Alexandria, VA

While holiday festivities like the Scottish Christmas Parade are being cancelled around town due to coronavirus concerns, the Alexandria Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee is still planning to go forward with the organization’s 10th annual Alexandria Holiday Lights Ride and Walk.

The annual ride takes cyclists and pedestrians on a tour of the best of Del Ray’s lights. The event is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 12, from 5:30-7 p.m.

“The residents of lovely Del Ray put on a great holiday light show every year, and we plan to see it on bike or on foot!” BPAC said in an event listing. “Please register on Eventbrite if you’re joining us.”

The tour will start at the south end of Main Line Blvd near the Potomac Yard trail. The route is around five miles through flat neighborhood streets.

“Small, socially-distanced groups of people biking will leave at 5:30, 6:30, and 7:30 p.m. each evening,” BPAC said. “Small, socially-distanced groups of people walking will leave at 6:00 and 7:00 p.m. each evening.”

All ages and abilities are welcome, the group said, but children under 10 years old must be accompanied by an adult. Participants over five must also have a face covering. For those biking, helmets and lights are required, with “bonus points” for decorating bikes with holiday lights.

Groups will be broken into no more than 10 people and participants should register in advance for a time slot.

Photo via BPAC/Facebook

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If you’re still looking to get your hands on a bicycle and you’re willing to put a little work into it, the Vélocity Bicycle Cooperative in Del Ray is hosting an as-is bike sale this weekend.

The Vélocity Bicycle Cooperative (1502 Mount Vernon Avenue) is a non-profit, volunteer-run workshop that specializes in teaching people how to properly repair and maintain their bicycles — which will be necessary for anyone looking to pick something up at the sale.

“This sale will be different from our normal sales as almost all of the bicycles will not be ride-able without a professional inspection and at the very least a tune-up,” the cooperative said on its website. “If you like working on bikes and always wanted to refurbish a bicycle, this sale is for you. We will have hundreds of bicycles to look through from kids bicycles, to 90s mountain bikes, to beach cruisers and vintage road bikes.”

The sale is scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 8, from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. at the cooperative’s warehouse behind 1502 Mount Vernon Avenue.

Photo via Vélocity Bicycle Cooperative/Facebook

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Morning Notes

Beyer Calls Trump Most Corrupt President in History — “Congress has worked to stop their misconduct; I requested some of these Hatch Act investigations myself. But this administration’s abuses are so widespread that it’s hard to keep track of it all (hence this thread). Trump is the most openly corrupt President in history.” [Twitter]

Are You Eligible for the Grocery Store Gift Card Program? — “Individuals and families whose household incomes have been impacted by the pandemic may be eligible to receive grocery store gift cards in amounts ranging from $100-$400.” [Twitter]

African American Change-Makers Highlighted in New Alexandria Tours — “Alexandria is offering new tours, markers and more to lead residents and visitors through sites and stories highlighting African American change-makers that have shaped the history of Alexandria and the United States.” [Alexandria Living]

Former Delegate and Lawyer Bernie Cohen Dies — “Cohen, along with co-counsel Philip Hirschkop, argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in April 1967 that bans on interracial marriage were unconstitutional in the famous case ‘Loving v. Virginia.’ Two months later, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of Mildred and Richard Loving, striking down laws in 15 states that banned interracial marriage.” [Alex Times]

VeloCity Bike Co-op Celebrates 10th Anniversary —  “John Patterson and Christian Myers co-founded the community-based, volunteer-run bicycle shop in May 2010. The co-op is known for its community services including its Bicycle Scholarship Program, which helps low-income families obtain bicycles, and its “do it yourself” operations.” [Alex Times]

Today’s Weather— “Mostly cloudy skies early, then partly cloudy in the afternoon. Areas of patchy fog. High 76F. Winds SSE at 5 to 10 mph. Mostly clear skies (in the evening). Low around 60F. Winds light and variable.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Case Manager — “We are looking for a Case Manager to join our team working at a COVID-19 Isolation & Quarantine Shelter Site at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites! This is a a temporary position with the end date to be determined. The individual will work with clients who are quarantined or have the virus, though there will not be a lot of in person contact. This person will also spend some time at our shelter near Pentagon City Mall!” [Indeed]

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Virtual spin classes don’t work too well for Del Ray’s Ascend Cycle. Owner Kathryn Zajac says that her six-year-old indoor cycling and strength training studio is all about making an in-person connection, and that her expanded garage space in a former auto repair shop helps fit the bill.

“We have 11 bikes under cover, and any day it isn’t going to rain we have an additional four bikes,” Zajac told ALXnow. “There’s a lot of competition in the virtual space, so we opened in the garage to make people feel safe during this time and a part of a community.”

Ascend Cycle moved from her small studio at 2413 Mount Vernon Avenue in July to the 1,800 square foot building at 2903 Mount Vernon Avenue. The former home to Anthony’s Auto Center was built in the 1940s, and currently holds 11 socially distanced exercise bikes in an outdoor studio. If it’s not raining, Ascend has four additional bikes that can be put in the parking lot.

Zajac opened the studio as a pop-up, but the property owner abandoned redeveloping the site and Zajac expects to be there for at least a year.

“We used to pack in 25 people in an 800 square foot space,” Zajac said. “My commitment to the garage is really trying to evolve where I think fitness might have to go with more space between people.”

The 45-minute workouts have music playlists curated by the instructor, and riders can go upward of 15 miles.

“I find that riding hard on the bike and just turning up the music helps you deal with stress in a healthy way,” Zajac said. “You have to monitor how many social interactions you have, and there’s a lot of frustration anxiety. Exercise helps to combat those things.”

Zajac said that community support keeps Ascend Cycle spinning.

“I think there’s so much going on with the pandemic, with the political scene, with everything, that there are still these strong small businesses struggling to survive every day,” she said. “I tell them folks all the time when I’m teaching, thank you for being here. You guys are keeping the business alive.”

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Courtesy photos

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Todd Ketch has had a busy summer at his Pedego Electric Bikes shop in Old Town. Six months ago, he was worried that the pandemic was driving away too many locals and tourists, but that business has steadily gained speed as fewer of his customers are commuting to the office and want to get around town fast without parking issues.

“It’s been a busy summer, and I believe it will continue right into the fall,” Ketch told ALXnow. “It’s exhilarating, and fires off
those good endorphins in the brain. It’s addictive.”

Other stores, like Big Wheel Bikes, have seen demand increase so much over the last few months that there’s a waitlist for new bicycles.

Three models are available to buy and rent at Pedego, ranging in price and amenities. Prices range from $1,995 to $5,495 for bikes that can go up to 60 miles on a single charge (without pedaling) and travel at 20 miles per hour. One model can even be retrofitted to travel 28 miles per hour. A single rentals will cost $100 for the entire day, $70 for four hours or $40 for two hours.

Ketch, who is a licensed Pedego dealer and not a franchisee, has been in business at 210 N. Lee Street for two years. He’s a former lobbyist and government affairs executive who left the world of politics behind after getting back surgery and trying out a Pedego bike. He’s married with four children, lives in Woodbridge, and one day wants to move to Alexandria so that he can commute to work on one of his bikes.

“The dream is to open up additional locations in the not-to-distant future,” he said. “I’m very happy to have started here in Alexandria. It was the very right place to be and it’s got the right mix of residents and the proximity to Washington, D.C., and the trails and everything else that you want to have for this kind of a shop.”

Photo via Pedego/Facebook

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Morning Notes

Alexandria Woman Finds Missing $100K Lottery Ticket — “Four months ago she purchased a ticket using some of her favorite numbers, 2-14-15-17-21, and matched all five winning numbers on March 1, but she only just discovered that fact when she cleaned out her purse recently.” [Zebra]

Beyer Says Economic Warning Signs Troublesome — “It’s been a month since Senate Republicans cruelly allowed Americans’ enhanced unemployment benefits to expire amid a pandemic and economic crisis. Don’t be fooled by the stock market: millions of families are experiencing deep hardship. Warning signs for the economy abound.” [Twitter]

Mayor Gets Sneak Peek at ‘The Spire’ Affordable Housing Complex — “Great opportunity to check out AHC Affordable Housing’s latest housing project in the City under construction and arriving early next year. ‘The Spire’ will be 113 units serving 40% – 60% of Area Median Income.” [Facebook]

Ascend Cycle Wins Northern Virginia Magazine Award — “Did you hear?? We won the Best of NOVA: Cycling Studio 2020  ​We are SO excited to win this honor for a 3rd year in a row!” [Facebook]

Firefighters Raising Funds With Virtual Boot — “Ordinarily at this time of year, the men and women of Alexandria Firefighters, Inc. IAFF Local 2141 would be out around our community working to ‘Fill the Boot’ in support of Muscular Dystrophy Association. Join me in helping them Fill the ‘Virtual’ Boot this year!” [Facebook]

Volunteer Alexandria and Senior Services of Alexandria Need Help — “To meet the increased need due to COVID-19, Senior Services of Alexandria urgently needs 10 more volunteers to help deliver meals to local seniors. Volunteers are asked to commit to delivering meals once a week for three months.” [Facebook]

Today’s Weather — During the day, “Mainly sunny. High 88F. Winds WNW at 5 to 10 mph.” At night, “Partly cloudy. Low 73F. Winds SW at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Virginia Quality Mental Health Specialist — “ACPS serves as a Local Coordinator for the City of Alexandria and is a part of the VQ Northern region. The VQ Mental Health Specialist will increase caregivers/teachers/directors use of strategies and practices to promote the social emotional development of infants, toddlers, and preschool-aged children.” [TopSchoolJobs.com]

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Morning Notes

Beyer Calls Out Minority Leader for Post Office Tweet — “Trump admitted he was sabotaging the US Postal Service to stop people from voting in a televised interview on FoxNews. It was even on a channel you guys actually watch.” [Twitter]

Alexandria Now Has 3,165 Cases of COVID-19 — “The latest update from the City on COVID-19: Positive tests up 19 to 3,165 in the City 7-day Positivity Rate steady at 5.8% 0 new hospitalizations Still safer at home, wash hands, wear masks and support our essential workers.” [Twitter]

Local White Collar Workers Adapt to COVID-19 — “Greg Crist is a D.C. lobbyist who used to wear suits, and go to lunch, and spend his days taking meetings on the Hill, or in his nicely appointed office at 701 Pennsylvania Ave. Now that his office is closed because of the pandemic, Crist is a man who commutes a few hundred feet from his Alexandria, Va., home to his silver Audi, where he spends much of the day taking calls in the only place where the important people on the other end of the line cannot hear his toddler son scream.” [Washington Post]

Colin Powell Was Interviewed for a Documentary in Alexandria — “Secretary Colin Powell was interviewed at the Athenaeum for a segment in “Statecraft: The Bush 41 Team”, that recently aired on PBS.” [Facebook]

Velocity Bike Cooperative Donates Bikes to Community Lodgings — “We’d like to give a special thank you to Vélocity Bicycle Cooperative for donating 15 bicycles which were given to our summer program students. We’d also like to thank our Board member, Marty Devine, for donating new bike helmets, bike locks, and bike bells for all of our summer program students. With their bikes and safety gear, our students can enjoy safe and healthy fun outdoors this summer!” [Facebook]

‘Horses Ate My Dad’ and ‘Splendid Offensive’ Headlining School of Rock Show — “This is what happens when we let students come up with their own band names. We trust that no Dads were harmed in the creation of one of the band names.” [Facebook]

The Alexandria Sock Design Contest is On — “Your sock design could become the Official Sock of Alexandria, be manufactured and go on sale at the Old Town Sock Co. in Old Town this holiday season!” [Alexandria Living]

Alexandria Community Alliance Needs Volunteers to Pack Care Kits — “Help us deliver 250 Care Kits by the end of summer! We’re still accepting Cleaning, Toiletry, Baby Supply, and Basic Meal kits to provide high-demand essential items to families in need in Alexandria.” [Facebook]

Today’s Weather — Sunshine and clouds mixed. High 84F. Winds E at 5 to 10 mph. In the evening, a few clouds from time to time. A stray shower or thunderstorm is possible. Low 68F. Winds light and variable. [Weather.com]

New Job: Police Officer — “You’re awake too? Perfect timing to think about a new career as a police officer. APD is holding a police test THIS FRIDAY (8/21) at APD HQ (3600 Wheeler Ave) at 2PM and 5PM.” [Twitter]

New Job: Reconstruction Estimator — “Review and evaluate cost estimates, communicates with team members regarding new and current projects. Prepare estimates and cost in detail for all products, ensure timely completion of estimates and rebuild jobs, establish and maintain working relation with homeowners and adjusters.” [Indeed]

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The list of pivotal Alexandria women is long, and starting this weekend a new local nonprofit will lead the city in honoring the 100 year anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment.

Living Legend Pat Miller recently founded Alexandria Celebrates Women with the goal of honoring Alexandria’s women of the past, present and future.

“Great women, they never give up,” Miller told ALXnow. “Because if you can’t get it done one way you find another way to do it. That is exactly what happened with the suffragists. They never gave up, even when they were in jail.”

Women’s suffrage came to a head in 1917 when more than 70 women were jailed, beaten and force-fed at the Occoquan Workhouse. Reports of their severe treatment largely influenced the passage of the Amendment, including the story of Lucy Burns, who was force fed through her nose and spent a “Night of Terror” with her hands cuffed above her head.

“Their case was heard at the Alexandria courthouse, and the judge found that they had every right to protest and were released,” Miller said. “They went back to exactly what they had been doing, and they had the political momentum behind them.”

Alexandria Celebrates Women will lead a bike ride on Saturday, August 15. The free, family-friendly event will start at 7:30, 8:00 and or 8:30 a.m. to accommodate small groups of eight riders or fewer. The event will begin near the Office of Voter Registration and Elections (132 North Royal Street) in Old Town. The 14-mile route will go through trails and neighborhood streets.

The 19th Amendment passed on August 18, 1919, and at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, August 18, 2020, Mayor Justin Wilson will issue a city proclamation to mark the occasion in an outdoor ceremony at the Kate Waller Barrett Library. Barrett was a social and voting rights activist throughout her life and was the president of the National Council of Women.

Additionally, artists in the Torpedo Factory Art Center’s Studio 311 are creating an exhibit to honor the centennial, in addition to including a life-size historic picture of suffragists.

“When you just think about the women in the city, how many women head up a department and organization?” Miller said. “It’s overwhelming and we’re not honoring them, we’re not showing how much we appreciate what they do. That’s all changing.”

Courtesy image

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The update on the Transportation Master Plan Pedestrian and Bicycle Chapter wasn’t planned to coincide with a sudden uptick in bicycle ridership and walking around the city, but it could help explain why many Alexandrians exploring their local pedestrian/bike infrastructure might find it different than they remember.

An update prepared for the canceled June 17 Transportation Commission meeting shined some light on the progress the city has made since it a chapter specifically about that infrastructure was added to the city’s Transportation Master Plan in 2016. The primary goals the city laid out at the time were to improve safety, engineering, encouragement and education of bicycle and pedestrian facilities in Alexandria. The move corresponded with a push towards Vision Zero — a project that aims to eliminate all traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2028.

Data shows that crashes and fatalities for pedestrians have generally gone down over the last four years — though the numbers are low enough that it’s impossible to accurately extrapolate trends. Crashes have gone down from 69 in 2016 to 60 in 2019. Fatalities have gone from 4 to 2 in that same timeframe, though not with consistent year-after-year declines. The number of serious injuries has gone up from 6 to 8.

The city has added substantial new infrastructure, though.

“There has been a 43% increase in intersections with pedestrian countdown signals at crosswalks from 68% in 2016 to 97% as of the end of May 2020,” city staff said in the report. “Over 9,000 total linear feet of new sidewalk has been installed and over 1,600 linear feet of sidewalk have been upgraded with widened sidewalks or adjustments to provide improved access for wheelchair users since FY16. Approximately 1,300 linear feet of temporary, protected shared use path space was installed to fill the sidewalk gap on the #9 highest priority sidewalk on Seminary.”

The update also included information about progress made for off-street trails, though noting that flood damage has set back some of the city’s progress on that front.

“One additional off-street trail (a segment of Four Mile Run Trail leading to a future bridge) has been installed since plan adoption, bringing the citywide total to approximately 21 miles,” staff said in the report. “A new 150-foot pedestrian bridge was completed on the Four Mile Run trail that connects the Four Mile Run Wetlands Trail to the larger Four Mile Run trail network. The City suffered a setback with the July 2019 storms that severely damaged the trail and recent completion of a bridge connecting Holmes Run Parkway to N. Ripley Street as well as other bridges along Holmes Run. A 2021 budget request is made for the repair work.”

The report also notes the progress made for new bicycle infrastructure.

“Since 2016, 11.9 miles of shared lane mile markings and 11.4 miles of bike lane miles were installed making for a total of approximately 39 lane miles of on-street bicycle facilities,” staff said. “This is a nearly 46% increase in facilities since 2018.”

Staff photo by James Cullum

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If it has air in the tires, Charles Bennett Moore — owner of the Alexandria location for Big Wheel Bikes — has been selling it.

While businesses across Alexandria have been struggling to pull out of the pandemic, the last few months have been an unusual windfall for Old Town waterfront business Big Wheel Bikes (2 Prince Street).

“It was gangbusters in May and June,” Moore said. “We had quadruple our usual demand. The supply has dwindled to pretty much nothing. If you walk in, we have maybe a half a dozen bikes.”

It hasn’t just been bike sales, either. Moore said service requests have been increasing quicker than the shop can keep up.

“Service has increased tenfold,” Moore said. “We are just going crazy with service still. People are constantly dropping off bikes. That’s been sustaining us. I sold anything that had air in the tires.”

Outdoor bicycling, especially alone, has been cited as one of the healthier exercise activities — especially compared to the risks of an indoor gym.

The business stayed open through the pandemic and Moore said May was particularly busy. Moore said the store has sold half its collection of vintage bikes, usually just items of interest for collectors. Now there’s a waiting list for new bikes coming in.

“People don’t want to be cooped up indoors,” Moore said. “The season hit at the same time as COVID. People feel they can keep six-feet of distance on the bicycle. And with [many] gyms closed… it’s a perfect storm for the bike business”

It’s particularly a boon to the Alexandria Big Wheel Bikes location, which sits on a waterfront spot virtually surrounded by new development and density.

“With all this development and things changing, [this] probably helps to get a lease extension,” Moore said. “A lot of businesses aren’t staying open. So it’s been a good thing for us.”

Staff photo by Vernon Miles

 

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