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‘Bike to Work’ Day on May 15 Highlights Falls Church Bike Plan

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Next Friday, May 15, is another of what has become an annual May tradition of “Bike to Work” days in the region. At the City of Falls Church pit stop, which will be open in the morning and late afternoon hours, the event will highlight the plans now in development stages for the City’s coming bike master plan, which will include special streets encouraging bike use, and bike share capabilities.

There is little doubt that with the “new normal” economy, millenials and their priorities, and gas prices heading back up, when governments are helping to make use of good old human energy through biking, then the uses can be expected to rise dramatically. And so it has.

In fact, the City of Falls Church is playing a little catch up with the rest of the greater D.C. region right now. Thus, the City is developing its own comprehensive Bicycle Master Plan is now being worked out by the City’s Planning Department, and was trotted out for some initial feedback from the F.C. City Council at its work session Monday night.

With senior planner Paul Stoddard taking the lead, and Planning Director Jim Snyder present for back up, the Council heard the general outlines of a plan that will be asked to adopt on June 22.

According to the U.S. Census “American Community Survey,” the Washington Metro area share of bicycle trips doubled from between 2000 and 2012 and nationally have increased by a faster percentage than any other mode.

The survey said that the number of U.S. workers who traveled to work by bicycle increased from 488,000 in 2000 to 786,000 in 2012. “This trend in bicycle usage demonstrates a desire for infrastructure changes that support bicycling as a safe and viable option,” the City’s draft master plan document states.

Encouraging bike use is a natural for Falls Church, Mayor David Tarter said Monday night, because the W&OD Bike Trail runs right through it.

The City’s pit stop for the “Bike to Work Day” on May 15 will be at Tricentennial Park on the W&OD Trail in the shadow of its bike bridge across W. Broad St. There, from 6:30 – 9 a.m. and from 4 – 7p.m., free food, beverages, giveaways, demonstrations and raffles will be held, with sponsors including Bikenetic, Dancing Mind Yoga and Tri360. The first 14,000 registrants (used to sign up through the City’s website at fallschurchva.gov/BTWD) will receive a free event t-shirt and all registrants will be entered into a raffle to win one of several bicycles that have been donated to the City.

Other pit stops will be held throughout the region, including at the Merrifield W&OD Trail site hosted by the 495 and 95 Express Lanes.
One commuter who works in Falls Church has a long history of taking his bike to work, not only for the exercise but because given rush hour traffic on the roadways, he can get to work here faster than if he drove.

At Monday’s work session, some Council members were skeptical that they might run into the same buzz saw of public opposition to the comprehensive “Complete Streets” plan from 2013 that was quickly dumped. That one called for eliminating a lot of on-street parking in residential neighborhoods to accommodate new sidewalks and bike lanes.

The new plan, Stoddard said Monday, would not eliminate any on-street parking, except for maybe one side of the street down S. West Street.
Also, of the main biking corridors identified in Falls Church – including the W&OD Trail, Park Avenue and Maple Street – Vice Mayor David Snyder argued that Little Falls Street would be preferable to Maple for a variety of reasons.

Connectivity to surrounding jurisdictions is key to the City’s draft plan. “A person using a bicycle can travel an average speed of 10 miles an hour. At this speed, with proper bicycle facilities, the City of Falls Church is accessible to much of Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C. in less than an hour,” the plan states.

It adds, “Fairfax County’s Countywide Bicycle Master Plan calls for a number of new bicycle routes that will connect with the City of Falls Church.” Arlington County already has a number of points of connection with the City, and plans to expand its Bike Share program to the East Falls Church Metro station by 2017 or 2018.

The Falls Church proposed master plan that takes all this into account is due for another review by the City Council at its work session of June 15 prior to its adoption on June 22.

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