Friday, March 12, 2010

Snow summit

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will hold a Snow Summit to "focus on this winter's snow and assess both what worked well and what did not at the state - Virginia Department of Transportation - and county levels. The lessons learned from this summit will be invaluable not only for the next snow storm, but for any emergency."

If you have ideas about what local government can do to help bicyclists after the next big snowstorm, now is the time to send them to the Board. On the Snow Summit webpage you can "Write about your experiences with the storms and how they impacted your family, neighborhood and/or business." (tell us) or provide a "new idea." The top list of new ideas is:
  • 48 (number of responses) - Require Sidewalk Shoveling
  • 44 - Map with location of fire hydrants
  • 37 - Better Web Information Services
  • 34 - Come up with "snow emergency" parking and ticketing rules
  • 30 - Clearing streets vs. clearing sidewalks
The county has done a good job of using crowdsourcing tools to gather this info.

Update: Details about the Snow Summit:
  • Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 3:30 p.m.
  • Fairfax County Government Center
  • Board Auditorium
  • 12000 Government Center Parkway
  • Fairfax, VA

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Monday, March 8, 2010

Who needs snow tires?

When you have rims like these, you don't need snow tires. We could have used this bike a few weeks ago. This photo was sent by a friend who said he took it at a bicycle museum. We can just make out what's in the frame in front of the bike. It's from an entry from Ripley's Believe it or Not that mentions the Oldest Farm in the U.S.A. with a drawing of someone riding the bike.

After a little googling, the only reference I could find is to a history article about the Little family, but there's not mention of the bike or how it was used: "In 1940, 'Ripley's Believe It or Not' printed a drawing of the farm and a story telling that it is the oldest farm in the USA continually cultivated for 300 years by the same family—the Littles. At that time [1940], it was owned by Seth Little, who was a member of the 10th generation of Littles to live there."

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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Action plan for dealing with snow

TheWashCycle Snowmaggedon After-Action Report outlines what can be done in the future to recover from a major snowfall. TheWashCycle thinks we should 1) have a plan, that includes having a prioritized list of bike facilities to be cleared, 2) communicate with users about the plan and provide them status of conditions on trails and bike lanes, and 3) ask for help. If a reason for not clearing a trail is lack of resources, ask cyclists and others to help.

Even though roads have been cleared for a while, in Fairfax, some major trails are still blocked, mostly by snow dumped at intersections by VDOT. We just sent this message to VDOT using their Report a Road Problem page about the Fairfax County Parkway Trail:
VDOT has cleared passage for one mode of "transportation" (cars) while blocking a couple of other modes (biking and walking) along the Fairfax County Parkway trail at the Dulles Toll Rd. The trail is blocked by snow piled at the trail entrance to the bridge over the Toll Rd and along the trail between the Toll Rd and the W&OD Trail. It's one thing not to clear snow for bicyclists and pedestrians, it's another when a trail is actively blocked by plows to make way for cars. The snow is hard and will be blocking the trail for many more days. Please clear these areas.
The good news is that it was a beautiful day to be out on the bike and we're looking forward to warmer weather this weekend. FABB plans to meet with fellow advocates from Loudoun and Frederik County at the Village Winery in Waterford on Saturday and it looks like it will be a good day to ride.

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Impact of uncleared sidewalks and trails on pedestrians

Many people, including the kids walking to school in the street pictured here, walk and bike to get where they need to go. About 1/3 of everyone in Fairfax doesn't drive; they are driven, they walk, bike, take the bus, etc. Our current transportation policy regarding snow clearance largely ignores these people.

Here is one of many, many stories about what pedestrians and bicyclists have to deal with when we don't treat walking and biking as legitimate forms of transportation:
I am a resident of Fairfax; on Nutley near the cross street of Kingsley Rd I was walking on the road as the sidewalk was covered beneath the snow from the plowed road. As I was walking on the edge of the road a truck came honking behind me. To get out of its way I tried to jump up the snow pile on the roadside but slide back enough that the passing truck hit my foot.

Although I was not injured I still find the incident disturbing, even more so because the truck did not stop. The only comment I would have is that we all need to remember to move with caution and act (drive/bike/walk) defensively. We have to share the road and since we can't control the actions of others we need to anticipate and pre-emptively act to prevent accidents.
This pedestrian lived to tell his tale. The pedestrian mentioned in the recent Post article Pedestrian killed on Branch Avenue while avoiding snowy sidewalks didn't.

Shouldn't some of our sidewalks and trails be cleared of snow? It may be unrealistic to clear all trails and sidewalks, but why don't we have snow priority routes for walkers and bikers? We could start by clearing sidewalks within a mile of schools, and along heavily-used sections of major bike commuter routes.


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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Snow plowing the W&OD Trail

The W&OD Trail is now somewhat clear between Church Street and Maple Ave. (Rt 123) in Vienna, thanks to the mystery snow plow man and his merry band of helpers. He just happened to have access to a Bobcat track loader and managed to clear about a 4 foot path along the trail.

This shouldn't be necessary; other communities (such as Reston) have figured out how to keep their trails, bike lanes, and wide curb lanes cleared of snow. Even with light snow, the W&OD Trail is sometimes not usable by most cyclists for several days, cyclists who depend on bicycles for getting to work and elsewhere. With a narrow, 4-foot cleared space for bicyclists and pedestrians, other winter users could use the other 8 feet of trail, or they could use the parallel gravel side path. There's plenty of trail to go around, if only it were cleared. (See Update below)

Thanks to the mystery snow man. We think his experiment was a success and we look forward to the day when local governments will give the same respect to other modes of transportation as they do cars and buses. See The Wash Cycle's recent informative post on this topic.

Update 2/22/2010: According to a comment on WashCycle by Paul McCray, Operations Manager for NVRPA, "The W&OD Trail staff will begin clearing snow during the week of February 22 to speed up the melting process. This is in line with our policies of the past which included leaving snow for cross country skiers and then clearing intersections and plowing deeper accumulations.

When we plow, we won't put the blades right on the pavement but will leave an inch or so which will melt off fairly quickly. If we were to scrape right down to the asphalt, we'd do just as much damage as road plows do on the streets and then the W&OD would have rough, patched sections throughout the year. We don't have the funds to pave the trail more often than every 15 years so it's important to preserve the surface any way we can." Thanks to the BikeArlington Twitter feed for pointing to that info.

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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Portland cyclists ride through the snow

A little snow didn't seem to deter some cyclists in Portland. In fact, according to Bike Portland, cycling was faster than most ways of getting around during what was called the worst commute in 20 years. "But, through it all, people on bikes seemed to be not just moving along just fine, they actually seemed to be enjoying themselves. Imagine that!" Photo © J. Maus, Bike Portland.

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Monday, December 28, 2009

W&OD Trail still not clear

We've posted some photos on the W&OD Trail Report showing icy conditions in the Reston area. While much of the trail is clear, there are several long, icy sections in the Reston area. One day the trail will be plowed in winter, but it doesn't look like it's going to happen this year.

The Reston Association plows their trails whenever there's a snow storm. In fact, at the bottom of this photo is a plowed Reston trail to the left. During the most recent storm they plowed a couple of times. Today I saw an RA crew clearing snow dumped by VDOT on one of the previously plowed trails. According to folks at RA, there is no damage caused to their trails by their small snow plows. Their trail plow was bought used from a Canadian company. Lot's of people walk and bike the trails in Reston, and the Association respects those modes by treating them like VDOT treats the roads.

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