Adult Tricycles Become Arlington's New Vehicle for Improving Health, Air

Lourdes Sanchez, above, is one of many Arlington employees jumping on the county's new fleet of tricycles and bicycles instead of hopping in cars. She found her ride quite smooth. At right, it's safety first for Penny Newquist. Brent Stagnaro, behind her, chose a standard bike.
Lourdes Sanchez, above, is one of many Arlington employees jumping on the county's new fleet of tricycles and bicycles instead of hopping in cars. She found her ride quite smooth. At right, it's safety first for Penny Newquist. Brent Stagnaro, behind her, chose a standard bike. (Photos By Michael Williamson -- The Washington Post)

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By Jerry Markon
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 18, 2009

The newest way for Arlington County employees to get around has three wheels, a bell and an orange safety flag.

It's a tricycle.

No, Big Wheels and scooters are not coming next. These are adult trikes, and you might see county employees riding them to meetings. You might also see drivers stopping to stare.

Arlington officials think the "trike pool" is the way to go.

"I know it sounds nutty,'' said Mary Curtius, a county spokeswoman, but it's part of the eco-friendly county's efforts to lower health-care costs and help the environment. "Instead of jumping in a car and driving across town, people can bike. We're looking for every way we can think of to work on prevention and wellness.''

Michael Dako of Social Services rode a three-wheeler around on his lunch hour yesterday -- blue with a big basket, reflectors and a "1 Less Car" tag. "Once you get the feel of it, it's a great ride," said Dako, 42 -- despite the drivers pulling over to say "cool bike."

"Everyone can see what we're trying to promote, which is cleaner air and health," he said before taking off on a four-mile ride in the bike lanes and on the sidewalks of the busy Rosslyn-Ballston corridor.

Local governments nationwide are doing more to help the environment, but treks by trike are a new one, said Kelly Zonderwyk, a project manager at the District-based National Association of Counties. "I can imagine many of the Arlington elected officials and staff riding around on them," she said.

Arlington staff employees hit upon the idea as part of their two-year-old program, Fresh AIRE (Arlington Initiative to Reduce Emissions), which already includes hybrid taxis. First they wanted to add bikes to the carpool fleet, said Shannon Whalen-McDaniel, spokeswoman for the county's Department of Environmental Services. They began an "investigative process," checking out hundreds of bikes.

Ultimately, the county purchased six trikes for just under $500 each, along with six bicycles. Since the bikes were rolled out last fall, 140 of the county's 3,600 employees have registered to ride.

Employees were signing out trikes yesterday in the basement of a government building across the street from the county courthouse. A sign on the bulletin board encouraged them to "Bike or Trike Today."

Wearing a regulation blue helmet with chin strap, Penny Newquist was taking a tricycle to her meeting. "People will pull you over sometimes and say, 'Where can I get one?' " said Newquist, who works for Environmental Services.

Newquist, 53, said riding a tricycle takes practice -- employees aren't kids anymore, after all -- and is a bit slow.

It's not like riding a bicycle.


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