Over the past couple of years, Manassas has seen an increasing number of folks riding bicycles. I see folks riding cruiser bikes around Old Town and, when the weather is nice, I see a lot of bikes locked up at the train station in Old Town. We would see more but the bike racks at the station are absolute crap so I'm sure many just skip it. I know that I wouldn't lock up a nice bike to that rack. I see Road Cyclists in full kit blasting along Hastings and there's also a short mountain bike trail near the Airport. I have also seen TWO (2) actual hipsters in Old Town. That is, depending on your point of view, progress or a sign of an impending apocolypse. That subculture has been alternately heralded as harbindgers of change or a swarm of gentrifying locusts in towns where there is a decent population. For my part, I tend to view it as progress. All places need change agents, even if they do wear tweed and ride fixed-gear bikes.
We've also seen a minimal amount of bike specific infrastructure added. It's mainly paint used for "sharrows" and paint is cheap! The mountain bike trail out near the airport was built with all-volunteer labor. We've seen some shared use improvments in the form of increased signalization of street crossings but pedestrians and bikes use those alike. Some decry these improvements but in a rapidly urbanizing area with a lower-middle income population improvements like these are very important. Many residents of GTS and Point of Woods depend on bikes to get around. Many others use bikes as a very efficient means of transport just because they want to. In an area like ours, the more options we give people to diversify from strictly automobiles, the better.
Over the past couple of years there has been a lot of grief over the Winter's Branch trail extension. That trail has been in the CIP for about 10 years. Last year the City held a citizen involvement meeting that was among the oddest public meetings I've ever been to. Many residents just flat-out opposed the trail. They felt it gave those with bad intent easy access to their neighborhood. Others there seemed to oppose the bike trail but were most upset with the status of the drainage and electrical system in their neck of the woods. Having ridden the proposed trail extension many times (it's easily passable in its current form) I had a hard time not
agreeing with the citizens….but also with the City. A capital project over there would sure help clean-up that whole mess. However, the residents just didn't want it. So, the City formed a study group with the residents and they came up with a different proposal: take an existing CIP project – the Prince William Street rebuild project and change that project somewhat to accomodate bike lanes right on the road. This project would be combined with several long-overdue electrical, sewer and water projects to help straighten out the infrastructure situation over there.
For my part, I'm very happy with the outcome. We gain a much improved pedestrian/bike/car connection from Wellington to Old Town and those other projects will help the property-owners over there with many long-standing problems. At the CIP markup meeting the Council voted to remove Winters Branch from the CIP. I made that motion and the vote was unanimous. It's unfortunate that the Winters Branch stream area will remain a mess and it's still there for those with bad intent but this compromise provides better results for a far larger group of citizens and it ties in other electrical, water and drainage projects so it is a far better outcome!
In addition, we've had several of the residents and members of the working group speak in support of the project so I'm happy to support it. Oh, and one last thing: kudos to our Public Works staff for applying for and receiving 50% funding from the state to support this project!!!!