Friday, July 27, 2012

Build it and they will bicycle: Wash Blvd Bike Path @ArlingtonDES

Arlington is a great place to bicycle - Arlington has been certified as a Bike Friendly Community.  The growth of bicycling as a form of transportation has been tremendous.  The Custis Trail along 66 and the W&OD Trail have become major commuting arteries, with cues at traffic lights as deep for bicycles as it is for cars.

Bicycle commuting is a bit like field of Dreams: Build it, and they will come!  If you look where people bike commute from, it is heavily from where the bike / multi use paths are.  Where multi use / bike paths exist, you get lots of commuters.  Good infrastructure is vital to cycling as a form of transportation.

As great as Arlington is, there is a piece that is missing.  A good bike path through the center of the county.  Washington Boulevard cuts from the North West corner through the county to the South East corner.  The proposed Washington Boulevard Bike Path will provide good bicycle infrastructure that will dramatically enhance and promote bicycle transportation in Arlington, linking North and South Arlington, providing access from the Rosslyn / Ballston corridor to Columbia Pike, and ultimate to Pentagon City.

It is a good idea.  It promotes bicycling.  It promotes the car free diet.  It will reduce pollution.  It will reduce the number of cars on the road.  It will relieve congestion on the roads. It will promote healthier residents of Arlington.

To build it, Arlington County will have to remove trees along the route.  This is sub-optimal.  But Arlington is working hard at adjusting the bike route to minimize environmental impact, and will be replanting all trees removed.  In the long run, the environmental impact of this project will be positive - reducing carbon emissions and reducing cars on the road.  And Arlington's plan to replant all trees is positive.

The Washington Boulevard bike path would provide a major link from North to South Arlington, and will be well used.  This is a good project.

Monday, July 9, 2012

History of Cherrydale / Lyon Village

There is a geocache down in Lyon Village that talks about this history of Cherrydale.  One geocacher added the following history:
Dreamer of Pictures nabbed this one while awaiting fulfillment of a prescription at CVS on another blast furnace afternoon, just before the weather gave us a break.

Cherrydale is adjacent to the Lyon Village community where my wife and I grew up. I can add a few tidbit to the history, notably in the gap between rail history events.

In the late 1950s the area where the shopping center now stands was occupied by multiple tall trees and one business, a small hardware store that offered consumer services such as lawnmower blade sharpening. It was located roughly in the middle of what is now the shopping center, almost hidden from the streets around it. My dad shopped at the hardware store and sometimes took me along.

A freight rail line, the W&OD, operated along the north side of the property, crossing above Lee Highway on an old iron bridge. The rail line delivered product to a Hechinger's lumber yard in Rosslyn, long before Rosslyn became Baby Manhattan. The line also served a cinderblock factory that resided along Spout Run in a ravine next door to Washington-Lee High School, between Quincy and Stafford Streets.

In the early 1960s, a second business appeared in the former cherry orchard, along the Lee Highway edge of the forest. It was a small amusement park, with pony rides and a few simple ride machines for young kids. That of course was impossible for young kids to ignore, and  every family car ride past the place caused the kids to beg for pony rides.

Across Lee Highway, near where the Walgreens now stands, was a Hot Shoppes, the first Marriot success story, with a fairly diverse menu and lots of ice cream. It was inevitably the destination for all Washington-Lee High School marching band members after each football game on Friday nights. The restrooms were in the basement. Due to inadequate pipes under Lee Highway for the nearby Spout Run , heavy rains would overflow the Run and flood the restrooms right up to the top of the stairs.

When Richard Nixon became president in 1969, he told the local political leaders that the long-delayed I-66 would become a reality while he was in office, using federal funds. With the right-of-way along the W&OD, and an exit planned adjacent Lee Highway, the businesses evacuated. The amusement park moved briefly to the Four Mile Run area by the south end of Arlington Ridge Road, until they learned that flooding was even more frequent and more severe there.

A number of local residents, including yours truly, organized an effort to stop I-66 construction. We had some victories, and delayed construction through much of the 1970s. The highway certainly has become the nightmare we predicted back then. Now the state government is pushing to add lanes to I-66 in Arlington, a ridiculous 1950s response that will only postpone the real solution: telework.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Pictures from Donaldson Run

First, the good news... most of the power appears to be back on.  Donaldson Run Pool has power, the pumps are operating, and they hope to have the pool open tomorrow.  I stopped by for a look and the pool looks good, if not strangely empty on the 4th of July.

When the storm came through, what we saw was a brilliant fireball of yellow burning from the next block over.  Apparently it was a power line that had landed on a car, causing an electrical fire, and melting the tires right off the car.  You can still see scorched rubber on the asphalt.  When the power kicked off, so did our local rendition of a micro-sun.

Up the street a power line lay on the ground marked by two police cones.  I suspect that's what did us in.  Down further on N Taylor a power pole snapped in half taking down a spaghetti of lines.   You can see below that the pole has been repaired by gluing a new pole right next to it.  I suspect there are a lot of quick fixes in place now.

Down near the park on N Utah was a picture of destruction: big tree down, smashed car, lines drooping from poles.

Up the street Vacation Lane remains blocked by a very large tree.  Two vehicles from Arlington County were there inspecting the situation. 
 Everywhere is littered little splinters of the former electrical / communications system.
Of course what is unseen from the road is the destruction in people's yards.  

Biking around this afternoon it was once again well into the 90s with a "feels like temp" of 100 degrees.  Some neighbors and I found a loose dog over on Military and Vacation Lane, a little Sheltie.  First, in heat like this, never leave a dog unattended in your yard.  A dog will suffer from the heat far too quickly.  But the owners of this dog... even in 100 degree heat, they did not even know there dog was missing.  *sigh*

Arlington After the Storm... What We Havent Learned @arlingtonva

We learned a lot today; well, actually, no, we didnt.  Having gone through multiple major storms and events, we in Arlington seem to continue to make silly mistakes.

First, let me say this.  Before I realized just how much damage there was to the area, we drove around.  Unqualifiedly, the people in Arlington were the best behaved and the most cooperative.  This was just something we had to get through, and we were all in it together.  People at dark traffic lights stopped (mostly).  People in businesses and stores were friendly. Arlington was an oasis of decency in a sea of people who just had to get nowhere in a hurry.

The worst behaved?? OH that's easy!   Georgetown where in the aftermath of a storm G'Town still decided to shut down multiple roads for unrelated construction, making it all but impossible to get through the neighborhood - and the construction guys were actively yelling at drivers who were trying to make heads or tales of what to do.

But what did we not learn?

Communications.  Communications from Arlington VA just SUCKED.  Can I say this, and everyone else say "Amen":  
I dont have power.  I dont have net access.  The mobile phone network is overloaded.  And even if I could access your website on my phone, I cant read it because you didnt format it for a mobile phone screen.

Say this with me: "Emergency information needs to be disseminated in the lowest bandwidth possible, and in as many mediums as possible - so as to reach everyone."  There is a webdesign technique known as "Slash Dot" or /. This means you remove all graphics and all formatting from emergency information pages, and just have the text.  This turns information into a lowest common denominator format that can be downloaded on any device, and it means the information does not clog an overwhelmed network.  

Next, get the information out there.  The best source for info concerning local events, like an emergency? Twitter.  Dont tweet: "The information is on the website."  Tweet the information.  For example, tweet where the cooling centers are.

Email is also an effective means of communicating.  It gets to people.  Send out emergency information, in the email (not linking to the information on a webpage), with no pictures and no formatting.

And dont send out noise.  Dominion Power, I am calling you out on this one.  Stop saying you cant answer all questions on twitter because you will hit the twitter-limit of tweets per day, while you are sending out pointless tweets with pictures and video and other ra ra stuff that we cant see cause we dont have power.  Tweet information, nothing more.

Other lessons learned:

Arlington VA has no plans that include care for pets or animals.  That was a big lesson from Katrina.  Yet in all of Arlington's announcements, I did not see any information about cooling stations opened for pets.  I contacted the county.  I contacted AWLA.  I contacted rescue groups.  After a few days there were announcements that Petsmart was welcoming pet owners into stores as cooling stations.  The lack of plans that include pets has got to change.

Where were Arlington Civic Associations in all this.  This is once again proof that the Arlington Way has got to change. The Arlington Way is premised on periodic physical meetings in the all purpose rooms of schools to discuss some topic.  Physically meeting during an evening is a luxury many Arlington (two parent working with kids) families cannot afford.  It means that the Arlington Way is pursued by those few with the luxury of such abundant free time.  The Arlington Way needs to change to an interactive online format that can be engaged anytime anywhere.  

In this case, where there is an interactive listserv associated with a civil association, that email group can share information about restoration, recovery, food, cooling centers, dangers... Neighbors who have can help neighbors who havent.  Yorktown Civil Association has a facebook page where neighbors have been sharing restoration information. Some civil associations have interactive online presences; most do not.  This needs to change.

Where were the churches in all this?  We have all these huge churches in Arlington, that sit as big empty buildings most of the week.... sometimes all of the week.  Did they respond?  Did they help their neighbors around them?  I only heard of one group that opened their doors as a cooling center. This is sad.

"Once in a hundred year storms" are now happening on a yearly basis.  We need a better emergency response than we have.  We need, first and foremost, to learn how to communicate during a recovery. And we need to bring the Arlington Way into today's way.