Thursday, March 18, 2010

FABB meets with Supervisor Cook

Is a bicycle a transportation device? At today's meeting with Supervisor Cook, he indicated that many, many cyclists had given him answers that question, in response to his statement that a bicycle is not a transportation device.

FABB wanted to meet with the Supervisor to discuss his views on bicycling, which he expressed in his letter of response to those who wrote to him. We were encouraged when he wrote: "I want to assure you that I am not opposed to cycling or to using bicycles as a mode of transportation for either recreation or commuting. To be clear, I support bicycling for both of these uses. In fact, my family owns several bicycles."

We agreed that not many people currently bicycle for transportation, in part because we have so few facilities for these cyclists. While we realize there are limited funds for transportation, many bike projects can be built with little to no extra cost when wide outside lanes or bike lanes are added during repaving cycles. Bike lanes can be created by narrowing lanes as on Gallows Road, and road diets can be used to slow traffic by removing a lane and adding bike lanes as was done on Lawyers Road in Reston.

We asked that operating funding be restored to the bicycle program, which the county executive has recommended be completely cut next year. While most programs are being cut by a few percent, it's unfair that the bike program operating funds be cut by 100%. Funds are needed for long overdue wayfinding signage on the Fairfax County Parkway, shared lane markings in several locations, support for Bike to Work Day which has grown each year, bicycle planning, and many other outreach and project activities. When other communities are expanding their bike programs, we should not be cutting ours.

It seemed very appropriate that prior to our meeting, the Supervisor met with VDOT and county staff and state delegates to discuss the need for traffic calming on Wakefield Chapel Road. One proposed solution is to reduce the lanes and create bike lanes. This would be another example of making conditions better for residents (slower traffic), motorists (safety), and bicyclists for very little additional cost.

We were encouraged that Supervisor Cook had joined Chairman Bulova and Supervisor McKay in asking citizens to help clear snow from sidewalks around schools after the snowpocalypse, and he is interested in improving biking and walking conditions around schools. We hope to work with Supervisor Cook in the future to try to obtain some of the $13 million in Safe Routes to School funding for the county.

We think we can work together to help make Fairfax a better place to walk and bike in the future.


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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Reasons to go by bike

Supervisor Cook has received many emails from area cyclists concerned about his statement that "a bicycle is not a transportation device." Several of those emails were also sent to FABB. They all made a good case for why bicycling is a basic, important, low-cost form of transportation. We especially liked the letter from Phillip Troutman, Assistant Professor of Writing at George Washington University.

In this extract from Phillip's letter he outlines many of the reasons why biking is one of the best forms of transportation available:
In light of recent comments you are reported to have made, wanted you to know that bicycles are a form of transport. I ride 15 miles each way to work three times a week, from Falls Church to Georgetown. This saves me roughly $7 in car/gas costs and saves the planet about 29 pounds (!) of carbon. It is also far more reliable in terms of time than driving. When I ride my bike, it takes me 45 minutes always, unless I have a flat, in which case it takes one hour. When I drive, it might take 45 minutes or maybe one hour, or maybe an hour and a half. When I take Metro and bus, it is a similar range of times.

I urge you to reconsider the importance of bike lanes and bike trail infrastructure—supported especially by Arlington and the District, and the NoVa Regional Parks (w/ the WO&D trail)—and help Fairfax continue incorporating bike infrastructure in its new projects (e.g., as it already is in Reston and in plans for Tysons). If you would like to know more about how easy it can be to ride to work, I would be glad to give you more information.
Phillip is putting his words into action by encouraging other people who commute to GWU to go by bike with his bike2gw blog and the bike2gw Facebook page to "provide maps, route details, trail/road condition updates, & local bike event information, & to promote bike-friendly policies at GW."

Phillip obtained the information about the impact of his bicycle commute on the REI Bike Your Drive webpage.

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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Supervisor Cook responds

We just received this message in response to our letter to Supervisor Cook. It's encouraging to see he believes in bicycling as a mode of transportation, despite his earlier comments. He even thinks that "Bike trails and on-road bike lanes are a valuable asset to the county and can add to our quality of life." Unfortunately he doesn't think they are a very high priority, even near Metro stations, since so few people currently go by bike.

We agree that the number of people who commute to work by bike in Fairfax County is relatively small, but commuting trips comprise only about 20% of all trips. As Supervisor Hudgins states in Region Forward 2050, "'We know that trips are taken for more than just going to and from work,' said Catherine Hudgins, Fairfax County Supervisor. 'People need transportation options for their everyday needs.'" According to that same report, 9% of DC area commuters go by foot or bike. Forty percent of all trips made are 2 miles or less and many could easily be taken by bike if we had better facilities.

Here is Supervisor Cook's response:
Thank you for your e-mail regarding my comments at the recent Fairfax County Board of Supervisors' Transportation Committee meeting. I want to assure you that I am not opposed to cycling or to using bicycles as a mode of transportation for either recreation or commuting. To be clear, I support bicycling for both of these uses. In fact, my family owns several bicycles.

However, I do believe that the county needs to carefully consider its priorities for the use of limited transportation funding. According to the Washington Area Council of Governments, only 0.7% of D.C. area commuters bike to work even once a week, most of them residing outside of Fairfax County.

At the meeting where my comments were made, the Board was receiving a briefing on a study by the Reston Metrorail Access Group. That study was recommending $27.4 million for 33 pedestrian/bike improvements, including $12.7 million for projects associated with the Whiele Avenue Station on the Dulles Rail line. The Board had also just been briefed on a $15.6 million reduction in anticipated revenues from its locally imposed Commercial and Industrial Tax, which is the primary source of county funds for Transportation projects (most transportation projects are funded by the state, but that funding has been reduced significantly over the last couple of years). We do not have the funds to accomplish all our transportation goals. My comments were in the spirit of setting priorities for how to spend the shrinking available funding for a growing list of projects. Reasonable individuals may always disagree on how to spend limited public resources.

Bike trails and on-road bike lanes are a valuable asset to the county and can add to our quality of life. I believe we should continue to build and maintain bike trails and create on-road bike lanes. However, we need to carefully weigh the costs of these investments in light of difficult fiscal realities and determine their appropriate priority along with other transportation projects.

Thank you for reaching out and please keep in touch.

Best regards,

John C. Cook
Braddock District Supervisor
We have scheduled a meeting with the supervisor to discuss the importance of a transportation system that serves everyone.

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Letter to Supervisor Cook

Several outlets have picked up on Supervisor Cook's comments about a bicycle not being a transportation device:We've received copies of many letters to Supervisor Cook from concerned cyclists. We sent the following letter to him, Chairman Bulova, and the supervisor of my district, Supervisor Hudgins:
Dear Supervisor Cook,

As Chairman of Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling and a bicycle commuter since moving to Reston in 1979, I'd like to share some statistics regarding non-motorized transportation. While bicycling for transportation is not for everyone, many, many people choose to go by bike in Fairfax, even though our roads are primarily designed for cars. Here are some figures to consider when discussing this mode of transportation:I agree that a small number of people bike to work. Many more could if the county provided places for them to ride, educated them in how to ride, and generally encouraged this mode of transportation.

I don't want to exaggerate your comments. I assume you know that some people use bicycles for transportation, and you were likely noting that it's not always an easy thing to do and not appropriate for many people. Bicycling is a small mode share. However, I think most people would like this to change. We think that in communities where bicyclists are welcome, they indicate the existence of quieter, safer streets that are for everyone, not just motorists.


Bruce Wright
Chairman, Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling
Update 2/22/2010 8:30pm: We're quite sure the $19M figure quoted in the Washington Examiner article about the Board of Supervisors meeting is incorrect: "In an effort to unclog roadways, the county approved more than $19 million last fall for pedestrian and bike projects through fiscal 2012." We're checking on the figure.


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Sunday, February 21, 2010

"Bicycle is not a transportation device"

That's according to Supervisor Cook (R-Braddock District), who at a recent Board of Supervisors Transportation Committee meeting said "I don't believe a bicycle is a transportation device. I think it's a recreation device. The big problem is people don't want to ride their bike in the rain or get sweaty before work."

Supervisor Cook needs to get out more. Every day people in Fairfax County use bicycles to get to work, shops, and to run errands. They use bikes to get to Metro, to libraries, and yes, some even ride to jobs at the Government Center. Some people don't want to ride in the rain but many do because they have few other options. You could ask some of the workers pictured above who are receiving free bike lights. They ride in the rain, snow, and darkness to get to jobs around the county.

According to a recent survey, nearly 40 percent of all trips made are 2 miles or less. With a good bicycle infrastructure, many of these trips could easily be taken by bike. Apparently Supervisor Cook doesn't think bicycling is a viable option for these trips.

Earlier Supervisor Herrity (R-Springfield District) stated that the county should eliminate the bicycle coordinator position. While we think these are minority opinions among the Board, which implemented the Comprehensive Bicycle Initiative in 2006, cyclists may need to gear up to fight for the bicycle coordinator position in the county budget which will be announced on Tuesday. I plan to attend that meeting (earlier in the meeting I'll be among a group of citizens receiving recognition for serving on the Tysons Task Force for nearly 5 years) and will report afterwards.

You can write to Supervisor Cook to let him know that you use bikes for transportation.

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