VDOT Holds HOT Lane Meeting — Last night VDOT gave the first formal public presentation of its plan to expand the I-395 HOV lanes and convert them to High Occupancy Toll lanes. The meeting was held at Wakefield High School and addressed issues from toll pricing to transit improvements to sound walls. [WTOP, Fox 5]
Bike-on-Bike Crashes Problematic for the Law — A new article asserts that Arlington County Police normally do not file reports for bike-on-bike crashes. “This is a bike accident. Life happens,” an officer reportedly told a victim after one recent incident. Incomplete or nonexistent police reports have frustrated victims and attorneys seeking legal redress — and led to the hiring of private investigators who try to gather evidence and find witnesses. [Washingtonian]
Disability Advocates Protest in Arlington — Disability rights advocates made their frustrations personal yesterday by protesting in front of the Arlington home of Vanita Gupta, head of the U.S. Justice Department Civil Rights Division. [Disability Scoop]
Proposal: Allow Older Cabs in Arlington — The Arlington County Board on Saturday is expected to consider a policy change that would allow older cabs on the road, among other changes. Currently, cabs entering service may be no older than two years old and then must be retired after reaching seven years old or 350,000 miles. Recognizing advances in vehicle reliability, the new policy would do away with the two year provision and set the maximum age of cabs at 10 years old. [Arlington County]
Free Donuts for Lawyers Today — It’s Be Kind to Lawyers Day and to mark the occasion Sugar Shack Donuts on Columbia Pike is offering a free “house donut” to lawyers today. Sugar Shack is also beginning a promotion that will give select customers free donuts to distribute to their favorite local teachers. “To participate, folks just need to use the hashtag #Treats4Teach to tell us on Facebook or Twitter why they should be picked to deliver donuts to their local school teachers and to which school,” said a press release.
Nice Weather at Last — After this morning’s rain, expect clearing skies and pleasant weather that should stretch into next week. [Twitter]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
The new Conte’s Bike Shop in Virginia Square quietly opened for business last week.
The store, at 3449 Wilson Blvd, is awaiting some additional window signage and product inventory before holding its grand opening.
Located between two other well-established bike shops along the Orange Line corridor — Freshbikes in Ballston and Revolution Cycles in Clarendon — Conte’s hopes to compete on selection, price and service.
Revolution, by contrast, is primarily a Trek and Felt dealer, while Freshbikes offers brands like Cannondale, Specialized, Cervelo, Santa Cruz and others. It’s not dissimilar to there being a number of car dealerships offering different makes of cars along a given corridor.
It’s a return to Arlington for Conte’s, which previously lent its name to what its now Freshbikes. About five years ago Conte’s decided to stop franchising and the store at 3924 Wilson Blvd was renamed in 2011. Co-owner and store manager Charles Conte called Freshbikes and Revolution “great” stores, but said he’s looking forward to serving Arlington again.
“We create a level of professionalism in the marketplace that will give customers another choice,” he told ARLnow.com Friday. “There are too many people who cycle in this community without having enough choices.”
Conte’s, which will celebrate its 60th anniversary next year, has seven other stores throughout Virginia, including one that opened at 7121 Leesburg Pike in Falls Church a few months ago. Conte said “several” new stores are in the works, but declined to provide additional details.
Using census data Arlington County was able to determine which parts of the county have a higher percentage of bike commuters.
So where do bike commuters live?
“In some neighborhoods, especially those near the county’s trail system, at least one in 10 people bike to work,” writes Stephen Crim, research director for Arlington’s Mobility Lab. “Certain tracts along the Custis Trail in North Arlington and near the Mt. Vernon Trail in South Arlington had biking rates much greater than the county’s average over that time period, 1.3 percent.”
The census data used to create the map is from 2009-2013. With Metro’s recent woes and Arlington’s continued efforts to promote bicycle use and make it safer and more convenient, it’s possible that the 1.3 percent bike commuting average has increased by now.
Bike to Work Day 2016, meanwhile, is scheduled for two months from now, on Friday, May 20.
Yesterday, inspired by the Washington City Paper profile of PoPville’s Dan Silverman, who goes on 12-mile walks around the District looking for news, ARLnow.com decided to do all of our reporting and commuting via bike.
(It should be noted that our Borderstan news site — which covers Dupont Circle, Logan Circle, U Street and Columbia Heights — competes for scoops with PoPville.)
Here are the main takeaways from our “car-free diet” experience.
- The wood plank bridge on the Mt. Vernon Trail near Roosevelt Island feels even bumpier than last year.
- It’s not just you, most joggers and cyclists on local trails appeared to be huffing and puffing more than usual, as our winter hibernation ends.
- Arlington’s network of trails and bike lanes got us to our destination most of the time, with only a few instances where we were mixed in with traffic. The scariest moments were when parked cars, buses and construction blocked a bike line on a busy road — something that happened pretty frequently.
- The bike people are right: is it really is nice to have a traffic-free commute that also doubles as your daily exercise.
- Walking around in clip shoes isn’t the best look for a reporter trying to cover a story.
While this was a fun experiment, practicality dictates that we’ll probably have to keep driving for our daily reporting. It would be hard to get to a breaking news scene fast enough via bike. And the car doubles as a mobile workspace.
Feel free to discuss biking or any other topic of local interest in the comments.
Quick reminder this weekend: don’t forget to “spring forward” and set your clocks ahead an hour when you go to sleep Saturday night. Daylight Saving Time is finally here.
Tandem bicycle riders, fixed-gear aficionados and other cyclists are set to have the chance to race inside a Crystal City parking garage next month.
The “Wednesday Night Spins” indoor race series in the garage at 2345 Crystal Drive is scheduled to kick off March 2 for bicyclists of all abilities, without restrictions on bike types.
According to the Crystal City Business Improvement District, the races include:
Beginners’ Race Series (Cat5/Novice/Junior)
March 2, 9, 16, 23 (Finale)
Details: The race is for the garage race beginners, novices and juniors. It’s the perfect way to get your adrenaline fix or warm up for the Open Race. Points are awarded each week with the series finale during week 4 (March 23).
Women’s Open Series (All Women/Junior)
March 2, 9, 16, 23, 30 (Finale)
Details: New for 2016 due to popular demand, this women’s only race is open to all experience levels. Points are awarded each week with the series finale during week 5 (March 30).
Open Race Series (All Categories Welcome)
March 2, 9, 16, 23 (Finale)
Details: If you are an experienced racer, this is where you’ll want to compete. Expect intense speed and competition, but all categories are welcome. Points are awarded each week with the series finale during week 4 (March 23).
But those aren’t the only races. In addition to the Women’s Open Series finale, the other March 30 competitions include:
Beginner/Intermediate/Junior Open Race (All Categories Welcome)
Details: The Beginner’s and Open Race Series Finales both end during week 4 to make way for the Cargo Bike/Tandem Showdown and the Fixed Gear Finale. The winner may still want to defend his title or the number two may be seeking a rematch in this combined Open Race.
Cargo Bike/Tandem/Bikeshare Showdown
Details: Prizes, but most importantly, bragging rights are on the line. This 20-minute race is for cargo and tandem haulers only but will also include Bikeshare Parade Laps. Be prepared for special cargo carrying requirements in order to make the podium. This one is sure to be entertaining.
Fixed Gear Finale (Fixed-Gear Bikes Only. No SS Freewheel or Gears.)
Details: If you are fixin’ for a real rush then the Fixed Gear Finale might be for you. Added by popular demand, this race is the only race of the series that allows fixed gears. No single-speed freewheels nor gears are allowed.
Interested bicyclists can sign up online. Registration is $3 to $15 per race online, depending on the match.
The race is free for spectators, who will have access to a cash bar.
Photo via Crystal City Business Improvement District
(Updated at 3:01 p.m.) Bicycle sales, rental and repair shop Big Wheel Bikes has closed its Arlington location for renovations, according to a notice on the chain’s website. The shop remained open after a fire in September until closing on Dec. 14.
Owner Mike Sendar said the store at 3119 Lee Highway will reopen “in about two weeks” although a hard date has not been set. Sender said customers can expect “new paint, new flooring and a new arrangement.”
According to the sign posted on the door, Arlington residents can receive 10 percent off when shopping at the company’s four other stores in Alexandria, Georgetown and Bethesda.
The Lyon Village shopping center location opened in 1979 as a branch of Bicycle Exchange. It’s been Big Wheel Bikes since 1999.
Hat tip to Big E.
DoD Renews Leases on Crystal City Buildings — In a win for Arlington County’s beleaguered commercial real estate market, the GSA has renewed leases on two buildings with some 912,000 square feet of office space, in Crystal City, for the Department of Defense. [Washington Business Journal]
Church Decided to Sell After Hearing from Residents — While initially skeptical, a majority of the membership of the Arlington Presbyterian Church on Columbia Pike approved a plan to sell the church to an affordable housing developer after hearing the stories of working class residents who said they worked in Arlington but couldn’t afford to live there anymore. [Washington Post]
Fisette: Arlington Will Work to Improve Bike Rating — County Board member Jay Fisette says Arlington will work to improve its Bicycle Friendly Community rating. Arlington received a silver-level designation, but there are 29 U.S. communities that are either gold or platinum level. In order to achieve that, Arlington will need more bike lanes, bike programs for lower-income residents and bicycle-themed street events. [InsideNova]
Howell Introduces Courthouse Security Bill — State Sen. Janet Howell (D), whose sprawling district includes part of north Arlington, has introduced a bill intended to improve courthouse security. The bill would increase from $10 to $20 the maximum amount a local jurisdiction could charge a defendant convicted on traffic or criminal charges, to help fund security measures. [Richmond Sunlight]
Webb Responds to Criticism in Comments — Michael Webb, who hopes to run as a Republican against Rep. Don Beyer next year, has personally responded to criticism in the comments of the article about his campaign announcement. [ARLnow]
Flickr pool photo by TheBeltWalk
This morning, dozens of bicyclists helped to escort the motorcade of a former Navy SEAL who was struck and killed by a car while riding his bike in Bethesda this summer.
Tim Holden was a Gulf War vet and retired from the Navy SEALs in 2001. He was killed on Aug. 28, as he was heading to visit his daughter in D.C., when a 22-year-old driver struck him from behind on a hilly stretch of Massachusetts Avenue.
Holden’s family invited fellow local cyclists to escort his motorcade from the Lincoln Memorial to Arlington National Cemetery, where he was buried this morning. Dozens showed up for the chilly ride around 7:30 this morning.
Holden was 64. He is survived by his wife and five daughters.
The 22-year-old Maryland man who struck him will not face criminal charges.
(Updated at 4 p.m.) Once one of Arlington’s top 5 intersections for collisions — particularly those involving pedestrians and cyclists — the “Intersection of Doom” in Rosslyn now isn’t even in the top 25.
Safety improvements at the intersection have dramatically reduced accidents at the intersection of Lynn Street and Lee Highway, said Larry Marcus, the county’s head of transportation engineering, in a new county-produced video.
The county faced a challenge with the intersection: how to design quick and relatively inexpensive improvements at an intersection where 1,700 bicyclists per day try to cross a street also being crossed by 600 vehicles per hour exiting I-66.
“The obvious thing to do is separate these movements,” Marcus said.
Bicyclists and pedestrians now get a 10 second head start to start crossing Lynn Street while the traffic exiting I-66 waits at a red light with an illuminated no right turn signal. Pedestrians and cyclists then get a don’t cross signal while traffic turning right onto Lynn Street clears out.
Those relatively simple “operational improvements,” along with traffic enforcement and a public education campaign by Arlington County police, have dropped the intersection out of the county’s top 25 most crash-prone, Marcus says.
Despite the improvement, Marcus said the county is getting ready to begin a planning process for a more permanent solution to pedestrian-car conflicts at the intersection.
“There’s certainly an opportunity to build something,” he said.
A ribbon cutting ceremony was held for a new addition to Glencarlyn Park, along Columbia Pike and the W&OD Trail, over the weekend.
The new park space, near the Arlington Mill Community Center, includes a “learning loop” for beginning bicyclists, a bike repair station, a bike water bottle filler, a sand play area and a rain garden.
Construction of the park amenities was estimated at $400,000 when it was approved a year ago.
More Metro Delays — A disabled train outside of the Farragut West Metro station produced big delays for those heading into Virginia via the Orange, Silver and Blue lines this morning. [Twitter]
Local Credit Card Holiday Spending — Arlington residents are charging an average of $718.43 on credit cards for holiday gifts this year, estimates the website Nerd Wallet. While that seems like a high number, collectively those in Arlington buying holiday gifts without using a credit card are missing out on $138,846.46 in rewards points, the website says. [Nerd Wallet]
Arlington Still Tops for Va. Tourism — Arlington remains the top tourism destination in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The county attracts more than 6 million people who spend nearly $3 billion here and generate some $81 million in local taxes annually. The tourism industry accounts for about 25,000 jobs in Arlington. [Arlington County]
County Unveils New Online Calendar — Arlington County has rolled out Arlington Today, a new and improved calendar of local events. First up this morning on the calendar: a performance by The Rocking Chairs, the “in-house band” of the Lee Community and Senior Center. [Twitter]
Local Startup Raises $16 Million — Want to start a company in Arlington that can raise big bucks? Do so in the cybersecurity field. Data security software maker ThreatConnect, which recently moved from Shirlington to the Ballston area, has raised $16 million in a new round of funding. [DC Inno]
Arlington Recognized as Bike Friendly Community — Arlington has been named a Silver-level “Bicycle Friendly Community” for the third time since 2007. We’re one of 75 communities in the U.S. to achieve that rating. [Arlington County]
The enforcement action will target motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians caught breaking traffic laws in Ballston, East Falls Church and Crystal City. It’s part of a fall bicycle and pedestrian safety awareness program.
With the days getting shorter and daylight saving time ending Sunday, pedestrian and bicyclist safety is an important law enforcement focus. Most fatal pedestrian accidents occur after dark.
From an ACPD press release:
Between October 27-29, 2015, the Arlington County Police Department’s Special Operations Section will be out promoting the 2015 Fall Pedestrian & Bicycle Safety Awareness Program in the Ballston, East Falls Church and Crystal City areas.
Officers will be at the following locations:
October 27th – Fairfax Drive & N. Monroe Street from 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
October 28th – 1700-1900 block of N. Sycamore Street from 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
October 29th – 1500-2300 block of Crystal Drive from 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
This enforcement detail is part of the 2015 Street Smart Pedestrian, Driver, and Bicyclist Safety Campaign which runs from October 26, 2015 through November 15, 2015. Officers will ticket motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians who violate traffic laws.
These programs are set up to carry out education and enforcement campaigns throughout the year in order to ensure everyone shares the roads safely. Pedestrians and bicyclists account for a quarter of the traffic fatalities in the region, nearly 90 deaths per year.
Motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians are reminded to pay attention to one another and always proceed with caution and care for each other’s safety.
The Washington Area Bicycling Association will be holding a campaign kick off event at Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street) on Wednesday, from 6:30-7:30 p.m. The campaign is the work of the group’s Action Committee for Arlington County.
“For the past few months, we have been hard at work planning how to transform Ballston into a place where it is not just possible to bike, but actually fun, easy, safe and stress free — and while we’re at it — walkable, too!” says a web page for the event.
The campaign will focus on the N. Quincy Street bike lanes. While the nearby Custis Trail is used by some 2,000 people per day, WABA says, the Quincy Street bike lanes are used by fewer than 400. A big part of that lack of use: safety.
The existing Quincy Street bike lanes are uncomfortably close to frequent and fast moving traffic. The bike lanes disappear at a major intersection (Washington Blvd) forcing people on bicycles to merge with drivers already navigating a tricky intersection. Delivery vehicles and double parked cars frequently block these lanes creating more merging conflicts as drivers and bicyclists try to share the same space. Furthermore, the lanes are difficult to access from the Custis Trail because there are no stop signs or traffic lights to help south-bound cyclists cross the street.
While bike lanes may be sufficient for experienced cyclists, they are not the kind of protected, inviting infrastructure that we need to get more Arlington residents to feel comfortable getting around by bicycle.
The group wants to see protected bike lanes on Quincy Street, complete with bollards preventing illegal parking in the bike lane, from the Custis Trail to N. Glebe Road.
Among the benefits, according to WABA, would be:
- Improved safety for commuters, Washington-Lee High Schools students and other cyclists
- More spending by bicyclists at local businesses
- More confidence for drivers who are passing by cyclists
Under WABA’s proposal, lanes would be narrowed on Quincy Street and street parking would be placed between the protected bike lane and the vehicle travel lane.
The Washington Area Bicyclist Association is organizing the 5-6 mile evening rides with Bike Arlington.
First up tonight is the Secrets of Crystal City. The ride will start tonight at 6:30 p.m. at the Crystal City Water Park, on the 1700 block of Crystal Drive, and end just down the street at TechShop around 8 p.m.
“On our ‘Secrets of Crystal City’ ride, we’ll open your eyes to a whole new side of one of Arlington’s signature neighborhoods,” WABA said on the event’s website.
The rides continue weekly, with a tour of Shirlington on Oct. 14 and a ride through Ballston on Oct. 28. Another ride will take cyclists across the river on a haunted ghost ride on Capitol Hill in D.C. on Oct. 23.
Reservations for each tour costs $10, but it’s half off for WABA members and free for Capital Bikeshare members. Participants must provide their own bikes and helmets. The rides are open to anyone over 14 years old.
The tour is also accepting walk-ups depending on the amount of available space in the tour group. Walk-up riders can participate for free.
The owners of Conte’s Bike Shop are planning to open a new location at 3449 Wilson Blvd in Virginia Square by March 2016, said co-owner David Conte.
“We have always wanted to open up company owned stores in this market. My wife Angela is a graduate of George Mason University and we have many great friends in the area,” Conte said.
“We are opening in Northern Virginia because the market is still underserved,” Conte said. “There is some really good bicycle retailers in the market and then [there] are not, we believe that we will not only succeed but thrive in these markets.”
Conte’s will be the third cycling shop near the Virginia Square-Ballston area. Hybrid Pedals is located at 822 N. Kenmore Street, and Freshbikes is just down the road at 3924 Wilson Blvd. Freshbikes had been a Conte’s franchise until it changed its name in 2011.
The new store offers services for all cyclists, from those who ride competitively to the everyday recreational cyclist, Conte said. The shop sells top of the line road bikes, including from manufacturer S-Works, Giant and Specialized, as well as kids bikes, mountain bikes, hybrid bikes and electric bikes.
“We are a cycling store for everybody, not just enthusiasts but mostly for the recreation cyclist in particular,” he said.
Conte plans to get involved with local Arlington cycling events once the store is open in the spring, he said.
“We do ride support for charity rides and all kinds of cycling related events, and if it has two wheels and needs the help from Conte’s we will be there,” he said. “Bike race events are another animal in its own and with a lot of events that happen in a great cycling city like Arlington, if we can be involved we will do our best to help.”