Just three short years ago this week, the FABB blog was highlighting the unfair treatment bicycling and pedestrian facilities were given in the aftermath of one of the top three snowstorms in the region’s history. In early February 2016, Fairfax County was still digging out from the Snowzilla blizzard of mid-January. The storm dumped up to three feet of snow in some parts of the DC Metro region, and Dulles International Airport scored it the second greatest snowstorm on record there with 29.3 inches.
Of course, FABB was appreciative of the hard work of VDOT road crews to clear roads and enable the county to resume functioning in the storm’s aftermath. At the time, however, bikers and walkers still faced uncleared trails and sidewalks along with huge mounds of pushed snow obstructing intersections. The compacted and slow-to-melt piles of pushed snow blocked bicycle and pedestrian access to other parts of the transportation network, such as the Wiehle Metro station, and made observing oncoming traffic extremely difficult. FABB was able to express appreciation to NovaParks and Reston Association, which had devoted resources to clearing snow from the W&OD Trail and over 50 miles of RA trails, setting a great example for VDOT and others.
As part of FABB’s advocacy with Fairfax County officials, we encouraged the Board to find the resources to ensure people were not forced to walk in the street to access Metro, schools, and other important destinations. We asked the county to identify critical transportation trails that should be cleared and to request that property owners in these areas help with keeping trails and sidewalks clear. FABB also advocated for closer county and VDOT cooperation to ensure that already cleared trails and sidewalks were not used as snow dumping grounds. FABB wrote and encouraged others to write local Virginia representatives and state officials to urge them to coordinate with VDOT to prioritize snow clearing efforts to provide safe access to Metro stations, schools, and along major commuting trails. In response to our and others’ voices Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova planned to hold a “snow summit” with VDOT officials and county staff to discuss the problems of uncleared pedestrian and bicycling facilities, school bus stops, and commuter bus shelters.
Unfortunately, over the subsequent three years, little improvement has occurred. The Reston Association and NOVA Parks continue to do a good job of clearing snow. Businesses and others seem more aware and appear to be doing more to remove snow from sidewalks. Fairfax County and VDOT, however, still do not clear snow and ice from public sidewalks and most trails and block intersections remain a problem.
It has been disappointing that more progress has not been made. We’re not giving up, however. If you would like to help, contact FABB and join us in advocating for more equitable treatment of pedestrian and bicycling facilities during future snow storms.