While I was at my CERT final exercise yesterday, The Mechanic attended the Fairfax Bike Summit. Here’s his report:
I attended the Fairfax Bike Summit yesterday, hosted by Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling (FABB). This was the first event of its kind for Fairfax County and I gained a huge amount of insight into the history and development of transportation in my county. The venue was on the George Mason University campus in Fairfax, which is super convenient for me since I am currently a student there.
There was an exhibit area setup out front with bikes on display from local bike shops, as well as tables from local governments handing out trail maps. I scored a copy of the 2012 Fairfax Bike Map, a Reston Bike map, and a complete set of Cross County Trail maps. I still want to ride the northern section of the CCT from the W&OD to Great Falls on my mountain bike. There was also a Fairfax Connector bus parked outside with one of their large 3-bike racks on the front. Tom Biesiadny of Fairfax County DOT said the 3-bike racks were purchased after the 2-bike racks started frequently filling up on Connector busses. Great to hear so many cyclists are combining transit options in Fairfax County!
The main thing that I learned from the summit is just how recent the effort to improve transit in Fairfax County really is. As a recent transplant to the area, I tend to think of Fairfax County as being waaaay behind the transit power curve. This may still be true, but it was enlightening to realize that even FABB was founded in 2005 and the Fairfax Bike Master Plan was only recently initiated in 2010. So much of the road infrastructure that I complain about was built before there was *any* organized local bike advocacy at all.
On the positive side, FCDOT is very supportive of bikes and is adding road improvements as rapidly as they can be designed and funded. Bike lanes were added to Gallows Road at low cost when the county took advantage of a previously-scheduled VDOT resurfacing project and came up with the extra funds to stripe the bike lanes before the project began. I especially loved hearing about how Fairfax County is conducting an assessment of their 700+ miles of sidewalks (this is soooo needed) by using a bicycle with an iPad and GPS on the handlebars that will provide planners with GPS-tagged photos of sidewalks in need of repairs. What a cool job that would be!
Overall I got a very positive feeling from both Fairfax County DOT and the Virginia DOT. VDOT has the goal of spending 2% of their annual paving budget on adding paved shoulders. The county has added a pilot version of a traffic light triggering device for bicycles at Soapstone & South Lakes Drive in Reston. A Road Diet experiment on a section of Lawyers Road met great success after lowering speeding (from 13% of cars to 1%) and improving safety all without increasing commute times. And the huge-scale reconstruction of the Tyson’s Corner area will be the county’s first foray into building a planned walkable/bikable transit-oriented community.
Soooo… Fairfax County still has a TON of work to do to make this area more bike friendly, but momentum is building and the support is there from the county and state DOTs. Fionnuala Quinn of FABB joked that she pities cycling advocates in places like Copenhagen, there’s definitely more work to do in places like Fairfax. I agree, but I’m still very excited to be visiting Copenhagen this Christmas!