Richard Black, former Director of Parks and Recreation, at 2 p.m. Saturday, November 7. The public is invited to attend the ceremony.

In addition, contributions are being accepted to help pay for the bike rack, which will have five loops with the custom Town of Vienna design on each end. It will be freestanding so it can be moved around as needed, much like the current rack on site. If you would like to donate, please make your check payable to the Town of Vienna and send to Cathy Salgado, c/o Town Hall, 127 Center St., S., Vienna, VA 22180.

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

City of Fairfax Regional Library bike racks

We finally had a chance yesterday to visit the City of Fairfax Regional Library that opened in 2008. It's one of the best libraries in the county, with an open feel, lots of internet workstations, and plenty of places to just hang out. It's located in the center of the City of Fairfax and many people access it by bike.

We were pleased to see several bike racks very conveniently located near the entrance to the building. Unfortunately they were installed incorrectly. The racks are known as hitch, hoop, or post racks. Bikes should be parked parallel to the hoop so that there are two contact points and a U lock can be used. As you can see from the photo on the right (black racks), if parked correctly, the three racks shown could hold perhaps 2 bikes. They are oriented the wrong way and were installed too close to the wall.

It's not the first time bike racks have been installed incorrectly; in fact it happens often. A very similar example is located at the Southgate Community Center in Reston (left photo, red racks). These two situations are one result of not having county bicycle parking standards.

Most local jurisdictions do have standards and have information on their websites regarding recommended rack types and installation information. Arlington County also has some bad examples of bike parking, and the first photo shows a hoop rack improperly installed. See the FABB Cyclist Resources page for more bike parking links. We want more bike parking, but it needs to be the right type and it should be installed correctly.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The importance of bike parking for commuters

Tom Vanderbilt, author of the excellent book Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do, has written a very good article at about the importance of providing safe, secure, covered bicycle parking: What Would Get Americans Biking to Work? Decent parking:
Surveys have shown that the leading deterrent to potential bicycle commuters is lack of a safe, secure parking spot on the other end.

Donald Shoup, author of The High Cost of Free Parking, has estimated that 99 percent of car trips in the United States terminate in a free parking space, which means the nation's drivers don't have much incentive to think about parking—or not driving. In many American places, there are more parking spaces than people.
He mentions the recently passed law in New York that allows cyclists to bring their bikes into the building, which could greatly increase the options for indoor bike parking. Several cities are now requiring minimum bike parking with new developments.

Unfortunately, no such regulations exist in Fairfax. After a meeting with FABB to discuss this issue, Supervisor Smyth offered a motion to implement bike parking standards for the county at the November 19, 2007 Board of Supervisors meeting:
Supervisor Smyth moved that the Board direct staff to investigate and report within three months how other jurisdictions are addressing these issues and develop specific standards for the County to use as part of the land development process, and to further examine how these standards could best be introduced whether through adoption of a Board Policy, an amendment to the Zoning Ordinance, or incorporation into the Public Facilities Manual.
While the motion passed unanimously, almost two years later we still do not have a policy in place. Given the size and geographic diversity of Fairfax County, it is difficult to develop a policy that fits all situations, but we do need a policy. While the bike coordinator has done a good job of ensuring that the topic is addressed in most rezoning applications, having a policy in place would save the county time and money by reducing the need to ask for parking in each specific instance. We'll continue to push for development of a policy in Fairfax.


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