Arlington Needs to Start Plowing its Shared Use Paths

Please pardon a brief detour from my passion for Columbia Pike to my passion for cycling.

I wanted two highlight two questions and answers from today's DES Snow and Streets Chat on Facebook:

Q by Me: Arlington often talks about how bicycling is an important part of our transportation network, and yet our bicycling infrastructure rarely if ever gets plowed, even major cycling thoroughfares like the Custis trail that continue to see hundreds of riders a day despite the weather. Minneapolis manages to keep their bike infrastructure plowed. When will Arlington?

A: Currently there are no immediate plans to plow or treat primary commuting bike trails, but our planners, Department of Parks and Recreation and DES operations staff continue to strategize how to improve the bike commute. The County will be looking to coordinate with the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority for priority to treat the WO&D Trail, which is not maintained by Arlington.

AND

Q by MB: I have to say that I'm pretty disappointed by DES' inaction on plowing our primary trails. As people within DES can tell you, thousands of Arlingtonians use those trails every day to get to work. By failing to plow the trails, DES puts more people onto the streets in cars. Is that really what you want, during a snow event?

A: As previously asked by Chris, our planners, Department of Parks and Recreation and DES operations staff continue to strategize how to improve the bike commute. There are many significant safety and environmental concerns for bikers and our trails that we have and are attempting to find the best solution.

This is one of many reasons Arlington continues to languish at Silver as a Bicycle Friendly Community and it directly contradicts the policy laid out in the Master Transportation Plan:

Snow Removal – Snow stored on bike lanes or shared‐use paths impedes bicycling and walking. Program elements include:
• Remove all snow from bike lanes.
• Clear snow from primary shared‐use paths (including the I‐66/Custis Trail and the Route 110 Trail) and make sure that snow banks do not block paths where they cross plowed roads.
• Primarily recreational shared‐use paths, including Donaldson Run Trail and Lubber Run Trail, should be left unplowed for skiing and other winter use.

The Bicycle Advisory Commission has brought this up regularly with staff over the course of several years and seen no progress. If Arlington is truly serious about walking and cycling as legitimate forms of transportation in the County they need to start treating walking and cycling infrastructure as transportation infrastructure not recreational amenities.  If you agree, please take a moment to let the County Board know.

Print | posted @ Thursday, December 13, 2012 1:27 PM

Comments on this entry:

Gravatar # re: Arlington Needs to Start Plowing its Shared Use Paths
by Robert Cannon at 12/13/2012 2:07 PM

I fully agree with these comments. Arlco says that cycling is part of their transportation plan - and yet treats the primary cycling routes - the trails - as secondary. The trails do not get cleared during snow storms; the trails get blocked for non emergency repairs during rush hour (like pruning trees). These trails are the transportation arteries for Arlington cyclists - if they cant use the trails, then cycling is not a viable form of transportation.
  
Gravatar # re: Arlington Needs to Start Plowing its Shared Use Paths
by DE at 12/14/2012 9:01 AM

While biking in fresh snow can be fun, once the snow is packed down into irregular clumps and mounds of ice, it is not safe to bike on, so then it's onto Lee Highway and other highways on the bike for me. While I can understand that Arlington may not want to plow the trails (and in some areas may not have jurisdiction), they could at least not use the trails and trail intersections as snow storage areas like they did a couple of years ago during the heavy snows. A 10-foot-high pile of snow sitting at trail intersections for days pretty much shows the priority they give to cycling and walking.
  
Gravatar # re: Arlington Needs to Start Plowing its Shared Use Paths
by Adam at 12/14/2012 9:56 AM

Bike riders need to start paying tolls. Gas taxes and tolls help pay for roads for car drivers, bike riders need to start chipping in as well if they want additional services. They already get paved paths with money that could be spent on schools or road repairs, now it's time they start paying their fair share.
  
Gravatar # re: Arlington Needs to Start Plowing its Shared Use Paths
by Michael Roy at 12/14/2012 10:10 AM

Re plowing the Custis trail. This is my daily commute to DC, and I bike year-round. When it's plowed, I use it. When it's not plowed, I either ride Washington Street to Clarendon Blvd., or Glebe to Old Glebe to Military Rd. etc. I agree that it's better to have bikes on the trails. Some one (NVRPA?) sometimes plows the trail, but often it is not reliable.
  
Gravatar # re: Arlington Needs to Start Plowing its Shared Use Paths
by DE at 12/14/2012 10:28 AM

Adam: Cyclists pay the same taxes as drivers and pedestrians--in fact, in many cases are the same people. Do you pay a toll on I-66 or Lee Highway to get it plowed? Of course not.

Just as drivers can often avoid roads with tolls, as a cyclist, I could easily avoid tolls. It would be almost impossible to put in tolls such that I could not avoid them, in fact, and they would therefore be a money loser and could also deter cycling.

It's a patently ridiculous idea that I probably in fact should have just ignored. It's such a nonstarter, but the us vs them mentality is so mistaken, as if one group is paying its fair share and cyclists somehow are not. Next someone will ask for a toll on walkers.
  
Gravatar # re: Arlington Needs to Start Plowing its Shared Use Paths
by Chris at 12/14/2012 11:54 AM

I encourage everyone to take the energy they might spend replying to Adam's trolling and redirect it into emailing the County Board on this issue. Much better use of resources.
  
Gravatar # re: Arlington Needs to Start Plowing its Shared Use Paths
by Mike Honcho at 12/14/2012 12:03 PM

Newsflash: Biking Trails are Secondary, possibly even tertiary, when compared to roads. Also, the last time I checked, bicycles are allowed on the roads.

Bicyclists are the most out of touch, over-priveledged whiners.
  
Gravatar # re: Arlington Needs to Start Plowing its Shared Use Paths
by Arlington County DES at 12/14/2012 2:16 PM

Snow removal on bike trails is an important issue for Arlington County. County staff have been strategizing for the last year to find a viable solution to improve bike commuting in winter weather. It is an issue that has included Department of Environmental Services planners and operations staff, and Department of Parks and Recreation. There are several significant safety and environmental concerns for bikers and our trails that have been raised.

- Trails don’t have gutters or drainage, so snow pushed to one side will continue to melt, run on or along the trails and refreeze. A thin layer of ice can be difficult for cars to maneuver on streets and is also an important safety concern for bikes on trails where it could potentially be a greater hazard.
- Salt can aid with refreezing and treatment for light precipitation events, but it’s toxic to most vegetation and landscaping along bike trails, most of which run through County parkland.

The County is still in the process of identifying resources to make trail plowing possible. This includes procuring properly sized equipment that would be capable of plowing narrow trails and bridges that could not withstand the weight of a heavy pickup truck equipped as they are used on streets for plowing and treating, as well as identifying and training additional staff. We are dedicated to finding the best solution, including coordinating with area agencies who are also responsible for maintaining trails that run through Arlington County.

A transcript from yesterday’s chat can be found online at www.arlingtonva.us/.../page87816.aspx
  
Gravatar # re: Arlington Needs to Start Plowing its Shared Use Paths
by kitty at 12/14/2012 4:35 PM

Mike's got a point -- "bicycles are allowed on the roads." So, let's just plow roads where both cars and bikes are allowed. I bet the drivers would whine when 66 and 395 aren't plowed.
  
Gravatar # re: Arlington Needs to Start Plowing its Shared Use Paths
by DL at 12/14/2012 5:50 PM

Hi Mike. I think I understand you're real point: You're upset someone isn't driving since this means resources for transportation have to be shared and some transportation money is used on projects that don't directly benefit you. I think that makes you a really, really big whiner.

And, if people stop riding bikes and drive, and then you are waiting in traffic behind their cars and traffic gets worse, then you will claim this increased justifies more spending on roads. But, why should the rest of us have to help pay for more roads when we didn't even want to be driving in the first place?

Finally, 3% of federal income tax revenues go to transportation spending. Some of that money is paying for roads because gas taxes and tolls don't pay the full costs of roads. Why do we spend income tax revenue on roads? Because people whine about traffic congestion. Why don't drivers stop whining about traffic and start riding bikes instead? I'm so tired of those spoiled, whining drivers...


  
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