Residents told planners Wednesday they need more biking structures and bike lanes on service roads that parallel major roads like Route 50 during the last of two countywide public meetings on the Fairfax County's Bicycle Transportation Master Plan.
About 40 residents came to Wednesday night's meeting at the George Mason Regional Library, where they viewed a final draft of the plan and offered feedback to representatives from the Toole Design Group, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and more.
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.
County officials also hosted a meeting in Reston on Tuesday.
The county's first bicycle master plan aims to identify trail and road improvements that will help complete a bicycle network that more easily enables cyclists to travel throughout the county. It also wants to encourage more residents to get around the county by bicycle, said Robert Patten, a senior planner with the Toole Design Group, and should meet the needs of cyclists ages "8 to 80."
The master plan breaks the county down into eight geographic planning regions: Annandale/Falls Church, Burke/Springfield, , Centreville/Chantilly, Central Fairfax, Clifton, Herndon/Reston, McLean/Great Falls, and Mount Vernon/Eastern Lee.
The Tysons Bicycle Master Plan was completed more than a year ago but has still not approved by the county, largely because of a lack of funding, bike advocates say.
Suggestions in the plan unveiled Wednesday night include:
- 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.
- 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,” Patten said.
The majority of bicyclists ride for fitness or fun, not for transportation to work or other uses, according to survey results revealed during Wednesday night's presentation.
The survey, conducted by Toole Design Group, received a total of 348 responses.
Among the results:
- 52 percent of bicyclists said they tend to prefer off-road trails and bike lanes
- 51 percent indicated they use neighborhood connections to bike around town.
- 85 percent said they’d like to see more bike lanes in Fairfax County.
When asked what prevents them from 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.
Central Fairfax bikers, including some from Vienna, asked for better bike-to-Metro access and a more efficient and seamless bike network. Those near McLean and Tysons expressed concern over the lack of lighting on certain trails and access to the Silver Line.
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.
In May, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors adopted a $6.7 billion budget, but the budget did not include operating budget funds for bicycle programs.
The Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC), which includes 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, at 1 p.m. June 13 at the Fairfax County DOT Office.
The draft of the master plan will be completed in July. Comments can be submitted until June 30.
The Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission will likely hold public hearings prior to approving the plan in 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.”