Bike share program may expand to Mount Vernon District

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Capital Bikeshare stations installed at the Vienna Metro in March 2023 (Credit: FCDOT)

Capital Bikeshare may be coming to Mount Vernon District— but only after several more steps are completed.

In a Jan. 18 virtual presentation, Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) representatives shared information with community members about the popular bike sharing service and their initial suggestions on how to expand it to the Mount Vernon District.

According to FCDOT Active Transportation Planner Hannah Cacner, the county is considering installing docking stations for both classic bikes and e-bikes at a dozen locations around the district. The first four stations — potentially to be installed in late 2024 or early 2025 — have tentatively been proposed for locations at Huntington Avenue and Metroview Parkway; Huntington Avenue and Farrington Avenue; Huntington Avenue and Old Richmond Highway; and Huntington Metro North, said Cacner. 

Besides enabling local residents to commute to and from the Huntington Metro stop, the bike stations would be relatively close to Capital Bikeshare’s existing locations in the City of Alexandria and proposed future locations in Franconia District.

Capital Bikeshare's current system map (Credit: Capital Bikeshare)

Funding for the initial four stations is already at hand, according to Capital Bikeshare Program Manager Zack DesJardins, thanks to a $500,000 Transportation Alternatives Program allocation the county received in fiscal years 2021-2022.

The remaining proposed stations — including one at Huntington Metro South, three in the Belle View neighborhood and four along the Mount Vernon Trail — would be funded by part of a $1 million earmark for Capital Bikeshare in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2022. Those stations likely wouldn’t be installed until 2025 or later, said Cacner.

According to DesJardins, the stations proposed for Franconia District during an FCDOT virtual meeting in December 2022 would also be funded by that congressional earmark and installed in 2025 or thereafter. Those sites tentatively include Fairhaven Avenue and Monticello Drive; N. Kings Highway and Fort Drive; and Poag Street and S. Kings Highway, as well as several locations near Franconia/Springfield Metro.

During the Q&A portion of FCDOT’s Mount Vernon District meeting, several community members voiced concerns about the proposed docking station locations. 

A few residents pointed out that having three locations on the northern end of the Huntington Metro stop seemed like “overkill.” Others, including residents of the Belle View area, expressed opposition to installing stations in residential areas with minimal parking and tricky access to the Mount Vernon Trail. And a few community members disagreed with installing stations near the culturally significant and resource-rich George Washington Memorial Parkway or were concerned that bikes might get abandoned along the adjacent trail.

The Capital Bikeshare’s dock system ensures that users are charged a fee if bikes are not returned to a docking station, said DesJardins, and GPS systems on the e-bikes enable team members to readily retrieve them.

Credit: FCDOT

Capital Bikeshare, sometimes called "CaBi," stations are already located along northern sections of the Mount Vernon Trail, including at Theodore Roosevelt Island, Gravelly Point and Jones Point, said Judd Isbell, president of the Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail.

“We haven't experienced any issue with CaBis being left on the Mount Vernon Trail or other National Park Service trails,” said Isbell. “Our experience is that parking issues with CaBi are very rare and that they greatly increase access to the trail. We frequently see people using CaBis who are visiting from out of town or don't own a bike or find it convenient or just happen to be near a station and decide to go for a ride.”

Isbell also pointed out that the Park Service found in its recent environmental assessment for the George Washington Memorial Parkway South Section and Mount Vernon Trail Improvements Plan that proposed Capital Bikeshare locations along the trail would not have a significant impact on the park’s resources. Belle Haven Park, Fort Hunt Park, Riverside Park and Mount Vernon are four potential locations for docking stations mentioned in FCDOT’s presentation.

Several attendees of the virtual meeting expressed support for Bikeshare expansion, with one advocate noting that bikes “improve quality of life” and “don’t just belong on the Mount Vernon Trail.”

“Overall, I’m very excited about this,” said another supporter — Jeff Gauger, vice president of the Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling. “This is an area that really could use it because we have the density along Route 1; we have a major employer at Fort Belvoir, so I really look forward to a rapid expansion of Bikeshare in this area because I think it’s going to be a huge success.”

To provide feedback on the initial suggestions for Capital Bikeshare in Mount Vernon District, FCDOT is encouraging community members to respond online or via voicemail at 703-890-5898 (code 5903) through Feb. 2. Based on community feedback, FCDOT will pull together a refined proposal to share with key stakeholders like the Mount Vernon Council of Citizens' Associations (MVCCA) and ultimately with the Board of Supervisors for a decision. The county also needs to work through the federal grant process with the Virginia Department of Transportation and obtain permits.

Noting that the county has “many months to go” before decisions are made, Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck said he looks forward to seeing how FCDOT responds to the community’s “excellent” comments through its future recommendations.

“The community can be sure that I will be bringing that back through their leadership, which is the MVCCA and others, to ensure the communities are well aware of what’s being proposed,” said Storck.

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