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
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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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.”
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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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.
“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.”
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
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