Bruce Wright is one of few working people in Reston who knows how long it takes him to get to work each day. Wright does not sit in daily traffic congestion, and he looks forward to his 6-mile commute from Reston to Vienna and back.
"It takes me almost exactly 25 minutes" to get to work each day, said Wright, 52, a bicycle commuter. A Reston resident since 1979, he estimated that he rides a bike to work about 99 percent of the time.
Wright also owns a car, and sometimes drives to work. "If it’s pouring I’ll drive to work," he said. However, on a good day — a day without much traffic congestion — he said it takes him 15 minutes to get to work driving a car. Even on those days when he could save 10 minutes of commuting time each way, Wright prefers riding his bike. "Instead I’m getting exercise, not polluting and not buying $3 per gallon gas," he said. Wright added that he fills his car with gas about once every other month.
Wright also rides his bike to the grocery store. He said that most trips people take with their cars are short trips, which cause the most pollution. He said this is also true of people who commute far to work. "Half of the trips that most people take are less than five miles, even if they have a long commute," said Wright.
While his passion for bicycling grew after he started commuting to work, Wright said his passion for the environment grew as he was growing up in the 1960s. He said that was the time when environmental advocacy gained momentum. Wright said many people today are interested in preserving and improving the natural environment. "In the age of worrying about global climate change you have to think globally and act locally," said Wright. "This is one way to act locally. It reduces air pollution, it reduces traffic congestion and it makes for a more livable community."
ANOTHER BIKE COMMUTER with local ties is Larry Butler, Reston Association’s director of parks and recreation. Butler has been riding to work for the last 12 years. His commute takes him from Franklin Farm, down Fairfax County Parkway and the Washington and Old Dominion Trail, about a 7-mile trip. "I try to ride two to three days per week," said Butler. He said exercise and gas prices are some of the reasons why he rides to work. Also, he added, depending on what time he leaves for work, he makes it to his office on a bike in roughly the same time as he does driving a car.
Butler said it is not unusual for him to see a mile-long backup on Fairfax County Parkway near the Dulles Toll Road. "I will find a truck and see if I beat it to the toll road," said Butler.
While it is nice to know how long it would take to get to work, and to exercise on the way to work, both Wright and Butler realize there are other reasons keeping people from biking to work. Butler said that most people’s hesitation is that they don’t know a safe way they could bike to work. "Most people say to me, ‘There is no good way for me to get here,’" he said. He suggests to his colleagues to do a little bit of research, because there usually is a safer way than they can think of to make it to work. Wright’s advocacy group, Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling (FABB) has maps on its Web site for bicyclists.
Wright acknowledged that it could be tough to follow the roads in to work. Most of his commute is on the W&OD Trail. "Roads don’t have shoulders on them," said Wright.
However, Wright argued that roads are safer to ride on than trails are. "It’s proven that cyclists are safer on the road," said Wright. The rationale is that motorists ignore trails, but do pay attention to what is happening on the roads. Wright said almost all of the accidents involving bicyclists happen at places where roads intersect trails.
A RECOGNIZED DETERRENT from biking to work is also a possible level of discomfort at the workplace, given that the bikers may sweat on their way to work. Wright suggested that those with that concern ride slow on their way to work, bring a change of clothes and dry off with a towel. If enough employees approach their employer about building shower facilities, the employer may respond and build them.
Butler also suggested that bikers ride slow on their way to work, and save the exercise for the return trip. He said the 7-mile ride home is a good amount of exercise for him.
Fairfax County has been making progress in creating a safer environment for bikers, and is in the process of making a bike map for the county. There is still much that could be done to improve the situation. "I would like to see more dedicated bike lanes," said Butler.
"I don’t think it’s building more trails," said Wright. Rather, he would like to see roads built with some room for the bicyclists. "Build [the roads] for everybody," he said.
Patti Nicoson, chair of the Reston Metrorail Access Group (RMAG) — studying accessibility issues and opportunities at the future metro stations in Reston — said one of the main concerns brought up at the group’s meeting is the ability to access the stations by bicycle. "We need to give bicycles a better consideration," said Nicoson.
To encourage more people to ride to work once, area bicycle commuting advocates are organizing a Bike to Work Day in communities around the region. Reston’s Bike to Work Day will take place on Friday, May 18, at the Reston Town Center Pavillion, from 6:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. "[The event] is to try to encourage people to do it one day. Just try it," said Wright.