Zebra Misc

Over a Thousand Alexandria Bicyclists Turn Out for Bike to Work Day City Pit Stops Friday, May 17 

Left to right: Kirk Fedder, Peter Hazelwood, and Leah Simon, retired avid cyclists, entering the Market Square pit stop from the corner of King and Royal Streets. Photo: Judith Fogel

Alexandria, VA – Bike to Work Day 2024 with all its pit stops and excitement is in the books. But don’t hang up your bike just yet. Did you know the entire month of May is National Bike Month  

On Friday, May 17, Alexandria was abuzz with seven pit stops sprinkled throughout the city. Volunteers and staff began arriving at the crack of dawn, setting up booths, laying out the trademark t-shirts, this year’s color bright yellow, brewing hot coffee for all the cyclists that would start rolling in before the sun came up, and arranging the stage at the two biggest pit stops. DJs unpacked a tangled web of wires and equipment that would blast lively dance tunes all morning long.  

Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson greets the Market Square crowd at 7:00 am, with Councilmember Sarah Bagley. Behind them Hamzat Sani, transit specialist with Alexandria Transportation and Environmental Services (T&ES). Photo courtesy Mayor Wilson’s Facebook page

“We start pretty early, four months out,” Hamzat Sani told Zebra. He is transit specialist with Alexandria Transportation and Environmental Services (T&ES) which hosted the Market Square pit stop. “We coordinate all year with the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, bringing the branding together, choosing the color of the t-shirt. There’s a huge amount of effort going into this, both locally and regionally.” 

John Carlyle Square Park pit stop, dotted with booths. Photo courtesy Mayor Wilson’s Facebook page
Left to right: Carlyle Square pit stop MC John Bordner welcoming Mayor Justin Wilson to the stage. Photo: The Zebra’s Judith Fogel

Bike to Work Day promotes a fun and healthy way to start the day and encourages folks to get out of their cars and discover alternate ways of getting to work. The annual event is a joint effort of Commuter Connections and Washington Area Bicyclist Association and featured over 100 pit stops throughout the DC region Friday. 

Left to right: Morgan Babcock, Carlyle Council manager; Marilyn Patterson, chief experience organizer, Joyous Events, readying for the next raffle drawing. Photo: Judith Fogel
left to right: Alexandria City Councilman Canek Aguirre, Michael Menchel of Alexandria Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee, Nicole Radshaw, BPAC treasurer. Photo: Asa Photography

“It’s exercise,” said Steve Hartell, an avid cyclist who bikes to work almost every day. The Del Ray resident is vice president of public policy at Amazon HQ2, just over the border in Arlington. Hartell divides his time between Arlington and Washington offices and bikes into DC as well.  

Carlyle Square pit stop. Left to right: Morgan Babcock, Carlyle Council manager; City Councilman John Taylor Chapman; Cyclist and raffle prize winner Curt Mayes; MC John Bordner presenting the prize. Photo: Judith Fogel

“It’s about the same time commitment to drive my car as to ride my bike. Then there are days like yesterday where you have a 65-70 degree day, low humidity, bright sunshine, and on those days, I don’t understand why anybody would want to jump in their car,” Hartell told Zebra in a video interview from his HQ2 office. “I think of my bicycle as my convertible car, except it’s better. It’s sublime!”   

Stretching class on the Carlyle pit stop stage. Left: MC John Bordner. Right:  Morgan Babcock, Carlyle Council manager, and City Councilman John Taylor Chapman, getting into the act. Photo: Judith Fogel

Full disclosure. This Zebra reporter drove to cover the two main pit stops but vows to dust off that bike next year and cover the event on two wheels rather than four. As she was negotiating the parking meter a block from John Carlyle Square Park at 7:30 am, the mayor of Alexandria sailed by on a Capital Bikeshare, waving as he headed for the Carlyle stage. Later, after the mayor welcomed the crowd, this Zebra joked that she’d never fed a parking meter so fast in her life, worried the mayor would fly in and fly out to the next pit stop and she’d miss the opportunity to chat him up on his last Bike to Work Day as the city’s chief.  

Left to right: Alexandria Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee Treasurer Nicole Radshaw; City Councilmembers Sarah Bagley and John Taylor Chapman; Kursten Phelps, and husband Asa Orrin-Brown, BPAC secretary. Photo: Judith Fogel
Left to right: Mary Morgan, Julie Chapman of ALX Dog Walk, demonstrating ALX Dog Walk’s plastic-free and sustainable living mission. Photo: Judith Fogel

“I had to circle around to get to the docking station so it delayed me a little bit,” Mayor Justin Wilson laughed. 

Wilson reflected on his last year as mayor on Bike to Work Day. “It’s been a year of lasts but that makes it all sweeter. I always enjoy this event, it’s a great event, celebrating the mobility of our city, both the work we’ve done and the work we have to do.” The mayor promised to come back next year, as citizen and cyclist. “It’s always great to see people out celebrating. This event in Carlyle has grown every year. They take it very seriously, work really hard to support the community here. We’ve got a lot of folks here who are biking, riding transit, really using the infrastructure we have.” 

Left to right: Alexandria City Manager James F. Parajon; Katye North, division chief of mobility services; Hillary Orr, deputy director of transportation; Yon Lambert, deputy city manager, at Market Square pit stop. Photo: Judith Fogel

Alexandria Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee is a volunteer organization that promotes safe walking and biking. The mayor took note of the advocacy and the city’s accomplishments. “We’ve made great progress. Obviously these have not been uncontroversial issues, unfortunately. We’ve got some big ones coming up. We’re going to be talking about Holland Lane, we’re going to be talking about Pickett Street, we’re going to be talking about Abingdon, we have more work to do here in the city. We’re going to be adding protected bike lanes all around the city, and these are certainly controversial.”  

left to right: Peter Watkins, Egovernment system architect; Joshua Etim, Go Alex Program Manager; Jonathan Oliver of Pedal Positive. Photo: Judith Fogel

The mayor addressed Vision Zero, a national strategy to eliminate all traffic fatalities and severe injuries, and pointed out that 2023 did not see a single cycling or pedestrian death or serious injury. 

As this reporter wandered through the Carlyle pit stops, taking in all the booths, dance tunes, and giveaways, she spotted Councilmembers Sarah Bagley and John Taylor Chapman. Bagley only had a few minutes before she would have to cycle off to a Virginia Railway Express board meeting. She thought back to one year ago on May 19, the day she pulled off a transit trifecta of Bike to Work Day, Potomac Yard Metro grand opening, and a VRE board meeting, all squeezed into one morning. Even before 8:00 am this year, Bagley said she’d already been to Market Square, would cruise over to a few more pit stops and then bicycle onward to her transportation meeting. Does Bagley regularly bicycle to City Council meetings? 

I definitely do! My colleague here John Taylor Chapman can attest. He sees me arriving and departing to meetings on my bike!” “Absolutely,” Chapman chimed in. “But I don’t just ride to and from City Hall,” Bagley continued. Yesterday I rode to the Del Pepper Center. It’s my vehicle of choice!”  

Del Ray pit stop at Colasanto Park on Mount Vernon Avenue, hosted by Vélocity Bicycle Cooperative. Photo courtesy Vélocity Bicycle Cooperative

Chapman, on the other hand, admitted he’s not ready to bicycle just yet. “I have a project in my basement. That is as far as I’ve gotten. I need to get new quality tires so I can hit the road this spring or summer.” Chapman praised the city network of “amazing trails” and plans to take his young son out to ride them. “It’s a great opportunity to model what I want to see from him.” 

Steve Hartell, vice president of public policy at Amazon HQ2, in full bike gear, outside the headquarters building in National Landing, Arlington. (Photo courtesy Steve Hartell)

Top obstacles to bike commuting are the lack of showers at work, followed by bike parking and a place to store that suit to change into. 

Amazon has a great program to encourage alternate means of transportation to include public transportation,” said Hartell, the Amazon VP. “But I really find the benefits for the cycle community to be extraordinary. A real inducement to ride your bike to work.” Hartell explained there are bike rooms in both buildings at Metropolitan Park, 600 hanging or floor bike racks, locker rooms, 20 showers, and free towels and toiletries.  “I would say the big barrier for cycle commuting is what a colleague calls ‘the schlep factor.’ It’s just how much schlepping you have to do. At Amazon, you don’t have to put shampoo in your bag, you don’t have to bring a towel, and you have a locker where you can put your wet clothes during the day.” 

left to right: Ken Notis, Alexandria Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee chair, who was also a speaker at the Market Square pit stop,BPAC Infrastructure Chair Noah Sepsenwol, manning a booth at Market Square. Photo: Judith Fogel

As the City Hall pit stop neared its final hour of the morning, three bicyclists made their way onto the Square, decked out in the familiar bicycling “kit” of spandex, reflective gear, biking shoes, and helmets. When the trio was asked if they were headed to work after grabbing some free coffee and swag, they confessed they were all retired. Kirk Fedder, Peter Hazelwood, and Leah Simon bicycle together regularly.  “During the pandemic, cycling saved my sanity,” Fedder admitted. “That was my social connection. I’m very outgoing, I’m an extrovert, I really needed that.”  

In addition to all the physical health benefits, the three also hailed the mental health gains. 

You can get out there and start clearing your mind of all sorts of things or to think through a lot of things,” said Simon. “Another benefit of biking? If you have a flat tire on a bike path and you don’t know how to change it, somebody stops and changes it and seventeen years later you’re still together!” 

The League of American Bicyclists brings you National Bike Month. Established in 1956, it encourages more folks to give biking a chance. 

ICYMI: With Planet Fitness Summer Pass, High Schoolers in Alexandria Can Workout for Free

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to top button