Local and national bike organizations are encouraging cyclists to ditch their cars this week for "Bike to Work Week," a national celebration aiming to encourage citizens across the country to bike to work, or for pleasure, on a regular basis.
The week culminates in Bike to Work Day on Friday, held rain or shine, when cyclists can make a "pit stop" at one of 58 locations across the D.C. region for T-shirts, refreshments, giveaways and bicycling advice.
There are nine pit stops planned across Fairfax County from 6:30 to 8:30 a.m. Friday, May 18.
The two most popular stops are in Reston and Vienna, at the Washington and Old Dominion Trail's intersection with Maple Avenue, Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling Bruce Wright said.
The national celebration dates back to 1956, when the League of American Bicyclists started the public outreach campaign and event to encourage more biking. Since then, it's grown tenfold in the Washington D.C. region, according to the organization: Participation has risen from a few hundred in 2001 to 11,000 last year, it said.
In Fairfax County, the celebration week, which falls in the middle of Bike Month and shortly after the inaugural National Bike to School Day, comes at a time when county officials are wrestling with how to implement infrastructure and public outreach programs with no operating budget; it is looking to neighboring Arlington County — which also hosts Bike to Work week events — as a model.
Data from the American Community Survey shows Washington, D.C., as one of the country's 70 largest bicycling cities, with 3.1 percent of the total worker population reporting they bike to work — a statistic six times greater than the national average of .5 percent.
The League attributes the "bicycle friendly" cities' successes, in part, to the degree in which it promotes bicycling through education, encouragement, enforcement, evaluation and engineering.
A new report on the region's bicycling trends out of The Thomas D. Larson Pennsylvania Transportation Institute at Penn State shows Fairfax at the bottom of many categories, including the percentage of car-free households, at 4 percent, and percentage increase in bike commuting.
Cyclist fatality rates were also two to four times greater in Fairfax and Prince William Counties than in other jurisdictions, Wright wrote on the group's blog — but it did have the most miles of paved off-street trails.
"There's lots of great information in the report that I'm sure FABB will be using as we make our case for Fairfax becoming more bike-friendly," Wright wrote.
Cyclists are encouraged to stop at as many pit stops as they'd like on Friday, but will need to register at one in order to pick up their free T-shirt.