As we come to the end of another year, FABB wants to express our appreciation for all of supporters’ efforts toward making bicycling better in Fairfax County. We are especially grateful to the volunteers who donate their time and hard work to support our programs, the citizen advocates who speak up at public meetings, and our donors who help make it all happen.
FABB will enter 2020 better prepared to advance the cause of increasing safe and reliable transportation options involving biking and walking. In November, FABB hired Matt Roberts as our first-ever Executive Director, and he is already bringing to bear his experience in growing and leading nonprofit organizations to FABB. Earlier this year FABB President Sonya Breehey became the Northern Virginia Advocacy Manager for the Coalition for Smarter Growth. The coalition’s focus on Fairfax County land use, transportation, housing, and environmental issues overlaps nicely with many FABB goals, creating a synergy in our joint advocacy for bicycle-friendly, walkable, mixed-use, mixed-income, and transit-oriented development in Fairfax County.
In addition, FABB in 2019 expanded its alliance relationships by joining the Fairfax Healthy Communities Coalition, a collection of transit, clean water, housing, smart growth, and climate advocacy groups that engaged candidates for this year’s county and state elections on our issues. FABB was proud to partner with the Coalition for Smarter Growth, Audubon Naturalist Society, Audubon Society of Northern Virginia, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions, Friends of Accotink Creek, Friends of Dyke Marsh, Northern Virginia Affordable Housing Alliance, and the Potomac Conservancy on this important endeavor. In addition to offering a Fairfax Healthy Communities policy platform for candidates to adopt, FABB engaged Board of Supervisors candidates with a survey on bicycling and transportation issues. Three candidates who responded to the survey—Walter Alcorn (Hunter Mill), Penny Gross (Mason District), and Dalia Palchik (Providence)—won their races.
FABB volunteers did so much over the past twelve months that the review below can only highlight some of FABB’s most notable accomplishments in 2019. To help us continue to make progress across the fields of advocacy, education, encouragement, and enforcement in 2020, please consider making a generous tax-deductible donation to FABB today!
Richmond Highway Redesign and Widening. During a series of Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) public hearings in 2019 on the Richmond Highway Widening project, FABB advocated for improvements to bicycling and walking along Route 1 asking for traffic calming measures such as narrower lanes, shorter crossing distances, and lower speed limits. VDOT’s project will widen Route 1 from four to six lanes from Jeff Todd Way to Sherwood Hall Lane making way for Bus Rapid Transit in the median. Plans originally only provided for a one-way cycle track on both sides of the roadway. Two potential pedestrian underpasses were proposed but faced opposition. FABB leveraged our supporters and regional partners urging VDOT and Fairfax County to include two-way cycletracks as well as the proposed underpasses into the road design. In July, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors endorsed the design recommendation and VDOT accepted the change, actions local press attributed to FABB’s outreach and advocacy efforts.
Merrifield Bicycle and Pedestrian Planning. In 2019, FABB saw the fruition of nearly two years of consistent involvement in meetings and events focused on improving bicycle and pedestrian facilities in the Merrifield area. FABB advocated for improved bicycle safety and access as part of the county’s Merrifield comprehensive plan amendment that will transform the old Exxon-Mobil headquarters on Gallows Road into the Inova Center for Personalized Health mixed use medical and education campus. The plan amendment approved in the fall calls for two bicycle and pedestrian bridges across the Beltway (one on the north side and one on the south side of Rt. 50) as well as a network of publicly accessible trails on the Inova property, and a bi-directional cycle track on Gallows Road. Board member Howard Albers has played a major role in our advocacy on these improvements.
Seminary Road. In mid-2019, FABB supported the Alexandria Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) by asking members and other interested citizens who use Seminary Road to contact the Alexandria City Council and register their support for traffic calming efforts to improve safety for all road users. As Alexandria considered improvements to safety and connectivity along a stretch of Seminary Road east of I-395, multiple local civic associations voiced opposition to the plan. BPAC encouraged residents to ask the city council to choose an option that better addressed speeding, a recognized safety concern in the corridor, with a road diet project that included bike lanes, enhanced crosswalks and pedestrian refuges and provided more space for people walking. FABB joined with the Coalition for Smarter Growth and other local road safety advocates in August urging residents to sign a petition and press the council to adopt the safest road design option. Both sides had petitions with more than 1,000 signatures in support of their respective positions and nearly 100 people registered to speak up at the Alexandria City Council meeting on the issue in September. The council ultimately approved the road diet option for Seminary Road. Although complaints by some residents continued after the decision, an early assessment of traffic flows reported by local news found that the road diet and safer design actually improved travel times by as much as one minute during rush hour.
George Washington Memorial Parkway. FABB members have been strong participants in a series of National Park Service (NPS) meetings on the George Washington Memorial Parkway advocating for changes to make it easier to use the adjacent Mount Vernon Trail. With help and pressure from local elected officials, NPS and the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) have been studying the roadway and intersection safety on the southern section of the GW Parkway with plans to present recommendations in 2020. To its credit, the NPS has shown great interest in public input as it seeks to improve safety while maintaining the parkway’s historic character. FABB provided significant outreach urging people to speak up for safer crossings and traffic calming efforts using speed cameras, roundabouts, and road diets. The NPS for the first time at a public meeting in December shared potential study recommendations including efforts to enforce speed limits and address distracted driving through focused policing; new traffic patterns and additional lighting; and educational events. FABB will continue to work with local partners and elected officials to press the park service to do more to improve safety.
Huntley Meadows Trails. FABB cannot claim to succeed in all of our advocacy efforts, but we are convinced that our members’ actions help to raise awareness of process and infrastructure improvement needs that result in better policy decisions. From late 2018 into early 2019, FABB worked to keep two planned but unbuilt trails around the perimeter of Huntley Meadows Park in the county’s future plans. Although the county decided to remove the two trails, FABB’s efforts ensured what Lee District Planning Commissioner James Migliaccio stated was “a spirited debate on this topic.” As the commissioner pointed out, there were multiple public hearings held and no less than 80 individual comments received along with hundreds of petition signatures for and against the trails removal. One result was a commission recommendation to the Board of Supervisors to start bringing stakeholders together to identify connectivity alternatives to the park and in early December Mount Vernon area FABB members attended a Fairfax County Department of Transportation public meeting to help plan future neighborhood connections around Huntley Meadows Park.
In addition to these highlights, FABB continued to monitor the I-66 Inside and Outside the Beltway construction that will provide a new bike/ped bridge on the W&OD in Falls Church and the new 66 Parallel Trail. We also advocated for better bicycling as part of planned road projects for the Dolley Madison, Route 7, Route 28 and Route 29 improvement projects, the Nutley Interchange Redesign, and the I-495 Express Lanes Northern Extension.
EDUCATION & COMMUNITY OUTREACH
FABB members participated in many outreach and education events this year to advance our advocacy goals, educate riders, and form alliances. We express our gratitude for the hard work of Shawn Newman, FABB’s representative on the Fairfax County Trails, Sidewalks and Bikeway Advisory Committee, and for Howard Albers’ devotion to representing northern Virginia bicyclists at the quarterly VDOT Statewide Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee meetings in Richmond. As always, FABB volunteers were out in force on Bike to Work Day staffing pit stops to encourage bike commuting. Vice President Steve Ward was able to promote bicycling on local TV news from his Tysons pit stop.
E-Bikes and Shared Mobility Devices. FABB worked with Fairfax County to develop policies governing the use of E-bikes on trails and “shared mobility devices,” such as Capital Bikeshare and e-scooters. Early in 2019, FABB provided the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority and the Fairfax County Park Authority comments and suggestions to ensure that consistent rules were applied to bicyclists across the region’s trail network. We supported pedal-assist e-bikes (Class 1) and throttle-assist (Class 2) e-bikes on shared-use park trails anywhere traditional pedal-powered bikes are allowed. Because FABB member comments suggested that speed and trail etiquette were the biggest concerns related to bicycling on park trails, we recommended a public education campaign as part of the guidelines to educate all trail users to share the trails safely. FABB provided similar suggestions to the county’s Consumer Protection Commission as it held a public hearing to amend the county code addressing shared mobility devices in the county
County Strategic Planning Efforts. FABB members were active in attending and providing comments as Fairfax County develops its countywide strategic plan to help direct county efforts in the coming years. In a series of six public meetings in September, FABB members shared input with county officials as they worked to hone the plan that is focused on mobility and transportation, health and environment, recreational opportunities, and neighborhood livability
Inova Campus Walk and Talk Tour. In October, FABB joined with the Fairfax Healthy Communities Coalition on a walk and talk tour to educate local residents on the transit, biking and walking, and environmental opportunities and challenges presented by the proposed development of the new Inova Center for Personalized Health. During the well attended tour, FABB Board members Sonya Breehey and Howard Albers talked about bike trails, the proposed bike/ped bridges across the I-495 and other bicycling-related improvements to the area.
Health in All Policies. In April, we used our monthly meeting to feature Anna Ricklin, Fairfax County’s first Health in All Policies Manager. She discussed how the county program promotes integration of health objectives into county plans, policies, and building projects. A bicyclist and a former leader of a Baltimore bicycle advocacy group, Ricklin informed highlighted county efforts to create opportunities for healthy lifestyles with an emphasis on the intersection between health and bicycling.
In response to a FABB letter expressing significant concern on how the Fairfax County Police Department (FCPD) responses to a crash in which a patrol car hit a bicyclist in a crosswalk on Route 1 in April, Fairfax County Chief of Police Edwin Roessler agreed to meet with FABB representatives. In addition to the Route 1 incident, FABB raised overall concerns about dangerous riding conditions in the county and confusion around traffic laws as they pertain to bicyclists. A major accomplishment of these discussions was the designation of a police liaison who now works with FABB to improve education and enforcement of traffic laws that affect people biking, and the equitable treatment of riders in the county. FABB established a Law Enforcement Working Group to collaborate with FCPD and to assist the Virginia and Fairfax County Departments of Transportation with inputs from cyclists on needed safety improvements.
COMMUNITY AND SOCIAL BIKE RIDES
Tour de Mount Vernon. FABB continued to encourage bicycling in 2019 with our program of community and social bike rides. We were especially proud to again cosponsor the 4th Annual Tour de Mount Vernon with District Supervisor Dan Storck in October. We had a great turnout with approximately 160 riders participating in either 20-mile or 32-mile rides that visited Occoquan and Pohick Regional Parks, Gunston Hall, Accotink Bay, Fort Belvoir, and other sites. We worked with the other cosponsors—the Fairfax County Office of Economic Initiatives, Fairfax County Department of Transportation and Bike Fairfax, Fairfax County Police Department, Spokes, Etc., Handy Bikes, and La Prima Catering.
SpringFest. In April, FABB supported Clean Fairfax and the Fairfax County Park Authority by sponsoring a bicycle ride to SpringFest and hosting a table at the county’s official Earth Day and Arbor Day event promoting a healthy environment and healthy people. At FABB’s table, board member Yvette White highlighted bicycling’s potential for reducing pollution and promoting active lifestyles. Bruce Wright, also on FABB’s board, led the comfortable 10-mile ride from the Wiehle-Reston East Metro Station to the Sully Historic Site along bike lanes, neighborhood streets, and paved trails.
Park Trails Social Ride. In July, FABB hosted a Bike Our Parks social ride highlighting Fairfax County’s great parks and trails. Young and old participants on our social ride enjoyed a 12.5-mile route through five county parks: Americana, Brookfield, Byron, Lake Accotink, and Wakefield. Part of the ride took advantage of the Gerry Connelly Cross County Trail, the mostly paved, shared-use path that runs through some of the county’s most scenic areas.
Mount Vernon Trail Advocacy Ride. FABB joined with the Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail and Alexandria Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee in August to conduct a bike ride along the Mount Vernon Trail as part of our effort to encourage comments on the National Park Service’s safety study to improve the George Washington Memorial Parkway. The ride went from Jones Point to Fort Hunt Park and gave participants a first-hand look at some of the dangerous intersections and crossings that prompted the Park Service study.
Annandale Fun and Fitness Day. FABB volunteers supported the first annual Fun and Fitness Day at Annandale’s Pop-up Park in August. For the event, FABB scheduled neighborhood bike rides, provided cycling information, and created a traffic garden for the children on a bike or scooter to enjoy. The Fairfax County Department of Transportation and its Bike Ambassadors were also on hand to educate the public about biking in the county.
NoVi Trails Celebration. In September, FABB joined the Friends of NoVi Trails as they celebrated the completion of new trail network and bike/ped bridge in Vienna. To help observe the event, FABB led a 6-mile social bike ride from Wiehle-Reston East Metro Station to The Barns at Wolf Trap and then returned to Reston. The riders were able to use some of the recently added NoVi trails that are part of a growing network connecting various local parks, schools, churches, the Town of Vienna, Tysons, and beyond. In addition to the social ride, the event paid tribute to community champions, including Supervisor Cathy Hudgins and former Congressman Jim Moran, whose hard work helped to create the trail network.
Thanks again for all the hard work and support in 2019.
Best Wishes for a Happy New Year!