Yes, Dear Reader, it’s true – yesterday I found myself biking in Fairfax. On purpose!
The Mechanic and I attended the Fairfax Bike Summit, organized by FABB and held on the George Mason University campus. Although The Mechanic, who is finishing civil engineering studies there, bikes to the campus on a regular basis, we rode Metro to Vienna, then biked the rest of the way.
The summit focus was on a bikeable Tysons, with the presenters encouraging the audience to not give up on making the area more bike-friendly in face of what must seem sometimes insurmountable odds against it. (I admit it’s been a while since I’ve been out there, but when I worked mere steps from where the new Spring Hill Silver Line Metro station is, there was no way I was willing to bike. I tried it once, never again.) Jeff Olson of Alta Planning & Design was the keynote speaker, and talked a bit about his new book, The Third Mode. I tried to keep up with the Tweeting but it was hard to listen and type at the same time!
The morning panel featured Kristin Haldeman of WMATA, Charlie Strunk of Fairfax DOT, Jenifer Joy Madden, an inspiring multi-modal transportation advocate and author, and Dr. Gridlock himself, Robert Thomson (who admitted to being the second Dr. Gridlock, in the Dred Pirate Roberts tradition). There were questions about how to make the Silver Line more “approachable” for people, and while behavior modification and marketing was mentioned, no one had any suggestions about outreach to employers. That seems to me like a big puzzle piece to neglect, and not just because that’s what I do. Because so much of Tysons is employment, much of the traffic that moves there is the employee commute traffic. Getting employers thinking now about how they can help employees shift to the Silver Line, or find ways to encourage the soon-to-be-improving bicycle infrastructure as a commute option, is critical. The employer outreach team in Fairfax has a big task ahead of them! Of course, I’m excited about being able to take Metro to the mall!
I was surprised to see more people there that I knew; The Mechanic joked about being with a celebrity. It was nice to meet a fellow bike blogger and Twitter friend in person! Rootchopper’s blog post about the event is more thorough than mine, so be sure to check it out. Funny to discover that we actually work across the street from each other! I chatted with several other people whom I’ve met through work events but didn’t expect to see there, and introduced myself to Greg Billing of WABA, since we’ve conversed on Twitter in the past. I like having faces to go with Twitter handles.
After the summit, The Mechanic and I took some time to visit the campus, since I’ve only been to the Patriot Center for events. The fall colors are gorgeous this weekend, and I was so disappointed to not be able to capture the colors on camera as vividly as they were to the eye.
Then we biked to the Cross County Trail to bike partway home, before finally getting on the 1A Metrobus to Ballston.
Although there were some harrowing moments once we got off the CCT, our detour through the historic Holmes Run Acres neighborhood stood out. I didn’t get any photos, but the houses are all early 1950s designs, and just amazing to behold. No wonder it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places! Some of them reminded me of my great-uncle’s house in St. Helena, CA – very edgy and on trend at the time. I don’t know if I’ll want to bike back there to see them again, but maybe when my parents visit again, we can head out there in a rental car (hey, it’s a carpool!).
I was very glad when we finally got to Arlington Blvd. and the bus was 2 minutes away, however. Biking in Fairfax has a long way to go from what I experienced yesterday. I don’t think we were in a bike lane anywhere, just the occasionally sharrow near GMU. The traffic was heavier than I expected for a Saturday, the roads were not friendly, and I found most of the off-trail roads stressful. The Mechanic is built of sturdier bike stuff than me – I always say that I’m the poster child for protected and separated bike lanes. Yes, I will go out of my way to stay in bike lanes. But it won’t keep me off the roads. Even in Fairfax.