The is awesome.
I used to say that with irony, but somewhere along the line it turned into a sincere statement. From the imported pig races to the locally grown prize pickles to the booth urging the preservation of teaching Latin in school, it’s a concentrated Arlington County experience. This extends to transportation, too. It’s doable by car, manageable by public transport – and easiest by bike.
Based on a decade’s worth of attendance, I’d say that most people get there by car. This isn’t unreasonable, as the fairgrounds — at the Thomas Jefferson Community Center — aren't close to a Metro line. When I first started going, it was common to watch cars circle and circle, looking for spots in the local neighborhood streets. Over the years, the fair added more remote lots and shuttle buses, so there aren’t as many frustrated motorists these days. But it’s still not a lot of fun waiting around on a hot August day for the next bus.
The zero-frustration option? That’s the bike. And that’s the option more and more people have been discovering in the past few years. A family of four can roll in, lock up, and start paying too much for unhealthy food within minutes. My own arrival-to-fried-food record must be less than 60 seconds.
If you’re coming from North Arlington, route yourself through the Ashton Heights and Lyon Park neighborhoods. Those are low speed and low traffic streets, suitable for a lazy pace. North Irving Street offers a nice signalized crossing of Arlington Boulevard, and there’s always the pedestrian/bike overpass at North Jackson Street.
If you’re coming from the west, there’s a useable side-path along the north side of Arlington Boulevard. Those looking for a quieter ride might want to take a parallel route through the neighborhood. From the south, Walter Reed Drive and Fillmore Street will get you there quicker, but it’s more pleasant to tic-tac through the neighborhoods.
Once you get there, you’ll have several places to lock up. The main area — which will have additional racks brought in specifically for the fair — is directly in front of the entrance to the community center. After that, there are racks around the school side and over by the tennis courts. And if those are full? My bike is certainly not the only one that’s ended up locked to the fence surrounding the fields. The fair has never, to my knowledge, had a problem with bike theft, but it’s still a good idea to bring and use a U-lock.
Finally, make sure you swing by the Bike Arlington tent, which will be located outside near the tennis courts. They’ve got bike maps, information about cycling classes, and last year they were giving away goodie bags to those who showed up with helmets. Drop in, say hello, and thank them for making Arlington a better place for cycling.
Here’s the official Arlington County Fair bike parking map (PDF).
Make sure you stop by the Patch booth inside the exhibit hall. I hear there may be a water bottle or two for readers.
Mark Blacknell is a member of the Arlington Bicycle Advisory Committee, president of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, and a League Cycling Instructor.