this just in...
September 23, 2005
Mr. Tobin L. Smith, Chair, North Tract Task Force
Mr. Erik R. Beach, Manager, North Tract, Arlington County Parks Department
Thank you for inviting and welcoming me to last night’s North Tract design meeting. My interest is in benefiting Arlington citizens and regional bicyclists by advocating bicycle facilities for the North Tract. I wanted to provide background and share initial views.
As I introduced myself, I am a long-time Arlington resident who enjoys and supports bicycling. I am a member of National Capital Velo Club (NCVC -- Washington’s oldest and largest bicycle racing club), Potomac Pedalers Touring Club, Washington Area Bicyclist Association, Arlington Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC), and United States Cycling Federation (USCF). I serve as a licensed USCF Official (referee) and an Assistant Scoutmaster for Arlington Troop 106 (Rock Spring Church), where I often teach Cycling Merit Badge and lead bike trips. I commute daily by bike from North Arlington to downtown Washington. During the 1980s, I worked in Richmond for a Member of the Roads and Internal Navigation Committee, where we advocated and passed legislation to improve Arlington and Northern Virginia transportation (e.g., the Route 66/Dulles Toll Road Connector).
North Tract is a $100 million park to be developed across from National Airport/Gravely Point/Roach's Run, including the former site of the Twin Bridges Marriott. It will include a world-class swimming/diving facility, soccer fields, bicycle paths, cafe, etc. My preliminary goal is to evaluate whether a sport biking facility -- e.g., a multiuse track or outdoor velodrome -- may fit within the design and usage parameters for North Tract. To this end, I have contacted Schuermann Architects (www.velodromes.com
), global leaders in bicycle track design, received a statement of support from NCVC, and am contacting additional experts to help understand what facilities may be appropriate for North Tract. I am also working with Allen Muchnick, Virginia Bicycling Federation president, who participated in earlier North Tract planning.
My understanding from my September 8 meeting with Erik, our conversations, and last night’s meeting is that the opportunity for a North Tract bicycle facility is to be guided by the following principles: It should fit within the conceptual design for North Tract, it should benefit a plurality of users (e.g., a multi-use facility with broad appeal is best), and it should work within the North Tract budget and schedule parameters. These principles make sense to me.
With this in mind, I think there is potential for a minimally invasive bicycling track either in the park’s south east corner, surrounding landscape features (e.g., the splash/spray pool, walking paths, gardens), or encircling one of the four planned soccer fields. The track could be scheduled appropriately for cycling, rollerblading, running, competition, periods of non-use, and other sport or recreational purposes. During non-use, if it surrounds a sport field or landscaped venue, the track may work well as a banked seating area (akin to the berms discussed for the below-grade soccer field concept). To enter/exit the interior sport field or landscaped area, an underpass tunnel or flyover may make sense. (Perhaps this access could leverage the North Tract’s prospective railroad track berm, aquatic center deck/terrace, underground parking, or GW Parkway flyover feature.) Using Google, I selected a few links to data or images that seem to echo my concept:
This link (Kissena Park (Long Island) Velodrome) features an interior field. I find Kissena notable due to the low-impact nature of the installation and its urban location:
This link is a velodrome (Herne Hill Velodrome) with an interior soccer field:
This link (Palmer Park Sports Stadium) features an interior football field and other sporting elements:
This link (San Diego Velodrome) features an interior field, with passive recreation:
These images strengthen my conception of a facility that meshes with the principles stated above. I am not an expert in velodromes or architecture. My sense is that additional design and sport expertise which we may gather will clarify and improve the concept.
I think I can confidently suggest that there would be considerable citizen and enthusiast support for a sporting bicycle facility. The closest velodrome to Arlington is in Trexelertown, Pennsylvania, 200 miles distant. Cycling at Hains Point, intermixed with traffic, is broadly popular (and crowded) at lunch and most evenings (I help coach a Juniors’ cycling program at Hains Point Friday nights). A North Tract facility, with additional amenities (swimming pools, cafe, bike path access), will be far superior to Hains. Arlington has a well-served bicycling constituency (supported by the County Chair, BAC, Charlie Denney and others). We have staged world-class cycling events -- the CSC Invitational/Clarendon Cup. Cycling is increasingly popular in and sensible for the county, with ever improving facilities, worsening traffic congestion, rising gas prices, and the need for lifetime fitness and recreational activities for youth (as championed by CDC, Department of Education, and Arlington Schools).
The cost of a complementary cycling facility should work within budget set for North Tract. Indeed, the cost of building the track would seem to be less than the cost of relocating Old Jefferson-Davis Highway -- a feature which is likely to be eliminated from the North Tract budget. Sponsorship or complementary commercial activities (e.g., a bike station, a repair shop) could offset costs. Further research should narrow cost and design parameters.
In conclusion, I appreciate the opportunity to advocate bicycle facilities for North Tract and share my initial views. I think an outdoor velodrome is workable and beneficial. I look forward to your guidance, feedback from the Task Force, and sharing further information and thoughts as Arlington’s spectacular North Tract park is developed.
James R. Wilson
4664 34th Street North
Arlington, Virginia 22207
(703) 532-0658 (h)
(202) 906-5653 (h)
(571) 239-6772 (c)
Arlington Bicycle Advisory Committee
Myron Lehtman, President, NCVC
Pete Lindeman, Team Director, NCVC
Donald Saroff, Squadra Coppi
Eric Gilliland, Executive Director, Washington Area Bicyclist Association
Allen Muchnick, President, Virginia Bicycling Federation
Charlie Denney, Arlington Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator
John Zebatto, Chair, Executive Committee, PPTC