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Morning Notes

County Closures for Labor Day — County-run Covid vaccination clinics and testing will be closed Monday for the Labor Day holiday. County offices, libraries, rec centers, courts and schools will also be closed. Trash will be collected, but parking meters will not be enforced. [Arlington County]

Two Libraries Reopening Next Week — “Starting September 7, 2021, Arlington Public Library will reopen two locations — Cherrydale and Glencarlyn Libraries… ‘The Library continues to make steady progress toward filling an unprecedented number of public service vacancies caused by the pandemic and subsequent hiring freeze. We believe we are turning the corner and look forward to seeing more of our patrons,’ said Arlington Public Library Director Diane Kresh.” [Press Release]

No County Cash for Amazon This Year — “Arlington won’t pay Amazon.com Inc. any cash incentives this year — the second year in a row the pandemic has essentially thwarted that deal… ‘As a result of the continued impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and travel restrictions in place during much of the year, Arlington’s FY2021 Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) revenues did not yield the incremental growth necessary for Amazon to receive a grant for the second year of the 15-year performance period.'” [Washington Business Journal]

VRE Ridership Remains Low — “Despite upticks over the summer months, passenger counts for Virginia Railway Express (VRE) remain well down from pre-pandemic levels. For the weeks ending July 30, Aug. 6, Aug. 13 and Aug. 20, passenger counts were down 85.7 percent, 85.8 percent, 85.8 percent and 86.5 percent from the same periods in 2019, according to information provided by VRE officials to the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission.” [InsideNova]

New Restaurants Coming to Crystal City — “The Kabob Palace in Crystal City will soon have new neighbors. A halal restaurant franchisee has signed a lease for about 2,400 square feet at 2323 S. Eads St., where it plans to open a combined Peri Peri Original and Kallisto Steakhouse inside an end-cap space where the buffet-style Kabob Palace Family Restaurant had been.” [Washington Business Journal]

Map Chronicles Close Calls — “Developed with the help of Virginia Tech graduate students, the Near Miss Survey allows walkers, bicyclists, drivers, and other road users to report instances where they came close to getting into a crash or accident but were fortunate enough to avoid it. The resulting map highlights specific incidents as well as hotspots that are especially accident-prone, with the goal of helping local transportation and public safety officials see what areas need their attention.” [FFXnow]

Flickr photo by Bekah Richards

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The man who suffered potentially life-threatening injuries in a bicycle crash in Yorktown last month says he is making a full recovery.

“I can’t believe I was almost killed in the bicycle accident,” said Joseph Schanuel. “I have nobody to blame but myself — nobody caused my bike to fall.”

Schanuel, 25, was riding his bike — which he modified to be powered by a two-stroke gas engine — along N. George Mason Drive on the afternoon of July 28 when suddenly it fell apart.

“The front wheel came off after my carbon fork [a part that attaches the front wheel to the frame] broke in half due to overuse and local bumpy terrain,” he said. “My skull dropped into the pavement, face-planted at 20 mph.”

The crash happened around 1 p.m. on the 2700 block of N. George Mason Drive, just south of Yorktown Blvd, and the detached wheel could be seen next to the bike. According to a Nextdoor post, a woman walking her dog called the paramedics.

“I was on a work call when my wife, who was walking our dog, screamed for me to come outside,” a man said on Nextdoor. “She was already on with 9-11. I saw you lying in the road and ran into the middle of the road to stop traffic. Within minutes, the paramedics were there. We were worried sick about you and are so glad to hear you are ok and on the mend.”

Another poster said she drove by the scene before the road had been blocked off. She saw Schanuel surrounded by Arlington County Fire Department personnel.

“I was horrified to see you lying unmoving on the street,” she said. “I was very shaken and am so relieved to hear that you survived!! I wish you well in your recovery!”

Schanuel was rushed to Virginia Hospital Center, which was only five minutes away. According to his Instagram, he was discharged Aug. 13, a Friday.

“I owe my thanks to the 911 caller at the… scene of the accident and to the [Emergency Medical Services], also [Emergency Room] physicians and facial neurologist trauma doctors at VHC, which was only five minutes away,” he said. “Thank you for providing me rapid transport — I am alive because of your heroism.”

Schanuel was wearing a helmet at the time and said it might have saved his life. Still, the force of hitting his face on the pavement knocked him unconscious “for at least five hours,” according to his account of the crash on Nextdoor. Firefighters had to use water to wash Schanuel’s blood from the pavement.

His fall resulted in shattered facial bones and traumatic injury to Schanuel’s brain. He says he suffered a concussion so bad that he could have had permanent cognitive impairment, as well as deficits in balance, agility and the ability to sense his body’s movements. But he’s happy to be alive.

“I’m lucky I can still bathe and swallow and lift objects and walk in a straight line without any mobility assistance,” he said.

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The Arlington County Police Department is reminding folks to navigate school zones and bus stops safely as Arlington Public Schools students return to class today.

“More travelers will soon be on our roadways as students begin walking, bicycling, and riding the bus to school when classes resume on Monday,” the department said in a release said. “With a little awareness and prevention, all travelers can arrive at their destinations in a timely and safe manner.”

It’s the first time APS students will be in class five days per week since before the pandemic.

Motorists will see variable message boards on county roadways reminding them to slow down, avoid distractions and watch for students, according to the release. The “high-visibility transportation safety campaign in and around school zones and bus stops” is intended “to ensure the trip to class is as safe as possible.”

Police recommend families talk to their kids about safety, too.

“Safety is everyone’s responsibility and back-to-school is an opportune time to remind students about important steps that can help keep them safe while out in the community,” the department said.

The police department and Arlington Public Schools published a video with safety reminders.

The press release included the following safety tips for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians.

Transportation Safety Tips

Drivers are reminded to:

  • Obey speed limits which may change during school zone times.
  • Avoid distracted driving and keep your attention on the road.
  • Watch for students walking and riding bikes to school.
  • Don’t pass a stopped school bus loading or unloading passengers.On a two-lane road, vehicles traveling in both directions must stop.
  • On a multi-lane paved road, vehicles traveling in both directions must stop.
  • On a divided highway, vehicles behind the bus must stop. Vehicles traveling in the opposite direction may proceed with caution.
  • Have all vehicle occupants wear their seatbelts.
  • Pick-up and drop-off students in designated locations.

Pedestrians are reminded to:

  • Cross the street at marked crosswalks and never against a red light.
  • Look before you cross and follow the direction of school crossing guards or APS staff members.
  • Always walk on designated sidewalks or paths, never along the side of a road.

Bicyclists are reminded to:

  • Wear your helmet. Helmets are required for riders ages 14 and younger but are recommended for all.
  • Keep right and ride with traffic.
  • Secure your bicycle with a lock when not in use

General Safety Tips for Students

Safety is everyone’s responsibility and back-to-school is an opportune time to remind students about important steps that can help keep them safe while out in the community. Parents and guardians are also encouraged to role-play possible situations with students and discuss personal safety and awareness tips.

Ensure students:

  • Know their address, telephone number and how to contact a parent or guardian.
  • Remain aware of their surroundings.
  • Walk or bike with another person, whenever possible. Stay in well-lit areas.
  • Limit the use of devices that may distract them.
  • Avoid engaging with or answering questions from strangers.
  • Immediately report anything that makes them feel unsafe to a trusted adult.
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The bridge over Four Mile Run near Glencarlyn Park is closed (via Gillian Burgess/Twitter)

(Updated at 4:25 p.m.) Two years ago, torrential rain caused massive flash flooding in Arlington that washed away six pedestrian bridges.

Fast forward to today and two of the bridges that suffered the worst damage in the July 2019 storm — at Glencarlyn and Lubber Run parks — are set be replaced over the next year, and should be ready by the summer and fall of 2022, respectively.

The work is a long time in coming for cyclists and the Bicycle Advisory Committee, which has been asking for regular updates since the flooding. Cycling advocate and former BAC President Gillian Burgess said while roads were quickly repaired for travel, cyclists missing the Glencarlyn bridge have spent the last two years taking long detours or wading through shallow portions of Four Mile Run to reach the other side.

“It’s still not clear to me why all these steps take so much longer for a pedestrian bridge than they would for a street,” Burgess said. She added that of all the bridges destroyed, the Glencarlyn bridge near 301 S. Harrison Street “is by far the most important bridge for connectivity.”

That’s because the bridge provides the most direct access to the Long Branch Nature Center from the W&OD Trail, she said. It also provides cyclists a crossing to get to the Lubber Run trails to the north.

A parks department spokeswoman said the county prioritizes projects based on factors like use and need.

“The County repairs and replaces pedestrian bridges within its park system using a systematic approach, strategically repairing or replacing the most heavily used or most heavily deteriorated bridges until the point is reached that all bridges are in good repair,” Department of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish said.

According to Burgess, the department has cited finding funding and navigating the permitting and review processes as sources of delays between 2019 and 2021.

Kalish said progress is being made on two bridges, funding for which was included in the county’s 2022-2024 Capital Improvement Plan.

“The County is currently designing a new bridge to replace the one damaged near the dog park at Glencarlyn Park,” she said. The new bridge, in the same location as the last bridge, should be completed by summer 2022, she said.

Location of the pedestrian bridge over Four Mile Run (via Google Maps)  

For now, conditions are sub-optimal for trail users, Burgess said. The current detour adds about 20-30 minutes to those on foot. For cyclists, the problem with the detour is not necessarily the added time, but the fact that it’s along a trail that is badly paved with steep sections.

Most cyclists opt to descend into the stream and wade across at one of two fords to the north and south of the bridge. To the north, cyclists ascend near picnic shelters, where the trail is sometimes blocked by park cars. But the biggest problem for crossing via the north or south ford is the terrain.

“It’s a steep hill down and a steep hill up,” Burgess said. As for the trail itself, she said, “I don’t bike with kids on it. When I’m by myself, I worry about the bike not making it because of the blind curves and lots of hills.”

Cyclist and nearby resident Amanda Lowenberger said that for her and her family, “this is nothing more than a daily inconvenience, but one we can afford.”

She said she doesn’t mind occasionally wading through the stream but would like the bridge re-built soon.

“I do volunteer stream water monitoring for the county, and I have a 9-year-old who likes to splash around in the water, so I end up in the stream on a regular basis,” she said. “But still, it would be great to have that bridge as an option again.”

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Fire Station 5 in Aurora Highlands (via Google Maps)

Arlington County’s first responders, family and friends will gather on Saturday, Sep. 11 for a bike ride to honor those who responded to the attack on the Pentagon 20 years ago.

The bike ride will also commemorate the 20th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Called the 20th Anniversary 9/11 Ride of Hope, the 15-mile bike ride will stop at the nine Arlington fire stations that responded to the Sep. 11, 2001 attack on the Pentagon.

The ride will begin at 7 a.m. at Fire Station 6 (6950 Little Falls Road), near Falls Church, and for most attendees, will end at Fire Station 5 (1750 S. Hayes Street) in Aurora Highlands. There, organizers will hold a moment of silence.

There will also be a wreath-laying ceremony at Fire Station 5, which will be a “memorial service for a grand opening of a memorial park” that includes a steel beam from the World Trade Center, which currently lies next to the station, organizers Dale Smith and Christine Cornwell said.

Smith and Cornwell are both retired firefighters, and Smith was on the scene after the Sep. 11 attack on the Pentagon. First responders who were at the scene of the attack will then ride to the Pentagon 9/11 memorial to lay another wreath.

Organizers said the entire ride will be at a leisurely and relaxed pace and will have a police escort.

The bike ride is open to all retired and active first responders, along with family and friends over the age of 18. Other adults may join as well, but with a limit of 200 people, priority will be given to first responders. After conceiving the idea, the two obtained approval from the Arlington County Fire Department to hold the event.

Cornwell and Smith said they hope that even if people are unable to participate, they still support the riders along the route.

“We really would love for the citizens of Arlington to either flags on the route, be on the route, or make signs for the first responders. I think it would be a really uplifting thing,” Cornwell said.

The bike ride is one of several Arlington events that will be held to remember the attacks on Sep. 11, 2001. Later that day, Arlington’s 9/11 Memorial 5K will start at 6 p.m.

Photo via Google Maps

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The good news for users of the Mount Vernon Trail is that a proposed widening project was selected for state funding. The bad news? It will be 2026 before work even starts on the project.

As anyone who has bicycled or walked along the popular trail could likely attest, there are parts that can feel dangerously narrow. Last year, the National Park Service released a report recommending widening. The report noted that there were 225 reported bike and pedestrian crashes on the trail between 2006 and 2010, many of them at crash hotspots near National Airport and the 14th Street Bridge.

Some spots along the trail are in notoriously poor condition, like the infamous Trollheim Bridge section south of Roosevelt Island, where the trail’s wooden planks often become slick in icy or rainy conditions.

The goal of the approved project is to improve and reconstruct approximately 6.5 miles of the trail, from the access point to Roosevelt Island down to Jones Point Park in Alexandria. One of the most narrow stretches of the trail, a single-lane tunnel under Memorial Bridge, is on Columbia Island, which is technically part of D.C.

According to the application, the project would “widen the trail’s paved surface from between seven and eight feet to 11 where feasible.”

The total project cost is estimated at $33 million, with $29 million funded by the Virginia SMART SCALE grant — which doesn’t fund the needed improvements on Columbia Island. The grant was on the list of projects approved by the Commonwealth Transportation Board at a meeting on June 23.

The widening is likely a few years down the road. The National Park Service previously said work could begin on the trail starting in 2026, Greater Greater Washington reported.

https://twitter.com/TrailsCoalition/status/1417887666671128578

 

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(Updated at 2:20 p.m.) A bicyclist has suffered potentially life-threatening injuries after a crash 2-3 blocks from Yorktown High School.

The crash happened around 1 p.m. on the 2700 block of N. George Mason Drive, just south of Yorktown Blvd. Initial reports suggest the front wheel of the bike somehow came off and the cyclist flipped over the handlebars, suffering a possible head injury.

The detached wheel could be seen next to the bike, which appeared to have a motor that powered it. A pool of blood was nearby, in the middle of the bike lane.

The cyclist was rushed to a local trauma center for treatment. So far there are no reports of any vehicles being involved in the crash.

“ACFD arrived on the scene of a single-bicycle crash in the 2700 block of N. George Mason Drive,” Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage said. “The bicyclist was transported to an area hospital in critical condition. Police were dispatched to the area and remain on scene investigating the crash.”

Drivers should expect the northbound lanes of N. George Mason Drive to remain closed while police document the scene and investigate the crash.

Amazon wants its employees to bike to work so much it will pay them to do it.

The e-commerce and cloud computing giant announced today it will be paying employees $350 a month to HQ2 employees to cover the costs associated with cycling, from rentals to maintenance to parking at public transit stations.

The news comes as the company prepares to return its still-remote employees to in-person work. In Arlington, Amazon is currently leasing a number of office spaces in Crystal City while the two phases of its forthcoming permanent campus in Pentagon City, Metropolitan Park and PenPlace, continue to take shape.

As of May Amazon had more than 1,600 Arlington employees and was in the process of hiring for 1,900 new positions in a variety of technical and non-tech roles.

More from the bike announcement on then Amazon blog:

“We are looking forward to welcoming our employees back to our offices and want to encourage them to rethink the way they get to and from work, so we’re creating new incentives to pick a greener way to commute — even if it is just one to two days a week,” said John Schoettler, vice president of Global Real Estate and Facilities. “Reducing our carbon footprint is a multifaceted effort that includes building urban and well-connected campuses, designing buildings that use renewable energy, and making it easy for employees to choose public transportation over their single-occupancy vehicles.”

Amazon employees who bike to work will receive a subsidy to cover associated costs, including:

  • Bike leases: Employees can lease a take-home bike, including e-bikes, for a monthly fee eligible for reimbursement.
  • Bike share: Employees can expense costs for dockless or docked short-term, app-based rental bicycles.
  • Maintenance: Employees can take advantage of two complimentary tune-ups each calendar year.
  • Bike parking: Employees can access bike parking at public transit facilities or offices without Amazon bike cages.

These bike benefits are available to all employees who haven’t signed up for ongoing parking in an Amazon parking garage.

The plans for HQ2’s two phases include a number of bike and transit-friendly facilities.

Each office building will have dedicated street-level bike entrances, and the campus will feature one-quarter mile of new protected bike lanes and more than 950 on-site bike spaces.

The bike subsidy announcement notes that other bicycling amenities are included at Amazon offices.

“In addition to offering bike cages for employees to store their bikes, most of Amazon’s corporate offices also have showers for bikers to get ready at work,” the announcement said.

On social media, local cyclists were generally complimentary of the new benefit, though with some reservations.

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Morning Notes

It’s July — Today is the first day in the month of July, named after Julius Caesar around the time of his assassination in 44 BC. Prior to that, the month was called Quintilis. In addition to today being the start of July, it’s also the start of the second half of the year. Expect the month to be especially hot and rainy. [Capital Weather Gang]

New Va. Bike Law Now In Effect — “A new state law requires motorists to change lanes when passing a bicyclist, if the lane of travel is not wide enough to accommodate 3 feet in distance between the motor vehicle and the bicycle. Existing law had allowed, but did not require, a motorist to move into the other lane when passing a bicyclist in order to ensure at least 3 feet of distance.” [Sun Gazette]

ACFD CPR Battle — “Recruit Class 80 was certified in CPR yesterday. Recruits went head to head in partner CPR races. The top recruit team took on the FTA Cadre in a final race. Watch to find out who won! Our manikins give live feedback on the quality of compressions and ventilations.” [Instagram]

ACPD’s LGBTQ+ Outreach — “The unit provides educational outreach to the LGBTQ community on issues of concern to that community, including the types of crime that some LGBTQ people become victims of. Among those issues, he said, are same-sex domestic violence and online dating scams in which criminals pose as a potential dating partner to gain access to a gay person’s home, where they rob and sometime assault the unsuspecting victim. Penn said he was unaware of any anti-LGBTQ hate crimes that have occurred in Arlington in recent years.” [Washington Blade]

CPRO Gets Amazon Donation — “The Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization (CPRO) is pleased to announce a new partnership with Amazon. To kick off this partnership, CPRO has received a generous $25,000 donation from Amazon this month to support three of its upcoming events: the recent Columbia Pike Blues Weekend, the upcoming Columbia Pike Drive-In Movie Nights, and CPRO’s 35th Anniversary Celebration in October.” [Press Release]

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A mobility advocacy group is asking the county to build a three-year plan for funding projects that make non-car transit faster, more desirable and safer.

And the group, Sustainable Mobility, is trying to capitalize on signs that people are interested in bicycling and walking more coming out of the pandemic. 

“We have to seize that opportunity before everybody gets into their cars again,” said Chris Slatt, the group’s president, who is also chair of the Transportation Commission and an opinion columnist on ARLnow. “This is an inflection point. Arlington has let too many opportunities pass during COVID-19 — we never achieved open streets, when people demanded more space to walk, sit and eat — we need them to do better now.”

Its recommendations respond to a draft document outlining the large projects that Arlington County intends to embark on over the next three years. This plan, called the Capital Improvement Plan, is winding its way through review processes and is set to be approved by the County Board in July.

Volunteers from Sustainable Mobility, or SusMo, combed through the transportation projects and identified a handful to nix, postpone or kick to developers for funding and implementation, which they say could free up about $17 million that could fund 20 projects or programs.

The alternative projects fall into five of SusMo’s priority areas:  

  1. Funding Vision Zero
  2. Speeding up transit 
  3. Building safe routes to every school 
  4. Building out the bike network for all ages and abilities   
  5. Expanding and connecting the trail network 

“None of what’s in our plan is really our idea,” Slatt said. “It is all things that are in sector plans, projects that… the county already has [identified], projects that were identified in the bicycle element of the Master Transportation Plan, or just ways to fund priorities that Arlington says they already have.” 

Highlights include:

  • Changing the signals to reduce the time buses spend at intersections
  • Completing the Arlington Blvd Trail
  • Conducting a feasibility study of dedicated transit and high-occupancy vehicle lanes on Columbia Pike
  • All-door bus boarding and off-vehicle fare collection, to speed up buses
  • A trail on the west side of Carlin Springs road, with a connection to the W&OD Trail, to provide a safer route to Kenmore Middle School
  • Protected bike lanes on S. George Mason Drive between Route 7 and Route 50, providing a safe connection to Wakefield High School
  • Additional capital funding for other Safe Routes to School projects
  • Protected bike lanes on a portion of N. Highland Street in Clarendon
  • A two-way protected bike lane on Fairfax Drive between Ballston and Clarendon
  • Other “neighborhood bikeways”

Some projects are already in the County Manager’s draft Capital Improvement Program proposal, including a feasibility study for a trail underpass under Shirlington Road near the Weenie Beenie, and a new trail along the Arlington National Cemetery wall between Columbia Pike and Memorial Avenue.

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2019 Armed Forces Cycling Classic Clarendon Cup race (photo courtesy Aaron Webb)

A weekend of bike races, including one of the most difficult closed-road events in the U.S., is on tap this weekend in Arlington.

The annual Armed Forces Cycling Classic is back after being cancelled last year due to the pandemic. The two-day event, which includes pro/am races in Clarendon and Crystal City, will close off roads and restrict parking.

“[The] Armed Forces Cycling Classic’s Clarendon Cup has been the Washington, D.C. region’s premier Pro/Am races since 1998,” the race’s website says. “The famous 1km course will test the athletes’ skill and stamina, as it carries a reputation as one of the most difficult criterium races in the U.S. due to technical demands of the course and the quality of the participants.”

Police will close the following roads in Crystal City from approximately 2 a.m. to 5 p.m. this Saturday, June 5, for the event.

  • Crystal Drive, from 15th Street S. through 23rd Street S.
  • Wilson Blvd, from N. Kent Street to the Route 110 ramp
  • Route 110, from Rosslyn to Crystal City
  • S. Clark Street, from 20th Street S. to 23rd Street S.
  • 20th Street S., from Crystal Drive to S. Clark Street
  • 18th Street S., from Crystal Drive to S. Bell Street
  • 23rd Street S., from Crystal Drive to S. Clark Street
  • Crystal Drive (West side), from 23rd Street S. to the Central Center Parking Garage
  • 12th Street S. and Long Bridge Drive

For Clarendon, roadway closures will run from approximately 3 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, June 6, according to ACPD.

  • Wilson Blvd, from N. Fillmore Street to Washington Blvd
  • Clarendon Blvd, from Washington Blvd to N. Fillmore Street
  • Washington Blvd, from Wilson Blvd to N. Highland Street
  • N. Highland, N. Garfield and N. Fillmore streets, from Wilson Blvd to Washington Blvd

Apart from the races, the Armed Forces Classic features a Challenge Ride that’s open to military members and corporate groups. Registration — now closed — is linked to a participant’s service branch and status, including active duty, reservists and veterans. Riders of all abilities also participate in the closed course to see how many laps they can complete.

In preparing for this year’s event, organizers created a wave format to adhere to the Virginia’s now-former COVID-19 restrictions. Instead of 1,500 participants for the ride being released at once, they’ll start in groups.

The new system is still being used because organizers realized it might be a better way to conduct the rides, the event’s founder, Rob Laybourn, said.

“It’s kind of a COVID silver lining,” Laybourn told ARLnow. “We’re kind of excited to see how it works.”

Photo [1] courtesy Aaron Webb, [2] and [3] courtesy Armed Forces Cycling Classic

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