Monday, March 1, 2010

Response to funding cuts from Supervisor McKay

Lee District Supervisor McKay is a cyclist who has supported bicycling in Fairfax by sponsoring the Tour de Lee, encouraging kids to walk and bike to school, and offering a motion for the Board of Supervisors to endorse the concept of the Bicycle Master Plan, which was passed unanimously by the Board. Below is his response to letters requesting that funds be restored to the bike program.

He notes that there will be funds from the Commercial & Industrial tax administered by the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority and passed to the county for funding transportation projects, including bike projects. He also notes that the bike coordinator position will remain. However, there will be no operating funds for the program to support activities like Bike to Work Day or to fund the countywide bicycle master plan. It will be difficult to have an effective bike program without those funds, which the county executive says will be permanently cut.

Supervisor McKay's response:
Thank you for letting me know your concerns about the future of the
County's bicycle program in light of the funding cuts in the County
Executive's proposed FY2011 budget.

As a longtime cyclist myself, I hate to see any cutbacks that would slow
the progress we've made in bicycle and pedestrian initiatives. I
believe the County Executive's proposed budget recognizes the Board's
commitment to bicycling as a transportation alternative and makes the
best of a difficult financial situation. While he proposes to remove
$213,641 in operational funding, he retains the staff position
associated with the program.

The staff person will continue to serve as the point of contact for
bicycle related issues, work on acquiring grant funding for bicycle
programming, provide input on incorporating bicycles into capital
roadway projects, and oversee the $5 million or so in commercial and
industrial (C&I) tax funds for bicycle-related improvements.

Given our severe budget situation, I believe that this is prudent. We
are keeping the infrastructure, institutional knowledge, and staff so
that once we come out of this economic slump we will be able to relaunch
our full bicycle initiative.

Jeffrey C. McKay
Lee District Supervisor

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Walking and biking to school

Today the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and Fairfax County School Board met to discuss walking and biking to school. As we reported earlier, the Board of Supervisors (BOS) has discussed this issue at recent Board meetings and is looking for ways to encourage more kids to walk and bike to school, in part to help reduce costs of busing kids.

Supervisor McKay noted that the county was not taking advantage of grant opportunities such as CDC health grants or the Safe Routes to School Program to educate the public and to help build infrastructure. There was a consensus that the School Board and the BOS need to work together to change the culture of driving kids to school who could easily walk.

Supervisor McKay noted that all schools should have bike racks. Dean Tistadt of Facilities & Transportation Services (I think that's who it was; there were no introductions) said that any principal who wanted a bike rack could "get one instantly." He also said that while poor infrastructure and lack of facilities was a problem, the main problem was that parents don't want their kids walking and biking because of perceived safety concerns. We think that attitude is changing as we hear from more and more parents who want their kids to be able to safely walk and bike to school.

It was agreed that providing Kiss & Ride areas was not the best use of school resources; facilitating parents driving kids to school makes walking and biking less safe, and contributes to air pollution and congestion around schools. As Mr. Tistadt said "This is lunacy. What we should be doing is putting up barriers for those who drive kids to school."

The group agreed to 1. Find examples of successful programs for getting more kids to walk and bike to school, and use those as examples for the rest of the county and 2. Determine where there are gaps in the pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure and provide funds to fill in those gaps.

Supervisor McKay will lead this effort. FABB will work his office to do what we can to help. One thing we can do is point to the Vienna Safe Routes to School Challenge as a successful example of parents leading the way for the rest of the county.

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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Fairfax County Board supports bicycle master plan

At yesterday's Board of Supervisor's meeting Lee District Supervisor Jeff McKay presented the following Board Matter:
Support for a Bicycle Master Plan for Fairfax County

Madam Chairman—Use of the bicycle as a mode of transportation in Fairfax County has grown in recent years. Reasons include the spike in gas prices, environmental and health concerns, and the desire for transportation choices. The opportunity for bicycling to have a significant impact in these areas can be seen in the simple fact that nearly 40% of all vehicle trips are less than 2 miles and could be taken by bicycle.

The County has taken important first steps in fostering bicycle transportation by installing bike racks on all Connector buses, creating the Fairfax County Bicycle Map which shows cyclists the best routes through our communities, and funding the position of bicycle coordinator. The next phase, as proven by other large jurisdictions around the country, is the creation of a bicycle master plan that would serve as a blueprint for integrating bicycling into our transportation infrastructure.

This blueprint for bicycle accommodations must include goals and objectives, analysis of the existing network, a prioritized list of needed improvements which includes bicycle parking and other end-of-trip facilities, and an implementation strategy. A Fairfax County Bicycle Master Plan would build on the information in the Trails Plan and the County Bike Map and create a coordinated, simple strategy for the County.

Therefore I move that the Board endorse the concept only at this stage of a bicycle master plan. I fully understand the county's current fiscal situation and therefore ask that the Department of Transportation staff investigate the cost of such a plan and provide a longer term recommendation to the Board for the possible funding and development of a plan.
This is a major first step toward development of a bicycle master plan for the county, the number one goal of FABB. As mentioned in the Board Matter, the plan would include a comprehensive assessment of current bicycling conditions in the county and development of a prioritized list of on-road and off-road bicycle projects, with specific goals for the future, something that is missing in the current Trails Plan. Recommendations for development of other bicycle infrastructure would also be included.

Thanks to Supervisor McKay and the Board for their support for a bicycle master plan. The next step will be to find funding for the plan and FABB is looking at several options.

[Update 6Oct09: Post article references Board action, Fairfax Co. Tackles Bond Sale, Bicycle Plan, Other Business.] According to the article, Supervisor Herrity has reservations about providing bike facilities:
Supervisor Pat Herrity (R-Springfield) asked for a county estimate on the number of average daily bicyclers, saying that the additional 40 feet of horizontal right-of-way needed on some paved roads for bicycle lanes was a "pretty expensive investment."

"In an era of precious few resources, we need to spend them in the way that gives us the most benefit," Herrity said.
I don't know where he came up with the 40 foot right-of-way figure. Adding 3 feet to a 12 foot lane for a wide curb lane or 5 feet for bike lanes would only add a total of 6 or 10 feet of right-of-way to a road. In Reston, on Lawyers Road, no right-of-way was needed for the bike lanes created by reducing the road from 4 to 2 lanes with bike lanes.

Even with 5-foot bike lanes and a 10 foot multi-use trail added to a road project, we're talking about 24-26 additional feet maximum. We plan to contact Supervisory Herrity's office to clarify his position. After all, he is known to ride his bike to work and he did support bike facilities on Rolling Road when we met with him in June 2008.

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