I never feel comfortable doing bicycle advocacy but once again I have entered the fray. The local newspaper down here in Mount Vernon published a huge letter to the editor complaining about the new bike lanes on Sherwood Hall Lane near my house in Fairfax County. After living in this community for 25 years, my car-obsessed county finally threw me a bone! The gist of the letter writer’s argument is that the bike lanes are incomplete and poorly designed putting bicyclists in harm’s way. Don’t chew on that bone you might choke!.
How a bike lane makes things worse is beyond me. Here’s the response that I emailed tonight:
I read with great interest Queenie Cox’s letter to the editor opposing the new bike lanes on Sherwood Hall Lane in the Gum Springs neighborhood. As an everyday cyclist who lives ½ mile from Sherwood Hall Lane I think Ms. Cox makes some very good points. Sherwood Hall Lane in Gum Springs is a challenging place to ride a bike or walk. The problem is not bicycles, pedestrians, or bike lanes; the problem is too many cars and trucks going too fast. The problem has only grown worse as overflow traffic from US 1 spills into our neighborhood. The bike lanes and other markings on Sherwood Hall Lane are intended to help calm this vehicular traffic.
A little over two years ago I rode my bike on Sherwood Hall Lane on a beautiful spring day. Not a cloud in the sky. As I turned onto Parkers Lane, I could see police activity at the intersection of Sherwood Hall and Schelhorn Road. A pedestrian had just been taken by ambulance to Fairfax Hospital after being run over by an SUV driven by someone in too much of a hurry. That pedestrian was my wife. It was many painful months before she could return to work. She wasn’t hit by a bicycle or bike lane. She was hit by a motor vehicle. What kind of community do we have where we accept this sort of thing as normal? That walking to the Post Office is literally death defying.
Ms. Cox concern about the safety of cyclists like myself is interesting. I doubt very much that she rides a bicycle to run errands or go to work. I do. I am a 59-year-old who has been riding a bike and paying taxes in this area of Fairfax County for 25 years. If you keep your eyes open, you’ll see me riding to work and to the stores on US 1 and Fort Hunt Road. I suppose Ms. Cox would prefer it if I drove everywhere, putting yet another car on the roads. This sort of thinking is a dead end for Gum Springs and Fairfax County.
What Fairfax County needs is more, interconnected, high-quality bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, not less. It is my hope that the Fairfax County Bicycle Plan is implemented and expanded so that we may have a safer, healthier community.