Some nature-boy thoughts percolated as I biked Arlington’s slice of the W&OD trail this holiday week, having learned that the Virginia Department of Transportation is again considering widening I-66.
As I steer off the bike lanes of Sycamore St., I thank the county for completing the newly widened foot bridge at East Falls Church Park. It reroutes the path by a few yards but achieves a sturdier passage over the creek alongside the well-maintained basketball court.
I pedal uphill to Brandymore Castle, the mysteriously named, tree-clogged outcrop hill that, as the historical sign explains, shows up on a survey taken in 1724. Nice view of the horizon.
I coast down to the fork in the path (an easy choice—a fresh green glen versus the concrete of the interstate’s sound walls).
Here’s where you have to begin exercising caution. You see a parade of citizens—all ages, ethnicities and levels of seriousness about bike-path enjoyment. Their mixed modes range from pedestrians, to joggers, to cyclists pulling babies in carts, to fanatical mountain-bike speedsters stretching their spandex.
Can’t say I’m a fan of that last type. Many seem to feel free to take your life in their hands by barreling down the path head-down with nary a shout-out to the strollers, plenty of whom have their backs turned and are lost in thought.
“Cool your jets, Lance, the Tour de France is over,” I’m tempted to yell. But the unwritten rules call for civility.
I notice cracks in the asphalt, a slight safety threat the county hasn’t gotten around to fixing that were caused, I suspect, by last August’s earthquake.
Crossing Ohio Street, I revert to childhood with the “look, Mom, no hands” stunt. I make my way past a spiffily equipped public playground and stop for coffee with friends fortunate enough to own a home abutting the woodsy path.
Caffeined up, I speed past the informal soccer field, populated most weekends by twentysomething Latino kickers.
Gliding underneath Wilson Blvd. (well-labeled to orient non-locals), I weave past the run-for-the-cure tables stocked with water for passing participants. I pass the tiny tots soccer field (though the fancier one is back across Sycamore, by the dog park.)
I veer right and stop to watch Little League baseball games. On the exact fields I played on 50 years ago (though I deny I was ever that pint-sized). Today’s proud parents seem a bit more intense than mine were.
Heading past the Bluemont tennis courts toward home via the path that hugs I-66, I traverse a soothing stream. It’s a part of Four Mile Run where, history buffs know, a police officer in August 1967 waded in and dug out the pistol used to assassinate American Nazi Party leader George Lincoln Rockwell at nearby Dominion Hills shopping center.
I abandon my reverie and ponder the long-standing highway-widening project of Rep. Frank Wolf and his merry band of commuters from Fairfax and Prince William counties.
VDOT this month released portions of a coming study of options for adding a lane or two, perhaps with high-occupancy tolls, perhaps using existing shoulders, perhaps with plausible funding.
“Widening I-66 inside the Beltway to a cross‐section with three lanes in each direction is more physically difficult in certain stretches than others,” it says.
All I have to add is, leave those lovely bike paths alone.
Charlie Clark may be e-mailed at email@example.com