Arlington Spins Gold as a Bicycle Friendly Community
Published on February 05, 2024
The League of American Bicyclists has recognized Arlington County as a Gold-level Bicycle Friendly Community (BFC).
This marks the first time Arlington has received a Gold-level BFC status, an honor that recognizes the County for a commitment to building quality biking infrastructure as part of its transportation network and implementing programs that help all riders feel welcomed and encouraged.
Arlington was a Bronze-level BFC in 2003 and moved up to Silver-level in 2007, sustaining that status until this Gold-level award.
Each year, the League of American Bicyclists evaluates applicants across five categories to assign a four-year designation. Arlington is among 480 American municipalities that are committed to creating an environment for biking that is safe, equitable, and accessible to all. This year, Arlington’s standout qualities included innovative infrastructure changes, educational programs to onboard new riders, and a strong culture of biking among residents.
Infrastructure and Planning for Safer Bike Travel
Since the Silver-level designation in 2019, the County has made steady biking advancements in the program’s Engineering and Planning categories, bolstered by the County Board’s 2021 adoption of the first Vision Zero Action Plan, aimed at preventing transportation injuries no matter the means of travel. New pieces of the Crystal City Bike Network continue to take shape along with multimodal planning for major corridors that will improve upon bike infrastructure. The County prioritizes bikeway and trail projects that equitably connect neighborhoods separated by physical barriers and support environmental resilience, and mixed-use development while reducing potential physical dangers.
Additionally, School Slow Zones launched in 2022, which designate areas within 600 feet of a school for reduced speed limits and infrastructure to help foster safe travel by students and families. After piloting School Slow Zones, speed limits were permanently reduced to 20 MPH on 58 local street segments within 28 school zones. The next phase will reduce speeds around the remaining 18 schools by summer 2024.
Another Arlington innovation: Key and Campbell elementary school families established “bike buses,” in which students bicycle to school as a group, adding fun, exercise and visibility. Biking has also grown post-pandemic among Arlington’s older students, with several schools reporting the “good” problem of bike racks at full capacity by first bell.
Creating Resources to Include More Riders
As a co-founder of the region’s bikeshare network, Arlington County participates in Capital Bikeshare’s Community Partners Program, giving low-income adults heading to work, school, and elsewhere discounted access to easy-to-find, easy-to-borrow rides.
BikeArlington, the bicycling education arm of Arlington County Commuter Services, takes outreach further by partnering with organizations like the Arlington Food Assistance Center and Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing to educate clients on the many benefits of biking, even hosting bike tours to help with comfort levels.
The BikeArlington team – accredited by the Washington Area Bicyclist Association – offers multiple adult bike classes each year as it continues to expand equitable access to the local bike movement. Just last fall, 158 adults took part—from beginners to the "it’s been-a-while" crowd—97 of whom were women, and 92 described themselves as people of color.
Fostering a Community of Biking in Arlington
The award-winning efforts of County biking planning staff are only possible with the contributions of dedicated community members. The Bicycle Advisory Committee and Transportation Commission members meet regularly with County planners and engineers to advise on issues that affect the feasibility and accessibility of biking in Arlington. Additionally, community groups like Sustainable Mobility for Arlington County and South Arlington Slow Riders contribute to a culture that prioritizes biking as practical transportation.
Businesses in Arlington also contribute to a two-wheel culture in Arlington as destinations that are reachable by bike or facilitate bike commuting by their employees. Of the 63 Bike Friendly Businesses in Virginia recognized by the League, 49 are in Arlington County.
Serving Up the Car-Free Diet
Arlington’s new Gold-level status as a Bicycle Friendly Community follows the County being named in 2022 one of only five “Walk Friendly” Platinum communities in the nation, the highest such honor from the University of North Carolina’s Highway Safety Research Center. Biking and walking, along with public transportation, have long been the key components of Arlington’s Car-Free Diet, which for more than two decades has encouraged residents to enjoy a sustainable lifestyle of getting around.