Press Club

Morning Notes

The sky is reflected off glass office windows in Ballston (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

It’s Bike to Work Day — “Bike to Work Day is back… This free event is open to everyone. Arlington will have ten pit stops and BikeArlington will host five pit stops in Rosslyn, Ballston, Columbia Pike, Shirlington, and Clarendon.” [BikeArlington]

Unleashed Dog Leads to Bluemont Brandishing — “At approximately 4:45 p.m. on May 18, police were dispatched to a report of a person with a gun. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim was walking in the area when an unleashed dog ran towards him while barking. A verbal dispute ensued between the victim and dog owner, during which the suspect, who is known to the dog owner, became involved. The victim continued on his route, during which the suspect reapproached and allegedly brandished a firearm and threatened the victim.” [ACPD]

Metro Restoring Some 7000-Series Cars — “A seven-month train shortage that has brought lengthy waits for commuters is closer to ending after Metrorail’s oversight agency approved a request to reinstate some rail cars that were pulled from service because of a rare wheel defect. Transit officials submitted a plan to the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission to restore a limited number of 7000-series cars.” [Washington Post, WMATA]

Slight Increase in Homeless Population — “Though down by more than half compared to a decade ago, Arlington’s homeless total rose from 2021 to 2022, according to new data. ‘There’s work to do,’ said Arlington County Board member Matt de Ferranti, parsing the new data during the May 17 board meeting. The… homeless count (conducted Jan. 26 with data recently released) revealed a total of 182 people living in shelters and on the streets in Arlington, up 6 percent from 171 a year before.” [Sun Gazette]

Op-Ed: Arlington Could Be National Model — “Arlington’s Missing Middle draft framework is extremely ambitious and might serve as a model for the entire country if the county board gets the policy details right to enable new construction.” [GGWash]

Group: ‘Missing Middle’ is ‘War’ — “With the release of the Missing Middle Phase Two Report on April 28, and the accompanying consultant analysis, the county is declaring war on single-family areas of Arlington… Developers, who have essentially run out of room among our 26 square miles, have pushed for Missing Middle up-zoning that will be politically and legally impossible to unwind, even if it falls short of stated goals or produces negative results.” [Arlingtonians for Our Sustainable Future]

Big Development Kicks Off in F.C. — “West Falls, a major mixed-use development near the West Falls Church Metro station, broke ground Thursday, less than a week after the development team closed on $391 million of financing. In this first phase of its long-planned development, the project, spearheaded by D.C.-based Hoffman & Associates and joined by real estate giant Trammell Crow Co., will comprise five buildings totaling about 1.2 million square feet.” [Washington Business Journal, Patch]y

Veep Coming to Falls Church — “Kamala Harris coming to [Meridian High School in Falls Church] tomorrow to talk electric school buses? The school didn’t name Harris in an email to parents about the event tomorrow, but they said it will stream live at [whitehouse.gov].” The event is scheduled for 3:40 p.m., which means motorcades through Arlington are likely this afternoon. [Twitter]

Plan for Yellow Line Bridge Work — “The City of Alexandria is preparing for a Yellow Line shutdown in Alexandria later this year due to bridge and tunnel rehabilitation and bringing the Potomac Yard Metro station into the system… Blue Line trains will be running frequently from the airport with a replacement ‘Yellow Line’ route running to New Carrollton during the September-October.” [ALXnow]

It’s Friday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 90 and low of 65. Sunrise at 5:53 am and sunset at 8:20 pm. [Weather.gov]

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A slide from a county presentation showing where a trail would connect Arlington View to Army Navy Drive (via Arlington County)

Nearly 30 years in the making, the Army Navy Country Club Trail Connector is closer to becoming a reality.

Construction on the long-proposed trail, a design for which has not yet been finalized, is expected to begin in spring 2024, officials say. Work could be completed the following spring, according to a recent county presentation.

The path for cyclists and pedestrians would run from a point near Hoffman-Boston Elementary and 13th Road S., in the Arlington View neighborhood, to Army Navy Drive near the I-395 overpass and the entrance to the club. It would provide a new way to get from Columbia Pike to Pentagon City.

The county is seeking community feedback on two preliminary concepts for the trail, which can be provided through the project’s website.

Final design will be completed in spring 2023, then there will be another opportunity for public feedback. By winter 2023, a contract should be awarded and an official construction timeline will be released, Project Manager Mark Dennis said.

Two preliminary concepts are being considered. One features high walls and a steep trail, which could cost $11 million. The other is defined by stairs and a runnel, and could cost $5 million.

A slide depicting one Army Navy Country Club connector trail concept under consideration, featuring high walls and a steep trail (via Arlington County)

This first concept includes a 10-foot-wide, multi-use trail with a steep, 12% slope centered between retaining walls. The walls would run approximately 16 feet apart, and could be up to 16 feet in height.

Further design of Concept 1 would have to address the transition at Memorial Drive — the connector road leading to the club — where cyclists would have limited visibility to react to vehicular traffic.

Dennis compared the high walls and steep trail concept to the Custis Trail, which also has a 12% slope in some sections, he said.

“Any users out there who have taken the Custis Trail, you know what this feels like, it’s a great workout for those who are up to it,” he said. “It can be a little bit of a challenge for people who are just out for a simple walk or just want to get from A to B and not have such a vigorous bike ride.”

The second concept is a series of stairs and landings to manage the steep slope, and would feature a runnel, or wheel channel, for bicycles that could also accommodate strollers or carts.

A slide showing the concept for the Army Navy Country Club trail that features stairs and a runnel (via Arlington County)

Several people raised concerns about accessibility for both concepts. Neither design features a winding, gradual slope, but the county has to work with what it’s got, Dennis said.

“The country club has very carefully considered our previous requests to expand the easement to grant more easement and they have respectfully declined,” Dennis said. “We are limited by the easement that we have and we have sufficient easement to accommodate concepts like the two I’ve presented.”

Those who have followed the project’s iterations may notice the easement’s shape has changed. After Arlington public safety officials rejected the emergency access road idea that was originally part of the project, the path’s endpoint near Hoffman-Boston shifted from S. Queen Street to the other side of the school, near the tennis and basketball courts, Dennis said.

Dennis said the project won’t be “all things to all people,” but the narrow, steep property will probably draw a “sort of self-selecting group of users,” he said.

“We hope it’ll be accessible for anyone who can climb stairs, we hope to be accessible for anyone who rides most kinds of bikes,” he said. “But we’re going to look at that very carefully in design and try our best to accommodate the broadest range of potential users.”

The project has been discussed since the early 90s and overcome many hurdles, including obtaining an easement from the country club, a resulting lawsuit from club members, the elimination of the emergency service road, and delays due to funding constraints.

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A police traffic stop in Rosslyn in 2021 (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Arlington County police are kicking off the annual spring Street Smart safety campaign tomorrow with targeted traffic enforcement in Rosslyn.

The region-wide road safety campaign “focuses on educating drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists about traffic laws and how to safely share our roadway.” The campaign includes the personal testimonials of crash survivors, including two from Arlington.

The campaign will kick off tomorrow with a media event in Rosslyn, followed by “high-visibility traffic enforcement” at two nearby intersections: Fort Myer Drive at Fairfax Drive and Langston Blvd at N. Moore Street.

The enforcement will start after the 10:30 a.m. media event concludes.

More from an ACPD press release, below.

As part of the Arlington County Police Department’s key initiative of transportation safety, the department is again participating in the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments’ Spring Street Smart campaign. This region-wide public safety campaign, which runs until May 22, 2022, focuses on educating drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists about traffic laws and how to safely share our roadways. Through a two-pronged approach of education and enforcement, the campaign aims to reduce the number of traffic related crashes and injuries on our roadways by identifying and changing unsafe behavior patterns among travelers.

Street Smart Campaign Kickoff

The Spring 2022 Street Smart Campaign Kickoff media event will take place on Tuesday, April 26 at 10:30 a.m. at 1560 Wilson Boulevard. Directly following the event, officers will conduct high-visibility traffic enforcement at the following locations in Rosslyn:

  • Fort Myer Dr. at Fairfax Dr.
  • Langston Blvd. at N. Moore St.

Transportation Safety Tips for Travelers

Whether you travel on foot, two wheels or four wheels, share our roadways safely be being a PAL – predictable, alert and lawful.

If you’re driving . . .

  • Slow down, drive the speed limit and obey all posted traffic signs and signals.
  • Stop for pedestrians in crosswalks.
  • Be careful when passing buses or stopped vehicles.
  • When turning, yield to people walking and biking.
  • Look for bicyclists before opening your door.
  • Allow at least 3 feet when passing bikes.
  • Avoid using your cell phone and never text while driving.

If you’re walking . . .

  • Cross the street at the corner and use marked crosswalks when they’re available.
  • Use the pushbuttons and wait for the walk signal to cross the street.
  • Watch for turning vehicles.
  • Look both ways before crossing the street.
  • Stay visible after dark and in bad weather with light-colored clothing, reflective gear and/or lights.

If you’re biking . . .

  • Obey posted traffic signs and signals.
  • Ride in the same direction as traffic.
  • Communicate your intentions by using hand signals.
  • Wear a helmet (required for riders 14 years of age or younger, and recommended for all).
  • Use headlights and taillights, especially when riding between sunset and sunrise.
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This article was funded by and first shared with the ARLnow Press Club. Join us to fund more local journalism in Arlington and to get early access to some stories.

(Updated at 3 p.m.) Tom Jensen has seen a lot on the uphill bike trail that ascends intimidatingly past his house in the Arlingwood neighborhood of Arlington.

In the 11 years he’s lived at the house on N. Randolph Street alongside the county-owned trail that connects with Chain Bridge, Jensen has spotted broken bikes, overheated hikers and lost walkers (as well as confused motorists) all climbing the steep hill that he calls “The Wall.”

Often, when travelers finally make it to the top, they are frustrated, tired and possibly cursing.

“I hear a lot of exclamations,” he tells ARLnow, laughing, on a breezy morning at the hilltop, outside of the home he shares with his wife, teenage son, two dogs and a cat.

So, at the beginning of March, Jensen built a flat stone wall — a bench, essentially — at the top of the hill to help people catch their breath and recoup before going on their way.

“We’ve constructed a new stone wall with a wide flat top at comfortable seating height right next to the trail,” he wrote on Nextdoor in mid-March. “It’s ours, but it’s really yours.”

The post has received nearly 1,000 likes and has received numerous comments of gratitude.

“Your kind gift will give solace to the cyclists like me, wondering where their lowest gear has wandered off to,” wrote one person.

“Thank you!” wrote another. “I’ve heard Marylanders refer to your hill as ‘The Committee to Welcome you to Virginia.'”

Jensen, who previously lived in Cherrydale before moving to Arlingwood in the early 2010s, is not entirely clear why such a steep trail exists here.

He believes it may have to do with a long-time-ago installation of a water pipe that county workers paved over. Much of the neighborhood, including Jensen’s cabin and house, is historic and dates back at least nine decades, so the steep trail wasn’t likely constructed anytime recently. He estimates the grade of the hill to be between 6 and 12%, which is quite steep. (U.S. interstate highways are not allowed to be more than 6% grade.)

Jensen, an attorney who specializes in natural resource law, simply saw a need for a bench and decided to take action.

“It’s remarkable how a very small thing can matter,” he said.

Jensen has ordered a sign to let passers-by know that they are welcome to sit on the bench and — to add to the hospitality — is considering installing a free little library as well as a bike repair station.

“[The hill] can break your bike because you have to put some much force into it to overcome the elevation change,” he says. “You get these poor folks sitting there with their bikes upside down, trying to get their chains out from wherever they got jammed.”

On spring and summer weekends, Jensen estimates that he sees “hundreds” of cyclists and “scores” of walkers and hikers using the paved path. Even on a chilly Friday morning for less than an hour, ARLnow saw a cyclist, a jogger, and a walking group of three all traverse the hill.

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A longtime project to make pedestrian, cycling and transit upgrades to Army Navy Drive has taken the next step forward.

Arlington County has sent the project out for bidding by contractors, while staff continue to acquire the easements needed for construction.

“Project staff expect the easement process to be wrapped up by the time the construction contract appears before the County Board for approval — anticipated later this summer,” Dept. of Environmental Services spokesman Nate Graham said.

Construction could start this fall and be completed in the summer of 2025, according to the project webpage. Initially, the county had expected construction to begin in spring 2020 and be complete this spring, but extra tasks required to receive federal aid dragged out the planning process by a few years.

A coalition of local transit advocates celebrated the news, which has been seven years in the making.

Crashes are a frequent occurrence along Army Navy Drive. The $16.87 million project aims to reduce conflicts among cars, buses, bikes and pedestrians with narrower lanes — to slow down vehicle traffic — as well as bus-only lanes, protected left turns and signalized right turns, clearer sidewalks and shorter crosswalks.

The south side of Army Navy Drive will have a two-way bike lane protected by a line of trees. This will link to a future two-way bicycle lane planned for S. Clark Street, between 12th Street S. and 15th Street S. and the planned protected bike lanes on S. Eads Street, which will run past both phases of Amazon’s HQ2.

Bike lanes on Army Navy Drive are visible in this 2021 rendering of Amazon’s HQ2 Phase 2 campus (via NBBJ/Amazon)

“The project will rebuild Army Navy Drive within the existing right-of-way as a multimodal complete street featuring enhanced bicycle, transit, environmental and pedestrian facilities,” the county says. “The goal of the project is to improve the local connections between the Pentagon and the commercial, residential and retail services in Pentagon City and Crystal City.”

The new Army Navy Drive will be reduced to two through lanes in each direction, narrowing to one lane east of S. Eads Street.

The reduction will accommodate a bus lane between S. Joyce Street and S. Hayes Street so that buses will not block traffic while loading passengers. This dedicated transit lane will help extend an existing network of bus lanes from the City of Alexandria to Crystal City into Pentagon City.

Plans for Army Navy Drive (via Arlington County)

Additional improvements include replacing raised medians with planted ones and planting greenery to reduce stormwater runoff. Five intersections will get new traffic signal equipment.

The project’s early phases kicked off in the summer of 2015 with a traffic analysis evaluating how biking, walking, scooting and driving conditions would be impacted in 2020 and 2040 by the ongoing redevelopment of Pentagon City and Crystal City. That has since been expedited by the ongoing construction of HQ2.

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Arlington County is applying for $15 million in federal funding to improve cycling and walking connections around Arlington National Cemetery.

The money would partially fund the construction of a long-proposed Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) Wall Trail along Washington Blvd, which would connect Columbia Pike and the Pentagon City area with Memorial Avenue and the Arlington Memorial Bridge into D.C.

The Arlington County Board is scheduled to review the application on Saturday.

“The ANC Wall Trail will provide a missing link in the County and regional non-motorized network that will complete a bicycle and pedestrian connection between all three of the County’s major development corridors,” the county says in a report.

Right now, the cemetery is an “effective barrier to demand for non-motorized travel to and across Memorial Bridge,” according to the county, as security concerns after 9/11 led the Department of Defense to prohibit travel through the burial grounds.

The trail would run along the western side of Washington Blvd from Columbia Pike to Memorial Drive. Currently, there is a trail on the other side of Washington Blvd, a highway also known as State Route 27, but it gets dicey near Memorial Circle for pedestrians and cyclists looking to access the nearby Mt. Vernon Trail or cross into D.C.

Renderings of Arlington National Cemetery expansion and Columbia Pike reconfiguration project (via National Capital Planning Commission)

The Columbia Pike interchange with Washington Blvd is set to be modified as part of the ANC Defense Access Roads Project, which will also move Columbia Pike closer to I-395, realign S. Joyce Street, build a new S. Nash Street connector road, and remove part of Southgate Road.

This work, funded by the federal government and managed by the Federal Highway Administration, will facilitate the addition of 70 acres to the southern portion of the cemetery, making room for 60,000 burial sites and space for the 9/11 Pentagon Memorial Visitor Education Center.

Road work is underway, and early next year, road users can expect to be redirected from the Pike to side streets near Pentagon City. The new burial ground could open in late 2025.

New cycling and pedestrian facilities and grading for the connection to the future ANC Wall Trail are also included in the project. Part of its scope includes designing the trail, for which Arlington County agreed to pay $500,000.

The county expects final designs to be developed over the next year or so. The overall cost of the trail is estimated at $25 million.

Once the wall trail is built, cyclists and pedestrians will be able to connect to Pentagon City via S. Joyce Street at the southern end of the ANC Wall Trail. It will allow safer bike and pedestrian travel between Pentagon City and Columbia Pike to D.C. and the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor.

North of Memorial Avenue, cyclists and pedestrians would be able to link up to the existing trail alongside Route 110, which provides a connection to the Iwo Jima Memorial, to Rosslyn, and to the larger network of bicycle and pedestrian trails along the R-B corridor, the county says.

The $15 million, if awarded, would come from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s “Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity” (RAISE) program, which has $1.5 billion earmarked to reimburse localities for surface transportation projects.

The Transportation Department caps awards at $25 million, and one state can receive no more than $225 million. Awards must be split evenly between urban and rural areas.

There is a “low likelihood of a funding award compared with other external transportation capital funding programs,” the county report notes.

Arlington applied last year and was denied funding — along with every other application from Virginia, according to the report. Staff will be meeting with federal transportation staff to understand why and plan to use that information for the new application.

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A long row of Capital Bikeshare bicycles in Rosslyn (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

A new bike share station is potentially coming to Virginia Hospital Center, perhaps as soon as this summer.

At the County Board meeting on Saturday, members will vote on an agreement to install a Capital Bikeshare station at 1800 N. Edison Street in the Halls Hill neighborhood, where construction is currently ongoing to expand Virginia Hospital Center.

The agreement between the county and the hospital will grant permission to Arlington to install, operate, and maintain the station for at least a decade. It also asks VHC to pay $35,000 for the station’s installation and $17,300 annually for operational and maintenance costs.

The station could be installed by this summer if the agreement passes, a county spokesperson tells ARLnow. Since it’s listed as a consent item on Saturday’s agenda, it can be reasonably assumed the agreement will be approved.

The idea for a Bikeshare station at that location was first proposed to the neighborhood civic association way back in 2016, according to the Board report. At the time, the association’s members had no issue with the proposal.

Capital Bikeshare stations are owned by D.C. area localities and operated in partnership with the CaBi program, which is now a part of Lyft.

“Capital Bikeshare is a popular bike-sharing system in the Metropolitan D.C. Region,” reads the Board report. “Recognizing this trend, Arlington County Commuter Services has partnered with MetroBike in the continued development of a network of strategically-placed bike-sharing stations in various locations around the county. This bike-sharing partnership promotes the ideals of ‘car-free’ transportation, a healthy lifestyle and environmental stewardship.”

In recent years, more and more bike share stations have popped up around Arlington. There are now currently 104 Capital Bikeshare stations in operation in the county, a spokesperson says.

Construction is coming along on the 245,000 square-foot outpatient facility and parking garage adjacent to Virginia Hospital Center’s existing campus. It is expected to be completed in late 2023.

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Blossoms are beginning to bloom in Arlington and the temperature is expected to climb above 60 this afternoon. Sounds like a good time for a bike ride.

Luckily, local bike boosters have made some handy maps for seeing the blossoms on two wheels.

The cherry blossom bike maps from BikeArlington are aimed at helping residents catch full bloom without leaving the county and fighting crowds across the Potomac.

BikeArlington, the county-sponsored bike education program, has released long and short bike routes to assist cyclists in finding blossoms across the county.

Cherry blossom season is one of the most-anticipated times of the year in the D.C. area with the delicate, pink flowers attracting locals and tourists alike. Peak bloom is expected to happen between March 23 and 25 this year, according to the National Park Service, though this weekend’s cold and (likely) snowy weather could change that.

BikeArlington’s long bike route covers a 17 mile loop estimated to take under two hours and hits seven locations. Those stops include checking out trees at the Shirlington Branch Library, Ballston’s Welburn Square, Quincy Park in Virginia Square, and Cherrydale.

“Bike along the streets between Route 29, N. Quincy St, and I-66,” reads the map. “There’s a reason this neighborhood is named Cherrydale!”

Screenshot of BikeArlington’s long cherry blossom bike map

The short route covers 2.5 miles and is estimated to take under 20 minutes, without stopping. It takes riders through Arlington National Cemetery, Gravelly Point, and to the Navy-Merchant Marine Memorial.

“Stop and sit at benches that overlook the cherry blossom trees on the other side of the river,” the map reads.

While the Tidal Basin blossoms in D.C. are the “official” trees that were gifted by the Japanese government, there are plenty of blooms to behold in Arlington. At Arlington National Cemetery, there are more than 400 cherry trees. Just last year, dozens of new cherry blossom trees were planted in National Landing.

A number of cherry blossom-related events will be happening over the next month in Arlington, including a kite festival at Virginia Highlands Park, a petal porch parade, and public art installations.

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Trek Bicycle is buying all six Northern Virginia-based Spokes Etc. bicycle shops, Spokes Etc. owner Jim Strang confirms to ARLnow.

That includes the Spokes Etc. location in Ballston at 3924 Wilson Blvd.

Trek, which manufactures bikes and operates its own retail stores, already has a shop in Clarendon on Wilson Blvd, a mere nine-minute bike ride from the Spokes location in Ballston. The two stores were one and two, respectively, in this year’s Arlies for favorite bike shop in Arlington.

Spokes Etc. made the move into Ballston in 2018, replacing Freshbikes.

The locally owned and operated bike company was founded in 1985 and prides itself on not being “a company that gives ‘cookie cutter, one-size-fits-all’ service,” according to its website.

Beyond selling bikes, Spokes Etc. also fixes, services and provides free monthly roadside maintenance clinics.

There are five other Spokes Etc. locations, in Fairfax, Leesburg, Vienna, and two in Alexandria: Belle Haven and N. Quaker Lane, near Fairlington.

ARLnow has reached out to Trek about what the sale could mean for the local shops, but have yet to hear back as of publication. Strang declined to comment on whether all current Spokes Etc. locations will remain open after the sale.

Trek has been on a bike store buying spree as of late, with deals to buy independent bike retailers in Maryland, New York and several Western states announced in the past two weeks.

Jay Westcott contributed to this report

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Morning Notes

Ballston Development Has a Bike Benefit — From Transportation Commission Chair Chris Slatt, about a just-proposed residential development in Ballston: “The lynchpin of that alternative access is easy access to Wakefield Street from Fairfax Drive for bikes, which could be achieved through this redevelopment.” [Twitter]

Arlington Ranks No. 17 for Life Expectancy — “While the national trend is alarming, there are parts of the country where life expectancy is far higher than the national average. In Arlington County, Virginia, for example, life expectancy at birth is an estimated 85.9 years — about seven years longer than the comparable national average of 79.2 years.” [InsideNova]

TV Station Comes to Local School — “Meteorologist Brian van de Graaff visited Ashlawn ES in Arlington, VA for our Lunchbox Weather program. He had a lot of fun with the students, showing them the our StormTrak7 vehicle decked out with weather instruments. We hoped they enjoyed seeing themselves in our roof cam and learned a little bit about the weather on a COLD day!” [WJLA]

It’s Black Friday — The most-hyped shopping day of the year is going to be breezy. There is slight chance of showers before 10 a.m., otherwise it will be mostly sunny, with a high near 46 and a northwest wind 17 to 24 mph, with gusts as high as 39 mph. Saturday will be sunny, with a high near 44 and wind gusts as high as 24 mph. Sunday will be mostly sunny, with a high near 51. [Weather.gov]

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(Updated, 11/16) For a Thursday afternoon, Phoenix Bikes just off of Columbia Pike is busy.

School’s out due to the holiday of Diwali, so there are a number of teenagers here at the shop on S. Dinwiddie Street spending their time learning how to build and fix bikes.

“I’ve learned how to fix a flat tire,” says 12-year-old Evelyn McCabe, holding a wrench in one hand, noting that she’s going to be an engineer one day. “I was actually on a bike ride and got a flat tire, but I knew how to fix it… it makes me feel good because I’m able to do that stuff.”

Phoenix Bikes is an Arlington non-profit, founded in 2007, that teaches kids how to fix bikes. Of course, their mission goes way beyond that. As their website explains, “Phoenix Bikes harnesses the power of bikes to help youth build passion, purpose, and a place in the community.”

“They’re learning social skills, they’re building confidence, they’re learning how to problem solve, persevere through frustration,” Phoenix Bikes executive director Emily Gage tells ARLnow, as cranking and clanging echoes in the background. “It’s so much more than bike mechanics.”

All students in sixth through 12th grades are eligible to go through the programs at Phoenix Bikes.

There’s no application or filtering process, only registration, says Gage. While the vast majority are from either Arlington or Alexandria, students come from across the region to work at the shop.

The main program is “earn-a-bike” where students fix up a bike, then donate it to a community member in need. Phoenix Bikes works with a number of other local nonprofits to provide these bikes to those who are experiencing homelessness, coming out of incarceration, or just in need of reliable transportation. After building a bike for a community member, students get a bike of their very own.

“All the skills they’ve learned, they can put to use on their own bikes,” notes Gage.

Overall, it usually takes the students 12 weeks and about 20 to 25 hours to complete the program, Gage says, though they’re able to do it at their own pace.

Phoenix Bikes relies on donations, both financial and bikes. The shop gets about 1,000 bikes donated a year, says Gage, all going towards helping students learn to fix, build, and maintain a bike.

It’s also a full service bike shop for the community, where everything from tune-ups to repairs to custom build outs-are done, with the profits also going back to programs. Older students are store managers and sales reps, helping customers work through their issues and find the right bike for them.

Phoenix Bikes also brings its unique method of teaching life skills to several Arlington County and Alexandria schools every semester, by taking the earn-a-bike program to meet students where they are.

Additionally, it has a racing team and more advanced mechanical classes.

In a typical year, Gage says Phoenix works with about 400 students in total. The past year, however, that number has been cut intentionally by half, to only about 200 students, to keep groups smaller due to Covid protocols. The hope is next year the program will get back to its previous capacity.

Tofik Beshir, 14, is walking out the door with his bike that he just repaired. He’s a star pupil and a recent winner of the GRIT award, given to students who show perseverance, discipline, and enthusiasm. He’s been working at Phoenix Bikes for about two years. When he started there, he saw a bike as just a mode of transportation. Now, he sees it as so much more.

“It’s completely changed my world,” he says. “It lets me be myself.”

Beshir has gotten really into mountain biking — something that can be a challenge in Arlington — and racing. Despite his age, he says he’s got his life all “mapped out.” He envisions himself becoming a professional racer, opening his own bike shop, and traveling the world with his bike.

Right now, though, he goes to school, bikes a lot, and spends the rest of the time at Phoenix Bikes tinkering. He also says, laughing, that his friends are asking him to fix their bikes all the time.

With the skills he’s learned, Beshir feels free. He can go anywhere and, if his bike does get a flat or a chain breaks, he can usually fix it.

“Sometimes, I just ride and ride,” he says.

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