Arlington is, like its neighbors, a relatively small jurisdiction with a population that constantly crosses borders. Some efforts to improve area cycling can take place wholly within a jurisdiction’s borders, such as getting the Columbia Pike Bike Boulevards in place. However, many of the most significant efforts benefit greatly from cross-jurisdictional cooperation between area counties, cities and the district.
Arlington, by my experience, has expanded its cooperation with its neighbors over the years. The first Arlington Bike Map I ever saw (in the late 1990s) treated the other side of the Potomac as little more than an outline, with Fairfax County getting the same treatment. Now the map not only recognizes these places, but it shows how cycling facilities connect through into them.
The progress of the map seems to map the progress of actual cooperation between the metropolitan area’s transportation and planning departments. The most visible example of cooperation, of course, is Capital Bikeshare. Originally conceived of by Arlington, it was brought into existence through a working partnership with the district. Soon, Alexandria and Montgomery County, Md., will be joining the effort. I’m certain that the system wouldn’t be nearly as successful if each jurisdiction had gone down separate paths.
The cooperation isn’t useful just on big regional projects, though. Four Mile Run Trail runs along Arlington’s southern border with Alexandria, serving both communities. Future improvements to access to this trail, such as a connection to Potomac Avenue or a new bridge across the river to Four Mile Run Park, will require both Arlington and Alexandria to work closely together.
On the other side of things, Arlington and Fairfax counties could certainly do more to plan and integrate cross-border bicycle routes. A long-term plan to improve Westmoreland Street (or even Old Dominion Drive) for cycling could do a lot to improve connections to McLean. Similarly, with the East Falls Church Metro station having the highest bike-to-Metro ridership in the whole system, Fairfax should work with Arlington to ensure that there are safe cycling routes to the station.
Finally, there’s Arlington’s relationship with Washington, D.C. Arlington and the district are bound together in many ways, transportation primary among them. In addition to Capital Bikeshare, both transportation departments have recently worked together on projects as small as automatic bike/pedestrian counters and as large as the future reconstruction of the 14th Street Bridge corridor.
Cross-border cooperation on transportation isn’t exactly perfect, but I think it’s clearly improving. Hopefully the flow of cooperation between agencies will match the flow of people across the borders. Who knows, maybe even the National Park Service will eventually get in on the act.
Mark Blacknell is chairman of the Arlington Bicycle Advisory Committee, president of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, and a League Cycling Instructor.