Mapping Bicycle Hell

I attended an event at the offices of the Fairfax County Department of Transportation. The offices are located in the western part of Fairfax County, much too far to ride a bike to directly. That would be asking too much though. The most direct route to that section of the county cannot be traversed by bike because crossing the Beltway will get you killed. Fairfax County was designed for cars. From what I can see, it is choking to death on them.

It took me over an hour to drive there. I had lots of company. The entire time all I could think was people actually do this every day. They choose this. If I did this every day, I’d be a stressed out mess. (Okay, I’m a calm mess, but you bet the point.) Here’s my life coach advice for all you suburbanites. DON’T DO THIS!!!

Unbeknownst to me, Jeff G who lives a half mile from me came as well. He took Metro during Safe Track, a maintenance initiative designed to stop fires and other calamities on the system. Wind chills were in the teens. He stood on unheated platforms, transferred to a bus that got him close-ish to the event then walked the pedestrian-hostile streets in the dark. It was like a sequel to the movie Wild.

I took pity on the poor sod and drove him home afterward. He cried when he left the car.

At the WABA holiday party on Wednesday night, I met Gina who I have interacted with on the interwebs. Gina sold her house (with river access !) in Anne Arundel County Maryland. She moved to Arlington where she rents a duplex. She used to spend 3 hours a day commuting to work in DC. Now she rides her bike there in a fraction of the time. She got rid of her car. Gina is one happy camper.

It is safe to say that Gina will never live in western Fairfax County. I’m willing to bet that an awful lot of Ginas are turning their backs on places like Fairfax County. This does not bode well for the county. The people who run the Fairfax County government are gradually starting to realize this.

Fairfax County is updating its bike map. It is a vast geographic mess that no single person could actually get their arms around so the county Transportation Department invited bicyclists from all around the county to come and mark up street maps that Toole Design had drafted. It was a very productive session. (Alas, there were no doughnuts. Probably a good thing.)



Once the new map comes out, I will be able to look at all the places in Fairfax County that I would never live or ride in and be grateful that I had enough foresight to buy a house near the Mount Vernon Trail over 25 years ago. The MVT has its problems (tree roots, ninjas, no snow plowing, rambunctious wildlife) but I’ll take it any day over driving Lee Highway trhough Merrifield at rush hour.

Today’s News: Annoying, Depressing

Cement Truck Parking

The Mount Vernon Trail is one of the most heavily used trails on the East Coast. Ab28624928742_d40e68caa3_zout two miles from my house, the trail merges with Northdown Road. As
you can see from the picture, at this point, the trail and road are only one lane wide. It is in fact a trail not a road. That didn’t stop this cement truck driver from parking in the trail. I’d use the words “middle of the trail” but the truck obstructed the entire trail. Every last inch. Perhaps the driver thought “Hey, look at this trail. It’s the perfect width for parking my truck.”

Trail users had to dismount and make their way through the mud on the side of the trail. It was barely wide enough to get by.

I may be making a big deal out of nothing but this is the kind of disrespect that bicyclists and bicycle infrastructure routinely get, especially in places like Fairfax County. All this truck driver had to do was park where I was standing when I took this picture and trail users would have had free passage.

Death by Parking

Earlier today, a 92 year old driver was parking his SUV in an alley a block from the Mount Vernon Trail in Old Town, Alexandria. He hit a parking attendant, then he hit another man, killing him. How the hell you can kill someone in an alley that is about as wide as the trail in the picture above is beyond me. Why in the world does Virginia allow 92 year olds to drive?  Will somebody from the DMV show up at the funeral to explain this to the loved ones of the deceased?

I’m Walking Here

Meanwhile in the 400 block of North Union Street an SUV was parked perpendicular to a house. It’s front end completely obstructed the sidewalk. Sticking in the ground next to the front bumper was a sign that said “No Not Block Driveway.” There is no end to the entitlement mentality of the landed gentry of Old Town Alexandria.

$2.5 Billion for Nothing

On Friday evening at rush hour my family and I drove to Tyson’s Corner. (This is the first time I have driven to Tyson’s in a year. It will be the last, but that’s another story.) On the way we got on the Beltway at US 1, just west of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. Traffic heading to the bridge from Virginia was backed up for miles. In all six lanes. The bridge is only a few years old. The project to rebuild the bridge and the adjacent roadway and exits cost about $2.5 billion. The rationale was that this would relieve congestion. Trying to relieve congestion by adding more capacity is like trying to achieve happiness by buying more stuff. If only I had one more lane! If only I had one more HDTV!

The bridge was designed with the capacity to carry a Metro rail line. This has yet to be implemented. Already people are calling for the rail line space to be converted to car lanes.


I Bike and I Vote

Today was a pretty nice day to be a bike commuter. On the way to work Little Nellie asked me to take her picture at Dyke Marsh. So I did.

Foggy day on #mvt #dykemarsh

I don’t remember much about getting to work. That’s a good sign though. It means I was in my trance.

My body hasn’t adjusted to standard time yet. I woke up at 5:25 and my body said, “Let’s get going.” This meant that I could leave work a little early. About a mile from the office I spotted the Washington Monument bathed in a faint red glow so I stopped and took another picture.

DC aglow #mvt

I wasn’t planning on voting today. I am really, really sick of politics. And my area of Fairfax County is so Democratic that most of the local election results are a fait accompli. During the day, however, I read Bree’s blog post about biking to the polls. It’s important for everyday cyclists like me to show up at the polls, not so much for our vote, but simply to wave our political flag. This year it was a way to demonstrate my support for the brand new bicycle lanes on Parkers Lane which happens to be where the school that houses my polling place is.

One nice residual effect of the bicycle lanes is that drivers are going a lot slower. Unfortunately, one driver, apparently afraid he wouldn’t get to vote, came flying into the school parking lot as I was leaving. My vote won’t matter a whole lot to me if I am dead. It’s going to take more than bike lanes to change the culture in Fairfax County.