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The story behind Fairfax's weird cycletrack

The City of Fairfax isn't a place that usually comes to mind when discussing cycletracks. But Fairfax does have one, and it's bizarre. It runs 270 feet along the back side of a strip mall parking lot.

Fairfax's cycletrack, behind the parked cars. Photo by Google.

The cycletrack is part of Fairfax's Mason to Metro Trail, an assemblage of sharrows, sidewalks, and dedicated bikeways that runs from George Mason University to Vienna Metro station.

The cycletrack portion is just north of Fairfax Main Street. It curves around the back side of the Main Street Marketplace strip mall, using a cycletrack through the parking lot and a simpler buffered bike lane through the loading dock.

It's no 15th Street, but it's something.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

Dan Malouff is a transportation planner for Arlington and professor of geography at George Washington University, but blogs to express personal views. He has a degree in urban planning from the University of Colorado, and lives in NE DC. He runs BeyondDC and contributes to the Washington Post


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There's also a trail/bridge that has provided me with a short cut to get to that shopping center. That area really is a almagamation of weird half trails and features like this but are handy if you really prefer (or have to) walk or bike.

by Canaan on Mar 11, 2014 11:44 am • linkreport

But, it never had any sort of signage when I lived there, I found it all through wandering.

by Canaan on Mar 11, 2014 11:47 am • linkreport

Why isn't there any signage. (There is a different trail along one of these streets, not simultaneously marked for GMU). I've ridden to GMU from Vienna Metro a few times and never found any evidence of this, no signage at the Metro, gotten lost because I came under-prepared (w/o a map), etc.

Without signage, a trail doesn't really exist or at the very least, it's a half-a**ed piece of infrastructure.

by Richard Layman on Mar 11, 2014 6:21 pm • linkreport

The city recently received a grant to add signage to the trail. There is also a map on the City's website showing the entire route from George Mason through the City to the Vienna Metro.
For more information:
For the map:

by Kelly O on Mar 12, 2014 8:41 am • linkreport

I don't know the names of the streets, but now that there is the housing development across the street there is a walkway between the Metro to whatever the development is. The width of the walkway is about 4 feet, and it should be 12-16 feet wide, given it's adjacency to the station.

I don't know how to insert a photo into the comments, but here is what I am talking about...

Although this is out of the City of Fairfax jurisdiction. It still matters in terms of the totality of the route.

Plus the map needs to be updated to include Vaden Drive/the Metrowest development.

While this guidance isn't completely extendable to this location, sidewalks serving transit stations need to be bigger, not smaller...

SIDEWALK WIDTH (from page 339 of the PEDSAFE: Pedestrian Safety Guide and Countermeasure Selection System)

The width of a sidewalk depends primarily on the number of pedestrians who are expected to use the sidewalk at a given time — high-use sidewalks should be wider than low-use sidewalks. "Street furniture" and sidewalk cafes require extra width, too. A sidewalk width of 1.5 m (5 ft) is needed for two adult pedestrians to comfortably walk side-by-side, and all sidewalks should be constructed to be at least this width. The minimum sidewalk widths for cities large and small are:

Local or collector streets ---- 1.5 m (5 ft)
Arterial or major streets ---- 1.8 to 2.4 m (6 to 8 ft)
CBD areas ---- 2.4 to 3.7 m (8 to 12 ft)*
Along parks, schools, and other major pedestrian generators ---- 2.4 to 3.0 m (8 to 10 ft)

*2.4-m (8-ft) minimum in commercial areas with a planter strip, 3.7-m (12-ft) minimum in commercial areas with no planter strip.

by Richard Layman on Mar 12, 2014 9:04 am • linkreport

... plus, not sure what the grant will entail but as far as bike route signage is concerned, adding subpanels directing people to destinations is also helpful and necessary. It shouldn't be presumed that the only people riding are familiar with the area.

This sign says nothing...

by Richard Layman on Mar 12, 2014 9:08 am • linkreport


I am pretty sure the mason to metro trail signage project is being done jointly by City of Fairfax and Fairfax County. However as (many of) the roads in and around MetroWest are fairly bike friendly, I don't think the signs will direct people onto the sidewalks much there, so thats really a seperate issue.

Its likely expected that most users of the sidewalks to walk to the metro will in fact be metrowest residents themselves. Metrowest is a mix of townhouses and some moderately dense condos. There are some nearby older townhouse and low rise apt developments, but they are far enough its not clear how many will walk, and I believe some have alternate ped routes (blake lane, vs walking through metrowest).

by AWalkerIntheCity on Mar 12, 2014 9:18 am • linkreport

Also note that if the trail is on developer property as it appears to be, FCDOT probably can't do anything about it (arguably FFX planning should have addressed that much earlier - thats a perfect R Layman issue - the failure to coordinate transport standards, the transport department, and approvals of developments)

by AWalkerIntheCity on Mar 12, 2014 9:20 am • linkreport

that map does not include Vaden/MetroWest as its ONLY the designated Mason to Metro route, which follows an older trail that goes through East Blake Lane park (a trail that kind of sort of leads to the Cross County Trail). The official Fairfax County Bike Map is more comprehensive (though I think hasn't been updated in a couple of years)

by AWalkerIntheCity on Mar 12, 2014 9:24 am • linkreport

(Yes, that's an RL issue. I still haven't written about the failure to have a transportation management association functioning in Greater Tysons in advance of the opening of the Silver Line. They will probably get it done by the end of this year.

FWIW, DC has screwed this up too. It wasn't til after the NoMA station opened that they realized they needed to improve lighting and pedestrian routes to and from the station, given the then crime and other problems in the area.)

by Richard Layman on Mar 12, 2014 2:23 pm • linkreport

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