Kds from Escuela Key and Campbell Elementary schools can regularly be seen bicycling to school to upbeat music.
Sometimes, there is a theme — like wearing costumes on Halloween — as well as the occasional sweet treat or freebie, like bicycle lights from the county program Bike Arlington.
“I am not above bribing children,” says Gillian Burgess, who leads a group of children to the dual-language elementary school Escuela Key. “Donuts are definitely a big help.”
Burgess is a volunteer conductor of a bicibús (Spanish for “bike bus”) — a weekly bicycling group with a set route that makes two stops to pick up kids on the way to Escuela Key. It has a Spanish name because the concept started in Vic, Spain, to provide safety in numbers to kids intimidated by traffic, per a Duolingo podcast with the woman who started the bicibús.
It has since spread to larger Spanish cities, such as Barcelona, and throughout Europe. And it has gone stateside to Portland, Seattle and now Arlington.
In Portland, Oregon, a group of parents and one teacher came together to create an alternative way of getting kids to school while clearing road congestion.@byjacobward shares more details about the “bike bus” where hundreds of students ride together through the neighborhood. pic.twitter.com/LPdFK2gHyJ
— NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt (@NBCNightlyNews) October 12, 2022
Burgess started the Escuela Key route when APS provided hybrid education in spring 2021, and some parents worried about Covid transmission on buses. Now, families stick with it because they have noticed improvements to their child’s mood and focus in school, she said.
“It’s fun,” says fourth-grader Billy Schnell. “I like biking to school with my friends in the morning. It makes me happy. The regular bus is hot and stuffy, but I feel cool on the Bicibús.”
Burgess said there are two great things about the program: “Kids can go even if caretakers can’t go with them and there is safety in numbers.”
In greater numbers, Escuela Key riders feel safer navigating unlit crossings and getting from the intersection of the Bluemont Trail with N. George Mason Drive to Escuela Key a block away, she said. It also helps families break from their driving routines and gives kids independence.
“We take our kids to all these places. We sit and wait for them to finish their activities. We drive them there and home,” Burgess said. “It sucks for us as parents because we’re spending all this time chauffeuring, and kids are not learning how to be independent and confident.”
Meanwhile, the Campbell bike train, which started this year, provides a bi-monthly alternate route home now that parents cannot drive to pick up their kids directly from school, a decision Burgess said was made to improve student safety.
Burgess has taken other steps to help kids feel comfortable on bikes, such as helping install traffic gardens where kids could learn the rules of the road in miniature two years ago.
At the time, that had support from APS, but she is hoping for more coordination with the schools system now. That’s especially so in the wake of a number of high-profile crashes that involved students or happened near schools and have prompted the community and the Arlington County Board to call for swifter action on traffic safety and drunk driving.
“We don’t have a partner in APS right now,” she said, adding that she has reached out for help but hasn’t gotten much of a response. “We need someone who can come at it as a professional in the school system in terms of what is appropriate for adolescents, children and teenagers. What is the right messaging? What works?”
After a driver collided with a child on a bicycle on S. Carlin Springs Road this week, neighbors and advocates are calling for street safety upgrades.
For its part, Arlington County says it has already been working on safety measures for the area, which has narrow sidewalks, little or no pedestrian buffer and a history of crashes. Upcoming steps include reducing speeds near the schools in the area: Kenmore Middle School and Carlin Springs Elementary.
“We are looking into the details from police regarding the crash and will identify next steps based on the report,” Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Katie O’Brien said.
And Arlington County Board member Matt de Ferranti has recently gotten involved, too. He tells ARLnow he has walked the area with advocates and will be meeting with staff next week.
“First and foremost, I understand that the young man is okay and the safety of our kids and our residents is highest on my mind,” de Ferranti said. “Second, the accident raises important and urgent questions about safety in that whole corridor… We need to do better to address them.”
How the crash happened
Just before 7 p.m. on Monday, a driver traveling south on S. Carlin Springs Road proceeded through a green light and struck a juvenile riding a bicycle in the crosswalk, Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage said.
The driver remained on scene. The child, who did not require a trip to the hospital for treatment, was tended to on scene by medics, Savage said. No citations were issued.
While ACPD does not provide identifying information, she did say the child involved was older than first reported on social media.
The boy was bleeding, but injuries appeared NLT. He was tended to by medics and police in the back of what appeared to be an @APSVirginia white van (logo on pass door – assuming Kenmore M.S. related) to in the 7-11 parking lot. pic.twitter.com/qtr4Yijzrn
— Matthew Young (@matthewyoung31) October 3, 2022
A history of unsafe sidewalks
Community advocate Janeth Valenzuela tells ARLnow that she passed by the crash around 6:45 p.m. and saw emergency responders. She says she’s been working on safety along S. Carlin Springs Road for many years now, and has suggested everything from building a bridge for kids crossing the road to erecting a fence to prevent kids from getting pushed into the street.
“I’ve been proposing a lot of things, but they don’t take it into consideration,” she said. “The solution is hard.”
S. Carlin Springs Road is an important walking route for Kenmore students, but she and other residents say the pedestrian amenities are poor. Sidewalks are narrow and not well maintained and often do not have any landscaping separating pedestrians from traffic.
And people have been telling the county the same thing for nearly a decade, according to a 2014 report by the APS Multimodal Transportation and Student Safety Committee and Advisory Committee on Transportation Choices meeting minutes from 2017.
During one ACTC meeting in 2017, a father said moms with strollers pass kids playfully shoving each other on the sidewalk as cars whiz right next to them. In the winter, if the sidewalks aren’t plowed, kids walk in the road, he added.
Temporary bollards and wheel stops along a segment of S. Carlin Springs Road are set to come down this weekend.
Since March, these barriers — closing off the northbound right travel lane from 8th Place S. to 5th Road S. — have been up to give more room to kids walking to their neighborhood schools. On Saturday (July 24), S. Carlin Springs Road will fully reopen to traffic, according to a tweet from Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services.
Based on community feedback and field study, the northbound right travel lane of S Carlin Springs Rd from 8th Pl S to 5th Rd S will reopen to traffic this Saturday. The lane had been used for a temporary pilot walkability route. #VsionZero https://t.co/Lj1Zw8i2MH pic.twitter.com/P0UemcJhzf
— Arlington Department of Environmental Services (@ArlingtonDES) July 22, 2021
“APS and the Department of Environmental Services saw an opportunity to create pilot temporary walking routes not on built sidewalks but rather on space carved out from an original travel or parking lane to help students get to school,” DES spokesman Peter Golkin said.
Campbell Elementary School, Glen Forest Elementary School and Carlin Springs Elementary School are all on or near that stretch of S. Carlin Springs Road that starts in Arlington Mill and ends in Glencarlyn.
The pilot walkability route was part of the county’s five-year Vision Zero Action Plan, aimed at eliminating traffic-related deaths and severe injuries. The County Board approved the Vision Zero safety plan this May.
“Staff collected information on facility use feedback, community experience, field observation of operation, traffic pattern, crash experience, etc.,” Golkin said. “Staff hope to use the comments and data to inform future decisions.”
DES and APS will continue studying how the road is used to decide any future changes to traffic patterns, he said. They also tested out the idea on Lorcom Lane in residential North Arlington, which has seen prior attempts to improve safety for kids walking to school.
Although the test was part of a long-range plan, the department took advantage of conditions this spring — when there were fewer cars on the road due to the pandemic and kids were starting to walk to school again — to pilot the change, Golkin noted.
He says neither the Arlington County Police Department nor APS observed a notable increase or decrease in the number of collisions during the study period. Instead, they saw “challenging and dangerous encounters, but none resulted in a collision.”
Social Distancing Decline in Arlington? — “On April 20 in Arlington County, Va., nearly half of cellphones that SafeGraph provided data for were staying at home. Over the next couple days in that suburb of Washington, D.C., the number declined to one-third — as low as it was during the middle of March. It has since increased but is still down from its peak.” [NPR]
Masks Now Required at Costco — “Costco has announced new guidelines for its stores and is requiring all customers — age 3 and older — to wear masks before entering stores beginning Monday, May 4.” [MSN]
MU Launches Program for New Economy — “Marymount has launched ‘Upskilling for the What’s Next Economy,’ a unique and comprehensive range of modular graduate certificates and degree qualifications that will provide students with technical, management, entrepreneurial and leadership skills and get them back to work.” [Marymount University]
Most of Foundation’s COVID Funds Exhausted — “Sixty-five Arlington nonprofits have received a total of nearly $800,000 in emergency response support from the Arlington Community Foundation COVID-19 Prompt Response Fund. On Giving Tuesday Now and throughout the week of May 4, the Community Foundation hopes Arlington residents and businesses will help replenish the fund to meet continuing urgent, crisis-related needs.” [Press Release]
Progress on I-66 Sound Walls — “Glad to see @VaDOT making progress on the installation of new noise barrier walls along I-66E in Arlington and Falls Church.” [@HopeforVirginia/Twitter]
School Board Candidates Worry About Accessibility — “Arlington Public Schools needs to do a better job of designing facilities that provide improved accessibility, candidates for School Board say, and should go well beyond consideration of physical disabilities in its design process.” [InsideNova]
Sims Scores Second Sitting Senator’s Support — “U.S. Senators Tim Kaine and Cory Booker have announced their official endorsements for Arlington Virginia School Board candidate Terron Sims II.” [Press Release]
Campbell Elementary Teacher Featured on TV — “An Arlington County teacher is coming up with creative ways to keep her students engaged during distance learning. News4’s Leon Harris introduces Nicole Croce.” [NBC 4]
A cotton plant growing at Campbell Elementary School drew criticism online today, but Arlington Public Schools said allegations that staff were going to make kids “pick cotton” was a misunderstanding.
“At no time, never, was the school going to have students pick cotton,” said APS spokesman Frank Bellavia.
Catherine Ashby, the Director of Communications for APS, tells ARLnow that a teacher planted cotton seeds in pots as an experiment to see how they would grow. Social media posts about the experiment from the teacher prompted objections from other educators.
“She tweeted about her experiment and what she was growing, and that’s what got other staff members upset about what she was doing,” said Ashby.
Community members started talking online about the incident after an email circulated from Campbell Principal Maureen Nesselrode, who called a staff meeting to discuss what to do with the plant. Bellavia said the plant was destroyed after the meeting.
“Once they realized staff had concerns about the prospects of this they decided to remove the plants,” Ashby said of yesterday’s meeting with the principal. “End of story.”
So @CampbellAPS @APSVirginia in Arlington, Virginia @ARLnowDOTcom is holding a discussion today to decide whether or not it’s offensive to have students pick cotton as part of a history lesson. What do y’all think? Is this okay or offensive? @AngieAnge @DJQUICKSILVA black twitter pic.twitter.com/BUSW8xeEGP
— Live Laugh Love (@MissGodley) May 16, 2019
One Twitter user, who said her name was R. Jones, shared a screenshot of the email. She told ARLnow that a school staff member had forwarded it to her and they were both “angry and offended” about the racial undertones of a teacher planting cotton.
“What do y’all think? Is this okay or offensive?” asked Jones on Twitter.
In the email, Nesselrode asked that “anyone who would like to discuss the prospect of planting cotton seeds” join the Tuesday afternoon meeting “so we can address various viewpoints and come to a mutual understanding.”
Bellavia and Ashby said that Jones had drawn the wrong assumptions about the planting.
Campbell’s curriculum has a hands-on learning focus that includes a Wetlands Learning Lab as well as a greenhouse, and a garden.
Photo via Kimberly Vardeman/Flickr
Update at 3 p.m. — Power has been restored to Dominion customers in western Arlington, though more than 1,500 remain without power in the Bailey’s Crossroads area of Fairfax County.
Power Restored at 2:33pm. Thank you @ArlingtonVaPD @APSFacilities @DomEnergyVA Thank You Top Flight Staff for continuing instruction. Have a safe afternoon!
— Kenmore MS (@APSKenmore) February 25, 2019
Earlier: Thousands are without power in Arlington Monday afternoon, following a major outage in the western portion of the county.
The outage was first reported around 1 p.m., after a tree fell onto power lines near the intersection of Route 50 and Carlin Springs Road. All told, including an ongoing outage along N. Glebe Road, nearly 2,750 Dominion customers are without power in Arlington.
Traffic signals are reported to be dark along S. Carlin Springs Road, from Route 50 to Columbia Pike. Police are on scene, setting up cones and helping to direct traffic. The ramps from Route 50 to Carlin Springs have been closed.
Arlington Public Schools says Kenmore Middle School and Campbell Elementary are currently without power and unable to receive phone calls.
The large outage is also affecting parts of neighboring Alexandria and Fairfax County. As of 1:15 p.m., Dominion was reporting about 1,000 outages in Alexandria and more than 8,000 outages in Fairfax.
Numerous trees are down around the area as a result of today’s widespread wind storm.
ACPD is responding to the report of a traffic light outage in the area of S. Carlin Springs Road and Arlington Blvd. With today's High Wind Warning, we may see additional outages. Remember to treat all uncontrolled intersections as a FOUR WAY STOP. pic.twitter.com/T508DkFreH
— ArlingtonCountyPD (@ArlingtonVaPD) February 25, 2019
INCIDENT: Power Outage
LOCATION: Carlin Springs Rd at Arlington Blvd
IMPACT: Access to Carlin Springs Rd at Arlington Blvd is closed in both directions until further notice due to a power outage. Follow police direction. pic.twitter.com/5Iv3Zcfjj9
— Arlington Alert (@arlingtonalert) February 25, 2019
There is a power outage affecting the neighborhoods of @CampbellAPS, @apscs and @APSKenmore Schools cannot make or receive phone calls at this time.
— Arlington Public Schools (@APSVirginia) February 25, 2019
Some local maximum wind gusts in miles-per-hour. pic.twitter.com/xkwo9jYZ7L
— Arlington Department of Environmental Services (@ArlingtonDES) February 25, 2019
Metro Station Closures Promoted Big Lines at DCA — Shutting down the National Airport and Crystal City Metro stations caused long lines for shuttles and cabs and very pricy Uber and Lyft rides for travelers trying to leave the airport this past weekend. [Washington Post]
Chase Starts in Arlington, Ends in Alexandria — Arlington County Police spotted a stolen car heading southbound on I-395 yesterday afternoon and initiated a traffic stop. The driver, however, refused to stop and instead fled down the King Street exit. Virginia State Police gave chase down King Street and Braddock Road near Fairlington — Arlington units stayed behind per department policy — and eventually the car was stopped and two people arrested in Alexandria. [Twitter, Twitter]
Va. Square Land Use Changes Considered — The Arlington County Board will hear public comment on and vote on whether to advertised proposed land use changes to several parcels of land near the intersection of Washington Blvd and N. Kirkwood Road in Virginia Square. Citing traffic and building height concerns, some residents have objected to the possibility of a six-story apartment building on part of the site. [InsideNova]
E-CARE Event Stats — Updated at 1:25 p.m. — Arlington County’s biannual E-CARE recycling and disposal event this past weekend collected 55,875 pounds of household hazardous materials, 30,000 pounds of used electronics, 700 compact fluorescent bulbs and 30 cubic yards of scrap metal, while setting a record hourly rate, according the county. [Twitter]
Bad Behavior at Elementary School — Yesterday during afternoon school dismissal, police were called to Campbell Elementary on S. Carlin Springs Road for a report of a driver in the parent pickup line who was “cursing at teachers.” [Twitter]
Nearby: Alexandria to Promote Metro Improvement — “The City of Alexandria is launching the ‘Back 2 Blue’ campaign to raise awareness about the improved rush-hour service times on Metrorail and encourage residents and customers to ride the Blue Line. Service on Metrorail’s Blue Line has improved significantly, with rush-hour wait times of just eight minutes. [City of Alexandria]
Flickr pool photo by TheBeltWalk
Campbell Elementary School (737 S. Carlin Springs Road) was briefly evacuated this afternoon due to a fire investigation.
Fire department personnel were dispatched to the school just after 1:00 p.m. for a report of smoke and an electrical smell. Students and staff were evacuated and spent time in the frigid outdoors while firefighters investigated.
No fire was found at the school, and a mechanical issue was suspected, according to fire department spokeswoman Lt. Sarah Marchegiani. Students and staff were able to reenter an unaffected area of the school once it was determined that there was no fire.
Campbell Students Allowed Back on Bus — Students who were bused to Campbell Elementary School last year but were judged to be in the “walk zone” this year will be allowed back on the bus. Arlington Public Schools made the decision to diverge from its controversial Transportation Modernization Plan after 20 families threatened to pull their children from Campbell and enroll them at their neighborhood school, Carlin Springs Elementary, which is over capacity. [Arlington Mercury]
Fairfax Wants Say in Arlington School Expansion — Officials in Fairfax County want to review and analyze the Arlington Public Schools plan to add 300 middle school students and 600 elementary school students to the Williamsburg Middle School campus, which is near McLean. Fairfax officials are concerned about the traffic impact to McLean neighborhoods. [Sun Gazette]
County Approves New Fiber Optic Contract — On Saturday the Arlington County Board approved a $5.37 million contract to build an additional stage of the ConnectArlington fiber optic network. The fiber optic project approved over the weekend will connect 50 county and school facilities. [Arlington County]
Ballston Restaurant Has ‘Best Wings’ — First Down Sports Bar and Grill, at 4213 N. Fairfax Drive in Ballston, has some of the best wings in the D.C. area, according to the Washington Post’s Going Out Guide. First Down offers some 40 flavors of wings and an all-you-can-eat wing night on Wednesday. [Washington Post]
High School Football Update — Bishop O’Connell’s football squad won its homecoming game against Bishop McNamara on Saturday, by a score of 31-14. Yorktown trounced Falls Church on Friday, with a 48-0 win that brought the school’s record to 8-0. Washington-Lee and the winless Wakefield Warriors both lost Friday night.
Flickr pool photo by Christaki
Take a Walk at Lunch Today — Today, April 25, is National Walk @ Lunch Day. What’s National Walk @ Lunch Day, you ask? It’s a day that’s intended to convince Americans to get up and go on a brisk walk at lunch, as opposed to sitting around and just eating lunch at one’s desk. [CommuterPage Blog]
County Honors ‘Notable Trees’ — At the County Board meeting yesterday afternoon, Arlington County announced the nine trees that were chosen this year to be designated as “Notable Trees.” Applause greeted each announcement, which was accompanied by photos the notable trees. “Our commitment to trees is a very real sign of our care for the environment, and this program recognizes residents for being good stewards of these important natural resources,” County Board Chair Mary Hynes said in a statement. [Arlington County]
Wetlands Plan Bogged Down By Red Tape — After six months of fundraisers, parents of students at Campbell Elementary School were looking forward to building a Wetlands Learning Lab on the school’s soggy grounds. Unfortunately, the plan has been held up by numerous county and school system regulations. As a result, more privately-raised funds might be needed to complete the project. [Arlington Mercury]
Flickr pool photo by Desiree L.C.