The unexpected snowfall early last month that hit at the peak of morning rush hour snarled traffic and caused scores of accidents throughout the Washington area. Arlington bikers who braved the trails to head to work that day, however, were pleasantly surprised: For the first time, bike paths in the county had been cleared of snow.
BikeArlington, a subdivision of Arlington County Commuter Services, had urged the county to plow the bike trails after observing a sharp drop-off in residents biking to work during snowy days last year.
“Arlington County has committed to clearing trails,” said Tim Kelley, operations manager for BikeArlington. “That’s been a huge thing — really, just in one season we’ve gone from being lumped in with everyone else to becoming a national leader in snow clearing.”
With the permission of the County Board, Parks and Recreation and t ransportation departments started clearing the paths this winter, using two special snowplows narrow enough to fit the width of the bike trails.
“People love it,” Kelley said. BikeArlington has also received requests from around the country from transit officials and bikers who want to replicate the effort in their own jurisdictions, he said.
Thirty counters installed on trails throughout Arlington have sparked changes, such as targeted path clearing. The devices track bikers and pedestrians in 15-minute increments, then calculate data on trail usage and send it to a cloud computer and BikeArlington’s Twitter feed.
The Bikeometer near Lee Highway and North Lynn Street in Rosslyn is the first real-time bicycle counter on the East Coast, showing daily, monthly and yearly totals in Arlington. In its first nine months last year, the Bikeometer registered nearly 320,000 bike trips.
BikeArlington was set up in 2009 to help residents integrate biking into their daily lives.
The program promotes biking in many ways, including winter biking classes such as “Balaclavas & Baklava 2,” at the Arlington Central Library on Saturday . The workshop will teach participants how to sew bike gear for inclement weather, including fleece balaclavas and ear and neck warmers.
“We have sewing machines, up to 50 people coming through,” said Erin Potter, BikeArlington’s events and outreach coordinator. “You can buy them, of course, but there’s something cool about making it yourself.”
And BikeArlington’s three-person team — along with representatives of other groups including Arlington Transportation Partners, WalkArlington, Capital Bikeshare partners and Mobility Lab — practice what they preach.
“We all live in Arlington, and we all bike to work,” said Henry Dunbar, BikeArlington’s program manager.
Lanyi is a freelance writer.
For information on classes, path maps and more, visit www.bikearlington.com.