'Thinking Outside the Car'

'Thinking Outside the Car'

The Tour de Lee is back for its fifth year of biking around the Lee District.

Forget planes, trains and automobiles. In the Lee District, it's all about the bicycle.

For the fifth year, the Tour de Lee, a bicycle event that, as the name suggests, offers riders a tour of the Lee District, will roll away from two venues on Sunday, Oct. 24.

More than 100 participants are expected, making the crowd the largest in the event's history.

"I'm excited, enough to do the 1.2-mile family ride," said Supervisor Dana Kauffman (D-Lee), who helped to get the event out of the blocks, with the help of bike enthusiasts Bob Heittman and Bob Michie, five years ago.

This year's tour honors the memory of Heittman, who served in numerous Fairfax County government positions, including as Transportation Commissioner of Lee District. Heittman died of liver cancer in May at the age of 66, and according to Michie was a vital part of the transportation boom in Lee.

"There was always Bob Heittman around, as a resource," said Michie, citing the "Welcome to Lee District" signs around the district as one example. "That's Bob Heittman," he said.

THE EVENT has grown from the 40 riders who showed up for the first ride to close to 100 riders who attended last year, according to Linda Waller, who works in Kauffman's office.

"It's a way for people to see part of the district they might not otherwise see," said Waller. "It's also a way to show them where some of the bike trails and lanes are."

"Initially, I thought the name was silly and the idea was marginal, but after thinking about it literally for about two years, we thought we'd give it a try," said Kauffman, who said he now believes his district has bought into the concept of bikes as transportation.

"Thinking outside the car has been a great plus for our area," he said. "In some of our new planned developments, people are wondering when the trails are going to be cleared, before [they ask about] the roads."

This year's Tour de Lee will include three rides. The 1.5-mile "family tour" begins at 11 a.m., at Rose Hill Elementary School. A 15-mile tour will start at 9:30 a.m., at Lee District Park near the carousel and amphitheater. The final 1.5 miles of that ride will meet the family tour and head back to Lee District Park. Another 30-mile ride begins at 9:30 a.m., at Lee District Park. Ride security for all rides will be provided by the Fairfax County Police Bicycle Patrol. Operating out of the Franconia District Station, the Bicycle Patrol will also put on a bike rodeo for children at Lee District Park following the ride. In addition, the Bikes @ Vienna bike shop will provide free bike safety checks.

Michie said he is also adding another ride for what he called the "bugs-in-your-teeth crowd." It's a 15-mile ride beginning in Kingstowne, where he hopes the Tour can begin next year for its sixth installment. That way, he said, the Tour de Lee can truly be a tour of the district.

"The issue is a lot of people simply don't see bicycles as transportation, and they're frightened to put these things on the road," said Michie. "It's basically to show people they can ride 10 to 12 miles and it doesn't hurt."