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Council Pedals into Controversy

After over a year of study, Vienna officials are continuing to recommend the same signed bicycle route that generated some controversy among residents in June 2001.

On Monday Sept. 9, at 8 p.m., the Vienna Town Council will hold a public hearing on the bicycle route, at Vienna Town Hall, 127 Center Street.

The signed bicycle route will connect Nottoway Park to the Washington and Old Dominion (W&OD) Trail. Beginning at Nottoway Park, the proposed route will run through town neighborhoods and hit the W&OD Trail at the Vienna Community Center.

Last June residents spoke against the "green" route, recommended by Richard Black, Vienna’s former director of Parks and Recreation. The green route was one of four possible routes considered by the town. Residents along Meadow Lane, one road where the bicycle route is proposed, asked that the bikers be directed onto some of the larger nearby streets, such as Nutley Street or Tapawingo Road. The Meadow Lane residents argued that the bicycle route would bring strangers into the neighborhood, and that the additional bicycle riders would be a nuisance for automobiles.

"There are already cars parked on both sides of Meadow Lane," said Vienna resident Ed Turkaly. "Some of the residents are not happy about the Town of Vienna just going in and doing this."

But Black said the route should stay along smaller, residential streets, such as Meadow Lane, in order to keep the bicycle riders safe. Cathy Salgado, current director of the Parks and Recreation Department, agreed with Black.

"We feel the green route is the best," Salgado said. "For traffic control -- there is lower traffic on the green route. It doesn’t cross Park Street. It would be more expensive to build a crossing along Park Street."

UNDER THE PROPOSED plan, there will be no additional bike lanes installed to accommodate the riders. The bicycle route will consist only of road signs.

Emil Guglielmo, who lives along Meadow Lane, opposed the proposed bicycle route at last year’s hearing. At that hearing, town officials said they would consider bicycle routes that did not run over Meadow Lane. But now that the town is re-introducing their original proposal, Guglielmo said he feels frustrated. He does not plan to attend the upcoming public hearing.

"The town has been spinning my wheels for the last two years," Guglielmo said. "I’m not going to get involved anymore."

Salgado called the signed bike route the "missing link," connecting the City of Fairfax’s Gateway Park — near Fairfax Circle — to the W&OD Trail. A trail currently connects Gateway Park to Nottoway Park. The Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority has been pushing for the final connection from Nottoway to the W&OD Trail. The park authority will pay for the bike route signage. Jack Robey, director of park operations with the park authority, said he supports the current bicycle route plan. He said it is important that people from Fairfax have a safe route to the W&OD Trail.

"IN FAIRFAX COUNTY, and the entire region, we are looking at the trail network," Robey said. "We want to connect hiking trails and biking trails."

He said it is important that the bike route stays on small, residential streets, in order to keep bicycle riders safe. He said many of those who use the W&OD Trail are children, or families.

"When you’re on the W&OD Trail, it’s safe because the cars are not there," Robey said. "If there is a busy road, you can’t ensure the safety of the riders."

At last year’s hearing, Robey estimated the bike route would bring 100 riders per day. He recently backed off of that figure, and said he would "rather not give a number, because it would be a guess." Even so, he said 100 riders per day have a low impact. He also said residents should not fear that the route will bring dangerous or inconsiderate people into the neighborhoods.

"We’ve found that the people using the trails are civic-minded, safe people," Robey said. "They don’t want to be in their cars for health reasons, or because they want to be out in nature."

The proposed route exits Nottoway Park onto Tapawingo Road, across Nutley Street. Then the route turns left on Meadow Lane, left on Plum Street and right on Battle Street. Bikers would remain on Battle until it dead-ends at the gravel pathway that connects to Mill Street near the Community Center. At that point bikers will be able to access the trail at the intersection with Park Street. The route provides a connection to the Vienna Metro Station, which is located near Nottoway Park, and also passes Vienna’s Meadow Lane Park.

After hearing comments from the public at the Sept. 9 meeting, the Vienna Town Council will vote whether or not to approve the proposed bicycle route.