Tuesday, April 13, 2010

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Friday, April 9, 2010

Critical Mess in Reston

The Reston Bike Club has been holding Tuesday evening rides in Reston for many years. They are very popular and often attract over 100 cyclists. To avoid having one very large group, cyclists are divided into 5 classes based on average speed, from 1 (22+ mph) to 5 (14-16 mph).

I often hear about the rides, mostly from motorists who complain about rider behavior. As you can imagine, the faster cyclists aren't inclined to obey most traffic control devices. There is a pretty firm rule against going straight through a red light, but stop signs are mostly ignored as are red lights when turning right.

I decided to join the "slower" 5s this Tuesday to see for myself. I never did see the 1s once they left the parking lot, but we did see the 4s about halfway through our ride as they turned right at speed through a stop sign. After our group blew through a four-way stop intersection I suggested perhaps we should stop at stop signs. This advice was ignored at first but when I persisted I was told that I must be new, as the group generally didn't stop at stop signs. They didn't run red lights (expect when turning right), but it was unreasonable to stop at every stop sign.

Most motorists do the same thing. The next time you're at an intersection with a stop sign, notice how many motorists come to a complete stop. A while back I recorded a video of motorists rolling through a four-way stop intersection at Church and Center Streets in Vienna (while eating lunch at a good sushi place on the corner). Some motorists do slow down or stop when they absolutely have to when a car is turning in front of them, but most roll through.

The problem is when this happens with pedestrians present. Almost no one stops for right on red or at a stop sign any more. Many crashes with pedestrians, and cyclists, those who are foolhardy enough to ride on the sidewalk against traffic, occur in these situations. The only time I heard a horn honk while filming in Vienna was when a motorist honked at another motorist who had stopped for a pedestrian.

I guess the club cyclists aren't really behaving much differently than motorists. Since most of them drove to the ride, I assume most of them are motorists and when they get in their cars, they act much the same. I just don't think it's right. Motorists and cyclists in places like Europe are much more law abiding, and I suspect have lower crash rates.

The club cyclists in Reston are giving cyclists a bad name, and most don't even think there is a problem. Just because it's inconvenient to slow down for a stop sign or when turning ride on red, and motorists do the same thing, doesn't make it right. We are supposed to have the same rights and responsibilities, and until we act like we deserve these rights, we'll make little progress.

As a side note, it's a bit ironic that last Saturday I had tried to get permission to use this same parking lot for parking lot drills in a Traffic Skills 101 class and was refused.

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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, April 8, 2010

Bike to Work Day registration is open

Bike to Work Day is coming up on Friday, May 21 at 35 regional pit stops. There are seven events in Fairfax this year, with two new locations; Herndon at the Town Hall Green; and Merrifield Park in Merrifield Town Center. Other Fairfax County events will be held at Fairfax Corner, Reston, Springfield/Metro Park at Walker Lane, Tysons Corner, and Vienna.

Registration is now open on the WABA website. For some of us every day is bike to work day. The official Bike to Work Day event is a great opportunity to celebrate the benefits of bicycling to work, to shop, to school, and all the other places we travel.

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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Board of Supervisors Budget Hearings today

We're signed up to speak before the Board of Supervisors today to request that funding for the bicycle program be restored. After the WABA alert about the proposed budget cuts, hundreds of cyclists emailed Board members asking them not to cut operating funds from the bicycle program. This is an opportunity to speak to the Board directly to reinforce that message.

The hearings begin at 3 p.m. and we are listed as speaker number 38. Allowing about 4 minutes for each speaker, we'll likely speak at around 5:30 p.m. It looks like it will be another beautiful day for a bike ride; we plan to ride to the Government Center from Reston at around 4 p.m. It would be great if other cyclists could show up in silent support of our testimony (we'd hoped to get the word out earlier but...)

Our main point will be that "we understand that most programs will receive reduced funding this year. Singling out the bicycle program for a 100% cut in operating funds, on top of having cut over $100K from the program last year, sends the wrong message to county residents. When most local jurisdictions are expanding their bicycle programs, we should be too."

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Friday, April 2, 2010

New bike facility video from Portland

In a new video from Portland Mayor Sam Adams' vimeo channel, "Catherine Ciarlo, Transportation Policy Director in the Office of Mayor Sam Adams in Portland, Oregon, explains how cycle tracks and buffered bike lanes work."

On the Right Track from Mayor Sam Adams on Vimeo.

From BikePortland.

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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Fairfax not among CDC grant finalists

We are sad to report that Fairfax County did not receive funding from the Centers for Disease Control anti-obesity grant program, Communities Putting Prevention to Work. We had hoped there would be funds for the Bicycle Master Plan, which were included in the county grant application. The results were announced a while back; we were too depressed to mention it. No Virginia applications were accepted.

Applications that included bicycle projects were:
  • Boston Public Health Commission—Increased active transit through a new bike share program and implementation of Complete Streets policies.
  • Philadelphia Department of Public Health—A citywide pedestrian and bike plan will be completed.
  • Miami-Dade County Health Department—The department plans to enhance signage for bike lanes, boulevards, and walkable neighborhoods to encourage physical activity such as biking and walking.
  • Louisville/Jefferson County Metro Government—Creating an initiative to enhance infrastructure to support bicycling and walking.
  • Multnomah County Health Department, Oregon—To promote physical activity, CDPP will work to increase the proportion of bike, pedestrian, public transit, and other active transportation projects rather than road-widening and expansion projects.
  • Healthy Portland, Maine—Increasing physical activity opportunities and signage in walkable/mixed-use neighborhoods and public transportation (e.g., through bike lanes/boulevards).
Perhaps the CDC got wind of the anti-bicycling comments of some Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.


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