Much has changed in the landscape of Tysons and people’s travel habits since Capital Bikeshare first pulled into town in 2016.
As a result, Fairfax County plans to relocate some of the bicycle-sharing company’s 15 established stations in the area to new spots that better accommodate Tysons’ growing residential population and the rise of remote work accelerated by the pandemic.
“When Tysons wasn’t as urbanized as it is today…we didn’t have a lot of choice but to essentially go into office parks,” said Zachary DesJardins, the county’s acting active transportation manager. “As you might imagine, during the pandemic, those areas have not done very well. People just aren’t going to the office very much.”
As part of a larger expansion of its Bikeshare network, the Fairfax County Department of Transportation has proposed installing 14 new stations in Tysons, including three that would be relocations of existing stations.
Detailed in a virtual public meeting on Dec. 5, the sites being suggested are mostly near housing or other areas with the density to generate more trips. For instance, stations by grocery stores have done well during the pandemic, according to DesJardins, so one could go on Silver Hill Drive, down the street from The Boro’s Whole Foods.
The availability of infrastructure to support Bikeshare is also a consideration. A space has opened up at the Greensboro Metro station for the first time with the completion of a concrete pad six months ago, and FCDOT wants to put a station at Old Meadow Road and Cathy Lane to take advantage of the recently opened pedestrian bridge over I-495.
Elsewhere in the Providence District, the county plans to add four more stations in Merrifield, including one in a garage at the Mosaic District, and five in the Vienna Metro station area, which will connect to the network that Fairfax City is expected to introduce next summer.
The expansion is being funded by a federal Transportation Alternatives Program grant for 12 stations and electric bicycles and a Northern Virginia Transportation Commission grant for nine stations and classic bicycles. Local funds will be used to move the existing stations in Tysons.
Combined with plans for Bikeshare in the Franconia District, DesJardins said the county will purchase a total of 95 electric bicycles with the federal grant in anticipation of Capital Bikeshare phasing out its current black e-bikes in August 2023.
Currently provided for free, e-bikes make up 6% of the county’s network but are used for 15% of trips, according to FCDOT. Unlike Capital Bikeshare’s traditional bicycles, they can be locked into standard, public bicycle racks.
The county is eyeing new e-bikes a lock, reflective materials and GPS that could be used to track them if they’re stolen, DesJardins said. They cost four times more to buy than a traditional bicycle and are more expensive to operate, but FCDOT says the expenses will be covered by the federal grant and user fees, respectively.
“I’m personally very excited about the e-bikes,” Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said. “As you said, hills make difficult the use of regular bikes for most of us, so that’s a great addition.”
FCDOT is accepting public feedback on the proposed new Bikeshare stations until 5 p.m. Friday (Dec. 16).
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