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Morning Notes

Memorial Ride for Arlington Cyclist — A memorial ride is planned tonight in D.C. for Arlington resident Thomas Hollowell, who was killed while riding his bike to work last week near the intersection of 12th Street and Constitution Avenue NW. [Facebook]

Master Bike Plan for Arlington — Planners are putting the finishing touches on which bike infrastructure projects to include in Arlington County’s updated master plan. Currently in: the Army Navy Country Club Connector. Currently out: a connection from the Marine Corps War Memorial to the Roosevelt Bridge. [TheWashCycle]

Grumbles About Pike ‘Premium’ Bus — One outspoken Twitter user is on a mission to highlight the shortcomings of the new Columbia Pike “premium transit network.” Some have said the long-promised bus improvements have been underwhelming and have suffered the same service issues of every other mass transit line in town. However, the same Twitter user’s attempt at a petition to “bring back the Arlington streetcar” only has one signature so far. [Twitter, Change.org]

Walmart Buys Eloquii — Fashion-forward, plus-size women’s clothing retailer Eloquii has been acquired by Walmart. The e-commerce company opened its first bricks-and-mortar location at the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City mall. [TechCrunch, Forbes]

Optimism for Malls — At a Bisnow event in Tysons yesterday, a panel of commercial real estate pros said shopping malls in urbanized areas like Tysons (and, by extension, Arlington) are better off than their more suburban counterparts that are suffering in the era of Amazon. In Arlington, the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City and the soon-to-reopen Ballston Quarter account for a large portion of the local retail industry. [Tysons Reporter]

Reminder: Emergency Alert Test — Expect your phone to buzz and beep just after 2:15 p.m. as part of a nationwide federal emergency alert test. The alert will be sent via mobile carriers and the national Wireless Emergency Alerts system, not via Arlington County’s Arlington Alert. [Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Tom Mockler

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Morning Notes

Arlington Holds Disaster Drill for Cyclists — “On Saturday BikeArlington and the Office of Emergency Management held the county’s first Disaster Relief Trial, modeled after such events in Oregon, Washington, and California… 70 registered families, teams, and individual bikers traveled throughout Arlington, stopping at four checkpoints and completing eight challenges.” [Local DVM]

Marymount Launches Internship Fund — “Marymount University has announced plans to financially support students who intern at non-profit organizations that do not have the resources to pay them. The new ‘Sister Majella Berg Internship Fund’ is a way to solidify partnerships between the university and local safety-net organizations, new Marymount University president Irma Becerra said.” [InsideNova]

AT&T Donates $30K to Local Nonprofit — “Bridges to Independence announced today a new contribution from AT&T. A private, nonprofit organization, Bridges is dedicated to serving families experiencing homelessness in the City of Alexandria and Arlington County, VA. AT&T’s support will directly benefit Bridges’ mission by expanding the organization’s Youth Development Program which serves children experiencing homelessness.” [Press Release]

Ballston Apartment Building Sold — “The Chevy Chase Land Company… announced today the $90 million acquisition of 672 Flats, a 173-Unit Class A apartment building in the heart of Ballston.” [Press Release]

Flickr pool photo by Brian Irwin

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JUST IN: Arlington Cyclist Killed in D.C.

A 64-year-old Arlington man was killed while riding his bike to work in D.C., according to the Metropolitan Police Department.

The crash occurred yesterday (Monday) morning on the 1200 block of Constitution Avenue NW. A driver in a dark sedan ran a red light at a high rate of speed, struck Thomas Hendricks Hollowell in the crosswalk and drove off without stopping, according to police.

Despite a quick response from police and passersby, Hollowell died from his injuries. NBC 4’s Adam Tuss reported that Hollowell rode his bike to work at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History every day.

Image via Google Maps

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VDOT Finalizes Plans for W&OD Trail Bridge Over Lee Highway

Transportation planners will soon unveil the final design of a new bike and pedestrian bridge stretching over Lee Highway in East Falls Church.

VDOT plans to show off the finalized schematics for the Washington & Old Dominion Trail bridge at a community meeting next month, capping off a design process that drew plenty of flak from neighbors last year. The new bridge, which is being built as part of widening work on I-66 eastbound in the area, is designed to replace the trail’s current crossing at the highway’s intersection with Fairfax Drive and offer a safer environment for walkers and cyclists.

Officials had initially proposed a design for the bridge that featured a trussed roof and red paint, yet neighbors objected to those features, as well as the bridge’s potential to disrupt long-range plans for the area’s transportation networks.

But VDOT has since tweaked its design to address the most controversial features, proposing a bridge that’s gray in color without a trussed roof, in a bid to address some of those concerns. Even still, some questions about noise walls and public art lingered during a meeting on the project last year.

Planners will look to address those worries and more at an Oct. 11 meeting at Yorktown High School (5200 Yorktown Blvd) from 6:30-8:30 p.m., where they’ll deliver a presentation on “final design plans and aesthetic details.”

If all goes as planned, construction is set to start on the bridge by spring 2019 and run through fall 2020.

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County Unveils Dockless Vehicle Pilot Program, Plans to Cap Number of Scooters and Bikes in Arlington

(Updated at 12:25 p.m.) Arlington is rolling out its promised pilot program to guide the use of dockless vehicles, clearing the way for more companies to offer electric scooters and bikes in the county.

County officials have been mulling how best to regulate dockless vehicles since Bird started offering its scooters in Arlington this June without any warning to the local government. Now, the County Board is set to approve a program requiring companies to register with the county to avoid similar surprises, while also capping the number of vehicles they can deploy in Arlington.

The nine-month program limits companies to operating a total of 350 vehicles each within county limits. Under its terms, any business looking to deploy dockless scooters or bikes will have to pay the county $8,000 for an operating permit, and would then be able to operate a fleet of 200 vehicles. The companies could then apply to increase the size of the fleet by 50 vehicles each month, up to the 350 cap, so long as it can demonstrate that each vehicle is recording at least six trips per day.

Those strictures are similar to D.C.’s own strategy for managing dockless vehicles, which the District put in place last year and caps companies at 400 vehicles each. Transportation advocates in the region have been especially critical of those limits, with some companies ditching D.C. due to the caps, and county staff noted in a report prepared for the Board that the county’s own Transportation Commission “recommended that the demonstration refrain from capping numbers of devices.”

“This proposal retains what staff considers a reasonable cap, reflecting other community input,” staff wrote. Bird started off its deployment in Arlington with 50 scooters, staff wrote, but the company has declined to release exact numbers on how many vehicles it’s since brought to the county.

Staffers added in the report that county officials consulted with some “vendors” last month to gauge their thoughts on the design of the program. Lime, in particular, has spent months working with local business leaders to ensure a more favorable regulatory environment in the county, while Skip, the third dockless scooter company operating in D.C., has also signaled an interest in expanding to Arlington.

Staff also wrote that they fully expect that this pilot program could encourage the remaining dockless bike companies operating in D.C. — Spin and Jump — to start operating in the county as well.

Additionally, the program clarifies that there is no helmet requirement for scooter riders, the county plans to bar anyone younger than 16 from using the scooters, and that the scooters can’t be used on county sidewalks, without some policy tweaks. The policy also adds that both scooters and electric bikes won’t be permitted on county trails.

“While there is enabling authority for localities to ban electric scooter riding on sidewalks, it does not grant localities authority to affirmatively allow such riding,” staff wrote. “Thus, to enact an ordinance authorizing electric scooter riding on sidewalks would require a legislative change.”

The county is also planning on collecting community feedback on all manner of dockless vehicle issues, and will require the companies themselves to regularly turn over ridership data, which can then be released publicly.

The Board first has to sign off on the policy at its meeting Saturday (Sept. 22). It’s currently slated to be considered as part of its consent agenda, generally reserved for non-controversial items to be approved as a block, though it can be pulled from the consent agenda at the request of Board members.

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Arlington Boulevard Trail Changes in Lyon Park Spark Hope for Cycling Advocates

Arlington County is working on some modest improvements to the Arlington Boulevard Trail in Lyon Park, renewing hopes among cycling advocates that the trail will someday provide a fully contiguous alternative to Route 50.

The county is currently planning a series of changes on the trail as it runs near Arlington Boulevard’s intersection with N. Pershing Drive, near the Day’s Inn hotel in the area. Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services says it hopes to complete the following alterations sometime this fall:

  • Construction of a new, ADA-accessible curb ramp at the corner of N. Pershing Drive and Wainwright Road (the frontage street between Arlington Blvd and the Days Inn hotel)
  • Addition of on-street markings along the eastern portion of Wainwright Road to separate trail users from motorized traffic.
  • Removal of parking on the eastern portion of Wainwright Road.
  • Connection of the Wainwright Road on-street trail to the existing Arlington Boulevard Trail as it approaches 2nd St N.

The county envisions the new curb ramp connecting the trail to the new on-street trail along Wainwright Road, which will then connect to the rest of Arlington Boulevard trail running past the Washington and Lee Apartments.

“Arlington County expects that the markings/bollards used to delineate the trail along Wainwright Road will be short-term,” the county wrote in a NextDoor post. “Given the availability of funding, Arlington County plans to build out a curb separated trail adjacent to Wainwright Road to further increase the safety of this portion of the trail.”

The cycling advocacy blog WashCycle noted that these changes come a few months after Washington Gas replaced a pipeline in the area, leading to the repaving of the trail and the removal of some bollards nearby.

The blog hailed these latest proposed changes, noting that the trail is currently “discontinuous and below standard” and referred back to the Washington Area Bicyclist Association’s proposal to someday add three miles worth of trail along Arlington Boulevard as evidence of the trail’s potential for growth.

“The boulevard trails, like the ABT, MacArthur Boulevard Trail and the planned or under-construction South Capital and Washington Boulevard Trails, don’t get quite the coverage that the rail or stream trails get; but they’re [arguably] more important for transportation as they go right through the areas where people live and work,” WashCycle wrote. “The ABT has a long history and, as WABA points out, plenty of potential. It can, or already does, connect to eight trails including Rock Creek, Mt Vernon, W&OD and Cross County. As proposed by WABA, it could be a real backbone for Arlington County biking. It would be great to see this once again become a must-see trail.”

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Video: Alexander Ovechkin Biking On the W&OD Trail

If you happen to have been biking down the W&OD Trail a couple of days ago and saw someone who kind of looked like Stanley Cup champ Alexander Ovechkin — it probably was.

The Washington Capitals captain and one-time Arlington resident can be seen biking the trail in a video posted to social media recently.

The Instagram video shows a sleeveless Ovechkin and his personal trainer, Pavel, quietly biking down a straight section of the trail in either Arlington or Falls Church — the video is labeled “Arlington, Virginia” but the section of trail shown also looks like a section just west of the county — apparently as part of a training routine.

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Phoenix Bikes Moves into New Home on Columbia Pike

(Updated at 5:10 p.m.) Phoenix Bikes, a local nonprofit and community bike shop, has officially moved. The shop started moving yesterday from its Four Mile Run location into a new home inside the Arlington Mill Community Center (909 S Dinwiddie St).

Meg Rapelye, executive director of Phoenix Bikes, said the shop is planning to open next week. The exact date is still pending an approval of a certificate of occupancy, but an official ribbon cutting is planned for next Wednesday (Sept. 12).

The new location is three times the size of the former Phoenix Bikes shop. Rapelye said the crew at the shop was most excited to have an air conditioning unit and some indoor plumbing, amenities that weren’t available at the small Four Mile Run workshop.

According to Rapelye, the new location is also closer to many of the youth communities the store serves and can help bring some revitalization to the western end of Columbia Pike.

The nonprofit’s mission is to promote bicycling, build community and educate young people by running a mentorship program for students looking to learn more about repairing and selling bikes. It just marked its 10th anniversary last year.

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Commuter Incentives Suspended for APS Employees

(Updated at 10 a.m.) Arlington Public Schools is indefinitely suspending its incentive program to push employees out of their cars, after the effort proved to be a bit too successful — and expensive.

The school system’s Transportation Demand Management (TDM) Commuter Program provides stipends to employees for turning to public transit, walking, bicycling, carpooling and other options to limit the number of cars going to and from schools.

It was budgeted for $222,600 last year, but School Board spokeswoman Linda Erdos said actual expenses were over $389,000. While the difference was covered in last year’s budget, Erdos said the budget for the program remained the same for FY 2019 without the same flexibility.

“No one wanted to make any changes, but we also had to find a way to reduce the growing deficit,” said Erdos in an email. “Carpoolers and transit users also receive stipends, and staff believed that maintaining those programs was important because it immediately reduces an employee’s direct costs for commuting (fares, toll fees and fuel) and keeps the number of cars in school parking lots lower.”

Erdos said the school system looked at reducing the stipend for walkers and bicyclists, but were still left with a $50,000 deficit.

At last Thursday’s School Board meeting (Aug. 30), Assistant Superintendent of Facilities and Operations John Chadwick stated that part of the reason the bicyclists’ and pedestrians’ incentives were targeted was because the data showed they’d be more likely to continue using those methods to get to school.

“Looking at numbers and usage, those members of staff who used to bike and walk would be most likely to continue using walking and biking to school,” said Chadwick. “If we applied the benefit to users of the carpool, we would likely get more people returning to single use cars and have more cars around our schools, more congestion, which causes safety concerns and issues of air quality. Faced with a difficult decision, we determined it would be most useful to suspend bike [and] walk benefits.”

Teachers at the Aug. 30 meeting said they dismayed by the decision.

“Two years ago, the incentive program helped me change my habits,” said Aaron Schuetz, a physics teacher at Yorktown High School. “Now, biking to work is my primary mode of transportation… [it was] disappointing to get email that it was cancelled.”

The suspension of the motor-free benefits was effective Sept. 1, which some teachers noted was an abrupt change.

“I was surprised to see benefits eliminated with three days notice,” said Jeffrey Bunting, an english teacher at Yorktown High School. “I found the process maybe a little cynical how it was eliminated… I fully agree there are probably improvements that can be done, but I encourage the Board and Mr. Chadwick not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.”

Erdos said the Office of Multimodal Transportation Planning in the Department of Facilities & Operations will continue to work on reorganizing the program and will release more information later this year about the changes.

Photo via Arlington Public Schools

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New Protected Bike Lane Opens Connecting Rosslyn and Courthouse

Arlington’s opened up another protected bike lane, this time connecting Rosslyn and Courthouse.

This newest lane runs along Wilson Blvd, between N. Quinn Street and N. Courthouse Road near the post office in the area. The county previously built a protected lane between N. Oak and N. Quinn Streets back in 2016.

In the early going, at least, the new lane seems to be a hit for cyclists and scooter fans alike.

The county’s added several new protected bike lanes this summer, including one along N. Veitch Street near this latest addition, as part of summer paving work around Arlington.

Photo via @juddlumberjack

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Kennan Garvey Memorial Bike Ride Rolls Along This Saturday

The fifth annual Kennan Garvey Memorial Ride is planned for this Saturday (Aug. 25). The bicycle ride along the Washington and Old Dominion Trail will raise money to help Phoenix Bikes afford a new van to help transport students and day to day operations.

Rides range from 15 miles to the full length of the trail. Every 15 miles, volunteers greet riders with water, snacks, maintenance and high fives.

Online registration has closed, but participants can register at the race for a $100 donation and a $25 entry fee. Donations can also be made for teams or individuals.

The ride commemorates Kennan Garvey, an avid cyclist and late husband of County Board member Libby Garvey, who died of a heart attack in 2008. Kennan Garvey was a supporter of Phoenix Bikes, a non-profit that aims to educate the community about biking and help make it more affordable, and the fundraiser in his name has helped Phoenix Bikes afford a new location in the Arlington Mill Community Center.

This year, the goal is to replace the van currently used by the facility. The current van helps transport students to and from bike clubs, races, and special events as well as picking up and delivering donated bicycles.

“Although I’m very close to being able to ride my bike again, my new knee isn’t bending quite enough for me to ride this year…but I signed up anyway,” said Libby Garvey. “I’ll be there for the beginning and plan to help out at one of the rest stops on the ride.”

Courtesy photo

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Cycling Advocates Fear Impacts of Planned Arlington National Cemetery Expansion

Bicycling advocates are blasting newly revealed plans to simultaneously expand Arlington National Cemetery and realign Columbia Pike, arguing that the proposed changes could make cycling along the roadway more dangerous.

The advocacy group “Sustainable Mobility for Arlington County” claims the cemetery’s current expansion plans, designed to someday add 70 acres to the burial ground, “will squander a major opportunity to improve the bike connection between Columbia Pike and Pentagon City and arguably make cycling less pleasant and less safe.”

In a message to its mailing list, the group urged concerned cyclists to speak in opposition to the cemetery’s plans at a public meeting on the subject in Pentagon City tonight (Wednesday).

The organization, founded by county transportation commission chair Chris Slatt, is primarily concerned that the cemetery only plans to add a 10-foot-wide sidewalk along the pike’s north side when it realigns the road. Army officials are currently hoping to add space for as many as 60,000 new interments to the cemetery’s south, absorbing the former Navy annex site and several other acres of land controlled by the county near S. Joyce Street and Washington Blvd, prompting some changes to the pike in the area.

The project also calls for the removal of Southgate Road in its entirety as it runs through area, which Slatt’s group describes as “a relatively quiet street that cyclists currently use to avoid that stretch of Columbia Pike.” The organization has made improving conditions for cyclists on the pike a central part of its mission, and it’s warning that eliminating an alternative to biking along the road would be a major step backward for the area.

“By replacing Southgate Road with just a sidewalk, this project is arguably a downgrade in cycling infrastructure,” the group wrote. “This portion of Columbia Pike has no reasonable nearby alternative. It needs great bike infrastructure.”

Spokespeople for the cemetery did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the organization’s criticisms. But a draft environmental assessment of the project prepared by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers suggests that the changes represent “the upgrade of Columbia Pike into a multimodal facility.”

“The alignment for the future Columbia Pike has the necessary geometry for a high capacity regional multimodal transportation corridor,” the corps wrote.

The corps wrote that planners also considered building the “wall trail” along the cemetery’s eastern boundary as part of this work, a bit of cycling infrastructure long hoped for by county officials to link the Foxcroft Heights neighborhood to Memorial Avenue. Yet the corps said it determined that it “appears to have severe space constraints due to aboveground utilities along the proposed route,” and didn’t consider it any further.

Instead, Slatt’s group would rather see the Army build a “bidirectional bike lane” on the north side of the pike to connect with additional improvements to the west of the area. If that’s not feasible, the organization would also accept a widening of the planned sidewalk into a trail “providing demarcated areas for pedestrians and cyclists marked with paint, signage or differentiated materials.”

Tonight’s meeting on the project is scheduled for the Sheraton Pentagon City hotel (900 S. Orme Street) from 5-8 p.m. The Army expects roadway construction associated with the expansion could start as soon as 2021.

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County Plans ‘Disaster Relief Trials’ to Test Cyclists

When disaster strikes, roads are often one of the first necessities hit. Gridlock or damage to streets can make them impassible for cars.

And on Sept. 29, the county will host “Disaster Relief Trials” to simulate just such an emergency in Arlington. Participants will need to climb onto their bikes and travel across the county carrying food, water, medical supplies and messages to those in need. To do so, they will need to navigate without a GPS and traverse simulated dangerous terrain.

The challenge starts and ends at the Thomas Jefferson Community Center, from which participants will ride out to various checkpoints and be forced to overcome an obstacle. This could be a physical barrier like a downed tree or something like high water at least 15 cm deep.

Additional challenges include delivery of a message, successfully using a fire extinguisher, and wound packing. Points are awarded based on weight of supplies transported and emergency preparedness challenges completed. The top three finalists in each category will be awarded prizes.

Registration costs for the event varies based on category.

  • Responder I (Individuals, traditional bicycles) – Single Adult on standard bike, including bike racks, panniers, body packs, etc. Registration costs $40.
  • Responder II (Individuals, cargo bicycle, and/or trailer) – Single Adult on cargo bike (front bucket or longtail), or standard bike with trailer. Registration costs $40.
  • Family Responders (1-2 Adults, 1-4 children under age 14, any style of bikes) – Up to 2 adults and between 1-4 children under the age of 14, any style of bikes. Registration costs $75.
  • Team Responders (2-3 Adults, any/all bike types) – Teams of 2-3 adults, any/all bike types. Registration costs $75.
  • Citizen (Individual) – Single Adult with no cargo or checkpoint requirement; complete as many Emergency Preparedness Challenges as you want; non-competitive. Registration costs $10.

With a focus on bicycling through disaster zones, GPS systems and electronic assist bicycles are not allowed (or batteries for e-bikes removed). Registration is available online.

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Bike Advocates Craft New Map of DC Region’s Cycling Trails to Promote Holistic Thinking

A coalition of bicycling and transit advocates has drawn up a new map of the entire D.C. region’s bike trails, in a bid to promote a more holistic view of the area’s biking options.

The Capital Trails Coalition released the “diagrammatic map” today (Monday), displaying not only the 436 miles of existing trails across the region but also another 302 miles of planned paths that will someday create even more connectivity for cyclists.

The coalition, which includes both local government transportation agencies and a host of advocacy groups, included bike trails in six jurisdictions around the region on the map: Arlington County, Alexandria, D.C., Fairfax County, Montgomery County and Prince George’s County. Coalition Chair Jack Koczela hopes that will help people to see cycling as a viable option no matter where they live around the D.C. region, laying out a clear, unified guide to easily bikeable trails for commuting and recreation alike.

“We hope this comes to have the feel of the iconic Metrorail map,” Koczela told ARLnow. “This is so people can get an idea of what it is we’re talking about in terms of actual trails available to everybody around the region.”

Koczela says the coalition has spent more than two years now drafting the map, as the group sought to work with cyclists to identify trails that are both easy to ride and provide good access to the region’s activity and transit centers.

He’s hoping that the map will prove particularly useful to D.C. suburbs like Arlington. If commuters currently rely on cars or public transit to get to work because they aren’t sure how a trail that starts in Arlington connects with one in D.C., or even Maryland, he foresees this map being a vital resource to provide alternatives.

“A lot of people’s experience on trails is really hyperlocal, and a lot of people aren’t thinking of these trails as a way to connect them to other areas of the region,” said Carm Saimbre, communications coordinator for the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, a coalition member. “The vision with this is to create connections and fill gaps in the network, so it becomes just as established as getting around the Beltway by car.”

With so many planned trails included on the map, Koczela notes that the document is certainly an aspirational one in many respects. In Arlington alone, the map includes not only trails currently under construction, like a new section of trail alongside Washington Blvd, but also ones still in the planning stages, like the extension of the Mt. Vernon Trail from Theodore Roosevelt Island.

But by showing just how adding more trails could better connect the region, Koczela thinks the map will be a valuable tool as his coalition lobbies for more funding for bike infrastructure going forward.

“Our goal for the next year is to increase awareness and get the political community engaged, thinking about the trails as a network,” Koczela said.

Photo via the Capital Trails Coalition

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Lubber Run Park Bridge Closes Temporarily

A bridge for walkers and cyclists in Lubber Run Park is now closed, at least temporarily.

An alert on the county’s website says the bridge, closest to N. George Mason Drive as a trail runs over Lubber Run itself, will be closed “until further notice.”

A tipster first notified ARLnow about the closure on Friday (Aug. 3). County parks spokeswoman Susan Kalish says workers checked on the bridge while doing some park maintenance, and subsequently decided to close it.

“Our crew was concerned with the bridge but they aren’t bridge experts,” Kalish wrote in an email. “They closed the bridge and have scheduled a bridge expert to check it out.”

Kalish expects the county is “erring on the side of caution” with the closure, but she stressed that “safety is our number one concern.”

The county’s posted detour signs for anyone using the trail, and is directing walkers and bicyclists away from the bridge while work continues.

The park, located at 200 N. Columbus Street, was recently the site of a community gathering to pay tribute to the soon-to-be torn down Lubber Run Community Center.

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