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September 26, 2018 · OPINION

Fauquier needs better resources for bicyclists

By Patrick O’Keefe
Bealeton

The need for better bicycle resources In Fauquier County

Several weeks ago, my wife and I went out to Cooter’s in Luray.

Along Route 211, we started to see signs along the road in Rappahannock County. They are the corrugated plastic signs you would expect to see for political purposes. The signs stated “No Bike Trail.” When we arrived at Cooter’s, we inquired as to the meaning of the signs. The trail would connect the county high school and elementary school and eventually reach into Little Washington. A total of six miles which would be set a distance from Route 211.

The trail would provide separation from traffic on the four-lane highway. There are no facilities for bicycling culture. On our way toward Thornton Gap to get over the mountain, I noticed a pace line of three bicyclists. It was a misty day, but the three were at the edge of the asphalt. Route 211 has hardly any shoulder, and it might be gravel.

Safety is at the heart of the issue. I had a conversation with Father Gould, pastor of St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, about my biking. He stated that one of the parishioners was riding on Route 211 and was clipped by a driver. He ended up with bruises and skinned himself. But, he survived.

More tragic is the death of a 69-year-old gentleman who was hit, and run off the road by a pickup truck. Per the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles and the Virginia Department of Transportation, a bicycle is a vehicle when ridden on a state road or street and should be afforded the right to road usage. Motor vehicle drivers don’t own the road.

The trouble is that riding rural roads offer no protection. Remington has four bike paths; the roads that bicyclists are expected to travel are two-lane roads with no shoulders. There is to great a chance for rear-end encounters.

In Warrenton, Walker Drive and Meetze Road have bike symbols with two chevrons pointing the direction of travel. Called “Sharrows,” these symbols indicate shared road usage. It’s not a bike path, folks; it means share the road.

The trails that are being built in Fauquier are incomplete. The Warrenton Branch Greenway is supposed to reach out to Stafford Farm on Meetze Road, but it’s not complete. The trail connection from Lord Fairfax Community College is nicely graveled for three-tenths of a mile but gets mired down in a muddy mess.

Culpeper has CAMBO, a mountain bike organization. Its a membership based club using the Deer Springs Farm. I don’t have the skills for single tracking through the woods. My doctor wants me to get aerobic exercise. I don't need a broken collar bone.

Fauquier County needs to put in a dedicated bicycle park, that hikers and dog walkers can use. Centrally located. There need to be dedicated bike lanes on the well-traveled roads of Warrenton and the county. Let’s keep bicycle riders safe so families, adults and children can enjoy a culture of biking.

Farther Gould suggested a bike trail connecting Warrenton to Culpeper.

In some of my travels I, have noted Page County and Luray have a rich bicycle culture. The Jefferson turnpike, heading to Boonsboro Md., has a shoulder at least 6-foot-wide, with both single and group rides on weekends .

Manufacturers of bicycles got together at an 1880 meeting in Rhode Island. They formed an advocacy group the League of American Wheel Men, now known as the League of American Bicyclists. They advocated for good roads, 23 years before the first transcontinental automobile race.

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Silii · October 6, 2018 at 5:46 pm
I must agree with Rover 530. The roads in Fauquier County were not desgined for bikers and vehicles. The roads have many blind curves, many blind hills, and no shoulders. So, traveling at 40 mph hauling a horse trailer, I go around a blind curve and there's a biker in the middle of the lane going approximately 5 mph. I can't swerve - there's nowhere to swerve. I slow down as fast as possible so as not to hit him. Said biker starts waving me around him - double line, blind curve ahead. Is he nuts or is his perspective of the road different from his bike vs my truck? So I wait and wait and wait for a safe place to accelerate and go around him while hauling about 3000 pounds. He, meanwhile, resumes his position in the middle of the lane, making it 100% necessary to move entirely in the oncoming lane to get around him. This is what happens frequently - I hear this from people all the time. So, I believe the biker should cross the double yellow line into the oncoming traffic lane while I proceed. This is particularly true when the biker keeps waving me around him on blind curves, blind hills, etc.
Rover 530 · October 5, 2018 at 7:00 pm
Bikes do not belong on rural, two lane roads. It's inherently dangerous. Bike-intensive countries such as Denmark, Netherlands, and UK plan for bike paths and lanes. We don't have that here in Fauquier and, by and large, in the rest of the USA. Bikes need to be kept separate from automobile/truck traffic. Does Fauquier Co./Virginia have the money to build bike paths physically separated from the highways? No.

It's not a question of sharing the road. The roads in Fauquier cannot be safely shared. They weren't built to accommodate both motorized vehicular traffic and bikes. Until the county or state is ready to spend the money to build dedicated bike paths, this problem and debate will go on forever.
spiffingfolk · October 5, 2018 at 12:20 pm
I would recommend keeping an open mind about this. As a physician, I know there is good data that investment in recreational infrastructure benefits everyone. Just like good schools benefit everyone, not just those with school age children. Towns with a lot of infrastructure for biking, walking, running, rowing and outdoor activity have lower rates of heart attacks, strokes, obesity, diabetes, hypertension, depression, anxiety, and orthopedic injuries. They have higher property values, are more attractive to businesses, score higher on ‘desirability’ indexes for places to live, especially among younger workers, and improve the quality of life for everyone in general through wider tax base, attraction of outside businesses, tourism, and lower health care costs which translates into lower taxes and insurance premiums.
Investment in recreational infrastructure, whether that means bike lanes, walking trails, water access, parks or right of ways shouldn’t be viewed as zero-sum game where tax payer money is diverted from “important” projects to a few privileged spandex-clad warriors on high dollar bikes, but part of a system of investment in the health and well being of the community that raise the general quality of life for everyone. The cost is often offset by savings in health care, new businesses, and indirect benefits. I recommend remaining open minded to creative ways to improve the quality of life of Fauquier, in which the future will likely not be more freeways, roads, and cars, but conservation and utilization of outdoor spaces for the health and enjoyment of the community.
nonewtaxes · September 30, 2018 at 9:16 pm
Why not not do drugs and then every one is saved from grief.
BJ · September 30, 2018 at 1:23 pm
rsteele - "Riding a bicycle is one of the most effective forms of exercise as it is low impact and aerobic and uses your balance and is generally enjoyable for most people. It is particularly good for the knees."

Again with all due respect for your choice of recreation, why not buy a stationary bike if it's exercise you are looking to do. I realize it isn't as interesting as riding out in the open air, but it is much safer, and the cost will be little to nothing, compared to creating a whole system of bike paths across the county, or being killed while riding some of the roads in our area.

Blaine Johnson
rose33 · September 30, 2018 at 7:59 am
I didn't say anything about trying to get as close as I can to them just because I am angry they are in the way. I in fact still give them a safe amount of room. I am well aware of what an impact at 45mph would do.
nonewtaxes · September 29, 2018 at 11:12 pm
There is plenty of room for both cars and cyclist and its called share the road. Neither cars nor cyclist own the road. A cyclist has an obligation to ride on the right hand side of the road as close to the edge as reasonably possible. A car has an obligation to pass giving 4 feet of clearance.

If there is not oncoming traffic the car should have no problem making a pass. With oncoming traffic, from my experience, it'd take 15 - 30 seconds for oncoming traffic to clear before making a pass. That's seems to be a small consideration to make.

There are small groups of cyclist who sometimes think they own the road and refuse to form a single pace line ( single file). They're a pain in the a$$. They aggravate people like you who then transfer your anger against all cyclist by seeing how close you can come without hitting us.

What happens if you're going 45 mph and hit a cyclist? You are past the point of band aids and kisses. You're probably closer to manslaughter. It doesn't seem like a fair trade - 30 seconds of consideration from one human being to another or 30 years in the big house because 30 seconds was just too much for you to spare.
rose33 · September 28, 2018 at 2:17 pm
fpharris1,

No I don't believe farm vehicles and Amish buggies should be banned. They are on the road for "purpose". Cyclists however, are there for leisure. The roads I travel every morning and afternoon in northern Fauquier county are far from having plenty of room for a cyclist and motor vehicles. Just this morning in traffic, (I won't say rush hour because that's not really the correct definition for traveling to work on country roads)when people are trying to head to work and school, a cyclist was holding up quite a long line of traffic including a school bus because there wasn't enough room to go around with traffic coming from the other direction. If you insist on riding on the road, then lets try to do it during NON-PEAK travel hours. Virginia law also states that if cyclists are riding two abreast they are to move into single file when traffic approaches from behind. 99% of the time I don't see that happen. They keep riding along like there is no one else in the world besides them. I don't really care where the cyclists come from to ride here. Our area attracts a lot of other visitors that come and spend a lot more money for other activities that don't get in the way of other people. I am pretty sure we don't make that much money off people coming here to ride a bicycle.
fpharris1 · September 28, 2018 at 1:25 pm
rose33, Virginia law grants the right to bicyclists to ride ANY road in the state unless the road is specifically marked as off-limits to bicycles (like interstate highways). If the law isn't to your liking, you have the right to try to have it changed but in the meantime help us share the road. Most of the time, there is plenty of room for a motor vehicle to safely pass a bicyclist and not lose precious seconds getting to their destination. If you're going to ban bicyclists from the roads because they're not going as fast as you like, you'll also need to ban horses and farm vehicles. In some parts of our state, we have Amish families who ride in buggies. You're saying we should ban them too?

Keep in mind that cyclists come from all over the area - particularly from the DC Metro area - to ride on the roads in our beautiful county. And when they come here they spend money and support our local businesses.

Personally, I'd like to see more and better multi-use paths in our county but I also know that realistically there isn't enough money or political will to get much done.

You say you "don't have a problem with people using cycling as a form of exercise or pastime" but those of us who ride on the roads are doing just that - getting exercise and enjoying our favorite pastime. For many of us, a 2-3 mile round-trip jaunt down the Greenway is insufficient which leaves ... the roads.
rose33 · September 28, 2018 at 9:22 am
I agree with Mr. Johnson. There are better things for our tax money to be spent on other than people riding their bikes. There are lots of hungry children in our county that would certainly appreciate full stomachs, rather than us spend money to accommodate people who spend $1000+ on bicycles just to ride on the road and get in the way! I don't have a problem with people using cycling as a form of exercise or pastime. I do have a problem with them impeding traffic. Bicycles should not be allowed on roads with no shoulder and blind turns. This is a hazard to both the cyclist and the driver of the vehicle. They by all definition of the word IMPEDE traffic. They are doing 10mph while vehicles go 45mph. That to me is just a death wish. I just can't grasp how riding a bicycle on a road that is barely big enough for two vehicles to pass one another is a form of relaxation. Having to look over your shoulder constantly wondering if someone is just going to run you over would not be relaxing to me....but to each his own. With all this being said GET OFF THE ROAD AND OUT OF THE WAY and stop asking to use the tax money that myself and others pay for something that is not necessary, because I guarantee you are the same people that balk every time the subject is brought up about new businesses coming in that you want to preserve the historic land of Fauquier county. Widening roads to make them safe for you to ride a bicycle will not help preserve our beautiful county.
rsteele · September 28, 2018 at 8:43 am
Mr. Johnson, treating the opiod crisis is certainly important. But prevention is a much better long term strategy. Exercise has repeatedly been shown to be an effective treatment for depression and many other mental problems as will as maintaining heard heart health and general vitality of an aging population. Riding a bicycle is one of the most effective forms of exercise as it is low impact and aerobic and uses your balance and is generally enjoyable for most people. It is particularly good for the knees. When one compares costs for medical treatment to exercise it's just a no brainer to invest in just about anything the promotes exercise. A bike trail long enough to provide a reasonable workout would be a boon for the county.
BJ · September 26, 2018 at 6:23 pm
With all due respect to your recreation choice, I would rather use my tax dollars to support the opiod crisis or other "necessary" issues facing our county, state, and country, not to provide you somewhere to "ride" your bike.

Blaine Johnson
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