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Herndon Becoming Cyclist-friendly

Town will submit bicycle facilities resolution for inclusion in county’s plan.

Fairfax County’s bicycle transportation plan, as recommended by the comprehensive plan and the Pedestrian and Bicycle Committee recommendations.

Fairfax County’s bicycle transportation plan, as recommended by the comprehensive plan and the Pedestrian and Bicycle Committee recommendations. Photo by Alex McVeigh.

— The Herndon Town Council approved bicycle facilities for inclusion in the Fairfax County Bicycle Plan by a five to two vote at their Aug. 14 meeting. Fairfax County commenced planning for bicycle facilities in the comprehensive plan about a year ago. They included incorporated towns Herndon, Vienna and Clifton so there would not be gaps in the network of trails.

"I think we have an opportunity here to be forward thinking and move forward with multi-modal [transportation] options, we’ve got Metro coming, we want our downtown more walkable," Mayor Lisa Merkel said. "Now is the time to plan for the very long term, for 20 years with Metro here and more and more of people moving here, maybe with one car or even no car, that we’re ready for that."

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Bikers cross Elden Street in downtown Herndon. The Town Council passed a resolution on future bicycle facilities at their Aug. 14 meeting.

THE APPROVED RESOLUTION includes 16 different changes, which includes extensions of two trails to and from the W and OD trail, additional bike lanes on sections of Monroe Street and Elden Street and a cycle track on Herndon Parkway between Van Buren Street and Spring Street.

It also calls for fifteen different "future on-road bicycle facilities" at various locations. Elizabeth Gilleran, director of community development for the town, said that these would most likely be sharrows, a shared-lane marking that would indicate to drivers that cyclists may be present.

The resolution passed does not include specific mentions of sharrows.

"[The facilities] might be a sharrow, it might be a sign that says bicyclists can use a full lane, or, since this will be active at some point in the future, might be additional devices or signs to raise awareness or show changes," Gilleran said. "We’re leaving it open, because it’s long range items. A sharrow does not provide any changes to laws on the books, does not add additional rights, it is just a sign to increase awareness of cycles."

Councilmember Charlie Waddell, an active cyclist in the community, who opposed the motion along with Vice Mayor Connie Hutchinson, said improving bicycle safety with markings is a good first step, but thinks that reaching out to educate cyclists, especially inexperienced ones, is also essential.

"Bicycles are vulnerable road users, and creating a safe bike environment involves a lot more than striping lanes and painting things called sharrows on the road," Waddell said. "One of the real problems we face today is distracted driving, cell phone usage and texting, it’s almost an epidemic."

The motion passed by the Town Council specifically stated that approval would not warrant a change in the town’s 2030 comprehensive plan.

"Action does not change our comprehensive plan, it does not commit us financially, it does not commit us when it comes to construction, it’s just a planning policy that would, if we were to adopt it into our comprehensive plan, it would guide us to making the improvements," Gilleran said. "This is not something County is gearing up to implement, it’s something in their long-range planning document."

Gilleran also said that adoption of the plan would prove helpful for future funding.

"If we do have this adopted into our plan and county plan, one day we should decide to seek grants to build these facilities, having it on the comprehensive plans would give our application for grant dollars a boost," she said.

TOWN RESIDENTS who spoke at the meeting said they would like to see additional safety features for cyclists. Adrienne Dykstra of Herndon bikes with her children, and said she would welcome additional features.

"I’m a mom with two little kids, we bike around town two or three days a week, other days we walk around town. It’s one of the things that drew us here, makes me love Herndon, makes me brag about it," she said. "I hope we’re open-minded to plans that would bring more bicyclists to the town safely."

Steve Altemus said he thought road markings would help make bikers themselves more aware.

"Legally, since you’re supposed to stay as far to the right as possible, it establishes a legal spot for you, so there’s no dispute if there’s an accident or incident that you’re in the right spot," he said. "With an unmarked road, there’s a question of if you’re not in the right place, so it gives a biker an extra bit of confidence to use that road."