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Fairfax County has a bicycle plan

Cycling aficionados in Fairfax County claimed a major victory this week when the Board of Supervisors approved a bicycle master plan that maps out a bike network of 1,130 miles and calls for investments in bike facilities and infrastructure, such as bike lanes, trails, and the installation of bike racks at transit stations.

The plan is an important milestone for the suburban Washington county that has fallen behind neighboring Arlington and Alexandria in efforts to increase biking.

The plan, which was crafted after years of a public process during which the county held about 30 public meetings, is about meeting the safety, access and mobility needs of bicyclists while encouraging more people to bicycle in the future, said Charlie Strunk, bicycle coordinator for the Fairfax County Department of Transportation.

“It sets a course for the change that needs to happen to make Fairfax County a bicycle friendly community,” he said.

The first such comprehensive bicycle plan, it calls for new facilities and infrastructure, including on-road bike lanes, shared roadways, striped shoulders, shared-use paths, trails, bicycle and pedestrian bridges and overpasses, intersection improvements, trail access improvements, and bike racks or secure parking at transit stations.

Strunk said some of the proposals in the plan could be accomplished quickly, including the reconfiguration of some road markings. But others will take longer. It could take between 10 to 30 years to install or complete most facilities. Some of the projects that would advance the plan are included in the cluster of transportation project worth about $100 million that are on the Fairfax County ballot for approval in Tuesday’s election.

Still, bike advocates and users called the plan an important milestone for the county that will encourage healthier lifestyles, enhance recreational opportunities, mitigate congestion, and that might help convert short car trips into bike trips. It also will help Fairfax remain competitive with neighboring jurisdictions in attracting young residents who are interested in biking for recreation and commuting.

Bruce Wright, a resident of Reston and a member of Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling, said Tuesday at the board meeting that the plan would be instrumental in leading to a safe, connected network of bike routes.

“More people will ride if encouraged,” he said.

Fairfax has 353 miles of existing bike lanes, shared paths and trails.