Improvements to Fairfax County’s bicycle trail network was the main topic of conversation at the George Mason Regional Library on Wednesday evening during the last of two countywide public meetings on the county’s Bicycle Transportation Master Plan.
At the meeting Wednesday night in Annandale, residents suggested adding bike lanes on service roads that run parallel to major roads like Route 50, and adding biking structures to revitalization areas such as Bailey’s Crossroads/Seven Corners.
County officials also hosted a meeting in Reston on Tuesday.
About 40 residents who came to Wednesday night's meeting had the opportunity to view a final draft of the plan and submit feedback to representatives from the Toole Design Group, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and more.
The Fairfax Countywide Bicycle Transportation Master Plan, which is the county’s first bicycle plan, is geared toward identifying “specific road and trail improvements that are needed to accommodate and encourage bicycling within and between activity and population centers throughout Fairfax County."
Community Survey Results
The majority of bicyclists ride for fitness or fun, not for transportation to work or other means, according to survey results revealed during Wednesday night's presentation. The survey, conducted by Toole Design Group, received a total of 348 responses. Fifty-two percent of bicyclists said they tend to prefer off-road trails and bike lanes and 51 percent indicated they use neighborhood connections to bike around town. Eighty-five percent said they’d like to see more bike lanes in Fairfax County.
When asked what prevents some residents from considering using bikes, 71 percent pointed to gaps in the network, 51 percent listed too many barriers, and others responded that they don’t feel safe on the roads.
Residents Offer Suggestions for Bicycle Transportation Improvements
Fairfax County officials have hosted public meetings throughout the county over the past year to solicit feedback from residents in those areas about their bicycle needs.
The master plan breaks the county down into eight geographic planning regions: Annandale/Falls Church, Burke/Springfield, McLean/Great Falls, Herndon/Reston, Centreville/Chantilly, Central Fairfax, Clifton and Mount Vernon/Eastern Lee.
[To see summaries and presentations from the subarea planning regions, visit the Bicycle Master Plan website.]
According to the presentation, Mount Vernon residents said they would like to see more wayfinding signage and improvements to the current transportation barriers on Route 1 and Huntley Meadow that make those roads tricky to navigate.
Key Recommendations to the Master Plan
The goal of the master plan is to increase the number of bicyclists while meeting the needs of bicyclists ages 8 to 80-years-old, according to Robert Patten, senior planner with the Toole Design Group. To achieve this, staff has been working closely with the Virginia Department of Transportation since the majority of the roads in Fairfax County are owned and maintained by VDOT. They’ve also come up with several suggestions to improve the bicycle network in Fairfax County such as:
- Widening roads.
- Have buffered bike lanes for streets with speed limits of 35 mph or higher.
- More bike lanes at intersections.
- More "bicycle detection" systems at lights.
- Colored bike lanes near free-flow ramps.
- Shared lane markings (which are already in place in Westmoreland in McLean and in Alexandria).
- Climbing lanes on uphill and downhill streets. Cycletracks, which provide a buffer between the street, bicyclists, and pedestrians, and are recommended for one-way on those climbing lanes.
- Trail/shared use paths.
Full bike lane signs are also recommended and have already been approved, said Patten. “These signs are meant to help give you these rights and hopefully motorists will see those signs and understand that you have a right to be where you are, “ said Patten.
To successfully implement such improvements, Patten stressed that funding would be key.
“If the county’s going to make the commitment to have a better biking environment, there’s going to have to be more money put behind it, “ said Patten.
The draft of the master plan will be completed in July. Comments can be submitted until June 30.
The Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC), which is comprised of representatives from each of the county’s supervisor districts, as well as staff from Fairfax County public agencies, Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling (FABB), and representatives from Vienna and Herndon, will meet next week, on June 13.
The Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission will likely hold public hearings prior to approving the plan in possibly late 2012.
“Once the plan is completed, it’s really just the beginning,” said FABB President Bruce Wright. “We’re going to need all of your support at that time.”
For more information about the county’s Bike Program, visit www.fairfaxcounty.gov/fcdot/bike.