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Cyclists who commute to Tysons look forward to Fairfax bike plan

Chris French commutes to his job with the Environmental Protection Agency in McLean from his home in Oakton.
Chris French commutes to his job with the Environmental Protection Agency in McLean from his home in Oakton. (By Matt McClain For The Washington Post )

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 29, 2010; 7:45 PM

On a crisp, gray morning, Chris French maneuvered a bicycle through Vienna's neighborhood streets on his way to work in Tysons Corner. A narrow curve on Old Courthouse Road was the toughest spot, and some frustrated motorists squeezed past him. But a school bus driver drove patiently behind French, who was cycling about 14 mph from his home in Oakton.

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"Rarely do I see somebody wait for me," he said after the ride, his face slightly red but with no sign of sweat.

Biking to work is a choice offered mostly in cities. And in traffic-choked Tysons, where the car is king, it can be a challenge. The area has few public biking facilities. And lately, making the ride tougher is the construction of the Metrorail line to Dulles International Airport and the Capital Beltway's high-occupancy toll lanes.

As part of efforts to redevelop Tysons into an urban downtown, Fairfax County is forming a long-term plan to add bike lanes, trails and other facilities to the area.

The Tysons portion is the first phase of an effort to create a biking infrastructure across the county. The plan is scheduled to be released in February and will require the approval of the Board of Supervisors.

Those who bike to work in Tysons say the plan is a welcome relief.

Right now, "it's a challenge, and a lot of them have to be pretty confident road cyclists to get to work," said Jeffrey Hermann, project manager for the county's bicycle master plan.

"We want to expand beyond those people and make it sort of an everyday, every person" thing, he said.

Cyclists occupy an awkward zone between pedestrian and driver. Yet that zone could soon be ideal for traversing Tysons, an area torn between a car-centric present and hopes of a denser, more urban future. Even though parts of the transformed Tysons probably won't soon meet the goal of complete walkability, they will at least be cycleable.

The plan includes bike racks and lockers at the four Metrorail stations being built in Tysons. It recommends connections to the Washington and Old Dominion Trail and a trail parallel to Route 7. Construction of bike lanes on Gallows Road is scheduled to begin in the spring.

The plan might consider shared lane markings and bike-safety questions on driver's license exams.

Until the changes take place, cyclists must ride through construction zones. Many once used Route 7's service roads, which have closed to make room for a rail line down the median.


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