Bicycle-loving Arlington County has set aside $300,000 to plow trails during what is expected to be a snowier-than-usual winter.
Bicycling advocates lobbied last winter for local governments to remove the white stuff from trails, noting that tens of thousands of people in the Washington region travel to and from work on two wheels.
Arlington, it appears, was listening.
The Parks and Recreation Department has purchased two small plows to clear up to 10 miles of Arlington’s busiest trails after each snowfall. At the same time, the Environmental Services Department will launch a pilot program to pretreat and clear snow from the protected bike lanes that have been established on some county streets.
Although the National Park Service clears the D.C. portion of the Capital Crescent trail, and Montgomery County has committed to plowing its portion of that trail this winter, Arlington officials said their government is the first in the region to offer a comprehensive trail-plowing program.
The targeted areas include 5.2 miles of the Custis trail from Lynn Street to the Washington & Old Dominion trail; 1.25 miles of the Bluemont Junction trail from Fairfax Drive to the W&OD; 2.25 miles of the Four Mile Run trail from National Airport to Shirlington Road; and 0.4 miles of the Route 110 trail between the Iwo Jima Memorial and Arlington Cemetery.
“It’s absolutely important,” said Greg Billing, advocacy coordinator with the Washington Area Bicycle Association. “Cold weather doesn’t deter people from riding to work. What stops people is snow on the trails. And every person who is not biking . . . is crowding a Metro train or bus, or driving.”
Arlington is considered a national leader in encouraging residents to park their cars in favor of bicycling, walking and using mass transit. Even in a county battling over the value of a streetcar system, the proposal to spend several hundred thousand dollars on new equipment to plow trails sparked little opposition during budget discussions last spring.
The county has about 100 miles of bike and pedestrian trails, which are often bustling. Since April, approximately 250,000 cyclists have passed through the busiest section, at Lee Highway and North Lynn Street near the Key Bridge.
Still, the number of people commuting by bicycle in Arlington is tiny compared with those who travel by car — about 1,800 vs. 73,000, according to a study by the mass-transit advocacy group Mobility Lab. Nearly 7,000 walk and more than 32,000 use mass transit.
In other news related to preparations for winter, county officials said in a news release that its 92 snowplow drivers have undergone safety training using simulators.