Active Living and Biking: Tracing the Evolution of a Biking System in Arlington, Virginia, Working Paper 024 Open Access

When it came to biking in the early 1970s, Arlington County, Virginia largely resembled the rest of the Washington, D.C. area and other urban areas along the East Coast. Biking was a neighborhood-based activity for kids. Bike trails were not a major component of parks or recreational planning and programming. Bikeways were not part of transportation planning and development. Bike commuting was limited to a few daring riders who were regarded as a menace by most drivers. A steady evolutionary change in biking policy during the last three decades has yielded some of the nation’s best biking assets in Arlington. It has a comprehensive, well-connected, highly integrated, well-mapped and signed system of shared-use paved trails, bike lanes, bike routes, and other biking assets such as workplace showers. Recently the League of American Bicyclists designated Arlington County as one of thirteen “Bicycle-Friendly” communities (League of American Bicyclists 2003). In addition, a recent major study by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT 2003) generally cites Arlington as having a superior bikeways and connectivity relative to most other parts of Northern Virginia. In contrast, most other areas in the region lag behind. For example, Arlington and two neighboring counties –Fairfax County, Virginia and Montgomery County, Maryland– share many attributes and the same pro-bicycling interests – in fact often the same groups and people have actively pursued improved bikeways in each county during the same period. Yet today Fairfax County’s biking system is unmapped, sporadic, and lacks connectivity. Montgomery County does have some very good biking assets, though without Arlington’s level of connectivity and integration.

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