Thursday, May 14, 2015

Statement to Manassas City Council for Bike-to-Work Day 2015

Manassas City Council Meeting Citizens’ Time
Statement by Allen Muchnick
Monday, May 11, 2015

Good evening Mayor Parrish, City Council members, and City Manager Pate.  I’m Allen Muchnick, and I live on Park St in the City of Manassas.

I’m speaking to help publicize--and to encourage everyone to attend--the downtown Manassas Bike to Work Day pit stop which will be held this Friday, May 15th, outside the Manassas VRE station from 6 to 9 AM.   This annual event promotes the practicality and many personal and societal benefits of bicycling for purposeful transportation, both as a standalone mode and in combination with public transportation, ridesharing, or driving partway alone.  Bicycling is healthy, affordable, energy efficient, nonpolluting, requires minimal government resources, can reduce traffic and parking congestion, particularly at special events, and--most of all--is fun. 

In metropolitan Washington, Bike to Work Day is organized jointly by the Commuter Connections program of the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board at COG and by the Washington Area Bicyclist Association.    Over the past 15 years, this regional event has grown tremendously.  This Friday’s event will include 79 local pit stops--35 throughout Northern Virginia--and is forecast to attract 19,000 registrants.  Participation is free but advance registration at is required to receive a free event T-shirt and be eligible for other prizes.  Our local Manassas VRE station pit stop is graciously sponsored by Historic Manassas Inc.

Nearly one year ago, I moved to the City of Manassas because our city is considerably more bike friendly than the surrounding communities in Prince William County.   Over the years, the City has built upon the inherent bikeability of Manassas’ neighborhood street grid by signing bike routes on low-traffic streets, by installing bike lanes and sharrows on certain arterial roadways, and by building some shared-use paths; however, continued progress is needed to make our city more hospitable for bicycling.

One glaring deficiency for Manassas bicycling is the general lack of convenient, secure, and properly designed bike parking racks at locations throughout Manassas, including at most government buildings and at nearly every business establishment.   Bicycling for utilitarian trips is less feasible without convenient and suitable bike parking facilities, and most of the bike racks I have seen near the VRE station, at the rear of the Town Hall building, and at Manassas City schools are poorly designed.  Fortunately, well-designed bike parking racks are relatively inexpensive, and excellent bike parking design guidelines are posted at, the website of the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals.   

I ask the City Manager and Council to allocate some modest funding to install quality bike parking racks at public facilities in the City and to encourage the appropriate integration of bike parking accommodations in future private development projects.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Bike-Related Bills in the 2015 Virginia General Assembly

Manassas-Area Delegation to the Virginia General Assembly
Public Hearing for the 2015 Legislative Session, January 8, 2015
Statement by Allen Muchnick, Virginia Bicycling Federation board member

Good evening, legislators.  I’m Allen Muchnick, a long-time Northern Virginian, now living in the City of Manassas.   I’ve followed the General Assembly in several capacities for two decades, but I’m speaking tonight only on bicycle-related legislation.

For the past six years, the Virginia Bicycling Federation has sought to improve justice for bicyclists injured by negligent motorists by proposing minor changes to conform a few Virginia traffic laws to those of most other states.   While our proposed changes are simple, straightforward, and nonpartisan, they’ve repeatedly encountered unwarranted partisan opposition.   Please help ensure that this doesn’t happen again this year.

A one-word change to Virginia’s “Following Too Closely” law, Code of Virginia § 46.2-816, would cover bicyclists and other road users not inside a motor vehicle when rear-ended by a negligent following motorist.   In 2014, HB 82, patroned by now-Congresswoman Comstock and co-patroned by Delegates Lopez, Hugo, and Rust, passed in the House with only 28 Nays, but was killed in the Senate Transportation Committee, which had previously reported similar legislation in 2011, 2012, and 2013.  For 2015, the same legislation will be patroned by Delegate Bill DeSteph of Virginia Beach as HB 1342 and separately in a Senate Bill by Senator Bryce Reeves of Fredericksburg.   Thank you, Senator Colgan, for supporting this legislation on four separate occasions.   I ask Delegate Miller to support this legislation in the House.

Virginia remains one of a handful of states that does not prohibit motor vehicle occupants from opening a vehicle door “adjacent to moving traffic unless it is reasonably safe to do so.”  SB 882 patroned by Senator Chap Petersen would create a simple $100 traffic infraction, not subject to driver demerit points and not applicable to emergency responders, for doing so.  In 2013 and 2014, similar bills were passed by the Senate, only to be killed in House Transportation.   With bike lanes adjacent to parking lanes in many urban communities in Virginia, a law that requires auto occupants to look for traffic before opening their door is more important than ever.  Thank you, Senator Colgan, for supporting this legislation in the past.  Please support SB 882 this year.

In 2014, Virginia finally enacted a simple Code change that requires drivers to a leave a three-foot or wider buffer whenever passing a bicyclist.   This year, Senators Alexander and Reeves will each file bills to allow drivers to carefully cross a double-yellow line to pass a pedestrian, a human-powered device, or a stopped or slow-moving vehicle, something that’s already a common Virginia driving practice.  Please support this simple and practical legislation.  The number of Senator Alexander’s bill is SB 781.

Finally, please support HB 1402, patroned by Delegate Loupassi, which would not reduce highway maintenance payments to localities that have implemented road diets, whereby the space occupied by two conventional travel lanes is reallocated as two bike lanes plus, typically, a two-way-left-turn lane.  Road diets have been an effective tool for retrofitting bike lanes in Northern Virginia while improving capacity and safety for motor vehicles and should not be discouraged.

Thank you for considering my requests, and best wishes for a productive legislative session.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Commonwealth Transportation Board Fall 2014 Hearing Statement

Commonwealth Transportation Board

Fall 2014 Hearing for Northern Virginia, October 16, 2014

Statement by Allen Muchnick, board member

Virginia Bicycling Federation (VBF)

Over the past two decades, VDOT--with the CTB’s support and guidance--has made commendable progress in advancing bicycling and walking across Virginia as “fundamental travel modes and integral components of an efficient transportation network    The ongoing implementation of VDOT’s 2004 “Policy for Integrating Bicycle and Pedestrian Accommodations” has begun to improve our Commonwealth’s livability, prosperity, equity, and sustainability, but--after the neglect of bicycling and walking for many decades--the needs are vast.

Non-motorists have directly supplied Virginia’s highway funds via the state sales tax since 1987, but last year’s substantial increase in sales and other non-motorist taxes for statewide and regional transportation projects now warrants a far greater allocation of transportation revenues and resources to bicycling, walking, and public transportation.

The expansion of highway capacity while neglecting and, in fact, impeding walking, bicycling, and public transportation for many decades has created some of the nation’s worst traffic congestion.  To cost effectively reduce traffic congestion, the CTB must implement projects that increase walking, bicycling, and transit trips, whereas highway capacity expansions, which induce more driving and auto-dependent sprawl, are usually counterproductive.  A Northern Virginia Bicycle Advisory Committee should be established immediately to prioritize bicycling improvements for funding.  Rail services should provide roll-on bicycle access, and public rail-corridor investments, such as the Southeast High Speed Rail project, should incorporate shared-use paths (known as rails with trails), especially on river crossings.

In 1982, VDOT distinguished itself by establishing two AASHTO-designated cross-state bicycle routes—US Bike Routes 1 and 76.   Unfortunately, due to Prince William County’s urbanization and access restrictions at Fort Belvoir since 2001, US Bike Route 1 has been severed and elsewhere rendered hostile for bicycling for well over a decade.   We commend VDOT staff for recently obtaining the resources to complete a detailed route evaluation for realigning US Bike Route 1 through the NoVA District and for submitting route realignment applications for AASHTO’s approval.  With the completion of those tasks and the installation of vital route signage, the VDOT NoVA District should expeditiously improve bicycling conditions along the realigned route with cost-effective roadway retrofits.  In particular:

Retrofit 4-foot or wider paved shoulders along all of Fleetwood and Aden Rds in southern Prince William County.  These two-lane roadways, with AADTs around 5,000 each, are currently inhospitable-- and potentially treacherous—for bicycling, especially during peak travel times. 
Restripe Hoadly Rd in central Prince William County with continuous and properly designed bike lanes.  In general, this should be inexpensive and readily feasible since ample roadway right-of-way exists, although some existing soft shoulders may need reconstruction.
Retrofit Old Bridge Rd to better accommodate on-road bicycling, especially between Tanyard Hill Rd and Minnieville Rd. 

In closing, I’ll add that rehabilitating the 20-year-old shared-use path along much of the Prince William Parkway is another pressing bicycle transportation need in Prince William County.   While this path is overdue for repaving, the many jarring transverse pavement cracks should be fixed first.

Thank you for your consideration.