Brav­ing Tysons Cor­ner on a Bi­cy­cle Seat

Of­fi­cials Mount Up to Help Make 2-Wheel­ing More Ap­peal­ing

The Washington Post Sunday - - Metro Week - By Amy Gard­ner

“BEEEEEEEP!” The im­pa­tient driver leav­ing Moore Cadil­lac on Lees­burg Pike yes­ter­day morn­ing had lit­tle use for the score of cy­clists ped­al­ing up the ser­vice road on a tour to find out if it is dif­fi­cult to ride through Tysons Cor­ner. Their con­clu­sion? Duh. Traf­fic zoomed past at 50 mph. High­way noise and ex­haust filled the air. Gap­ing pot­holes threat­ened.

“This is all just kind of ter­ri­ble right here on Route 7,” warned Bruce Wright, chair­man of Fair­fax Ad­vo­cates for Bet­ter Bi­cy­cling, who led county of­fi­cials on a twowheeled tour of Tysons yes­ter­day to show where bikes can go, where they can’t and what Fair­fax County could do to make the re­gion’s largest em­ploy­ment cen­ter more bi­cy­cle-friendly.

Tysons is a canyon of sub­ur­banstyle of­fice tow­ers, shop­ping malls and park­ing lots. It is dis­con­nected from nearby McLean and Vi­enna by mas­sive high­ways that cut through it, the Cap­i­tal Belt­way and the Dulles Toll Road. And it is the scene, ev­ery rush hour, of the re­gion’s most mad­den­ing bot­tle­neck, a sea of thou­sands of red brake lights that over­whelm its two main thor­ough­fares, Lees­burg Pike and Chain Bridge Road.

“I never see bik­ers,” said Eric So­muah, 29, a sales­man at HBL of Tysons, a car dealer that sells Audis, Porsches, As­ton Martins and Mercedes-Ben­zes along Lees­burg Pike. So­muah was pre­par­ing for the day by ty­ing a bunch of bright bal­loons to the front grille of a Porsche when the bi­cy­cles streamed by.

“Let’s go! Let’s go!” barked Den­nis Frew of McLean over the din of traf­fic. A re­tired Navy pa­tent lawyer and a mem­ber of the cy­cling group that put on the tour, Frew urged rid­ers to cross Route 7 quickly be­cause the sig­nal was so short. “This is the worst part of the ride right here,” he said.

Fair­fax is poised to rein­vent Tysons over the com­ing decade, and bi­cy­cles could be a part of it. Work be­gins this sum­mer on an ex­ten­sion of Metro­rail with four Tysons sta­tions — all with places to keep bi­cy­cles and none with park­ing garages. And sev­eral large-scale prop­erty own­ers in Tysons are plan­ning ma­jor de­vel­op­ments that will clus­ter high-den­sity res­i­dences, as well as shop­ping and of­fice space, around the new sta­tions.

Walk­ing and bik­ing must be part of the plan, plan­ners and ad­vo­cates say. Lees­burg Pike and Gal­lows Road need ded­i­cated bi­cy­cle lanes, they say, as does Jones Branch Road, a pas­toral boule­vard that me­an­ders along sprawl­ing of­fice parks in the north­east cor­ner of Tysons. And the bridge across Chain Bridge Road that con­nects Tysons Cor­ner Cen­ter with Tysons Gal­le­ria to the north.

Fair­fax is more com­mit­ted than ever to that goal, its lead­ers say. Kathy Ichter, di­rec­tor of the county’s Trans­porta­tion De­part­ment, rode along yes­ter­day. Su­per­vi­sor Linda Q. Smyth (D-Prov­i­dence), whose dis­trict in­cludes part of Tysons, showed up at the start of the ride. A cou­ple of county plan­ning com­mis­sion­ers also joined the group, as did Clark Tyler, chair­man of a county task force study­ing the fu­ture of Tysons.

The Board of Su­per­vi­sors showed its in­ter­est last year when it cre­ated a new po­si­tion within the county’s Trans­porta­tion De­part­ment with the sole ob­jec­tive of im­prov­ing bike-abil­ity. Char­lie Strunk, who rode along yes­ter­day, will de­velop a countywide bi­cy­cle trail map, iden­tify places in the county where bike lanes and other im­prove­ments are war­ranted and choose a place in the county — prob­a­bly Tysons, Dunn Lor­ing or the area around the Vi­enna Metro sta­tion — to build trails and stripe lanes as a demon­stra­tion project.

Still, Strunk’s got a long way to go. Fair­fax has striped bike lanes along only six road­ways, the most re­cent ad­di­tion a three-quar­ter­mile stretch along Old Ch­ester­brook Road in McLean. Of a $100 mil­lion-plus trans­porta­tion bond pro­posal that goes to vot­ers in Novem­ber, only a few mil­lion dol­lars will go to­ward bi­cy­cle lanes — along Gal­lows Road from Dunn Lor­ing to Tysons.

And in the mean­time, the car dom­i­nates. As the cy­clists me­an­dered south on Gal­lows Road back to their start­ing point at Joyce Kilmer Mid­dle School, a driver slowed at the rear, stuck im­pa­tiently be­hind the line and wait­ing for a mo­ment to pass. As the last of the cy­clists turned off the road, the car peeled out, tires crunch­ing through gravel, its driver fi­nally free.


Mem­bers of Fair­fax Ad­vo­cates for Bet­ter Bi­cy­cling and Fair­fax County of­fi­cials pause af­ter cross­ing Route 7.

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