Update: Tuesday Night Rides are expected to resume in June after organizer Scott McAhren admitted he submitted the special events permit less than two weeks before May 5.
(Earlier) Driver complaints have pushed Arlington County to reconsider the future of Tuesday Night Rides, the weekly mass-cycling event in Ballston Tuesday evenings during the summer, according to the ride’s organizer.
Steve McAhren, the owner of Fresh Bikes on Wilson Blvd between N. Pollard and Quincy Streets, has organized the weekly rides since May 2006. When they started, he said, there were just 15-20 cyclists participating.
By 2010, as many as 500 people would come to ride up and down their route, primarily along Military Road, and McAhren had a weekly permit with the county and paid for the expense of a police escort.
McAhren told ARLnow.com this afternoon that he reached out to the county earlier this year to make sure the permit would be renewed again, and the county staff told him the permit was unlikely to be renewed.
“[Special events staff] said there’s almost a zero percent chance we’re going to approve it every week again,” McAhren said. “In the past, they just kind of rubber-stamped it because the county was so pro-cycling.”
McAhren said he agreed to reduce the rides to once a month, but he said the county was planning to still put the permit’s renewal before the County Board, and asked him if he could move the time to the weekends to reduce traffic impacts.
“It became kind of a critical mass thing,” McAhren said. “Long story short, they got a few complaints last season and I think they got six complaints over the last month from people who remember the ride from last year. It’s the kind of stuff I can’t really believe would affect their decision.”
County staff did not immediately return requests for comment this afternoon.
McAhren sent an email to the Tuesday Night Rides group at about 1:00 p.m. and told them to contact the county and post on this website advocating for the county to approve its permit renewal.
“If we can get 1,000 people saying that they like the ride and want to keep it,” he said, “hopefully that will outweigh the handful of complaints.”
The rides have run at 6:30 p.m. every Tuesday from the first Tuesday in May — which would be tonight — to about mid-September. Since they’ve grown, Fresh Bikes has continued to offer them for free and has served burritos and played music outside their shop, where the ride begins and ends.
Once the rides started to get police support — and the police were very supportive of the rides back in 2010, McAhren pointed out — they grew in popularity.
“Word got out around the Beltway and we had people come all the way from Maryland for the ride,” McAhren said.
Two cyclists were sent to the hospital during a ride last May, he said, the only major injury they’ve had since the rides began eight years ago.
Just because the ride has been officially postponed doesn’t mean Ballston drivers have no more cyclists to navigate around this evening — while the police escort and official store support will not be in place tonight, McAhren said he believes hundreds of cyclists will continue the ride on their own.
“The ride’s going to happen anyways, all that’s really going to happen is it’s not going to be sanctioned by me or a police escort,” he said. “Unless lightning strikes right at 6:30 p.m. there are going to be 200 cyclists in Ballston, and it will be even more unsafe.”