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Saturday, January 7, 2012

Public hearing to seek input on Annandale bike routes

The Fairfax County Department of Transportation will hold a public meeting in February to hear recommendations on the “Annandale subarea” for a proposed bicycle master plan. The countywide bicycle plan is aimed at designating a system of roads and trails throughout the county.

The date and place for the meeting haven’t been determined yet. The Annandale subarea encompasses most of Mason District, including Annandale, Bailey’s Crossroads, Falls Church, the eastern sections of the Providence and Braddock districts, and the northern part of the Lee District. Similar meetings have been held or are scheduled in other parts of the county

The countywide bike plan will identify infrastructure improvements, such as bike lanes, wider shoulders, and bike parking facilities; safety issues, such as improved signage; and will include recommendations on educating bicyclists and drivers on how to share the roads, said Charlie Strunk, bicycle program coordinator in the Fairfax County Department ofTransportation (FCDOT).

Only about 1 percent of people who live and work in Fairfax County use bicycles to commute to work, Strunk said. “We want to increase that percentage.”

The master plan will build on the Tysons Corner bike plan presented to the public last spring and the 2008 bike map developed with input from Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling (FABB).

FABB Chairman Bruce Wright is looking forward to working with FCDOT on the countywide bike plan. “We know it’s going to take more than volunteers. We don’t know where people are located, where they want to go, and what are the best routes. Having a bike master plan is the only way it can be done,” he said.

FABB’s list of 14 top priorities includes just one project in the Mason District: provide better bicycle routes along Route 50 and provide access to the new Beltway crossings.

Annandale resident John Hoopes, a frequent bicycle commuter, member of FABB, and Mason District volunteer on the Bicycle Advisory Committee, said he found a number of bike routes around Annandale that are enjoyable “but a number of connections that are lacking or at least unfriendly.”

Among Annandale’s best bike routes are McWhorter Place, which runs parallel to Little River Turnpike, and the Cross-County Trail in Wakefield Park, Hoopes said, but “as a whole, bicycle riders don't find themselves too welcomed by Annandale’s 1950s era network of cul-de-sacs and traffic-clogged major thoroughfares.”

“The major highways cause chokepoints at key roads and cut-throughs,” he said. “If Annandale doesn't get these chokepoints right, we are going to be setting our bicycle commuters up for problems as they try to get from Springfield to Alexandria or the Tyson’s Corner area.”

Hoope’s top several priorities for multipurpose paths, bicycle lanes or other improvements in Annandale include Backlick Road, Gallows Road (to just beyond the Merrifield Metro Station), and Braddock Road (from Little River Turnpike to the Audrey Moore Recreation Center). 

He would also like to see a multipurpose trail through Indian Run Park and Turkeycock Run Stream Valley Park, which is connected via an existing culvert under I-395 to an excellent trail  network in Bren Mar Park. “If we could provide that tunnel with electricity and connect it properly, that could turn into an excellent route to bypass Edsall Road,” he said.

He hopes the public hearing will endorse at least a few of these ideas and generate new ones. “It will in all probability set the priority for projects as the funding becomes available. The bigger the turnout, the better the mix of ideas.”

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