Dear County Board Members –

    Today, you will consider an update to the Bicycle Element of the Master Transportation Plan.  I’ll grant that it’s better than the last one we adopted (I was there, serving on the Bicycle Advisory Committee at the time).  But as I’m sure you’ve already heard from many, it could be better.  And you should act to make it better.  Without your action, it’s just another Arlington plan on a shelf, useless on its own.

    Arlington is very good at planning.  Not so much at acting and building and enforcing.  And over the past decade, Arlington County seems to have put less and less effort into action.  Some of that is due to a staff leadership that seems satisfied with where we got in 2012, and (I assume) feels like things are good enough now.  They’re not.  And it’s on *you*, as County Board members, to understand and change that.

   We need more of this:

Child riding on a bike in the Quincy Street protected bike lane in Arlington, Virginia
Enjoying the Quincy Street PBL.

and less of this:

Squeezing down a substandard sidewalk on Park Drive.
Tight squeeze on the best available facilities.

The first photo, as you hopefully know, is of the new protected bike lanes on Quincy.  They make it safe and enjoyable for my 8 year old to ride with me (and she’ll be taking them to school, when it’s time to go to Washington-Liberty).  The second?  That’s the substandard sidewalk on Park Dr. they’re forced to ride on to get to Barrett Elementary.  Instead of providing a safe space for kids biking to school, the street is used for the public storage of private cars (despite the always empty parking lot right there).  And with the sidewalk so narrow and encroached, I suppose it was only a matter of time until my son got knocked off his bike (by an adult, no less, who hurried away).  Her swinging purse straps grabbed his handlebars and it slammed him to the ground.  But at least we’ve got free on-street parking there, right?

    Arlington is full of the problems in the second photo.  And it’s that way because the County Board chooses that.  It’s an affirmative choice to do almost nothing, building very few projects, and then pointing to the rare accomplishment like the Quincy PBLs or BikeArlington’s advertising and saying – “Hey, we’re bicycle friendly!”

    It’s not a choice you have to make, though.  You have another.  You can improve the Bicycle Element and then tell the County Manager that you will hold him accountable for *acting* on it.  Mr. Schwartz does not appear to have his own interest in seeing the plan implemented, but I am certain he’s interested in being responsive to you.  So use that – use your authority as County Board members – to choose a better and safer Arlington.  Thank you.

Quite sincerely,

Mark Blacknell

Arlington Resident Since 1997, and on behalf of M. (since 2010), A. (since 2014), and B. (since 2016).